1ABSTRACT OF DISSERTATION

The University of Alabama Graduate School

Degree:

Doctor of Philosophy

Major Subject:

Political Science

Name of Candidate:

Ray Singleton Mikell, Jr.

Title of Dissertation:

The Nexus of Social Capital and Government: Community
Development in an American Inner City

This dissertation, a theory-building exercise involving community development in an
inner city neighborhood of Mobile, Alabama, delves into the relationship between the municipal
government and the amalgam of social connections, civic participation, and trust that has fallen
under the rubric of social capital. This study focuses on Trinity Gardens, a community of some
4,300 residents that was once one of Mobile’s most crime-ridden and blighted neighborhoods. In
1997, however, a newly seated Mobile city council member decided to mobilize his district,
which took in most of Trinity Gardens. He first held an emergency meeting, at which he
recruited volunteers for a community policing-oriented citizen’s group. Its meetings would be
attended by a cross-section of community leaders and the municipal bureaucracy. The
councilman also encouraged a new women’s civic group with development aims to meet with
older neighborhood organizations, as well as police. A partnership between municipal and
neighborhood leaders was thus formed, one that allowed a broadening of efforts after time. In its
analysis of these developments, this work backs up the study of community capacity in public
education, and World Bank research into simultaneous top-down and bottom-up development
efforts. The research nevertheless suggests that the effect of leadership was also significant. It

2
also suggests that there existed serious institutional, as well as socioeconomic, impediments to
cooperation across sectoral and municipal boundaries.

Abstract Approved:

Chairman of
Dissertation Committee
John Bolland, Ph.D.
Head of Department
or College
David Lanoue, Ph.D.

Date

Dean of the
Graduate School
Ronald W. Rogers, Ph.D.

1

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
In the mid-1990s, the United States was on verge of an unprecedented economic
boom. Upmarket chain retailers and gleaming new shopping centers were sprouting up in
every city‘s more affluent suburbs. The Internet age was just beginning. In large swaths
of American cities, however, one could find block after block of abandoned housing and
other signs of decay and seeming chaos. Living amidst this were millions of what Wilson
(1997) called the ―working poor,‖ those persons who did not receive much in the way of
public assistance and who often owned property, but who bore the brunt of such inner
city problems all the same. It was hoped that the new national affluence could trickle
down to the neighborhoods where such persons dwelled, although it had not in the 1980s,
when that term ―trickle down‖ was popularized.
An inner city neighborhood with just this sort of dominant working poor character
was Mobile, Alabama‘s Trinity Gardens. By the time Fred Richardson took office as a
city councilman for the area in 1997, the neighborhood had crime and blight problems
that had reached a crisis level. The neighborhood of four thousand or so individuals was
also as isolated from the city‘s mainstream as any neighborhood in the Mobile metro
area, both economically and geographically. The major commercial centers were located
miles away from the north Mobile neighborhood, in the more affluent West Mobile area.
To its immediate north was a public housing development and Prichard, one of the

2
poorest municipalities in America, with a government working under bankruptcy
protection. The problems of Trinity Gardens were, then, seemingly intractable.
Richardson declined to see Trinity Gardens‘s troubles as permanent. He decided,
instead, to put to work his reputation and contacts made through his decades long work in
civic rights activism and church to strengthen cooperation between citizens and
municipal government. He formed a system of all volunteer street ―captains‖ on every
block in his District 1 to help police do their jobs. He also joined forces with a new civic
group, the Bay Area Women Coalition, that was interested in crime prevention issues.
Soon, their partnership came to include the city police department and other municipal
agencies and officials. Then, they began the process of transforming Trinity Gardens.
More importantly, for the purposes of this research, those involved went about their
development work in a manner that appeared to transcend existing arguments about the
connection between civil society—or, rather, a still-young social and political science
twist on that concept known as social capital—and policy outcomes. Could the Trinity
Gardens experience help shed any light on the continuing debate about the conceptual
premise of social capital and, in particular, its relationship to government? This was
among the research questions, detailed further below, that it was hoped a close
examination of the Trinity Gardens development process could help answer–if not
definitively, then at least in a way that could further the evolution of the burgeoning field
of social capital research. Amazingly, given the history of the study of political
participation in the U.S., a history to which the study of social capital was bound, it was
also a question that had never really been asked.

3
The Theoretical Context
To begin the process of answering such questions, and understanding the
singularity of what happened in Trinity Gardens, first requires knowing that the study of
the relationship between government and community organizations in the United States
was almost as old as the country itself. Tocqueville (1966), for instance, saw the effect of
grass-roots associational and civic activity on governance as central to the American
democratic and political experience. The effect of civic participation eventually became
central to the literature of public administration in the 20th Century (Thomas, 1992, p.
163). The study of collective action, meanwhile, grew into a preoccupation of many
social scientists, most notably among them Olson (1965). Nevertheless, one question
remained largely unexamined: How could the mass of civic organizations—not just the
lobbying interest groups studied by pluralists—affect governance and, in turn, the
development of communities?
Scholarship regarding this relationship experienced a resurgence in the 1990s,
with the interest in Putnam's notion of social capital (1993, 1995, 2000), which holds that
a community's level of associational or civic activity is the key to its prosperity and
sustainability. In most academic research related to the concept, however, government is
seen less as an active player in community relations, and more as the benefactor or victim
of their success or failure. Later research on the effects of civic life on economic
development (Evans, 1997; Grisham, 1999; Menashi, 1997; Woolcock, 1998), as well as
educational reform (Orr, 1999; Stone, Henig, & Jones, 2001) would point the way toward
a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of this relationship. Community cooperation
and coordination are, in this research, thought to have no small effect.

4
It seems clear that further study may accordingly provide a favorable opportunity
for the building of a new political science theory, albeit one with roots in the democratic
theory of centuries past. Still, even as many in the practitioner community look to social
capital as the missing link between stagnation and progress, the larger picture of relations
between government and community remains far from clear. To the contrary, the picture
is hazy and indistinct, blanketed by dust and grime from years of disregard.
The purpose of this case study is, then, to try to carefully uncover what was
underneath the muck. It is, more particularly, a largely qualitative theory-building
exercise, one centered around what appeared to be an interactive relationship between
government and social capital. This relationship appears, in turn, to have a formidable
effect on community development. Much research has already suggested that social
capital can have an effect on development. Initial research in the field in Trinity Gardens,
however, suggested that government may have been able to increase the impact of social
capital by channeling its energy or giving it direction. It may have increased cooperation
between different groups and sectors within the community. Evidence further indicated
that the Mobile story was relevant and worthy of consideration for a host of other
reasons, including the seemingly perpetual distress of the American inner city.
Nonetheless, the story's greatest salience appears to lie in what it says about how
communities and government could come to work together for a common or agreed-upon
larger cause.
Trinity Gardens‘s success appeared to be unique enough among inner cities.
Significant citizen participation is particularly rare in the Deep South as well (Elazar,
1984). When laid against the existing social capital literature, however, the story looked

5
even more uncommon. Given the role of Mobile‘s city government in the Trinity Gardens
experience, it seemed to have the potential to challenge the basic tenets of a concept
whose popularity had spread far outside the walls of academe and into the world of
popular discourse. The Trinity Gardens experience could do so by putting social capital's
effects within a broader context of state and societal relations.
Understanding what makes social capital work within such a larger context is not
a trivial matter, given that so many foundations involved in community and economic
development, as well as groups associated with "good government,‖ such as the National
Civic League (1998), have heavily promoted Putnam's (1993, 1995) ideas. At the turn of
the new century, the World Bank (2002, 2003) undertook a social capital initiative aimed
at shoring up "stocks" of social capital in poorer nations. Academics and practitioners
alike were seeing social capital as a panacea for a profusion of societal problems
(Menashi, 1997, p. 4). The World Bank studies found that communities with large stocks
of social capital were more successful in managing irrigation, water supply and
sanitation, and other types of infrastructure projects. Education initiatives also benefited
from the presence of cohesive and well-functioning parent-teacher associations
(Grootaert, 2002, p. 78).
Studies aimed at the practitioner community were increasingly showing, however,
that social capital could not do such a herculean job alone. Even before the Trinity
Gardens study was undertaken, placing Putnam's (1993, 1995, 2000) concept at the center
of community development efforts was becoming a troublesome practice, for he saw it as
something that a community could not really change. Only by delving into the literature
was the precarious nature of social capital made clear.

6
It seems essential to note that an interest in building social capital in the service
of community development provided the spark for this project. Over time, however,
channeling the effects or energy of existing social capital in ways that would encourage
such development became the focus instead. To fully comprehend how the Mobile
project made its way to this point, however, it is necessary to examine the literature that
provides its conceptual underpinning.
The literature review below begins with social capital, but takes a turn into less
crowded territory as it moves along. In so doing, the survey of the literature reflects the
evolution of the Mobile project. It also examines this evolution in accordance with what
were existing rules of thumb for largely qualitative, exploratory case studies, especially
ones aimed at theory building (Gillham, 2000; Janesick, 1998; Yin, 1994). The idea
behind the review was to explain the research aims and backing for what Yin (1994)
called tentative research propositions and what Merriam (2002) referred to as working
hypotheses, which address specific or localized situations from which generalizations
cannot be made. Consequently, these research statements were thought to be more
suitable to a single case study such as the Mobile one.
That the time is not right for more statistically-derived generalizing about the
relationship between social capital and government, regardless, seems evident from the
literature. Far too much about the relationship remains unexplored, even though it has
remained hidden in plain sight for many years.

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CHAPTER II
SOCIAL CAPITAL LITERATURE REVIEW
Social capital has unquestionably been the most celebrated new concept of the
late 1990s and the early 21st Century, both within political science and among scholars of
and practitioners in community relations. As such, it should hardly be surprising that an
interest in community development issues led to an interest in social capital-related
research. Unfortunately, it was quickly noticed that the definition of social capital is quite
slippery. It has been, in fact, so consistently elusive that one can have been forgiven for
considering social capital as just another political or community development buzz
phrase, and thus a concept of little use to those who advocate or seek substantial
improvement of their communities. Some scholars (Boggs, 2001; Fine, 2001; DeFillipis,
2001) saw social capital as just this sort of superficial and unhelpful concept. Social
capital turned people's eyes away from more important issues, some of these critics
suggested, most notably those surrounding economic inequality (Duncan, 1999; Uslaner,
2002). This problem contributed to a reassessment of social capital during the initial
research phase.
The question then asked was, "Why bother dealing with social capital at all?" For
starters, although such negative assessments of social capital were by no means
completely off the mark, whether they overshot it was another matter. Oftentimes, social
or political concepts are hard to pin down, after all. Power, political culture, presidential
success—all of these terms are largely subjective in character, but have nonetheless been

8
the focus of much classic research. The concept of social capital is in this sense no
exception to the usual thorny rule; it is most certainly abstract and at times seemingly
ethereal in its varying in definition from researcher to researcher. However, the lack of a
precise definition may also have something to do with the concept's youth. Grootaert
(1998) aptly compared social capital to the popular concept of human capital (Becker,
1966)—usually taken to mean the intelligence and skills of individuals—in making a case
for social capital's value. Social capital, he thought, may have been at the same point in
its evolution as human capital was thirty years before (Grootaert, 2002, p. 43). The
concept of human capital was forty years old and still hard to define and measure. "But
this difficulty," Grootaert reminded readers, "has not prevented the empirical literature on
human capital from blossoming and leading to many extremely useful results for
developing and implementing education policy" (2002, p. 43). At the same time,
variations on the social capital concept have been researched by scholars in several
academic disciplines, including sociology, political science, history and economics. The
dominant approaches to the study of human behavior varied greatly from discipline to
discipline, and researchers were thus not necessarily working along parallel lines. This
further contributed to a bewildering array of definitions and ways of measuring social
capital.
What saved the social capital concept from utter uselessness was that articles in
the larger body of social capital research did have in common one thing, something with
major implications for the Mobile research: They all suggested that social relations
between individuals can be a potential resource for social or economic gain. The studies
differed as to whether this resource is held by individuals or communities, but there was

9
little disagreement as to whether associational activity has the potential to benefit a
community. Social capital was seen as involving social networks, as opposed to any
particular individual.
A closer look at the evolution and various considerations of the concept shed light
on how these social networks worked, both in poor areas such as Trinity Gardens and
within the larger urban society. As it turned out, the idea that institutions can affect
change by putting social capital to work had long been floating around on the edges of
the social science world. This notion had just never been captured or rather, explicitly
stated or outlined.
Social Capital Conceptualized
The term social capital, as formulated in the 1990s, was not at all contemporary. It
was not suddenly pulled out of the air by a social scientist looking to coin yet another
catchy neologism du jour. Use of the phrase social capital instead dated back to the early
20th Century. The first person to use the term in writing of any note was Lyda Judson
Hanifan, the state supervisor of rural schools in West Virginia, who mentioned the term
in writing about rural school community centers. His use of the phrase described the
means by which he thought good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse are
developed among those who make up a social unit. This process was seen as essential:
The individual is helpless socially if left to himself… If he comes into
contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an
accumulation of social capital, which may bear a social potentiality
sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole
community. (1916, p. 130)

10
Every other notable academic mention of the phrase came after the century's midpoint, however. Jacobs (1961) would be the next prominent academic to use the term,
specifically in her landmark Death and Life of Great American Cities. She saw social
capital as consisting of social connections that could be used as resources in job searches,
dealing with city government and the like. A detailed academic concept was not
developed until much later. Until Putnam's (1993) study of Italy, the study of social
capital was confined to sociology or social theory, and its primary exponents were
Bourdieu (1972) and Coleman (1988, p. 95).
Bourdieu's concept remains the most complex of any frequently cited, and the
least connected to the concept as broadly understood in the early 21st Century, at least
within the United States. Social capital, he believed, is one of three types of capital, the
others being cultural capital, which relates to an individual's level of education and
perceived "cultural competence" or sophistication, and economic capital, which is
synonymous with money and finance. The more elusive of all the forms is symbolic
capital, which may be thought of as the esteem or deference gained through what seem,
on their face, to be the pursuit of selfless or harmless interests. Contributions to nonprofit organizations, for instance, may have as large or larger a potential payoff for the
individual or entity making the contribution as the organization. Social capital, by
contrast, is thought as connections, as well as the esteem that comes from such
connections, that can be used as a credential. This "capital" also has an interactive and
nearly interchangeable relationship with economic and cultural capital. Bourdieu had
little to say directly about how social capital could affect the public realm. He had the
belief, however, that accumulations of cultural capital can—in combination with social

11
and economic capital—help one class or group to maintain dominance within society.
This accounts for the transmission of power and privileges from one generation to
another (1983, p. 254).
For all its theoretical messiness, Bourdieu's typology of social capital attempted to
address the concerns that scholars from across the disciplinary spectrum had with social
capital in regard to issues of class and economic power. To be more specific, it was rarely
acknowledged in much mainstream social capital literature that some sectors of society
may be almost totally isolated from their immediate communities, even while safe and
thriving economically (DeFillipis, 2001). These sectors may thrive economically because
they have acquired high stocks of economic, cultural and symbolic capital. Individuals
within these sectors, however, network amongst themselves and those of similar classes
in other parts of the globe, and rarely need ―connections‖ with people in lower-income
neighborhoods anymore. Consequently, as Putnam (2002, p. 318) acknowledged,
bridging social capital appears to be more essential for society's poor than it does for
other groups.
By contrast, Coleman's (1988) conceptualization of social capital, which involved
how certain aspects of social networks allow people to meet ends that would not be
possible without their existence, was vastly more influential in the United States, and
inspired more than a decade of extensive research within American sociology. Much of
that scholarship concerned the use of social capital within markets, however, and more
particularly was used to explain market failure (Baker, 2000; Burt, 1995). Social capital,
as Coleman defined it, would rarely be used to investigate matters related to political life
or civil society. Even so, the sociologist's initial research grew out of an investigation into

12
why Catholic high schools had vastly lower dropout rates than either public or other
private high schools (1988). Coleman reasoned that the schools had a lower dropout rate
because they were part of a highly supportive religious community, one in which parents
were deeply involved with their children's schoolwork. The values of a particular family
could also have led to involvement. Nonetheless, Coleman suggested that trust between
parents and community norms, as well as good information channels, played a role in this
success as well. Trust and community norms are both connected to social networks.
Scholars including Burt (1995), an economic sociologist, later extended social
capital research much further into the study of markets. Burt became known for his
market-oriented concept of structural holes. This concept concerns how particular
individuals with a connection to two different groups—ones whose members have little
contact with one another—can exploit this connection to their own economic advantage.
These agents, in short, gain power through lack of bonds between different groups. Burt‘s
theory had implications for the entire field of social capital literature, but it was not a
theory that directly involved government or civic life.
Becker, an economist most readily associated with the concept of human capital,
provided yet another definition of social capital, one that placed it within a larger context
(1996, pp. 4-5). The Nobel prize winner (who held a joint appointment in the same
University of Chicago sociology department as Coleman) declared social capital to be a
form of personal capital and, by association, a form of human capital. In so doing, he
echoed Bourdieu, as well as later scholars who more closely considered relations between
government and society. Personal capital, Becker explained, includes relevant past
consumption and other personal experiences that can affect current and future

13
preferences. Social capital, more specifically, incorporates the past influence of peers and
other individuals within one's social network, and the influence of societal institutions
such as the state. All such influences help create societal norms and may greatly affect
trust. Consequently, the influence of society may impact the future choices and
preferences of individuals. The social capital concept, Becker suggested, also
demonstrated why it was hard for governments to break out of status quo patterns.
It was left to Putnam in Making Democracy Work (1993), a study of government
performance in Italian regions, to outright shove the social capital spotlight back into the
public realm. In the process, he also codified, altered, and popularized the ideas of
Coleman (1988, 1990) and Jacobs (1961). The concept was introduced toward the
conclusion of his Italian study. Social capital was again defined as consisting of norms,
networks, and trust. Unlike Coleman, however, Putnam suggested that social capital is
not just held by individuals but communities. He further stated that social capital consists
partially of networks, many of which were primarily horizontal in character, bringing
together agents of equivalent status and power. Others are primarily vertical, linking
unequal agents in asymmetric relations of status and power. The horizontal linkages most
benefit democratic governance. Vertical linkages between government or elites and
citizens, by contrast, can lead to exploitation and corruption. Also introduced by Putnam
was a specific measure of social capital in which he contrasted a social capital index—
including associational membership, newspaper readership, and interpersonal trust—in
northern and southern regions with an index of various indicators of regional government
performance. Then, he put together an index of government performance to contrast with
regional social capital, something that was possible to do without calling into question the

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study's validity, given that all Italian regions had a similar institutional structure. It turned
out that government performance and social capital were highly correlated. Economic
growth was also connected to levels of social capital. These results contradicted
renowned studies such as Olson's Rise and Decline of Nations (1982), which built upon
his consideration of collective action by arguing that too many competing interest groups
could create a weak society. Networks of civic engagement, to the contrary, appeared to
strengthen northern Italy in regard to both governmental efficiency and effectiveness and
economic development.
Putnam's (1993, 1995) ideas evolved somewhat over the coming decade, and
would also be transported across the Atlantic. Social capital, born in the New World in
the booming 1920s, was to come home in the midst of the similarly roaring and
speculative U.S. economy of the 1990s. In an article for the Journal of Democracy
(1995), Putnam examined social capital in the United States, and cited evidence of a
serious decline in American civic engagement. Years later, he expanded upon the muchdiscussed article in a book of the same name, Bowling Alone (2000).
Bowling Alone contained a detailed revision of his basic social capital concept,
one that took in terms he introduced in an article for Fannie Mae's Housing Policy Debate
(1998). To be specific, two more categories of social capital were added to the
aforementioned horizontal and vertical social capital of the Italian study. These new
categories were bonding and bridging social capital. Bonding social capital is said to take
place within organizations or communities of interest, whereas bridging social capital
refers to inter-group relations. Bonding social capital is akin to crazy glue for society,
while bridging provides a sociological WD-40. However, while crazy glue-like social

15
capital may be needed to hold individual groups together, Putnam suggested that the WD40 type is to be preferred. Bridging social capital helps create linkages between larger
groups of citizens, whereas bonding can lead to strong out-group antagonism. Putnam's
new formulations were more or less a restating of Hornburg and Lang's (1997) notion of
social glue and social bridges. They saw these bridges as consisting of the links between
neighborhoods and a larger community.
Uphoff (2000) invented two further categories which have since been used in
World Bank (2003, 2002, 2002a) social capital studies. The first was structural social
capital, which referred to networks, associations, and institutions. Almost any form of
human association can be included in this category. The second of Uphoff's forms,
cognitive social capital, comprises generally accepted attitudes and norms of behavior,
shared values, reciprocity, and trust. The former is relatively objective and observable,
while the other is subjective and largely intangible. Uphoff added,
These two domains of social capital are intrinsically connected because
although networks together with roles, rules, precedents, and procedures
can have observable lives of their own, ultimately they all come from
cognitive processes. (2000, p. 218)
In months to come, the World Bank (Grootaert, 1998; Woolcock, 1998) would
bring government back into the social capital debate in a way that echoed Bourdieu and
Becker, while respecting Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000) and Coleman's (1988, 1990)
innovations. The development institution also built an extensive Internet site dedicated to
social capital, which informed readers that the term referred to the institutions,
relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social
interactions. Bank researchers noted, "Increasing evidence shows that social cohesion is

16
critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable.
Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society—it is the
glue that holds them together‖ (2002).
While it was clear that the World Bank's resident scholars perceived social capital
in Putnam's (1993, 1995, 2000) terms, however, its social capital site broadened the basic
concept by suggesting that the "broadest and most encompassing view of social capital
includes the social and political environment that shapes social structure and enables
norms to develop" (2003). The bank‘s researchers saw social capital as being interactive
with formal institutions and leadership. Looking at social capital in such a context, they
thought, could help account for the virtues of social capital, as well as the vices of civic
activity outlined so expertly in Olson's (1965) analysis of collective action. Such an
approach also recognized that the capacity of various social groups to act in their interest
may depend on the support they receive from the state, in addition to the private sector.
Similarly, the state depends on social stability and widespread popular support. In short,
economic and social development thrive when representatives of the state, the corporate
sector, and civil society create forums in and through which they can identify and pursue
common goals (2002).
The World Bank's detailing of the relationship between social capital and
government largely came about through the research of Woolcock (1998) and, by
extension, Evans (1997). Their work would greatly influence this dissertation‘s direction.
In the post-Putnam era, plenty of academics and practitioners alike would examine how
social capital affected community development, but no one had seriously examined the
government's role in the process. To understand the failure to examine such issues, it is

17
necessary to examine why the relationship between government and social capital was
being glossed over.
What Affects Social Capital
Given the effect which—at least according to Putnam (1993)—social capital had
on the well-being of Italian regions, it was probably inevitable that many practitioners
would almost immediately begin looking for ways of increasing social capital. Even so,
Putnam expressed strong doubt that social capital could be developed in an intentional
fashion, given that the disparity in social capital between regions in southern and northern
Italy appeared to be the result of hundreds of years of history. Social capital, he
suggested, is too affected by what economic historian North (1990) termed path
dependence—roughly defined as the long-term, often self-reinforcing institutional and
societal direction of a state or people—to be buffeted by denizens of the current age.
Putnam's treatment of this effect, however, seemed so problematic as to bring into
question much of the basis of his research. This appeared particularly true of the research
as it regarded, or more accurately disregarded, the role of government.
As Putnam explained it, the effect of path dependence is no small thing. North's
quite accessible concept was not just historical; it was outright Faulknerian in its
insistence that the past never really fades away. Decisions made in years past can lock
leaders and governments of future years into making certain decisions, notwithstanding
what may or may not seem logical, and despite their institutional structure. The divergent
paths taken by Spain and England—one toward democracy and free trade, the other
toward continued elite dominance and centralization that would lead to stagnation and
decline—during the early Renaissance period, for instance, would affect them well into

18
th

the 20 Century. Similarly, the north and south of Italy followed different political and
socioeconomic paths for centuries, even though they had shared leadership, a language,
and cultural traits. They were still at variance in their economies, levels of political
corruption and of course social capital. Putnam took from this a lesson: The relatively
new similarity in institutional structure was not going to place all Italian regions on the
same path, although standardization would bring about positive incremental change. It
followed that southern Italian regions would probably continue to have low social capital
for decades to come, no matter what government did. Like the chemistry needed for
amore, social capital would either be there, or it would sadly not.
A few years later, however, a curious thing occurred: Putnam (2000) left path
dependence completely out of his study of stateside social capital. It was an omission that
may have left even the most previously enthralled reader befuddled. To be fair, the
professor was consistent here in declining to suggest that institutions could have much of
an effect on civic life. The relationship between institutional and social capital was not
seen as fluid, but as nearly always bottom-up. One new assertion involving the creation
of social capital made its way into the U.S. study, though. Government, it was
hypothesized, can have a positive impact on civic life in times of crisis. It is hard to deny,
for instance, that the federal government's organizing of society during World War II had
an effect on civic America. Nevertheless, the absence of North's path dependence theory
was glaring. As Fine (2001) pointed out, in Bowling Alone Putnam completely ignored
the spirit of the economic historian's arguments. How could social capital in Italy be the
end result of hundreds of years of history, while U.S. social capital declined so greatly
over little more than half a century?

19
Even so, Putnam did have a culprit for the decline in the United States. Path
dependence was replaced by the much less grand theory known as, "Television did it."
The history of Europe since the Renaissance, with all its grand struggles for self-rule and
imperialism and epic poetry, as an explanation for social capital was discarded stateside
in favor of a box that transmits pictures by way of a cathode ray tube. It was time to say
goodbye to Hamlet and Don Quixote, and say hello to Baywatch and Entertainment
Tonight. Few people, it was suggested, are immune to the television problem. Even
people who watch only some television grew less civically active. Neither, it seemed, are
people who watch more public affairs-oriented programming as civically active as they
can be, given how shallow or sensational such fare has become. Moreover, empirical
evidence has demonstrated that television makes people lazy, passive and more
susceptible to a variety of problems, including indigestion and headaches. It was also
suggested that television has been connected to increasing materialism. Research
published after Putnam's Journal of Democracy article (1995) but before Bowling Alone,
however, had already shown this thesis to be debatable. Uslaner (1998), for instance,
found no systematic effect of television on either civic engagement or trust. Others cited
evidence showing that materialistic values were more likely to be held by younger
viewers (Rahn & Transue, 1998). Whatever the case, if television could have an effect in
such a short time, why not government?
An even closer reading of Bowling Alone showed that there existed more than a
few other such prickly problems with Putnam's work . His selective reading of research,
for instance, often got the better of him. He used a study of anomie in a typical uppermiddle class American suburb as an example of the effects of a decline in social capital,

20
ignoring the fact that the very same study showed that civic group membership was
higher than normal there. The problem in the suburb was, to the contrary, a lack of the
strong ties needed for a balanced emotional life, ones of the sort needed for peace and
safety. This suburban world was marked by weak ties (Baumgartner, 1988). Ironically,
Putnam had seen a myriad of weak ties with societies as being enabling of social service
and political participation.
Furthermore, Putnam at least implied that social capital‘s effects are always
positive. Nonetheless, even bowling leagues--Putnam's central example of the type of
small organization, then in decline, that led people to become active in their communities
–may not necessarily have a positive impact on society. Then, ironically, Oklahoma City
federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh was a member of such a league. He
apparently did not bowl alone (Fine, 2001, p. 90). The mere mention of the name
McVeigh brought to mind Putnam's repeated downplaying of the possibility of negative
social capital, given his flirtation with militia groups. Organized crime and the Ku Klux
Klan also appear to be examples of social capital at work. Putnam attempted to get
around this problem by making the distinction between bridging and bonding capital, but
Fine did not think Putnam made the matter clear enough. Chambers and Kopstein (2001)
agreed, citing the fact that Putnam's research did not delve into why people might join
bad organizations. He did not address how to prevent the formation of such groups either.
Durlauf (1999) suggested that Putnam's social capital became tautologically present
whenever a good outcome was observed (1999, p. 2).
A related problem was suggested by Burt's "structural holes" theory, as DeFillipis
(2001) noted. If some people benefit from their individually-held social capital, will

21
others not be deprived of these benefits? Putnam, in seeing social capital as something
that communities held, as opposed to individuals, overlooked this dilemma. Yet, who will
be winners and losers in a social capital game is something of enormous social and
political relevance. Ironically, it may also not be connections, necessarily, that lead some
people or groups to produce and reproduce wealth, but isolation. Bridging capital may
only really be needed if a community's residents are poor and therefore on the losing end
of power relations (DeFillipis, 2001, p. 790). Who, then, is supposed to encourage or
provide this "bridging" power, or increase ties between different sectors? The answer to
that question may be government leadership, path dependence, or no. Government
certainly can play a large role in any community's power relations. Perhaps intuitively
remembering this, even critics who have found the general idea of social capital
tantalizing justifiably took Putnam to task for all but ignoring any possible institutional
effects in his theorizing about social capital (Harris, 2001; Levi, 1998, 1996; Maloney,
Smith, & Stoker, 2001). Levi brought Hobbes (1998) into the picture in noting that the
absence of a state can lead to distrust and a "war of all against all" (Levi, 1998, p. 84).
Other scholars, most notably Jackman and Miller (1998), pointed out that parts of
southern Italy—the problems of which were central to Putnam‘s original conception of
the impact of social capital—progressed dramatically since World War II, in large part as
a consequence of emigration and economic growth, but also because of land reform and
the construction of new infrastructure. Boggs (2002, p. 196) called the fixation on social
capital disparities in Italy "profoundly misleading" regardless, given the complexity of
Italian history. Tarrow (1996, p. 394) asserted that every regime which governed
southern Italy until the modern era exploited the region. Scholarly criticism of this

22
treatment of institutional effects was, meanwhile, not confined to the Italian research.
Skocpol (1996), for instance, reminded modern readers that the United States' federal
government encouraged the formation of several major national interest groups. Other
major national groups were organized in ways that reflected the American institutions of
government. In short, critics saw Putnam‘s use of history in his Italian study (1995) and
television in his stateside research (2000) as not only contradictory but a cop-out.
Government, they believed, could be an active force for the creation or, at least, the
focusing of the social networks and organization.
Conclusion and Research Propositions
From the above analysis came the first and most important--even overriding-proposition for this research project. More to the point, the aforementioned findings of
Levi, Tarrow, and Skokpol seemed, at least on an intuitive level, to fit an impression
gleaned from an initial investigation in Mobile, which was as follows: Government
played a central role in increasing the effect, if not the stock, of social capital in Trinity
Gardens. More specifically, the role of government in affecting how social capital
worked there may have been both less constrictive than the decidedly minor role
suggested by Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000), and less expansive than the role some in the
practitioner community and good government-oriented organizations apparently believed
possible. What the interactive relationship of government and social capital likely
affected was, in turn, the outcome of district community development efforts. The study
of social capital was already headed into this direction. The idea, however, demanded
further examination.

23
Of course, the respective work of Levi, Tarrow and Skocpol applied to social
capital at the national level, whereas the Mobile project was concerned with civic life at
the local level. Not a single author surveyed, however, made any distinction--either
implied or explicit--between social capital at the national and local levels. What seemed
to matter more is how different sectors of the polity may cooperate and coordinate their
efforts.
Despite Putnam's (1993, 2000) discounting of institutional effects, other scholars
surveyed did not hesitate in demanding that attention be paid to their consequence and
worth. Their efforts sparked something of a mini-renaissance of scholarship regarding the
relationship between government and community organizations. Even though many have
implied as much, no scholar had convincingly demonstrated in formal research that
government may directly affect social capital. Its effects were largely seen as incremental
or peripheral in character. By the same token, no study had demonstrated in any empirical
way how government and social capital could possibly reinforce or play off one another,
even though there existed substantial support for such a relationship.
The idea that social capital may not be of much assistance to community unless
sparked is not really new. It stretches back to Hanifan's first mention of the term.
Communities, he asserted, could benefit by the cooperation of all their parts (Hanifen,
1916, p. 130). Even those who saw government as a possible hindrance to grass-roots
efforts (Gittell & Vidal, 1998; Harris, 2001; Shucksmith, 2000, p. 216) suggested that
strong local organizations such as community development corporations were needed to
put social capital to work. Stone et al. (2001), in research on education reform, went a
step further by hypothesizing that all of a community's elites needed to be on board for

24
success—at least in educational policy, the field he examined. Specifically, Stone et al.
found that communities whose major public and private sector organizations came to an
agreement on certain educational issues, and were cooperative, were more likely to be
high achievers. This cooperation and coordination—what Stone et al. called civic
capacity—was seen as more important than any structural reform. This idea was
reinforced by Orr (1999) in research on ―black social capital‖ and public education in
Baltimore, Maryland. The city's black community did not lack social capital, Orr
believed, and this existing resource was put to work in local education reform efforts. He
echoed Hanifan, however, in suggesting that Baltimore efforts ultimately failed because
there was little cross-sectoral cooperation in education reform. In short, the schools and
their reform were left largely to the control and care of black residents and social
networks alone. Large segments of the wider metro-area population—including wealthy
whites and white business and civic leaders—were hardly involved in reform efforts, if
they were at all.
The ideas of Stone et al. (2001) were echoed in research regarding the economic
success story of Tupelo, Mississippi, a highly notable thing given that Putnam called it an
example of social capital at work (2000, pp. 323-24). Civic groups and organizations had
been active in Tupelo before, even if they rarely worked together. Nonetheless, the
economy of what was once one of the poorest municipalities in America's poorest state
took off once community government and business elites agreed upon goals and had
ensured the cooperation of all segments of Tupelo society. This result came about not
through any grass-roots efforts but through the urging of a newspaper editor. Local
leaders, persuaded by the editor, began their work by closing down the city's old

25
economic elite-dominated Chamber of Commerce, and formed a more expansive
organization known as the Community Development Foundation (CDF). The CDF
formed development councils for sections of the Tupelo municipality and sections of the
surrounding rural community, and in so doing encouraged local input and participation
(Grisham, 1999, pp. 1-19). In the late 1990s, some fifty Fortune 500 businesses had
operations in the Tupelo vicinity. The city and surrounding county had a poverty rate that
was half the national average and regularly reported per capita family incomes at, or
higher than, the same.
Grisham's history of Tupelo, and its lessons, were later echoed in other economic
development research, much of which pointed the way toward a more coherent or more
all-encompassing theory of the relations between social capital and community
organizations. For instance, Menashi (1997), and to a lesser extent Grisham, showed that
local government played a significant role in the success of Joint Venture—Silicon
Valley—an economic development organization. It was formed in 1992 in response to
economic decline. The regional development effort was spearheaded by the San Jose
Chamber of Commerce, and soon after its founding, this organization came to include
many of the top business and industry groups in the region. Many in the chamber then
pressed for a partnership with regional government. The public sector, however, was shut
out of early-stage planning, while government was blamed for many economic woes.
Accordingly, public officials in the area took a dim view of Joint Venture. San Jose
Mayor Susan Hammer nonetheless saw the development organization as promising and
put her reputation and resources fully behind it. Soon thereafter, the municipality became
a full partner, and the organization grew rapidly. Silicon Valley became the center of the

26
computer and Internet industries and epitomized an unprecedented American economic
boom (Menashi, 1997, pp. 49-50).
Other studies regarding the relations between social capital and government were
more purely theoretical, most significantly that of Evans (1997) and Woolcock (1998).
Both scholars asserted that the public sector and community organizations had a durable
and significant effect on one another, but the relationship was two-way and dynamic. In
so doing, the two researchers paved the way for a civic capacity-type theory of social
capital and government relations to be taken outside the world of economic development.
Evans called the relationship in question state-society synergy and believed that a lack of
it—or, rather, the lack of competent government or strong community organizations—is
what kept many Third World countries behind in their development. Neither government
or community organizations, in short, could work without the other. Building upon the
ideas of Evans (1997), Woolcock (1998) asserted that optimum development conditions
exist when there are both bottom-up (grass-roots or citizen-driven) and top-down
(government or elite driven) efforts, along with linkages between major community
actors and more general integration within a community. More accurately, he suggested
that development may depend upon the extent to which bottom-up and top-down efforts
are balanced. Top-down efforts are usually needed to introduce, sustain, and
institutionalize "bottom-up" development, so in most cases such dilemmas will have to be
resolved. He echoed Uphoff here, who had earlier contemplated, "We are commonly
constrained to think in ‗either-or' terms . . . when both are needed in a positive-sum way
to achieve our purposes" (1992, p. 273).

27
Some scholars were already considering the ideas of Woolcock (1998), and by
extension Evans (1997), in other policy areas, by the time this research began in earnest.
Keyes (2002), for instance, considered several case studies regarding housing
development in the United States and found that Woolcock's model held up well in a
variety of circumstances. Along with initial evidence from District 1, these studies
inspired a second research proposition: A relationship between social capital and
government was ultimately tied in with the success of community development efforts in
Trinity Gardens. Community development is defined here as including everything but
strictly economically-oriented initiatives and planning or education reform. In the Mobile
district, the efforts were limited to community policing and crime control, anti-pollution
efforts, and housing development. Whatever the case, the work of Menashi (1997) and
Grisham (1999) in economic development research, as well as Stone et al. (2001) in
education, certainly suggested that this proposition was worthy for study. Whether
community development required any different type of communal effort than economic
development and education was unclear.
Even so, Stone et al.‘s (2001) conceptualization of civic capacity and Orr's
research on ―black social capital‖ (1999) laid the ground for something of a caveat, one
that doubles as a third proposition: Cross-sectoral cooperation appears to be vital to
community development efforts. However, more extensive interaction (including crossmetropolitan, intergovernmental, or interagency cooperation) will be needed for any
further-reaching development efforts. Cross-sectoral support was essential to economic
development in Silicon Valley and Tupelo, as outlined by Menashi and Grisham
respectively. Stone et al. and Orr also saw such widespread support and interaction as

28
central to the success of educational reform efforts. Whether such cross-sectoral
assistance would prove quite as necessary at the neighborhood level in areas such as
crime policy and the cleanup of pollution was another issue. Skogan (1990), in a study of
disorder in inner cities, suggested that homogeneity can be of some benefit to
neighborhood groups. Unfortunately, poor inner city communities are typically marked
by low rates of political and civic participation. Consequently, inner city crime
prevention programs that require cooperation between inner city residents are usually not
successful (Skogan, 1990, p. 130).
Metro-wide and intergovernmental or interagency cooperation is another matter.
The initial investigation demonstrated that many ties seemed to exist between the
neighborhood and the city at large. Nevertheless, how these relationships affected
community development within the district and neighborhood, and how and whether such
relationships strengthened the area's ties to the rest of the city, needed to be thoroughly
investigated. Given how important social service organizations could be to lower income
and inner city areas, it also appeared as if it would be of no small benefit to understand
how well they coordinated their activities within Trinity Gardens. Delving into whether
Councilman Richardson and district civic leaders had developed or were developing
relationships with private sector organizations or state and federal agencies also seemed a
worthy task.
Meanwhile, Evans (1997) or Woolcock (1998) may have left out one essential
variable in their development model—that of the role of leadership in relations between
government and communities. Menashi (1997) strongly suggested as much, as did
Grisham. Crothers (2002) did so as well in noting how community policing is oriented

29
toward the development of social capital. She suggested that these types of programs
cannot work without strong but adaptable leadership. The author then placed the
development of social capital within a framework that took in both democratic and
leadership theory, particularly the transformational leadership concept of Burns (1978).
Community policing strategies easily lent themselves to such theorizing, since their
common strategies included forming neighborhood groups to assess community needs
and shape policies. The community policing model (one which loosely formed the basis
of Richardson's precinct meetings) was also developed with promoting good citizenship
in mind as well. Police, however, need to channel communication in helpful directions in
order for the programs to be effective, while also sustaining social discourse and teaching
citizens about the democratic process. Consequently, the centrality of leadership in these
programs cannot be understated (Crothers, 2002, pp. 225-236). Sampson (2002) echoed
Crothers, noting that police often find it difficult in community policing "beat meetings"
to sustain resident input and induce collective problem-solving among residents. The
meetings nevertheless can trigger just the sort of civil involvement that social capital
theorists have prescribed for poor communities (Sampson, 2002, p. 105). Levi seconded
the idea that leadership can have an enormous impact on citizen trust of government
which may, in turn, increase generalized trust. Individual actors, including both elected
officials and administrators, may have such an impact through the effect of charisma
(1998, p. 86). No scholar surveyed examined whether government and community
leadership is best here, or even whether both can have a formidable effect. Even in the
one case examined where a government leader did not act as a policy and organizing
entrepreneur, in the Tupelo study, the newspaper editor who crusaded for economic

30
development still relied upon the cooperation of government to carry out many of his
ideas (Grisham, 1999).
These ideas regarding leadership, as they intersected with previously surveyed
research and initial evidence in Mobile, suggested a fourth proposition: Government and
community leadership were essential to increasing the effect of social capital in Trinity
Gardens, and not just government itself. Evidence gathered during an initial research
phase suggested that much of this leadership had come from Richardson. The community
policing literature referenced above was particularly relevant here because Richardson's
idea for "precinct meetings" was at least loosely inspired by the community policing
model. In the place of a police officer discussing crime and policing issues with residents
and pushing the meetings in a certain direction, there was Richardson doing the same
with crime and a wider array of community development issues. Concomitantly,
Richardson's leadership certainly appeared, at the surface level, to have been of the
charismatic variety cited by Levi as the sort that could affect change within an official's
jurisdiction. The councilman was already a regular fixture of area civic life, one who had
won notoriety for his civil rights work decades before. It also appeared, however, that the
leadership of the Bay Area Women's Coalition was also essential here, even if not as
central as Richardson's.
The impact that leadership could have was greatly contested. Skogan (1990)
suggested that it could be substantial, but it would be limited over time nonetheless,
especially in modern, bureaucratized societies where people do not know one another.
That charisma has limitations was also suggested by Weber (1968), among others.
Nonetheless, Skogan failed to take into account how particular leaders can affect

31
longer-lasting change by pulling together various sectors of a community to meet certain
goals or solve particular problems. In the end, no one surveyed took such a scenario into
account. It was at this point that the literature reached a limit.
A final hypothesis, closely related to the previously listed one, was to be not so
much investigated itself as more fully demonstrated through the research as a whole. The
proposition was as follows:
No one person, group, or social phenomenon was solely responsible for the
outcome of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens. In other words, the
political relationships that affected community development were fluid and dynamic.
Leadership may have been central to development in the neighborhood, but it likely did
not work in a vacuum. Moreover, community organizations and their leadership did not
do their work in isolation from the larger institutional matrix. This idea was not
necessarily new, even if left unreflected in the bulk of the social capital literature.
Hanifan, the first person to put the term "social capital" on the printed page, thought that
a community benefits by the cooperation of all its parts (1916, p. 130). This proposition
logically followed the idea that Hanifan expressed in such understandable terms. It
seemed to be a decades old idea in its origins even while paradoxically new—both in the
way it challenged conventional wisdom about social capital, and the manner in which
community organization and governance was being considered. In this manner, the
proposition reflected the essence, or spirit, of the arguments being presented here.

32

CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
Walters (2002) suggested that Putnam's (1993, 1995, 2000) work pointed towards
an alternative to then-existing models of political interaction. In doing so, he pulled off a
remarkable feat. Social capital, as the concept‘s political science progenitor saw it,
assumes a world in which governance is no longer presumed to monopolize the political
structure. Power and authority are instead dispersed. The slack is taken up not by
privatized or decentralized agencies, but by active citizens. Putnam's basic thesis did not
seem to be too far off the mark here. Again, though, it appeared that institutional effects
on the political structure had been wrongly overlooked, or at least understated.
How to study such effects, however, was as complex an issue as any considered
during the formative stages of this research. It was decided, in any case, rather quickly
that there seemed to be no greater option than the use, or at least partial use, of a case
study in laying foundation for more extensive future research and a model of the type
Walters imagined. The case study has been traditional and popular within the community
development and local governance literature for decades because it serves as a practical
means of examining local and urban issues. An understanding of how local governance
works has always required an up-close investigation of how it does so. Besides, in
examining such matters, urban case studies have contributed much to political science as
a whole. It could hardly have been denied, for instance, that they created viable
alternatives to once-prevailing models of political interaction. Among the most influential

33
in this regard were Dahl's (1961) pluralist study of New Haven, Connecticut and the
Hunter study of community power in Atlanta, Georgia (1953, 1980), which spurred as
much academic interest or more in its day than Putnam's (1993, 1995, 2000) concept of
social capital had at the time this project began. San Jose had once been the focus of just
such a study, for instance (Christensen & Trounstine, 1982). Concurrently, community
and economic development literature was still strongly influenced by Banfield's (1958)
case study of amoral familism in a southern Italian village, which argued in part that
years of authoritarian or controlling governments created a legacy of interpersonal
distrust and limited political participation. It should be noted that all of the above studies
inform this dissertation, because all seriously and directly address the relationship
between state and society.
Micro-level case studies involving social capital seemed to be essential,
regardless. It was apparent that Orr (1999) believed as much. He asserted that such
studies could prove to be good exercises in theory-building, given that social capital was
still a relatively new theoretical force for analyzing governance and society, one
criticized for its lack of clarity. Making matters worse was that indices used to measure
social capital often seemed as if their items were selected arbitrarily, given how their
makeup seemed to change from one study to the next. Conducting in-depth case studies
seemed to offer a better means for working through the theoretical fog. "As Hanes
Walton, Jr., recently observed, ‗In a barren and undiscovered intellectual terrain, basic
mapping, formal parameters, and useful guide-ways and promising paths must be
fashioned. Case studies permit the establishment of intellectual frontiers'" (Orr, 1999, p.
16). Orr took his cues from King, Keohane, and Verba (1994), who argued that case

34
studies may be beneficial, not just in the testing of newer theories, but also in the
development of social concepts which are highly abstract in nature.
Backing for this direction also came from Woolcock, who believed that
approaching the study of social capital in as broad a context as possible could help
improve related research (1998, p. 188). He elaborated:
Rather than trying to prove or refute assertions that social relations are
always and everywhere the construction of "rational" agents, or instead the
result of primordial norms or "culture," a more fruitful approach invokes a
social-structural explanation of economic life and seeks to identify the
types and combinations of social relations involved, the institutional
environments shaping them, and their historical emergence and continuity.
(1998, p. 185)
Woolcock stressed a notion of broad interactivity in the relationship of institutions
and social networks that would be at the heart of the Mobile research and reflected in the
previously listed propositions. All the propositions were, it should be recalled, developed
more as a guide for theory-building than for the testing of traditional hypotheses. At the
same time, the context Woolcock described was certainly dynamic. It only stood to
reason that the propositions could be altered upon investigation in order to act as a better
aid in describing reality.
One of the working hypotheses presented a special challenge, however—namely,
the third one, which involved cross-sectoral cooperation. No proposition pointed the
Mobile project more into uncharted territory than this one. Only one micro-level study of
the relationship between government and community organizations in minority
communities had been conducted, much less conducted in an inner city—namely, Orr's
(1999) research on "black social capital" and Baltimore public education.

35
The last of the five propositions, which suggested that no one person or entity was
responsible for development outcomes in the Mobile district, was also unique in that it
addressed a matter that would be central to the general methodology here. As a
consequence of the apparent interactive nature of cooperation in District 1 and Trinity
Gardens, no traditional type of social science model seemed to apply here. Instead, this
largely qualitative and exploratory case study was inspired by a pioneering form of social
science methodology known as social network analysis. This type of analysis—
sometimes quantitative, but not always (Breiger, 2002)—provides scholars with a means
of examining linkages between different sectors of society, as well as groups and
individuals. These sorts of linkages are usually ignored in political science research. This
is not, however, because scholars within the field saw such linkages as being of minor
importance. Instead, these researchers conform to one overwhelming rule of empirical
social science inquiry; namely, that units of analysis need to be as homogenous as
possible.
Given the importance of networks in social capital, and confusion over whether it
lay with individuals and communities and the like, a more unique approach seemed
needed. As such, there was no dependent or independent variable for my Trinity Gardens
study, in the traditional sense. An actor who served as an independent variable, however,
could affect certain groupings, which would in turn be a dependent variable, within the
network. Such an actor could have been Richardson, say, while one such group could
have been the Bay Area Women Coalition.
The above two propositions, like the other three, were examined through as many
avenues as was possible and practical. What Yin asserted—namely, that case studies need

36
to be complete, to include as much evidence as is feasible—was always kept in mind
(1994, pp. 148-49). Likewise, it was noted that all case studies gained strength, not to
mention internal validity, by being methodologically rich or, to put it in more technical
terms, by "triangulating" data from as many sources or means as possible (Gillham, 2000,
p. 13; King et al., 1994; Merriam, 2000, pp. 25-27; Yin, 1994). Yin also asserted that
there exist six main sources of evidence for case studies, and that all need to be
considered for thoroughness. These sources include documentation, archival records,
interviews, direct observation, participant-observation, and physical artifacts. All but the
last two were used only in the initial stages of the Mobile research.
Later, the idea was to gather evidence in a more comprehensive and planned
manner. The evidence was largely taken from in-depth interviews with community
leaders, including but not limited to Richardson. These included elected officials in
Mobile and neighboring Prichard, police department officers and administrators, federal
law enforcement officials, local clergy, officers of health and social service agencies, and
the directors of non-profit social service organizations. Bay Area Women Coalition
members were also interviewed extensively. By the end of the summer of 2003,
interviews were conducted with thirty-five individuals in the Mobile area. They averaged
around 30 minutes apiece.
The collection of documentation, meanwhile, was considered to be of the utmost
importance. U.S. Census data, in particular, was gathered for demographic and
socioeconomic information on the areas under study. (The above was the sort of data that
Grootaert and Bastelaer (2002) argued would form the base of any social capital-related
research.) Some district-level crime and pollution records of the City of Mobile were also

37
gathered for presentations of supplemental quantitative data. Otherwise, some city
documents, such as a community-cleanup network list and community policing records,
were collected even during the initial stages. Archival records such as Richardson's
(1996) civil rights-related memoirs and books regarding Mobile history were also
collected during this period (Hoffman, 2001; Jackson, 2001; Nicholls, 2001). Major
documents that were to be used extensively, including a city survey related to community
development issues in Trinity Gardens, were collected during the summer of 2003. The
latter included the city‘s application for Trinity Gardens‘s inclusion into the U.S. Justice
Department‘s anti-crime Weed and Seed initiative.
Finally, direct observation of community meetings, neighborhoods, and
community action was employed as a method as well. A journal was kept—at first well,
but later intermittently, given a tight schedule—to record such observation, as suggested
by Goffman (2002) and Merriam (2002), who noted that such writing can leave an "audit
trail" for independent readers (2002, p. 27). For similar reasons, written notes from
meetings and interviews were kept on file.
Still another source of evidence for even largely qualitative studies, Yin (1994)
suggested, is the survey. Data collected from such a survey could have only been used in
a supplemental manner in the typical case study. Such surveys, however, could boost
research validity. Consequently, a formal survey of area residents at community meetings
was initially considered for this project. It was decided later, however, to interview 30
area residents in a less formalized fashion, mainly in an attempt to gain as much
information about the area and its development as possible. Questions were kept
somewhat open-ended as well, in hopes of collecting as much pertinent data as possible.

38
Nonetheless, interview subjects were only asked about certain topics. Among them were
the following:
1.
2.
3.
4.

General feelings about the neighborhood.
Areas in which residents saw a need for improvement.
How the neighborhood had changed over the past decade, if indeed it had
changed at all.
How residents thought Trinity Gardens compared to neighboring areas.
Given that the research was going to be conducted in such a thorough fashion, it

was thought that the research would carry with it the promise of an important, if modest,
contribution to an understanding of the relationship between social capital and
government. As Woolcock (1998) suggested, responsible research involving social
capital needs to be modest, given the complexity and newness of the territory.
Nevertheless, it bears repeating that no concept or theory regarding the relation of
government and community organizations had been developed outside of education or
economic development policy areas at the time of this project's planning. Certainly, no
research regarding the relationship between government and social capital has been
applied to community development within an inner city, or a larger urban area. The
Mobile research, it was thought, could thus be eminently useful, both from a theoretical
and a more practical aspect. The potential existed to develop a strong heuristic for leaders
interested in community development and for both academics and practitioners to better
understand how an inner city can see its way out of decay and despair. The material
presented was collected in a manner aimed at best reaching that goal.
There were, meanwhile, more specific relationships and patterns of social and
political behavior that were sought. It was believed that looking for these patterns and
relationships would assure that the working hypotheses described the reality of the

39
Trinity Gardens experience in as accurate a manner as possible. The sort of data that was
sought is listed as follows:
Proposition 1: Government played a central role in increasing the effect, if not
the stock, of social capital in Trinity Gardens.
Given that there were frequent contradictions in the literature as to how to
operationalize, much less measure, social capital, no strict definition was used here. The
term was instead intended to refer mainly to civic activity and civic group membership,
as well as social networking, that had the potential to affect a particular community‘s
policy or development process outcomes. In theory, a community‘s social capital can
entail all of the organized groups within it, including religious congregations, card
groups, sports-oriented groups, ad-hoc interest groups and even street gangs, all of which
are likely to have certain norms and strong levels of generalized trust between members.
Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000) also thought that the existence of larger numbers of these
groups—and the weak ties between individuals across various sectors of a community
that could be formed by membership—encourage trust and the adaptation of norms at a
larger level. It did seem likely that many groups could have had an impact on
development in Trinity Gardens, whether their impact was perceived by community elites
or leadership and citizens. Nonetheless, the connection between the number of groups,
and good policy outcomes, was often decried and contradicted within the literature
surveyed. Likewise, there were too many contradictions between the understanding of the
concept in social capital within political science, not to mention between political science
and sociology. (Putnam believed that social capital existed at the community level, while
Coleman (1988, 1990) and other sociologists saw it as existing at the individual level

40
only.) Consequently, norms and levels of trust between these groups were not searched
for outright, although both norms and trust were discussed by interview subjects and were
considered accordingly.
Whatever the case, the literature seemed to point to the idea that the effects of
such organizations and social networks will not be strong unless they are channeled in a
particular direction, whether that direction is broad or narrow. Otherwise, groups may
work at cross-purposes with one another. In the absence of such focus, these groups and
networks—particularly those with aims involving policy or development outcomes—
might not be able to sustain their efforts over time. Alternately, as social capital theorists
within sociology suggested, individuals and groups who seek such ends may try to gain
social capital for themselves at the expense of others. It is perhaps even the case that the
personal ambitions or goals of individuals within groups and networks cannot be easily
disassociated from their seeming concerns for a broader policy or community
development-related cause.
It was a given, still, that a consideration of the Bay Area Women Coalition would
be a central part of this research. As indicated earlier, initial research in 2002 showed that
the BAWC was seen by many within the Mobile government and service organization
communities as having played an integral role in neighborhood development. Bay Area
representatives appeared at community meetings overseen by Richardson, and interacted
with elected officials and administrators in a manner which suggested that, for all
practical purposes, they had a government sanction or acted in a quasi-public capacity. It
could have been said that both group members and these city representatives had

41
independent ambitions that they were hoping to fulfill in working with one another. The
interaction, in any case, definitely warranted greater study.
At the same time, it was not assumed that no other organization was involved in
the Trinity Gardens development process; neither was it presumed that all the significant
players in the development process had been identified in initial research. It did seem
reasonable, all the same, to believe that the majority of important players would be
identified through direct observation of community events and, more importantly,
extensive interviews. The goal was to interview individuals from as many policy and
community sectors as possible, including not just elected officials and BAWC members
but citizens, in addition to persons working within the public safety, law enforcement,
and public health arenas, and in the legal community, social service agencies, and
educational institutions.
Government, meanwhile, was operationalized as the larger metropolitan
government infrastructure—namely, local and municipal government agencies including
jurisdictional law enforcement authorities, as well as those local agencies which played
some significant role in community development efforts. Government was also seen as
entailing the elected local representation for the Trinity Gardens area. Nonetheless,
Mobile‘s government won primary consideration here, even though part of Trinity
Gardens fell within the jurisdiction of Prichard. That neighboring municipality would
later be seen as more significant than initially thought, but its impact was portrayed by
many interview subjects as being mostly negative in certain ways (it was working under
bankruptcy protection, and was not a particularly desirable neighbor, for instance). In

42
other respects, however, its impact was portrayed as minimal or negligible in regard to
specific changes in Trinity Gardens.
Proposition 2: The relationship between social capital and government was
ultimately tied in with the success of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens.
In this study, community development was seen as taking in all development
efforts, with the exception of those that were more strictly economic-minded, or oriented
toward education reform. These could have been rightly considered as integral to the
success of any neighborhood. Nevertheless, economic development and education reform
efforts were city and metropolitan area-wide affairs. Trinity Gardens contained a middle
school, for instance, but its student body largely consisted of children who lived in other
neighborhoods. A private church-associated school also existed, but it did not cater
strictly to Trinity Gardens; likewise, it did not cross boundaries with the public schools.
Similarly, while the City of Mobile engaged in some economic development efforts
aimed at countering problems in lower-income neighborhoods—such as forming a center
on the city‘s south side that had a business library, computers for students, and a work
training facility that doubled as operational discount store—most of these initiatives were
geared toward gaining retail and industrial facilities that would enlarge the overall city
tax base and well-being of the larger metropolitan area.
Consequently, the developmental arenas that appeared most worthy of exploration
included the following: crime prevention and abatement, housing development, pollution
control, blight removal, the promotion of the humanities and cultural enrichment efforts,
and the protection and education of at-risk youth. The notion of what constituted
community development was gleaned from the surveyed literature, combined from

43
information obtained through direct observation and interviews with subjects from a
variety of government, charitable, civic, and social service organizations.
Meanwhile, a community development effort was accepted as successful when
portrayed by a large cross-section of interview subjects—or, perhaps more accurately,
was seen as successful when these individuals believed that the goal of neighborhood
leaders had been reached or completed. Certainly, it was kept in mind that what was seen
as a success in one community or section of a larger metro area might have been seen as a
failure in another. The completion of an arts center in an inner-city neighborhood could
have been considered a major success in and of itself, for instance, while a municipal
convention center might have been thought of as only a starting point for a larger, multimillion dollar downtown redevelopment effort. Context, in short, mattered considerably.
How an individual defines or operationalizes success—be it of community development
efforts, one‘s own career or athletic achievements—necessarily depends upon one‘s
vantage point. It seems clear, though, that a researcher of urban social and political life
can tell something about how a neighborhood or community is doing based upon the
goals set by its own leaders, as well as the expectations of or standards set by leaders
from a larger metropolitan area.
Proposition 3: Cross-sectoral cooperation appeared to be vital to community
development efforts in Trinity Gardens. However, more extensive interaction would be
needed for any further-reaching development efforts.
As noted earlier, it appeared as if this proposition would prove to be the most
difficult to investigate. It was also the most unusual, given that it was looking at
community development efforts beyond the basic ones, such as anti-blight and crime

44
prevention efforts that had already been undertaken in Trinity Gardens. Discussion of
these further-reaching efforts was heard during the initial research period. It seemed then
that some individuals involved aimed to turn the area into a self-contained community.
When more fully researching the development process, an attempt was made at gauging
whether the efforts were geared toward a more sustainable sort of development; that is, a
sort that would keep the Trinity Gardens population at least stable, and hopefully
growing.
The work of Woolcock (1998) and others at the World Bank (Grootaert, 1998;
Grootaer & van Bastelaer, 2002; Uphoff, 2000) provided a clear starting point for
research here. Cross-sectoral cooperation was accordingly seen as being a cooperative (or
non-zero sum) variety of social networking between elected authorities, social service
agencies, and charitable organizations, as well as the larger metro area business
community and economic establishment. These would be joined, of course, by
community civic groups in working on development in Trinity Gardens. It was not a
consistent cooperation between all these groups simultaneously that was sought,
however, so much as evidence of positive cooperation between neighborhood
organizations and municipal leadership, as well as with leaders or elites within the larger
metro area.
Cooperation and positive social networking between the community and persons
and groups outside of metro area lines was also considered, given that organizations and
forces at the state or national level were positioned to have a serious impact on area
development. Among these organizations were Alabama‘s state government and the
federal government, given the importance of intergovernmental relations in the United

45
States. Many community development efforts of federal agencies, more specifically,
would have been unthinkable without the use of monetary grants, which are administered
through state government agencies. Since World War II, federal authorities have
demonstrated more of an interest in urban affairs, although more control over these
efforts has increasingly been granted to state leaders and agencies. Federal priorities
nonetheless remained important and influential.
Proposition 4: Government and community leadership were essential to
increasing the effect of social capital in Trinity Gardens, and not just government itself.
As with earlier propositions, this one was based in large part on initial field
research, as well as the surveyed literature. It certainly appeared as if Richardson and the
leaders of the Bay Area Women Coalition played a significant role in the neighborhood‘s
development, although the phenomena had not been fully investigated. The literature
suggested that such leadership is often central to development, given the focus that one
driven or charismatic individual can bring to any community efforts.
Even so, it was thought that government leadership may have been necessary
from a wider array of officialdom, given the number of agencies involved in the
neighborhood‘s development. More particularly, leadership from major city agencies,
such as those engaged in law enforcement and pollution control, may have been essential.
At any rate, government was seen in a fashion similar to the way in which social capital
was portrayed—that is, as a force whose potential could have lain largely dormant or
unfocused until sparked by a particular individual or group of individuals.
Proposition 5: No one person, group, or social phenomenon was solely
responsible for the outcome of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens.

46
As was easy to predict, from the initial investigation it appeared that multiple
organizations and individuals had indeed been involved in the community development
effort. The fact that many people were involved, however, was not of more specific
interest here. What was being sought in research was instead the extent to which
individuals or groups largely initiated or brought particular efforts to fruition, either with
knowledge of the goals of community leaders or not. It was thought that, even if a
particular focus was given by leadership, surely ideas might have been picked up and
brought to completion by others. It seemed even more likely, and somewhat apparent
from the initial research besides, that scarce financial resources in Trinity Gardens made
a decentralized sort of development process all the more likely, even necessary.
The only potentially problematic part of this proposition was the
operationalization of the term social phenomenon. Was the development process itself a
social phenomenon? Perhaps, but it was certainly not expected that all parties involved—
from, potentially, officials of federal agencies to neighborhood churches to officials in the
neighboring municipalities of Mobile and Prichard—would see themselves as part of
some unified or holistic community development effort.

47

CHAPTER IV
TRINITY GARDENS IN CONTEXT
The central idea that drove this dissertation was, despite the nuanced analysis
developed later, fairly straightforward. It was that government's relationship to social
capital seemed underplayed and in need of reexamining. The idea, however, drove this
research even before Trinity Gardens was selected as the place to study the ideas behind
it. The neighborhood was not chosen at random, but it was selected in an after-the-fact
fashion.
To more completely sum up earlier analysis, underlying the research was the
notion that government seemed wrongly left out of the larger picture, especially when it
came to the analysis of crime reduction and community development. For instance, how
can any great crime prevention efforts be undertaken without police? Who builds most of
an area‘s infrastructure? At the same time, it seemed clear that public officials can surely
drive communities as much as they are driven by the wishes of the people, even if other
larger forces and more powerful behind-the-scenes powers drive their decision-making.
Consequently, the potential for an enriching research project definitely existed. It
would take a year of reading, however, and initial investigations in Trinity Gardens in
2002 and 2003 to work out ideas. What resulted were five propositions, the first of which
was in essence a restatement of the idea that brought me to Trinity Gardens initially.
"Government, it seems apparent, can play a central role in increasing the effect, if not the

48
stock, of a political community's social capital." The ideas driving the research were not
changed at this point. They only grew more complicated, more filled with subtleties.
These propositions were more thoroughly investigated over the summer of 2003,
specifically from around May 15 until August 31. While working on this project, I would
not only live in the Mobile area but assist with a survey of youth in low-income
neighborhoods conducted by The University of Alabama‘s Institute for Social Science
Research. This field work led to a familiarization with the areas surrounding Trinity
Gardens, and with areas of comparable socioeconomic status. The work allowed the
possibility of putting the development and problems of Trinity Gardens into a larger
metropolitan context. Nevertheless, as the weeks went by, the focus of the project did not
change in any substantial way. Interview questions remained intentionally narrow in their
scope. Many interview subjects had previously worked their way through similar
academic research projects or were seemingly into theorizing, and suggested their own
hypotheses, some of which are discussed below. The straying into material that did not
concern the larger research issue was, however, strongly discouraged.
The effect of putting the Trinity Gardens story into this context suggested, in
combination with the interviews and other evidence, that the reality of life in Trinity
Gardens was more tangled than initial investigations indicated. To make this clear,
however, first requires a deeper look at the neighborhood‘s demographics, history,
geography, and economics. This chapter‘s purpose is to begin the process of addressing
those complications, while more specifically giving deeper consideration to the context in
which the Trinity Gardens experience takes place. It concludes with a comparison of
Trinity Gardens and areas with similar demographics, as well as a comparison with the

49
metro area at large. The data presented in this chapter, both in the narrative and several
charts that accompany it, are referenced throughout the dissertation.
The Metropolitan Context
The most important thing to understand about Trinity Gardens is the degree of its
isolation. More specifically, the neighborhood is isolated in the context of the Mobile
metropolitan area, and in a manner connected to economics. It sits several miles away
from the city‘s premier shopping areas, which long ago moved westward from the city‘s
central section and nearby Prichard. To make matters worse, part of the Trinity Gardens
area lies within the latter city, a once-thriving area that had seen continuous decline since
the 1960s. In 2003, its government was working under bankruptcy protection.
Concomitantly, a larger public housing development, Bessemer Apartments, then also sat
directly across U.S. 45 (St. Stephen‘s Road) from Trinity Gardens. More importantly,
perhaps, the private sector was barely registered on the neighborhood‘s development
radar, in large part as a consequence of the layout of roads and municipal zoning. Given
this economic isolation, it was no surprise that government was a major force within
Trinity Gardens. Certainly, like other poor neighborhoods in the far northern (and far
southern) sections of Mobile, Trinity Gardens depended on government for much of
whatever developmental success it had—even if it was not quite as dependent as some of
its neighbors.
It nevertheless seemed clear that there had long been substantial civic activity and
something recognizable as civil society within Trinity Gardens, and it had maintained
itself during decades in which the neighborhood was arguably even more isolated than
surrounding areas. Perhaps more accurately, it had both a cultural connection to the

50
greater Mobile area, and a sense of being somehow apart. Several interviewees stressed
that, given its history, Trinity Gardens had both a strong community identity and its own
unique history. The walls of a meeting room in the Dotch Community Center were filled
with pictures of founding members of area civic groups. These included the prosaically
named Civic Club and the more exotically named Paradise Garden Club. (The center was
housed in an up-to-date, $2.4 million facility that, along with the subsidized garden home
subdivision and the $1.4 million dollar amphitheater that surrounded it, was the shiny
new center of community life.) In many ways, Trinity Gardens had a small town sort of
character. Still, Trinity Gardens also had a Mardi Gras mystic society, or fraternal
organization, a fact that connected the neighborhood to the rest of the city culturally, even
while arguably providing further evidence of the community‘s unique position among its
neighbors. Having a mystic society was no small thing in a city that takes pride in having
hosted the first Carnival on the North American continent.
This indefinable or presumed sense of identity was tied in with how the
neighborhood was founded, which certainly did stand out among neighboring areas and
those in Mobile with similar demographics. According to one history of the area,
contained within an application for a federally-driven anti-crime program designation
(City of Mobile, 2000), the area‘s roots could be traced back to the very founding of
Mobile by French explorers. Newly freed slaves and whites moved into the area in the
late 19th Century. The area‘s identity as Trinity Gardens, however, was established much
later, more specifically in the late 1930s, as a neighborhood full of individually built
houses. Rather than being a government-subsidized sort of Potemkin Village, or another

51
impersonal public housing development, the neighborhood began its life as a private
subdivision.
The area was apparently not the best or most obvious pick for a new subdivision.
More to the point, Trinity Gardens was built in an area that was largely swampy. For
years, Census records would describe the southern boundary of one of the two Trinity
Gardens tracts as an ―unnamed ditch.‖ Its early days were consequently muddy ones.
Almost perversely, however, the community‘s very lack of obvious advantages,
combined with the greater industrial hiring of blacks in the 1940s and 1950s, made
Trinity Gardens popular with African-Americans who wanted to build homes. Its
development largely occurred as many black settlers found jobs in the shipyard near the
now-closed Brookley Air Force Base during World War II. Many other factory workers
lived in the area, as did brick-masons and carpenters, the latter of whom apparently
helped build many of the neighborhood's homes.
The advantages for these newfound residents seemed to be twofold. First, the
area‘s swampiness kept whites and the more affluent from desiring property there. Many
residents also reportedly discovered, over time, that living in Trinity Gardens made it
easier to build a home during the Jim Crow era. Most homes there were built in a roomby-room fashion, not by contractors but with the help of community skill networks (City
of Mobile, 2000). These residents would, despite the swampy conditions, live in a
neighborhood whose very street signs reflected its founders‘ hopes and World War II
experiences. The streets have names including Greenback, Bank, Gold, Ruby, Diamond
and Silver, along with Bataan, Warsaw, and Victory.

52
As the 1960s drew to a close, the institution of southern segregation finally
collapsed, however, and the population of areas such as Trinity Gardens declined with it.
The effect of Jim Crow‘s inevitable demise was probably exacerbated by layoffs at
shipyards near the Brookley Air Force base, and the closing of the base itself. Like so
many other African-American neighborhoods in urban America, Trinity Gardens
residents were hit hard by the harsh effects of industrial layoffs and factory closings
(Wilson, 1997, 1987). Whatever the ultimate cause, it was certainly true that Trinity
Gardens declined, while the rest of Mobile continued to grow. More specifically, over
7,000 residents lived in the two Census tracts that made up the neighborhood in 1970. By
1980, that population would fall to within the range of 6,000 and the mid-4000s by 1990.
Meanwhile, the number of unemployed in the area increased with each census. In 1970,
for instance, 8.2 percent of all residents in the labor force counted themselves as
unemployed. The number had increased to 13.2 percent in 1980 and jumped to 23.8
percent by 1990. Also showing a steady increase was the percentage of males over 16 not
counted as part of the labor force. In 1970, that figure stood at 30 percent. In 1990, the
figure for the same category stood at 41.1 percent. About two of every five males over
16, then, was not being counted as part of the labor force, and 3 in 10 of those who were
counted were not employed, making for an effective unemployment rate of 58.8 percent.
Demographic and economic trends aside, it was also often said that Trinity
Gardens became one of the most crime-infested areas of the Mobile metropolitan area.
Exactly how bad the situation became was, unfortunately, far from clear, considering that
the city did not have well-kept records in regard to crime in neighborhoods. Mobile
public safety officials did not have any such records available except for the late 1990s,

53
when the city began working with what it would call community action groups. Everyone
interviewed for this project at least perceived that Trinity Gardens came to have an everworsening crime problem, one that escalated over time, particularly in the 1980s and
early 1990s. Interview subjects, including officers who had patrolled the neighborhood
over the years, also agreed that most of the crime probably came into the area from
neighboring area and specific corners of Trinity Gardens. Of particular concern was a
housing project in the Queen's Court apartment complex, where many extremely
impoverished families and individuals lived with the assistance of housing subsidies. It is
located on the neighborhood's far northeastern end, in an area colloquially known as
Bullshead (and also often called a part of the "Harlem" area, as a consequence of its
location near the Harlem Club, a bar and nightclub on U.S. 45.) Most people
interviewed, including residents of the neighborhood and those who lived elsewhere in
Mobile, further stated that it was hard to understate how different Trinity Gardens was at
its nadir from the neighborhood it was in 2003. Representative comments included:
Police administrator: Trinity Gardens is nothing like it was 20 years ago. Twenty
years ago it was a combat zone. So this year we had one murder. So if you want be
statically spoken in your language, you can say we had a 100 percent increase in
homicide in a year. But the number, the truth of it is you had one murder. (Mikell,
2003, p. 225)
Volunteer, civilian police board: Well, it was, it was like day and night. It was a
place that was infested with crime, criminals, drug activity, prostitution, a general
attitude of a majority of the people just not caring. On a scale from one to ten,
Trinity Gardens was a one . . . But it's nothing like it used to be. (Mikell, 2003, p.
211)
Civic leader: I have seen so much violence in this neighborhood. And now they say
we have done a miraculous thing because we've only had one murder here now. We
went from two to three murders a month to one a year. (Mikell, 2003, p. 192)

54
Trinity Gardens was said to have begun a turnaround in the late 1990s, much as
the nation‘s economy had. It was almost certainly as good a time to start a redevelopment
plan as any. By 2000, the proportion of unemployed in Trinity Gardens stood at 4.7
percent. The total of males over 16, but not counted as part of the labor force, fell to 17
percent, representing a drop of nearly 25 points since 1990. Thus, the effective
unemployment rate was 20.9 percent, compared with 58.8 a decade earlier.
Census records for 2000 made clear, nevertheless, that the area was still far from
being middle class, or even within close range of such status. The neighborhood was still
impoverished. Its adults were still underemployed and under-educated. It was still,
however, seen by many officials and public and non-profit administrators interviewed as
having made progress and singular among its neighbors in how far it had come.
Trinity Gardens was also seen as having certain advantages that other low-income
areas of the Mobile metro area did not have, the greatest of which was its high rate of
owner-occupied housing. Certainly, the large rate of home ownership appeared to be a
source of community pride. Still, neighborhood denizens were thought to have a different
way of looking at things. They were seen as classic examples of ―the working poor.‖ In
many cases, homes were decidedly austere, but residents still took pride in ownership.
One interview subject who frequently worked in the neighborhood summed up this ethos
as, ―Even if it's ratty, it's mine‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 255). Residents were also praised for
taking pride in helping one another out, as earlier generations had when building up the
neighborhood during the Jim Crow era.
Some observers suggested that this history of home ownership made organizing
the community easier. No such organizing, it was noted, could have easily occurred in a

55
public housing development, if at all. Home owners just had what the administrator
thought of as an ―honest-to-God‖ investment in their neighborhoods. There were also, as
a consequence, more longer-term residents in Trinity Gardens. The word stakeholder
may have been cliched in political science and public administration, one administrator
noted, but that was definitely what homeowners in the area had become. Moreover,
families that had lived in Trinity Gardens for three or four generations remained in the
area, something not typically found in public housing developments or private apartment
complexes. ―You don‘t,‖ the administrator noted, ―find that sense of roots and belonging
that you find in a community of owners‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 125-6). Other officers echoed
this sentiment, although one found additional significance in the fact that a large slate of
middle-class homeowners existed in the area, and that it had grown over the past few
decades.
Demographic Context
How much did Trinity Gardens really differ from other lower-income
neighborhoods in the Mobile area, though? Was it really that distinctive in areas such
areas as home ownership—which, as the data presented in the next chapter will show,
was seen by many officials as being the key to its success? Did it stand out among other
low-income neighborhoods not just culturally and historically, but from a social and
economic standpoint? Was Trinity Gardens really distinctive among lower-income
neighborhoods, or was this idea more a matter of perception and reputation?
An in-depth comparison of the Trinity Gardens area, surrounding neighborhoods
in the north section of the Mobile metropolitan area, and neighborhoods in other sections
with similarly lower-income and minority populations was produced as a means of

56
addressing such questions. The tables were created, more specifically, to compare the
above areas over a three-decade period in areas including population, mean family and
household income, proportion of residents living below the poverty level (the U.S.
Census Bureau measure of which had not substantially changed between 1970 and 2000),
and levels of education. Gathered alongside the data were maps of the Mobile
metropolitan statistical area (as defined by the Census authorities), and the individual
census tracts under study. All the information presented, with the exception of the Census
Bureau maps, was taken from the Neighborhood Change Database, a compact disc that
allows one to study the area within the tracts drawn up for the 2000 census over four
censuses, even though the boundaries of such tracts often vary significantly from census
to census. In other words, the data available on the disc was normalized for 2000 U.S.
Census geographies.
The maps of these tracts are presented below, and are followed in each case by
narrative descriptions of the areas in question, ones that further allow for a consideration
of Trinity Gardens‘s place within metropolitan Mobile. These maps and descriptions are
followed by the tables discussed earlier. Each of the tables is followed by a discussion of
the associated data.

57
Figure 1. Mobile metropolitan area.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Metropolitan Mobile
The metropolitan context discussed earlier in this chapter is shown more clearly
here. The Mobile metro area, as one might have presumed given the tendency of
American cities toward urban sprawl, had been considerably smaller geographically at
the time the first Census studied, 1970. The heart of commercial activity in Mobile had
moved, as noted earlier, from central Mobile and Prichard to annexed western areas, and
now stretched for several miles westward down Airport Boulevard—represented on this
map as Alabama State Highway 56—and into unincorporated areas of Mobile County.
Given motor vehicle gridlock on Airport Boulevard, however, small towns to the east

58
such as Daphne and Fairhope, which were for many years reachable only by a causeway
across Mobile Bay that was easily breached by marsh and bay water, had become
thriving suburban areas by the late 1990s.
Sections of what was known locally as Old Mobile, or the central city (with the
arguable exception of historic areas of the Midtown section) were, however, left behind
economically. These included the previously mentioned areas immediately to the south of
U.S. Highway 43, or Government Road, the boulevard which served as the main street of
Old Mobile, and the northern section of Mobile around U.S. 45 (or St. Stephen‘s Road).
Prichard, which was also hit hard, is mostly situated north of St. Stephen‘s Road. Two
varying exceptions to the socioeconomic rule, Saraland and Chickasaw, are located north
of Prichard. Both are predominantly white. The latter was in 2003 more working class
oriented and shrinking in population, while the former was seeing modest middle-class
growth.
Trinity Gardens is located due southeast of the Interstate 65 exit at St. Stephen‘s
Road. The federal expressway is shown as a curved line running south through Saraland
and Chickasaw, and on through central Mobile. It stops upon meeting Interstate 10.

59
Figure 2. Census tracts; Mobile, Prichard.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Census Tract View
A better view of Trinity Gardens‘s location is presented here—it is, again, found
where U.S. 45 meets Interstate 65. The neighborhood (highlighted on Figure 2) makes up
tracts 39.01 and 39.02. Among the other tracts studied are 32.03, located off Airport
Boulevard in West Mobile; and 13.02, which is found south of Government Boulevard, in
the map‘s far southeastern corner. Also studied are other northern tracts such as numbers
41 and 48 in Prichard and 4.01, 4.01 and 5, which are located northwest of Downtown
Mobile, represented here as Tract 2 on the far eastern central edge of the map.

60
Figure 3. Census tracts 39.01 and 39.02 (Trinity Gardens).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Census Tracts 39.01 and 39.02: Trinity Gardens
As mentioned previously, these two tracts make up Trinity Gardens. Despite some
economic differences, most of the two tracts are considered to be part of the same
neighborhood, one that stretched from Berkley Avenue on the west side to Prichard
Avenue on the east. The more affluent parts of Trinity Gardens are found further south in
Mobile, mostly but not exclusively within the central and southern sections of 39.01. By
contrast, the far northern half of 39.01 is noticeably poorer and less developed.

61
Figure 4. Census tract 41, Prichard (NE of Trinity Gardens).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Census Tract 41: Prichard, Northeast of Trinity Gardens
This census area was located immediately north of the eastern half of Trinity
Gardens. It was also located in Prichard, and to the west of Prichard Avenue. This area
was chosen for study as a consequence of its perceived resemblance to its neighbor in
regard to housing mix and income levels. A church in this neighborhood served as the
starting point of an anti-violence march, one named in memory of the child slain at
Queen‘s Court. The march is discussed in Chapter V.

62
Figure 5. Census tract 48, Prichard (NW of Trinity Gardens).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Census Tract 48: Gulf Village and Alabama Village
An area of Mobile as seemingly wracked by poverty as any within its metro
region was this one, in Prichard. Tract 48 took in a public housing development by the
name of Gulf Village, and Alabama Village, which operated under private ownership.
Gulf Village is located at the northeastern tip of the tract, near Chickasaw, and the outlay
of its roads forms an easily recognizable shape on maps, one that brings to mind a
snowman. Alabama Village, meanwhile, is located to its immediate southwest.

63
Figure 6. Census tracts 4.01 and 5, Mobile (MLK Area).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Census Tracts 4.01 and 5, Martin Luther King area
The area surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard makes up most of tracts
4.01 and 5, which are located about four miles away from Trinity Gardens. Census Tract
5 is notable for a more noticeable density of housing and population. The streets are also
in many cases more narrow than in surrounding neighborhoods. It appeared, at best, to be
only a nominal improvement—socially, economically or environmentally—over the
public housing developments formally known as the Alfred Owens and Jesse Thomas
Homes, located to the east of Tract 4.01.

64
Figure 7. Census tract 4.02 (Orange Grove).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Census Tract 4.02, Orange Grove
This area, located due north of Downtown Mobile, included the impoverished
Orange Grove development. It is marked by a high level of environmental disorder.
Shards of glass litter almost every roadside, and trash is strewn throughout the district,
attracting swarms of seagulls. In 2004, the Mobile Housing Board announced that the
Alfred Owens Homes and Jesse Thomas Homes would be demolished and replaced with
mixed income housing, using funds provided through a federal HOPE IV grant.

65
Figure 8. Census tract 32.03, Mobile (West Mobile, Azalea Road).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Census Tract 32.03, West Mobile
In working on a federally sponsored youth survey in poor areas of Mobile, it grew
clear that West Mobile, an area with a more modern suburban sort of feel, was growing
home to more lower-income residents. This was likely a consequence of the growing use
of federal housing vouchers, as well as the high number of service industry jobs to be
found in the immediate area, which was highly commercialized. Lower income housing
was particularly found off Azalea Road in this tract.

66
Figure 9. Census tract 13.02, Mobile (South Mobile).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Census Tract 13.02, South Mobile
Given its demographic similarity to north Mobile, it seemed appropriate to
include at least one neighborhood in the southern section of Old Mobile. Only the
presence of the historic district and more middle class sections of Midtown, which are
centered around Government and Dauphin streets, breaks any potential continuity
between north and south Mobile. This specific tract was chosen because it seems to be,
like Trinity Gardens, a neighborhood made up primarily of the working poor. It also
contains Oaklawn, a 100-unit public housing development near the intersection of S.
Broad and Baltimore streets.

67
Social Indicators, Mobile Metropolitan Area
The demographic tables for the Mobile metropolitan area paint a portrait of a
healthy urban area, one whose growing number of residents had become not only more
affluent or prosperous over some three decades, but also better educated, on the whole.
Of all the statistics presented here, the contrast between percentage of residents who were
high school graduates in 2000 and in 1970 was easily the most striking. By contrast, the
rate of home ownership remained fairly stable. There were, meanwhile fewer people
living in poverty in the Mobile area in 2000 than in 1990, something that should not have
been particularly surprising, given the growth of the U.S. economy in the late 1990s.

Table 1
Population, Mobile Metro Area; Normalized for 2000 Census Boundaries
Year

Population

1970

376,380

1980

443,302

1990

476,924

2000

540,258

Percentage Change

30.3

68
Table 2
Housing, Mobile Metro Area; Normalized for 2000 Census Boundaries
Year

Occupied

Percent Owner

Percent Renter

1970

109,488

68.9

31.1

1980

150,074

68.7

31.3

1990

173,944

68.7

31.3

2000

205,515

71.7

28.3

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

Table 3
Income, Mobile Metro Area, Normalized for 2000 Census Boundaries
Year

Mean, Family

Mean, Household

1970

$8,959

$8,221

1980

$19,868

$17,471

1990

$35,076

$30,703

2000

$53,607

$47,113

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

69
Table 4
Poverty, Population, Mobile Metro Area; Normalized for 2000 Census Boundaries
Year

Individuals

Proportion of Population

1970

86,497

22.98%

1980

80,168

18.08%

1990

93,260

19.55%

2000

86,567

16.02%

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

Table 5
Education, Population, Mobile Metro Area; Normalized for 2000 Census Boundaries

Education,
Persons Over 25

High School Diploma
Only

Some College, No
Degree*

Bachelor‘s Degree
and Higher

1970

27.1%

8%

7.3%

1980

34.5%

14.5%

15.8%

1990

32.2%

22.7%

16%

2000

31.3%

27.1%

19.8%

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database
* Includes associate‘s degree holders

70
Population
These charts reinforce earlier points, among them that Trinity Gardens and
surrounding parts of north Mobile and Prichard had hemorrhaged residents over the past
three decades, particularly from 1970 to 1990. The only major exception was found in
Tract 13.02 of southern Mobile, whose numbers were stable over time, and Tract 32.03 in
West Mobile. A decline also occurred in Tract 4.01, but its population had changed
dramatically over time, as the housing tables that follow show more clearly.

71
Table 6
Population, By Mobile County Census Tracts; Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

Trinity Gardens
(39.01, 39.02)

Alabama Village,
Gulf Village area
(48)

West Mobile, Azalea Road
(32.03)

South Mobile
(13.02)

Year

Population

1970

7314

1980

6050

1990

4338

2000

4241

Percentage Change

-42.01

1970

4630

1980

3855

1990

3258

2000

2510

Percentage Change

-45.8

1970

2743

1980

3893

1990

3437

2000

3324

Percentage Change

17.4

1970

3779

1980

4359

1990

3971

2000

3669

Percentage Change

-3.0

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

72
Table 7
Population by Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

Prichard,
NE of Trinity Gardens
(41)

MLK Area I
(5)

MLK Area II
(4.01)

Orange Grove
(4.02)

Year

Population

1970

3003

1980

2091

1990

1534

2000

1233

Percentage Change

-58.94

1970

5308

1980

3899

1990

2513

2000

2452

Percentage Change

-54.01

1970

6662

1980

4853

1990

3291

2000

2891

Percentage Change

-56.6

1970

2150

1980

2370

1990

2139

2000

2092

Percentage Change

-2.7

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

73
Housing
The Census data presented did not show that Trinity Gardens was
overwhelmingly unique in the Mobile metro area in regard to its housing situation, or
even in its far northern sections, which were by and large poverty-stricken. However, it
did stand out as being somewhat more stable with regard to home ownership among the
majority of the areas studied, and had clearly showed progress over time and particularly
from 1990 to 2000. Its rate of home ownership in 2000, more specifically, did not vary
dramatically from that recorded in earlier years, but it did rise faster than most in the
Mobile area.
That being said, it should be remembered that Trinity Gardens lost a great deal of
its population from 1970 to 1990. Moreover, it did not differ dramatically from areas with
similar demographics in regard to home ownership, such as Tracts 41 and 13.02. Grant
claims made about its rate of home ownership were probably sparked instead by a
comparison with areas of Mobile and Prichard that were perceived to be as dangerous as
Trinity Gardens once had been. These included Tract 4.02, which included the Orange
Grove public housing development and neighboring rental property-heavy areas.
Otherwise, the charts here present two intriguing anomalies. The first comes in
the housing data for Tract 4.02. Its percentage of renter-occupied properties rose from
zero in 1970 to 99 percent in 2000, thanks to the construction of redevelopment programs
that included the opening of public housing in Orange Grove. Even so, the tract which
most stands out is 32.03. Home ownership spiked upward and rental rates declined there
between 1980 and 1990, but both rates evened out to 1980 levels in 2000.

74
Table 8
Housing, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

Trinity Gardens
(39.01, 39.02)

Alabama Village,
Gulf Village area (48)

West Mobile (32.03)

South Mobile (13.02)

Year

Occupied

Percent
Owner

Percent
Renter

1970

1740

64

36

1980

1750

62

38

1990

1415

68.1

31.9

2000

1356

68.5

31.5

1970

1410

33.5

66.5

1980

1295

31.5

68.5

1990

1073

31.2

68.8

2000

857

29.9

70.1

1970

831

78.2

21.8

1980

1653

51

49

1990

1415

68

32

2000

1417

51.6

43

1970

831

78.2

21.8

1980

1653

51

49

1990

1415

68

32

2000

1219

61.4

38.6

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

75
Table 9
Housing, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

Prichard, NE of
Trinity Gardens (41)

MLK Area I (5)

MLK Area II (4.01)

Orange Grove (4.02)

Year

Occupied

Percent
Owner

Percent
Renter

1970

824

52.8

47.2

1980

693

57.6

42.4

1990

571

66.4

33.6

2000

580

65.9

34.1

1970

1633

51.1

48.9

1980

1583

51

49

1990

1331

52.1

47.9

2000

981

51.7

48.3

1970

1934

25.8

74.2

1980

1675

25.5

74.5

1990

1157

26

75

2000

1023

34.8

65.2

1970

592

100

0

1980

681

0

100

1990

681

2.2

97.8

2000

690

1

99

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

76
Income
What stands out most about this longitudinal comparison is that home ownership
is somewhat correlated with income, at least among the tracts studied. How much the two
are correlated is difficult to say, given that the rate of variation between tracts in income
and as regard home ownership is not the same. The chart also compares neighborhoods,
after all, and is not a study of the entire metropolitan area. Nonetheless, it is worth noting
again that Tract 41 and Tract 13.02 and Trinity Gardens showed a remarkable degree of
similarity over time—although, in this case, the former easily outperformed the latter as
far as mean family income went in 2000 (although it only did modestly better in the case
of mean household income for the same year).
By contrast, those neighborhoods with lower incomes also tended to have lower
rates of home ownership and higher percentages of renter-occupied dwellings. Again, the
variance between home ownership and income was not a match. For instance, Tract 48,
which included two large, lower-income rental developments, Alabama Village and Gulf
Village, had a lower rental rate than Tract 4.01, the site of Orange Grove. However, it
also had lower reports of mean family and household income. Nevertheless, those
neighborhoods with lower incomes had higher numbers of renter-occupied housing units.
Interestingly, Tract 48 started out the period under study with higher reported income
than Trinity Gardens.
Otherwise, it is worth noting that incomes improved across the board in all the
neighborhoods studied between 1990 and 2000—in some cases dramatically. This proved
as true for Trinity Gardens as it did for Orange Grove. In truth, the latter neighborhood‘s
progress here was more astounding than any reported.

77
Table 10
Income, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized for 2000 Boundaries
Year
Trinity Gardens
(39.01, 39.02)

Alabama Village,
Gulf Village area (48)

Census Tract 32.03, Mobile

Census Tract 13.02, Mobile

Mean, Household

1970

Mean,
Family
$5,242

1980

$11,000

$9,835

1990

$16,668

$14,521

2000

$33,415

$28,439

1970

$6,777

$6.069

1980

$12,008

$11,186

1990

$11,967

$11,098

2000

$18,807

$19,149

1970

$13,691

$12,919

1980

$23,644

$20,438

1990

$35,617

$35,536

2000

$49,256

$47,761

1970

$7,237

$6,138

1980

$12,195

$10,689

1990

$17,974

$16,818

2000

$30,061

$27,199

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

$4,943

78
Table 11
Income, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts, Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

Prichard, NE of
Trinity Gardens (41)

MLK Area I (5)

MLK Area II (4.01)

Orange Grove (4.02)

Year

Mean,
Family

Mean
Household

1970

$4,429

$4,228

1980

$12,077

$10,059

1990

$16,197

$14,131

2000

$42,491

$30,955

1970

$5,519

$4,794

1980

$11,651

$9,906

1990

$15.390

$13,009

2000

$27,477

$21,922

1970

$4,061

$3,627

1980

$9,488

$8,262

1990

$9,450

$9,076

2000

$21,632

$18,709

1970

$4,073

$3,034

1980

$4,931

$4,146

1990

$7,455

$6,861

2000

$26,515

$21,808

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

79
Poverty
Just as there appeared to be a correlation between home ownership and rental
rates and income in the neighborhoods studied, so was there a connection between the
same and rates of poverty. Again, the variance between reported rates of poverty and
home ownership did not precisely match in this case. Some 47 percent of Tract 48's
residents lived in poverty, for instance, compared to 32 percent for Trinity Gardens. By
contrast, only about 30 percent of all dwellings were owner-occupied in that area, which
included Gulf Village and Alabama Village, a number that nearly matched Trinity
Gardens‘s percentage of renter-occupied units. By the same token, the variance between
income and poverty was perfectly matched. In Orange Grove‘s tract, 4.02, for instance,
close to 75 percent of all residents lived below the poverty level. It had, however, far
higher reports of mean family and household income.
Even so, the lower-income neighborhoods with lower rates of poverty also tended
to have higher incomes and higher rates of home ownership, and vice versa. In 2003, for
instance, the Alabama Village area in Tract 48 featured homes with dirt parking areas,
rows of apartments marked by burned out sections and multiple graffiti tributes to
apparently murdered individuals. One-lane streets there were, in 2003, clogged weeks
after what local media reported to be the rainiest June on record. Other neighborhoods
with higher rates of poverty either had public housing developments or featured more
abandoned housing and general disorder. Meanwhile, it appeared that Tract 32.03 in
West Mobile indeed attracted more of Mobile‘s poorer residents. Some 27.1 percent of its
residents lived below the poverty level in 2000, compared to 16.3 in 1990.

80
Table 12
Persons Below Poverty Level; by Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized
for 2000 Boundaries
Year

Trinity Gardens
(39.01, 39.02)

Alabama Village,
Gulf Village area (48)

Census Tract 32.03, Mobile

Census Tract 13.02, Mobile

Proportion of
Population

1970

Individuals Living
Below Poverty
Level
3748

1980

2471

40.9%

1990

1947

44.8%

2000

1376

32.4%

1970

1397

41.8%

1980

1668

43.2%

1990

2122

65.1%

2000

1571

47.2%

1970

41

14.9%

1980

290

7.4%

1990

562

16.3%

2000

900

27.1%

1970

969

25.6%

1980

1568

35.9%

1990

1972

49.6%

2000

1390

38.1%

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

51.2%

81
Table 13

Persons Below Poverty Level, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts; Normalized
for 2000 Boundaries
Year

Prichard, NE of
Trinity Gardens (41)

MLK Area I (5)

MLK Area II (4.01)

Orange Grove (4.02)

Proportion of
Population

1970

Individuals Living
Below Poverty
Level
1631

1980

714

34.2%

1990

687

45%

2000

344

28.1%

1970

2109

39.7%

1980

1345

34.5%

1990

1141

2000

1081

46.1%
46.1
44.1%

1970

4137

62%

1980

2537

52.3%

1990

2301

70%

2000

1575

54.5%

1970

1582

73.6%

1980

1968

83.0%

1990

1857

86.8%

2000

1575

75.3%

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database

54.3%

82
Education
Education was the one area in which Trinity Gardens did not reach the
performance of its closest demographic peers, such as Tracts 41 in Prichard and 13.02 in
south Mobile. Here, in fact, Trinity Gardens seemed closer to areas like the
neighborhoods near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Even Tract 48, the home of Gulf
Village and Alabama Village, had more residents who had graduated from high school.
Social science research had consistently demonstrated a correlation between
education and income, so the percentages reported for Trinity Gardens were at odds with
expectations. Given that, there was something happening in the neighborhood that the
given statistics did not explain. No other economic statistics, however, could explain the
contrary results. There was apparently not any higher number of upper-income residents
that pushed the neighborhood‘s mean income figures to a level above what it might have
been otherwise. In other words, reported median family and household incomes in 2000
(not available for many earlier years) for the neighborhood tracts did not vary
dramatically from the figures reported for its peers. Likewise, the percentage of homes
under $50,000 in 2000 was higher in Tract 41 than in either 39.01 or 39.02. The number
of retirees and number of householders over age 65 was also not vastly different in
Trinity Gardens than nearby neighborhoods or those with similar overall demographics.
Despite this, it remained clear that the percentage of educated persons grew in all
the tracts studied over time, throughout the Mobile area, and in most of its lower-income
areas. Figures for only one of the neighborhoods studied, the Orange Grove development,
demonstrated that fewer than half its residents were high school graduates.

83
Table 14
Education, Persons 25 and Over, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts;
Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

1970

High School
Diploma
Only
16.1%

Some
College,
No Degree*
2.3%

Bachelor‘s
Degree or
Higher
1%

1980

25.9%

7%

1.7%

1990

30.4%

11%

2.1%

2000

31.8%

19.1%

4.5%

1970

18.1%

7.1%

1.4%

1980

20.7%

8.2%

5.6%

1990

33.3%

12%

3.8%

2000

36.6%

17.5%

6.8%

1970

39.1%

19%

16.2%

1980

37.1%

20.3%

23%

1990

34.2%

29.1%

19.7%

2000

32.6%

33.6%

23.3%

1970

22.2%

3.1%

2.7%

1980

36.4%

9.1%

2.9%

1990

27.2%

18.6%

3.3%

2000

38.2%

24.1%

4.6%

Year

Trinity Gardens
(39.01, 39.02)

Alabama Village,
Gulf Village area (48)

Census Tract 32.03, Mobile

Census Tract 13.02, Mobile

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database
* Includes associate‘s degree holders

84
Table 15
Education, Persons 25 and Over, By Mobile County, Alabama Census Tracts;
Normalized for 2000 Boundaries

1970

High School
Diploma
Only
16.5%

Some
College,
No Degree*
3.2%

Bachelor‘s
Degree or
Higher
2%

1980

24%

13.1%

3.4%

1990

27.1%

14.8%

5.7%

2000

30.2%

26.6%

7.8%

1970

16.7%

7.4%

5.6%

1980

23.2%

14.4%

9.6%

1990

29%

13.6%

7.6%

2000

27%

19.4%

11.5%

1970

14.5%

3%

2.2%

1980

20%

9.3%

2.3%

1990

19.3%

11.8%

6.0%

2000

28.3%

19.5%

3.6%

1970

12.5%

1.2%

0.7%

1980

27%

3%

1.7%

1990

28.2%

17.2%

.9%

2000

28.8%

15.2%

1.0%

Year

Prichard, NE of
Trinity Gardens (41)

MLK Area I (5)

MLK Area II (4.01)

Orange Grove (4.02)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Neighborhood Change Database
*Includes associate‘s degree holders

85
Conclusion: Patterns and Limits
In the end, the Census data presented did not show that Trinity Gardens was
overwhelmingly unique in the Mobile metro area with regard to its housing situation.
However, it did stand out for being somewhat more stable than the majority of the areas
studied, and clearly showed progress over time from 1990 to 2000, although it too lost a
great deal of its population.
Areas with socioeconomic characteristics closer to that of Trinity Gardens,
however, had comparable rates of home ownership, including the western half of the
Martin Luther King Boulevard area, located just a few miles east, and areas north of
Trinity Gardens in Prichard. In short, there appeared to be more of a connection between
the degree of poverty, income levels, and home ownership in Mobile, even if the areas
with higher rates of such ownership, including Trinity Gardens, could hardly have been
considered affluent. Trinity Gardens differed in a significant way from these areas only
by the percentage of residents who had graduated from high school. Tables 14 and 15 put
the neighborhood in even sharper perspective.
That being said, only so much could be explained through Census data. For
instance, if one took away the eastern tract of Trinity Gardens, 39.02, what would have
been left was an area that held its own with the northern metro Mobile area, excluding its
far northern suburbs. The home ownership rate in 39.01 was 74.4, a rate slightly higher
than that of the entire Mobile metropolitan area, and higher than the rate in the
comparable Tract 41 in Prichard and 13.02 in southern Mobile. The majority of the
college graduates living within Trinity Gardens also resided within tract 39.01. Again,
though, Trinity Gardens was thought of as one large neighborhood and not two, even if

86
the Bullshead section of the neighborhood‘s far northeastern corner was perceived as
having its own particular issues and concerns.
Despite the problems with census data, however, it hardly seemed over the line to
suggest that increases in income and lower rates of poverty within Trinity Gardens in the
1980s and 1990s may have played a role in spurring development efforts there. Its rate of
home ownership had in fact been boosted over the 1980s and 1990s, more so than in any
area studied, with the exception of Tract 41 in Prichard. Suggesting that this
socioeconomic progress almost certainly played a role in allowing the neighborhood‘s
development efforts to unfurl, however, was not the same as saying the efforts were
inevitable. Other neighborhoods in northern Mobile did well during the 1990s, after all.
One could likewise have pointed out that Trinity Gardens‘s population was just
getting older. According to the Neighborhood Change Database, the percentage of
retirees there increased from 6.5 percent of its population in 1970 to 17.8 percent in 2000.
This did not, however, make Trinity Gardens dramatically different from its neighbors.
The American population as a whole was getting older.
What was happening in Trinity Gardens, then, must have been something more
out of the ordinary than could be explained by Census numbers, high rates of homeownership, changes in the demographics of northern Mobile, or the number of retirees in
the neighborhood. What could be more easily explained was how the process began,
along with who was involved at the early stages of that process. In so doing, other
phenomena that sparked the development process besides demographic factors could be
revealed. What could also be revealed in investigating these causes was how thorny the
process was. The line between government and social capital intersected at points that

87
were hard to pin down. It was not as if government was some monolithic entity, either.
What was certain was that the development of Trinity Gardens would have proven
impossible without the existence of native social networks, and ties between those
networks and municipal government in Mobile, a matter addressed in the next chapter.

88

CHAPTER V
PROPOSITION 1
Government played a central role in increasing the effect, if not the stock,
of social capital in Trinity Gardens.
Mobile‘s municipal government, as indicated in Chapter IV, was well positioned
to be a major player in Trinity Gardens. Moreover, documentary evidence and
observation conducted in the initial stage of research made it clear that there was a great
deal of intergovernmental activity in the neighborhood, with much of that led or carried
out by municipal authorities. On the whole, the presence of government in Trinity
Gardens seemed almost overwhelming. That would have proved true of government
activity in wealthier areas too, to be sure, but the assistance and funding of government
agencies were essential to Trinity Gardens‘s viability and ongoing development.
What became clear, then, was that the term government as used in Proposition 1
was too vague in describing the neighborhood‘s development. Instead, what appeared to
be happening was something akin to the following: One government official, Richardson,
played the lead role in the development process, and encouraged the assistance and
organizing of others. In so doing, he won the trust and support of other officials within
the bureaucracy of the Mobile municipal government, as well as the city‘s mayor.
Meanwhile, the Bay Area Women Coalition lobbied and—to borrow a word favored by
Putnam (2000) in Bowling Alone in describing the sort of behavior that encourages social
trust—schmoozed with those same local administrators and even lower-level municipal

89
employees as a means of reinforcing aims shared with Richardson, as well as aims the
group seemed to develop somewhat independently. As interview subjects ranging from
key players to marginal figures put it, a great deal seemed to be happening in or involving
Trinity Gardens simultaneously.
It was certainly true, however, that some significant changes occurred in the
neighborhood in the years before the taking of the 2000 Census. These changes,
particularly those that involved community organization, were just not precisely
quantifiable. First came the increasing prominence and activity of the Bay Area Women
Coalition (BAWC). Around the same time, Richardson began organizing what would
become known as a "community policing" committee, staffed by volunteers from
neighborhoods including Trinity Gardens. This same organization held community
meetings monthly at sites throughout District 1, the neighborhood‘s political home. Both
these developments gave focus to civic renewal efforts in the neighborhood.
Sorting Through the Grass Roots: Beginnings of Renewal
No one interviewed questioned how significant these two groups would soon
become in development efforts. How these groups came to exist, by contrast, was a much
more complex matter, particularly in the case of the BAWC. The lack of clarity was to a
large degree understandable. Details, after all, of important moments can become
indistinct just a few years after events occur. Even a cursory knowledge of the discipline
of history would teach one that people can remember events or the evolution of certain
movements or phenomena differently, without at all being dishonest. Details are
remembered, when they are at all remembered, from the respective vantage points of
individuals. It was nonetheless clear that local residents and officials really did form more

90
than something of a partnership, and one that all parties saw as meaningful and powerful
as would regard neighborhood change.
Richardson took an active role in forming such a partnership, since he thought
civic activity declined because of high crime. Consequently, he urged the leaders
associated with the BAWC to call a meeting and organize several other groups under the
Bay Area umbrella. At the first such meeting, Bay Area leader Levonnes Dubose stood
up and called a roll of area organizations. According to Richardson, she would say, ―‗The
Civic League! What are you all working on now?‘ ‗We‘re gettin‘ these people registered
to vote.‘ ‗OK, how‘s it coming?‘ . . . ‗The Garden Club!‘ ‗We‘re planting flowers and
trees,‘ and then she goes on down the list‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 5).
The Bay Area Women Coalition existed before such a larger cooperation,
however. Dubose, a former school teacher, said that she and Soline ―Sweet‖ Wiley (who
was known to residents of the community and parts elsewhere as a maker of mouthwatering pecan pralines and candy apples, a reputation from which her sobriquet
derived), came together in the mid-1990s not long after their respective families were
affected by drug use and related violence. Specifically, Wiley‘s son had a drug
dependency, while Dubose‘s brother was killed in a narcotics trade-related incident. Even
so, these were not the primary sparks behind their joining forces.
Instead, the two BAWC leaders and others came together with the idea of opening
a franchise of a regional breakfast food restaurant chain. They planned to locate the
breakfast emporium on U.S. 45, in Prichard and near the Interstate 65 exit. Months of
work and planning went into the idea. Prichard‘s economic development chief assisted
the women. Soon thereafter, the would-be entrepreneurs began touring other outlets in

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Alabama. They were expecting to receive a $200,000 loan, and called bankers in for a
meeting. As if on cue, though, just before loan-signing day, the women‘s loan facilitator
died. He put together deals with banks and contractors, and was trusted by the women.
Now, they felt lost. As one BAWC member recalled, ―He fell down dead. And since we
are religious women, we said, ‗The Lord is trying to tell us something‘‖ (Mikell, 2003, p.
200). To be more specific, they believed that a higher power was telling them to forgo all
plans for the restaurant.
In the midst of this seemingly for-naught work, however, the Prichard economic
development official suggested that the women needed to be more concerned about the
crime rate in Trinity Gardens. Even if a twenty-four hour armed guard was to be secured
for the chain restaurant, he suggested, a long-term solution to security problems would be
needed to make the area attractive to businesses. An idea then began to take root.
Their breakfast-serving ambitions were thwarted, but a new project would soon
begin—the BAWC‘s fight against crime. It was a crusade to gain the attention of local
officials and administrators or, rather, to send people in local government a message in
regard to what group members perceived as an urgent need for change in Trinity
Gardens. The campaign included letter writing and personal visits to elected officials, law
enforcement, and other administrators.
One of the first officials on the receiving end of this approach was Mobile Mayor
Michael C. Dow. The women told him, ―Mr. Mayor, you‘re gonna be ashamed when you
see this. You‘re gonna be ashamed at the condition of our neighborhood‖ (Mikell, 2003,
p. 73). The BAWC members brought along a video to him which showed abandoned lots

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(some 90 existed in the neighborhood at that time, five of them thought to be crack
houses) and such, which by most accounts were disquieting.
It was suggested that the city was not doing its job. The mayor, however, asked
the women to assist police and to organize their neighborhood. He told them that police
and other officials could not do their jobs without assistance from communities.
Richardson also saw the need for such community organization. He justified the idea on
the grounds of the tired-and-true belief that when the wheel is not squeaking, it does not
get any grease. Trinity Gardens, he believed, badly needed that grease.
Consequently, in 1997—the year in which Richardson took office—the Bay Area
group started to strengthen itself as an organization, while simultaneously undertaking an
outreach to the neighborhood at large. BAWC members visited clergy of the
neighborhood‘s nearly 30 churches. The women also sought the help of faculty and
administrators from universities and colleges in the metro in their efforts to develop a
plan for neighborhood revitalization. Academics consulted were informed that Trinity
Gardens was dying and needed help. Eventually, group leaders won assistance from the
University of South Alabama. Sociology students studied options for the organization and
the possibility of neighborhood revitalization. They proposed that the BAWC needed to
seek federal non-profit, or 501-C3, status in order to improve financially and to
encourage the sustainability of revitalization efforts. The group balked at this idea,
however, opting instead to go with an attorney‘s advice to form a limited partnership. In
doing so, the group leaders later realized, they had tossed away $5,000 for naught. So, the
BAWC went back to the proverbial square one and gained legally recognized non-profit
status.

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Nonetheless, even after establishing itself properly, the non-profit group had
much organizing to do. There were plenty of other non-profit organizations competing
for available grant money, dozens of them in the Mobile area alone, so gaining non-profit
status alone certainly did not translate into success. The BAWC‘s leadership
consequently decided to increase the group‘s presence in the community. Furthermore,
the group also began working closely with Richardson, and by extension the City of
Mobile and its agencies. Mayor Dow found the group‘s ways to be astonishing:
Trinity Gardens is, I think, the most fantastic example of people from
everyday walks of life, average people, housewives, who said, ―We are
tired of poverty, we‘re tired of crime, we‘re tired of blight, and we‘re
willing to do something on our end to make a difference. We‘re gonna
organize and come to you with a plan and we‘re gonna tell you what we
need in order for us to successfully get our community where it needs to
be‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 73).
Richardson‘s Reverse Path: The Policing Committee
In the meantime, Richardson was busy putting together his own communitybuilding efforts. His measures were aimed at bettering life in all sections of District 1.
Even so, there was no doubt that Trinity Gardens was a focal point for him—or, in the
more common parlance many interview subjects used, was in many ways ―his baby.‖ The
neighborhood simply had more problems than other communities. It was the center of
crime in the district, and as such it demanded more attention. Richardson recalled telling
Mayor Dow about his plans, and that he was asking for Dow‘s total support in every area.
―He told me, ‗Fred if you can take Trinity Gardens around, there will be no excuse for us

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to have any part of our city which ain‘t turned around,‘ and he probably said that because
he didn‘t believe that it would happen‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 1).
So it was with the neighborhood in mind that the councilman first began devising
a plan for community policing in the district. On the other hand, Richardson did not so
much come up with a long-range, point-by-point plan as he did several pragmatic-minded
ideas, the first of which was to ask the Mobile Police Department to assign an officer to
work in Trinity Gardens full-time. Trinity Gardens, the councilman explained, was at the
time in a departmental district called Beat 30, one that did have officers assigned fulltime. It was thought that officers avoided Trinity Gardens, and instead patrolled the
Beltline Road that paralleled Interstate 65. Consequently, Richardson decided to meet
with the police chief about this particular problem. In response, the department created
another police district for Trinity Gardens, Beat 38. Richardson told police that he wanted
an officer who came to the neighborhood willingly, however. He did not want an officer
who was ―frightened out of his wits‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 2) patrolling the neighborhood
because such an officer was too likely to react, to harass citizens, or to be too quick to
react. He wanted, instead, a police officer who was comfortable with his surroundings.
Later on, Richardson decided to call a community meeting, with the express
purpose of devising a strategy to, in his own words, take the community back. He
explained:
Over there at that meeting I had somebody sitting up there with a
flip chart, and I had all of the streets in Trinity Gardens up there. And I
said I would need a street captain on all of these streets, and I showed
them the streets. And I said . . .we're going to come back in two weeks,
and when I call the roll, I want somebody to answer. I said, I'm not going
to ask you tonight to be a street captain, but in order to take this
neighborhood back, you've got to be my eyes and my ears. You've got to

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say, "I will be responsible for my street," to report any inappropriate
activity. "Anything going on strange, I will report it." So when we came
back, it was unbelievable. "First Avenue," they called the name. "Give us
your address!" We called every street in Trinity Gardens. We had two and
three people on every street to sign up to be a captain in Trinity Gardens.
(Mikell, 2003, p. 2)
These ―captains‖ would become members of an organization, known as the District One
Community Policing Committee. After establishing a formal structure and electing
officers, the group would hold meetings every month for the next three years, skipping
months only for holidays. The focus of its meetings also remained fairly constant—
tackling issues important within the district. Also seen as important were the unique
problems of the neighborhoods in which the meetings were held; the meetings were thus
held in a different part of the district every month. Over time, the agendas for the
meetings evolved or branched out into community development rather than just crime
prevention. The basic format of the meetings, however, did not substantially change;
neither, it was noted, did the level of interest from district residents waver.
The Mobile police department, one police official pointed out, worked with about
70 to 80 other officially recognized community groups connected to its crime prevention
program. Community policing techniques were used department-wide, and police
regularly participated in meetings throughout the city. Even so, it was suggested that the
committee Richardson helped establish would remain singular in both its design and
orientation, largely because of its distinctive district-wide meetings.
The key to everything, however, was Richardson. One police administrator noted
that it took a great amount of time and energy to devote to such meetings. Given this, he
recalled, ―I honestly thought maybe after the election was over he might go away. I was a

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little suspicious. But he did not‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 86). The fact that he did stick around,
the official believed, was very gratifying because police needed to work with residents
and civic organizations. Mobile police learned over time that their job was too big and
complex to handle alone.
The administrator was one of several interview subjects that stressed how unique
both the community meetings and the creation of the District 1 Policing Committee were.
Another, more theoretically-oriented police administrator described the case in a more
straightforward fashion: Richardson did everything backwards, the opposite of the way
standard texts in neighborhood organizing had it; that is, he took the way community
building was usually handled, and did the reverse. Typically, neighborhood or
community builders would organize groups at the micro level, and only after this process
began, hold a large meeting. Richardson, by contrast, held a big meeting, and from that
meeting he gained volunteer street captains. In the process, Richardson showed that there
was more than one way from A to point B. What the councilman did worked. His model
would not, however, become adopted throughout the city, even though police
administrators tried to encourage such.
Many administrators noted that the tone of the meetings was unique, largely
because of the way Richardson handled them. One interview subject memorably
described the meetings as ―a cross between an evangelical prayer meeting and a problem
solving conference‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 235). To sum it up, Richardson tried to boost the
confidence and enthusiasm of the participants, in a way common to both preachers and
motivational speakers. At the same time, he often asked participants to tell him about
community problems.

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The police department nevertheless worked quite frequently with the Bay Area
Women Coalition as well. The organization was in fact considered one of dozens of
community groups with which it worked citywide. Whatever the case, most of the police
officials interviewed agreed that working with the BAWC worked very well for the
department. On the whole, the group received as much, or more, credit from police for its
efforts in Trinity Gardens than the District 1 Community Policing Committee. To a
certain degree, police even seemed to link the two groups together, or to talk about them
in an inextricably linked fashion. While police administrators interviewed referred to the
efforts or the support of the Trinity Gardens ―community,‖ they were often referring
specifically to the work of the BAWC and the District 1 committee.
Police grew more accustomed over the 1990s to working with volunteer
organizations. In Mobile, however, there was no great idealistic movement which brought
this about. Instead, working with such groups was an example of pragmatism brought
about by economic circumstances. To put it bluntly, Mobile was not an affluent city by
North American standards. Many interview subjects pointed out that the police
department had limited funds with which to work, so the department had to be creative.
One officer recalled going to Chicago and hearing that administrators there had hired
civilians to organize neighborhoods for community policing efforts. Mobile could not
have considered undertaking any such effort, given that it did not have the necessary
dollars. The department most certainly could not look to the state of Alabama for funding
either, given its marked tendency toward penny pinching. Furthermore, in 2003, the state
contemplated the possibility of making draconian budget cuts, just to keep operations
going at a minimum. To make matter worse, the city‘s own sales tax collections were

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falling. Mobile police were forced to depend, instead, on a certain civic spirit and more
than a little loyalty and passion for their community policing-oriented efforts to work.
Development‘s Future: Factionalism, Competition
Whatever led to the partnership between the city and community, it was clear that
its formation did lead to action. This partnership was definitely not a neighborhood-wide
version of a breakfast club or coffee klatch. Whether it would evolve into something else
entirely, or follow along a Douglass North-like historical path from then on, was another
question.
The history of police work and neighborhood organization suggested that the path
would change, however, with the lifespan of the social networks involved. The
community policing model so popular in the 1990s, as one officer pointed out, differed
greatly from the partnerships police formed with the wider community in the past. In the
1960s, by contrast, the model for police and community relations was the neighborhood
watch group. These groups did not have a particularly complex agenda. Citizen
participants instead took turns canvassing neighborhoods at night. Such efforts were an
easy thing to organize, since neighbors in most places tended to look out for one another.
The nuclear family was more common, while mobility was not as great. Eventually,
though, neighborhood watch programs came to be victims of their own success. Crime
would be driven out of a neighborhood, and only a few residents would stay interested;
sometimes, these residents would do little more than pester law enforcement officials
(Mikell, 2003a). The groups also died out because connections in the neighborhoods
became looser, the officer suggested, in a way that seemed at odds with Putnam‘s (1993,
2000) statements about the power of weak ties. The dominance of weaker links in

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communities, the officer believed, did not bode well for neighborhood watch groups
(Mikell, 2003a).
By contrast, the organization of Trinity Gardens—which was more in line with
the community policing ideal, even if distinct in how it was undertaken—was something
in which municipal government was a more active agent, or in which it kept in touch with
groups more frequently. The groups involved discussed and addressed not just crime and
crime prevention but a wide range of community development issues. To a certain
degree, this multifaceted approach was made possible by the fact that law enforcement
and other local government organizations came to see a wide array of community
development issues as linked to crime prevention. The perception of the role of police
also underwent enormous change. Much of the public, one interview subject suggested,
came to view police officers as problem solvers, rather than just crime stoppers.
Exactly how organized the area came to be, however, was far from agreed upon.
In a speech given at a Dotch Community Center on a rainy July 4th in 2003, Richardson
attributed the success of organizational efforts to the neighborhood‘s lack of the irksome
phenomenon that Madison, in Federalist No. 10, famously labeled the ―violence of
faction‖ (Madison, 2005). The ―factionalism‖ the councilman spoke about referred, in
more common English, to competition between groups, or the activity of a minority
interest, that could eat at the social fabric and reduce the problem-solving capacity of
government. However, one longtime observer indicated that relations were not
necessarily all of the sweetness-and-light sort in Trinity Gardens. The interests of the Bay
Area Women were not necessarily shared by all in the community, either. Personalities
and family connections, as well as connections to criminal elements, sometimes resulted

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in factionalism. On the whole, it was suggested, the partnership between the city and the
BAWC definitely paid off for the community. The power dynamics in the neighborhood,
however, were not always easily spotted or explicable.
Whatever the case, the Bay Area Coalition was definitely not the only
organization within the area that showed a great interest in development issues. At least
two churches, for instance, were also highly active, and the neighborhood‘s religious
community was perceived as an important source of power and influence on the whole.
Mayor Dow, in first meeting with the BAWC, noticed as much by suggesting that the
area‘s thirty or more churches represented one of Trinity Gardens‘s most significant
strengths. Bay Area members also frequently met with pastors, and in fact had done so
since the group began trying to reach out to the larger community.
These particular churches seemed especially worthy of attention, however. They
were located just a few hundred feet from one another, but sat in different places in
relation to how their leaders viewed community development issues. Church 1 worked
closely with the Bay Area Women Coalition and local governments. It had long been
active in community affairs, in large part because the church operated a private school.
The church hosted community development-related meetings, and was a player in several
key development efforts of the late 1990s. By comparison, the Church 2 grew
tremendously over a far shorter period. Its pastor decided only late in the game that he
needed to start ministering to the surrounding neighborhood.
However, Church 2's vision did not necessarily align with that of the BAWC, or
of local government officials and the police department. The church brought a different
slant to the community development process, because its pastor saw its priority as being

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in the area of spiritual uplift and human capital as it related to the same. The church
consequently opened a drug rehabilitation center, and provided shelter for homeless
persons, and was considered partnering with others to provide a health clinic and
domestic violence shelter. Moreover, despite Church 2‘s greater attention to spiritual
matters, its leadership assisted in the creation of a community development corporation
that was poised to become involved in more seemingly temporal areas. The CDC‘s
funding and finances were to be separated even if the church planned to occasionally
partner with the agency. The agency had, by the summer of 2003, received a grant from a
non-profit agency to start a program for entrepreneurial education. It also attained faithbased grant monies—that is, money given by federal agencies to religious organizations
involved in social services—by way of a major area non-profit, social service
organization. Still, in 2003, Church 2 was a relatively fresh entrant into Trinity Gardens‘s
community development landscape. Whether it would provide a serious alternative to
government in economic development programs was far from clear. All that seemed clear
was that the church‘s leadership would more than likely have maintained an independent
stance, even while realizing—as its pastor put it—that the goals of the church and
government could sometimes align.
The competition for ideas did not stop with the churches. Another civic
organization, the Bullshead Community Action group, was winning some notice in 2003.
It appeared, however, not to have as broad a base of support as the longer-running
organization. The group was also more concerned with a particular area of Trinity
Gardens, namely the area in and around the former Queen‘s Court apartment complex in
Prichard. The organization was headed by relatives of Kearis Bonham, a three-year-old

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who was killed during a shootout in 2001 between police and gang members at the
complex. That being said, the BAWC‘s Dubose was the master of ceremonies at an antiviolence rally sponsored by the Bullshead group in 2003.
By the summer of 2003, then, development in Trinity Gardens had become a
more crowded affair. What seemed poised to change, as a consequence, was the direction
of the neighborhood‘s development. In some ways, such competition appeared to have
been the result of perceived successes. At the same time, as the rise of the Bullshead
group and the church CDC demonstrated, new community leaders were able to arrive on
the development scene despite the partnership between the Bay Area Women and city
agencies and officialdom. This should not have been unexpected. Community
development efforts anywhere could be altered by unexpected events, such as major
crimes or disasters. They also were open to change by way of specific government
policies, including ones like the Bush administration‘s faith-based initiatives. This
program, in particular, had the potential to have more of an impact in places like Trinity
Gardens. This community of some 4,000 people had almost 30 churches. Religion was a
part of the fabric of society throughout the United States, but not many American
neighborhoods of comparable size would have dedicated an entire month to inter-faith
revivals and clergy exchanges, as happened in Trinity Gardens in 2003. AfricanAmerican churches in the South and elsewhere in America also had a tendency to double
as more generally social and political institutions. How church leaders chose to view or
cooperate with government officials and other civic players, and vice versa, thus
promised to have an enormous impact on community development. On the other hand, as
one interview subject involved in social services noted, churches had long been active

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within the community, organizing children‘s choirs and the like. The effect of their work
was already difficult to overstate.
Even though this competition for ideas made the future direction of Trinity
Gardens‘s development harder to predict, though, times had certainly changed.
Richardson went as far as in December 2003 to tell fellow city council members that the
neighborhood had been cleaned up. The Mobile Register, he said, had been wrong in
suggesting that Trinity Gardens was drug-infested (City of Mobile, 2003). (The paper
suggested as much in an article on AIDS and HIV education that focused on how the
disease affected neighborhood residents.) Debatable as that may have been, the
neighborhood was, at the very least, fighting for its long-term existence as a viable
community. Even so, the notion that the neighborhood could not be saved was to many
minds a notion best left to local history.
Summary: Openness in Development
What the Trinity Gardens experience also appeared to cast aside was the idea that
no agents of government could have little, if any, effect upon community organizing, and
encouraging trust and cooperation between various factions within a neighborhood.
Richardson and others within Mobile officialdom and its municipal bureaucracy did
appear to give focus for or channel the effects of the neighborhood‘s social capital. The
process was not a carefully planned one, however. Richardson certainly had a plan, if a
vague one, and kicked the process off. All the while, however, he handed power to
others, and sought community input. He did so, first, by forming the District 1
Community Policing Committee. He also depended upon the assistance and activism of
the Bay Area Women‘s Coalition, a relatively new group that shared his concerns and

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hopes for the neighborhood, although it developed independently. Richardson did not
pressure people to work with him, or turn to sycophantic assistants for advice. The
development process in Trinity Gardens was left open to seemingly all comers.
The relationship between officialdom and Trinity Gardens community leaders,
then, was not unidirectional. Government agents did not give orders and act as a one-way
conduit of information. To the contrary, a public forum or space was created in which
developmental issues and plans could be worked out. And particular civic activists or
participants took full advantage of this opportunity. Out of this effort, a partnership
flowered.

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CHAPTER VI
PROPOSITION 2
The relationship between social capital and government was ultimately
tied in with the success of community development efforts.

The community organizing efforts that took place in Trinity Gardens in the late
1990s were undertaken with categorically civic purposes in mind. Neither the District 1
Community Policing Committee, nor the Bay Area Women Coalition, were formed with
strictly social aims, even if the women had first come together for an aborted
entrepreneurial effort. Most, if not all, of the neighborhood personalities involved had
known each other for years, so they needed no introductions. Their expressed goal was to
save a community that had become crime-ridden, and which had long since lost so much
vitality.
This organizational effort began with crime prevention and anti-blight efforts. The
larger goal of those involved, however, almost from the beginning had been the creation
of a self-contained community, one with all the basic amenities of a more affluent city
neighborhood or at least a typical small town, including a fire department, a library,
exercise facilities, expansive parks, and arts and performance spaces. To a certain extent,
these goals grew in reach because of the emphasis on crime, given that development had
become interlinked with crime prevention. Even so, as the organizing process continued,
it might have seemed as if the end of a broader sort of development was being met in part

106
through sheer inertia or, as several interview subjects suggested, the sort of success that
can result in more success.
Upon closer investigation, one could see the development following along certain
lines—not clear or solid ones, but ones that marked a certain rough path when taken
together. Ideas that started as a dream in one person‘s head ended up being tackled by
others. Problems identified by certain key players eventually met solutions, although
seldom in the exact manner that anyone had predicted. Such solutions did not seem to be
the result of blind luck, though. Development occurred in the manner it did, the results
suggest, because the major players and organizations involved were focused and had
long-range goals.
How the development process evolved in Trinity Gardens is detailed below. Many
specific initiatives and projects that were undertaken during the mid-1990s are discussed.
Only projects that were mentioned by interview subjects, or discovered through searches
of government documents, are mentioned. Meanwhile, the respective efforts and goals of
the city government, the Bay Area Women Coalition and other area organizations,
governments, and agencies are highlighted. The chapter also includes a consideration of
the future of Trinity Gardens‘s development.
It seemed safe to say, first, that what sparked the development process in Trinity
Gardens was at least partially the result of a unique set of circumstances. The decline of
Trinity Gardens, and more especially the high crime there, was by most accounts what
led to the involvement of Mobile‘s municipal government, and Fred Richardson
individually. As shown in the previous chapter, institutions were also well-situated to

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have an impact in this lower-income area of metropolitan Mobile. City government was
particularly essential in regard to crime prevention.
Even so, the proposition examined here is that neither government nor social
capital could have done without each other in sparking the area‘s development, and this
was evidently the case in Trinity Gardens. As Woolcock (1998) might have suggested,
top-down efforts may have been needed to introduce, sustain, and institutionalize
"bottom-up" development. Nevertheless, the line between bottom-up and top-down in
Trinity Gardens was often vague. Development efforts in the area came to be far flung,
making the line more ambiguous. By the summer of 2003, Trinity Gardens was not just
experiencing a decrease in its crime rate, but witnessing the construction of a new
subsidized housing subdivision, as well as the construction of a nearby community center
with recreational facilities and a large amphitheater and performing arts center. Street
improvements were made. Drainage work worth approximately $16 million was
considered. Dozens of abandoned houses had been torn down. Moreover, there were
plans to open a community library. New programs were undertaken for the elderly and
the training and education of area youth. Moreover, it seemed clear that the potential for
continued expansion of development existed. People in Trinity Gardens, or at least the
most active ones, were definitely peering off into the distance and trying to figure out
what would come next, or needed to come next.
City Government‘s Priorities
Exactly when municipal efforts began to have an impact on development in
Trinity Gardens was open to debate, but opinion coalesced around the notion that said
efforts were rooted in events that occurred a decade or more before. Many residents

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pointed to the appointment of the city‘s first minority police chief in the early 1990s as a
marker for the beginning of changes there. Indeed, he was often cited for boosting crime
prevention efforts within the city‘s boundaries. Before the chief took his position, a
greater emphasis had been placed on detention and arrests; afterward, prevention came to
have equal stature.
Others, particularly administrators from both the public and non-profit sectors,
noted that the city had undergone significant structural changes not long before the chief
began his tenure. The city went from having a commission form of government to the
venerable mayor-council form. Formerly, city operations had been overseen by three atlarge commissioners. Afterward, Mobile would have seven council members elected by
the district and a mayor elected at large. This 1985 development was required to keep the
city from diluting minority voter strength and to keep the city‘s representational system
in accordance with federal one-person, one-vote requirements. The result, several
interviewees suggested, was to make representatives more responsive and accountable to
people in specific geographic areas. One observer noted that even if the changes were not
mentioned often in discussions about places like Trinity Gardens, ―It happens to be a
great sociological fact‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 236). It was within this context that Richardson
entered political office. He believed, first of all, in the basic precepts of community
policing and with the emphasis on crime prevention. He also agreed with the idea,
prevalent in community policing literature, that there was a correlation between blight
and crime. He realized that one of District 1's neighborhoods, Trinity Gardens, had both a
serious crime problem and a serious blight problem. Almost immediately upon taking
office, Richardson decided to tackle both problems simultaneously.

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The crackdown on blight, however, received more immediate citizen reaction than
did crime prevention and eradication efforts, because more citizens were affected in a
direct and unpleasant fashion. Many citizens, to put it bluntly, found themselves facing
fines. It soon became apparent that Richardson requested that the city‘s Development
Department put together a list of properties with trash and abandoned cars, and
overgrown lots. A consequence of this effort was that around 320 tickets were issued to
area property owners. These individuals were then given a chance to meet their legal
obligations in some way. Those who did not come to terms with the city were formally
charged with code violations. If they decided to contest any charges, residents were
required to go before the Mobile Environmental Court, a court of original jurisdiction that
dealt in part with violations of city code contributing to blight. Within a couple of years,
environmental court sessions would be held in District 1, mainly in the neighboring area
of Toulminville. In August 2003, one court session was held inside the Dotch
Community Center in Trinity Gardens.
The reaction to the anti-blight initiative was swift. People called Richardson and
other city officials and asked, or demanded to know, why they were issued citations.
They would sometimes contend that they did not realize they were even breaking the law
by, for instance, keeping a junked car in a particular yard. Richardson said he would
typically, after hearing such a rationale, query a caller as to whether he or she were
concerned about crime. Upon hearing the inevitable yes, he would inform residents of the
pretext behind the crackdown—namely, that it would help to rid the community of the
conditions that bred crime. Consequently, Richardson‘s message would be, ―Get that junk
out of your yard!‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 9). In dealing with such problems, the councilman

110
decided that municipal officials needed to take a hard line. The same attitude was taken
by the environmental court in dealing with violations. If people removed junk from their
property within a reasonable amount of time, the judge would drop all charges. If not,
they were fined. City officials had apparent compassion, in other words, but refused to be
seen as enabling anyone contributing to litter or blight, and by extension allowing said
individuals to impose their issues on everyone else.
Soon after taking office, the councilman formed the Community Policing
Committee. He did so, more specifically, after calling an emergency meeting regarding
the crime situation in Trinity Gardens and surrounding areas of Mobile. From this
meeting evolved a series of other public meetings, ones held by the committee every
month, in a different part of District 1. Moreover, that first meeting was organized with
the intent of getting citizens more interested in anti-crime measures. Citizens were asked
to report any suspicious activity of which they were aware, and to put these concerns onto
paper and mail them to a specific post office box. No one was required to leave a name.
People were reluctant to use the service at first, but eventually, the idea took hold. These
dual efforts did not go unnoticed. After a time, Richardson‘s office began receiving more
calls from citizens, and not only about blight but about crime. Citizens alerted police to
changes in the methods of drug dealers, such as hiding drugs underneath water meters.
These residents, Richardson believed, were on top of things, and did not fear speaking up.
The councilman also employed the assistance of residents and the Bay Area
Women Coalition in putting together a list of street lights that needed to have their bulbs
replaced. He then turned the list over to Alabama Power Company, the city‘s electric
utility, which replaced all the lights listed. By the time the work was done, the

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councilman suggested, ―Every street in Trinity Gardens was lit up like Broadway in New
York‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 4).
Meanwhile, the District 1 Community Policing Committee organized what were
known as community clean-up days. The idea was to get together on particular Saturdays
and clean up police districts known as beats. Beforehand, the group‘s street captains
would recruit volunteers. Later, officers from the department‘s crime prevention unit
would show up with a van at the chosen location, with all the necessary equipment. Both
committee members and volunteers would then pick up trash. They were joined by land
use code staff from the city‘s Urban Development Department, who issued citations for
serious violations. The committee was further assisted in its efforts by Keep Mobile
Beautiful, a branch of the national anti-litter organization Keep America Beautiful.
Both official and volunteer participants recalled that litter clean-ups became
major community events rather quickly. As one noted, ―It‘s almost like, success breeds
success but, in this case, cleaning up your community breeds more people to have the
same ambition and goals‖ (Mikell, 2003). Of course, as one administrator involved
pointed out, the clean-ups had not left the participating communities free of litter, nor
were they ever likely to do so. These events were also not easy to put together, and could
certainly not be organized every weekend. Trash would thus inevitably show up in the
affected areas not long after the clean-ups, even if their collective grime did not reach
previous levels. Certainly, the Trinity Gardens of 2003 would not have been mistaken as
far as its cleanliness went for Fairhope, the preternaturally gleaming, yet quaint,
retirement and arts center on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The presence of plastic soft
drink bottles in random locations was almost always conspicuous in Trinity Gardens. On

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the other hand, there were far more and far larger piles of trash on the streets and empty
sections of Prichard, and in other low-income sections of Mobile such as the public
housing development colloquially known as Orange Grove.
These events, it should be noted, served a secondary function in getting citizens
out and about. In doing so, the program increased the chances that residents would
become aware of what was going on in their neighborhood. Like Jacobs (1961),
Richardson believed that having citizens on the streets would help keep the criminal
element on its toes, because citizens would notice any suspicious activity. As he put it, ―If
you‘re out there cutting your yard, painting your house, and trimming your hedges, that
means you‘ve got eyes and ears out there‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 27). It was also thought that
the cleanups would demonstrate community competenency. The idea here seemed to be
that perceptions could often be as important as reality. Richardson noted, ―If someone
asks you, ‗What is the worst area in the city?‘ you‘re going to be naming the most
blighted area‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 9).These anti-blight programs, and the more purely crime
prevention-oriented ones detailed in Chapter V, were the hallmark of the early stages of
development in Trinity Gardens. Even then, however, those attending the meetings found
over time that citizens were interested in more than anti-crime measures. As one observer
recalled:
What we found is that most people are concerned about the basic quality
of life issues. When we first started meeting, we thought, "Well, they're
going to be worried about murders and robberies and things of that
nature." It very rarely comes up. It's mostly about people speeding down
the street, throwing trash in their yards or not keeping their yard clean, or
music being too loud in the neighborhood—things as simple as that; but
they're quality of life issues. A person wants to able to walk outside their
house and walk down the street and not be bothered, is what it amounts to.
They don't want to be approached by a homeless person, they don't want

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to be approached by a purse snatcher or somebody that's going to bother
them. They realize that there are murders and serious crime in this city but
they feel like the chances of their being involved is very, very low. They
do express their concern about the basic things. They don't like people
playing loud music in their cars going down the street, the boom-boxes,
they don't like the trash on the streets, they don't like the water backing up
in their drainage, they don't like things of that nature. (Mikell, 2003, p. 80)
Over time, as shown above, Richardson‘s vision came to be intertwined with
larger goals and aspirations of Trinity Gardens residents. More significantly, his vision
would come to be conjoined with the community-minded goals and aspirations of one
particular subset of female residents.
Bay Area Women: Forming A Partnership
While local officialdom worked closely with neighborhood civic groups
throughout Mobile proper, none of these groups came to be as prominent as the Bay Area
Women Coalition. The organization‘s leaders were so active that they became regular
neighborhood fixtures, almost something akin to de facto public officials. Co-founder
Levonnes Dubose, in particular, made her ever-gregarious presence felt, whether people
were ready for it or not. She had as high a visibility quotient as any local government
official and frequently appeared alongside elected officials at public events and meetings
such as those of the District 1 Community Policing Committee.
Dubose and the BAWC‘s partnership with the city nonetheless started with more
than a hint of confrontation. There was also some mistrust, one observer noted, stemming
from the negative experiences many African-Americans had with police. As noted in the
previous chapter, group members went to the mayor‘s office early on to confront him
about the problems in Trinity Gardens. Members similarly showed a tape of Trinity
Gardens to other city officials to more or less shame them into coming out in favor of

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paying attention to problems in the neighborhood. Dubose and other members constantly
wrote letters to city officials, in order to get their attention.
By the end of the 1990s, times had certainly changed, even if members were still
keeping the heat on city officials. By then, Bay Area group members were regularly
meeting with police, along with members of the Civic Club, at least once a month. It was,
one member noted, an amazing thing that happened:
When we meet with them we're thinking, ―They're gonna make the
neighborhood better.‖ They're saying we're the ones who make our
neighborhood better. And we're saying, their presence is the one that's
making our neighborhood better. So that‘s a partnership we did not have
before. (Mikell, 2003, p. 190)
In the interim, the group had become involved in all facets of Trinity Gardens‘s
development. BAWC members were involved not just with local police but federallysponsored Weed and Seed crime prevention programs in both Mobile and Prichard. They
lobbied for the Richardson Heights housing development. The group even had a hand in
naming the development, as they also had with the new Michael C. Dow amphitheater
and performing arts center. In both cases, the women shrewdly suggested naming the
developments after officials who were not only still living but still in office.
The group‘s work did not go unnoticed. At nearly every major public meeting or
event within Trinity Gardens, there was some type of acknowledgment of the group‘s
work and presence. Many interview subjects—of all sorts, from key city figures to nonprofit directors—praised or at least prominently mentioned Dubose and the BAWC when
talking about Trinity Gardens. One could have noticed the centrality of the organization‘s
role, however, just by spending a week or so in neighborhood development circles.
Dubose and, to a lesser degree, her BAWC cohorts were ubiquitous when it came to area

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civic events. She was, moreover, ebullient in a frequently over-the-top fashion, and
intentionally entertaining besides. In this way, she fulfilled a sort-of social role that the
city leaders did not. One administrator said of her, ―She‘s the real matriarch of that
community in enthusiasm‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 240).
To see Dubose in action was, in most cases, to understand. At one of
Richardson‘s District 1 Community Policing Committee meetings, for instance, she was
practically bouncing around the room. Before the meeting, she greeted people and gave
most of the attendees she greeted kisses that, apparently due to both force and the amount
of cosmetics involved, left lipstick marks. Even those who were not particularly well
accustomed to the ways of this civic dynamo were granted such a welcome. A
demonstration of both her ebullience or grandiosity and closeness to officials came later,
when she was asked by Richardson to wish one official in attendance a happy birthday.
She waltzed over to the official, put a dollar in his pocket and gave him a hearty kiss on
the cheek, a move that left most of the crowd laughing. Similarly, when working as the
master of ceremonies at an anti-crime rally in Prichard, she introduced officials and
dignitaries from both Prichard and Mobile by contributing salty commentary on their
appearance. Nearly all such VIPs were said to look good, either in those exact words or
more elaborate terminology or colloquialisms. Singling out Dubose for all attention
would be misguided, however. The local matriarch was frequently accompanied by five
other core BAWC members. Still, it was Dubose who usually acted as the public face of
the organization. When interviewees talked about citizens of the community growing
tired of crime and taking action into their own hands, they were usually speaking of the
BAWC and not one particular person.

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Typically, praise of the Bay Area Women Coalition in interviews came in a
roundabout way. One administrator, for instance, suggested that the development effort in
Trinity Gardens did not come from any specific person or agency. Instead, he thought
many ideas were coming about simultaneously. What substantially helped to bring such
change about, in any case, was that some particularly active Trinity Gardens residents
wanted it. He recalled, ―Some very strong leadership—and you‘d never guess who I‘m
talking about—emerged and that helped substantially‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 124). The Bay
Area Women, the administrator thought, exercised a leadership of the type essential for
neighborhood development. These comments echoed the social capital literature, the
work of Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000) in particular, in its stress on the absolute necessity of
existing social capital. Concomitantly, it was noted, ―It‘s a leadership that has to develop
within the community. It can‘t be imported from any other governmental source‖ (Mikell,
2003, p. 127). Government‘s role, the official suggested, was nonetheless important in
regard to the nurturing of civic-related organizations.
Changing the Status Quo: Municipal Efforts
Efforts by the city to nurture or support the organizing of communities did not, by
contrast, always work so smoothly. Some veterans of the neighborhood development
scene noted that sometimes only one or two people would be interested in anti-crime
efforts within a neighborhood or particular area. Attendance at meetings would, as a
consequence, be invariably low. These individuals may have had the drive, but they were
unable to get others involved. Sometimes, this occurred because there was no sense of
urgency among residents about their situation, particularly in areas with lower crime
rates. The status quo may have been deemed acceptable. Nonetheless, the situation in

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Trinity Gardens had become grave enough that many in the community at large felt they
had no choice but to become involved in crime prevention.
Meanwhile, finding a common denominator in Trinity Gardens was not an
elementary task, even for experienced investigators. There were always, as one observer
put it, outliers that proved a hassle in north Mobile, up to and including the fact that
crime problems involved Prichard. Even basic logic, however, would have suggested that
the interests of the Bay Area Women would not always align with the interest of every
individual within the neighborhood. To cite the most evident example, citizens involved
in crime surely had no desire to be involved with Bay Area members, because they were
likely seen as working in conjunction with Mobile police. By the same token, some
neighborhood residents had a tendency to let personalities cloud their judgement of
individual motivations—a tendency not uncommon to human association in general, but
perhaps more prevalent than normal in lower-income neighborhoods. Some familyoriented factionalism existed as well.
In short, police had to circumnavigate or manipulate the elements of a crime
prevention terrain in Trinity Gardens that was more complicated than what might have
initially seemed apparent, in order to full take advantage of the partnership with
community stakeholders. Even so, such difficulties were not seen as having made the
partnership any less authentic, and certainly did not keep the partnership from being a
fruitful one. Observers suggested that the Bay Area Women seemed deserving of
enormous credit.
The neighborhood coalition did not want to stop at crime prevention. Group
members had long had an ambitious agenda. Exhibit A in the case for this idea was an

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unofficial city document called a ―community vision report‖ that was produced in 1998
as part of the Neighborhood Collaborative Planning program of Mobile‘s Urban
Development Department. The program was a citywide one that included public
hearings. Afterward, Trinity Gardens was selected as the pilot location for a more
extensive collaborate planning process. According to the department‘s report, the area
was chosen for the following reasons:
1. Established, active civic organizations existed in Trinity Gardens.
2. The development of a joint project with Prichard existed.
3. Residents had expressed interest in participating in the project.
4. The area was identified as a Community Development Block Grant site.
5. Citizen concerns, as expressed at informational meetings, showed that
Trinity Gardens was in need of revitalization.
An executive board was created to assist with the process. BAWC members made
up most of the board‘s membership. The document showed what residents, and
particularly area civic leaders, thought were or should have been area priorities. Several
of the priorities listed below continued to receive attention from area residents or in some
cases were fulfilled in some manner. What seemed more remarkable about the document
was not how it was dominated by crime prevention measures, but instead fueled by a
more all-encompassing vision for development. The requests were listed as follows:
1. Police Community Advisory Board. The board would include representatives
from the Mobile and Prichard police departments. Its reason for existence would have
been to provide Trinity Gardens residents with direct input into crime prevention.
Mobile‘s police chief told the development group that Mobile Police Department
representatives would regularly meet with the advisory board. He further offered to

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attend the meetings periodically. The Prichard police chief, however, indicated that the
city‘s budget problems and shortage of personnel kept her from fully committing.
2. Public Library. The neighborhood planning board requested a branch of the
Mobile Public Library in the neighborhood since no such facility was accessible to many
Trinity Gardens residents. The absence of a library was said to contribute to low area
education levels and reading skills. However, the director of the Mobile system told the
board that a library was already located within a two-mile radius, in Toulminville.
Furthermore, the Loop area of Mobile‘s Midtown area was also predominantly lowincome and in need of library services.
3. Post Office. The board did not give any elaborate reasons for requesting
consideration of a branch office for Trinity Gardens. A U.S. Postal Service representative
told board members that the main criteria for opening a post office was population
growth. Even so, he thought the Post Office could contract with a commercial
establishment to handle certain postal duties, such as the sale of stamps and money
orders. (A post office was located in Prichard, and about 1.5 miles away from most
Trinity Gardens residents.)
4. Health Care Facility. Many residents, the board noted, did not have the
transportation available to get them to any health care facilities. The elderly population
was in particular need of health services.
5. Neighborhood Revenue and Licensing Office. It would have been good, the
board thought, to have Mobile County and city revenue and license commissioners
housed within the community in order to regulate the activities of businesses operating as
part of an underground economy. The idea here was to crack down on businesses that

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were supporting criminal activities. The board received no promises to open such offices
in Trinity Gardens, mainly due to insufficient personnel, but representatives suggested
that they would work with community groups, and urged citizens with complaints to call
the appropriate city offices.
6. Educational Programs. The board looked into the possibility of year-round
schools, magnet programs at area churches, community-based schools, and postsecondary school recruitment and retention programs. The magnet school idea, it turned
out, had been discussed by officials of the Mobile County Public School System before.
There were no plans to open them in Trinity Gardens or anywhere else in the county.
University representatives, meanwhile, noted that they already worked to recruit students
at area schools. The representatives expressed an interest in attending neighborhood
meetings to further explain programs to parents and students.
7. Construction of Catholic and Methodist Churches. Little information was
provided regarding the reasoning behind church construction as a development priority.
Even so, the board did receive responses from both Catholic and Methodist
representatives. These representatives informed board members that the construction of
houses of worship depended on some combination of expressed interest and evaluation of
community interests. With the Catholic Church, proximity to existing parishes was a
consideration, as was land availability.
8. Programs for Senior Citizens. Among the facilities for senior citizens that
Trinity Gardens board members requested were a senior citizen-oriented shopping center,
a seniors-oriented fitness facility, and health spa. Board members wanted surrounding
vacant areas studied for possible development. Members were told by a YMCA

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representative that the organization wanted to be involved wherever there was a need for
fitness programs, but that community needs would have to be ascertained, as would costs.
Meanwhile, board members gathered details concerning vacant areas of Trinity Gardens.
One such area, in the south and southeast portion of the community, was a brownfield. It
was bound by railroad tracks on the east, a creek to the south, and city streets to the north.
Several individuals owned parcels of the land, ranging from four to ten acres. The City of
Mobile owned 28 acres of land, zoned for light residential use, near Interstate 65.
9. Transportation. The board had only one request with regard to transportation;
specifically, for plexiglass bus stop shelters. The city‘s Metro Transit Authority informed
the board that the agency had not installed any such shelters in years, although it was in
the process of developing a capital plan, which would entail financing for shelters. These
would be placed at sites according to need. A six-month survey (March to August, 1998)
found that a monthly average of 15,614 individuals used the route serving Trinity
Gardens. (It was, according to a 2000 Mobile Weed and Seed report, the busiest route in
Mobile.)
10. Recreation. The board listed a need for five neighborhood parks, including
ones for adolescents, pre-kindergarten children, and senior citizens, as well as general
family and heritage parks. Although this might have sounded like an outlandish request,
the truth was that Trinity Gardens had fewer park areas than a City of Mobile
comprehensive plan had recommended for a neighborhood of its size. The board also
heard from a representative of Mobile‘s Black History Museum—whose main branch
was located near downtown—concerning the possibility of opening a satellite in Trinity
Gardens. Board members were told that expansion would depend upon financial support

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from the city. The museum curator suggested that, in the interim, the Black History
Museum material could be exhibited at the Dotch Community Center from time to time.
11. Housing. Affordable housing was deemed an area necessity, as was the
upgrading or removal of substandard housing. The board received word that the Martin
Luther King Redevelopment Corporation was working with Mobile officials on plans for
an affordable housing development. It was to be built in an area near First Avenue and
Ruby Street in Trinity Gardens. (This development would be named Richardson
Heights.) Board members also heard from a representative of Habitat for Humanity, who
noted that the non-profit would have to be given the title for land for any project. Finally,
Mobile Housing Board authorities noted that the community was eligible for its
Emergency Home Repair Program. Unfortunately, there were long waiting lists for
individual assistance.
12. Employment and Economic Development. Instead of focusing on business
development, board members looked into the possibility of getting job training for area
residents. They also believed that someone needed to research the work-related needs of
these individuals. A community development programs officer told residents that lowincome residents from throughout the Mobile area would be eligible for training at the
Clinton L. Johnson Economic Development Center near the R.V. Taylor public housing
development in south central Mobile. It took at least 20 to 25 minutes by car to get from
Trinity Gardens to the facility.
13. Child Care. The magnet school issue was addressed by the board again when
addressing child care. A new request concerned the need to crack down on daycare
facilities operating without proper certification. It turned out that such certification was

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not required in Alabama, although the lack of it would have kept a facility from receiving
the business of individuals and families who received state daycare aid.
14. Public (or Building) Safety. The board inquired about the possibility of routine
inspection of public buildings, home daycare and nursing care programs, church
buildings, and operating licenses of businesses including grocers and nightclubs.
Moreover, it let city officials know that 29 homes in Trinity Gardens were without indoor
plumbing. Members were informed by a Mobile city inspector that the city was operating
with a limited number of personnel. A representative of the city‘s Urban Development
Department nevertheless admitted that sometimes complaints about substandard housing
fell through the cracks, given the complexity of working within the Mobile metro area.
15. Other Problem Areas: Among several other issues addressed in the report in
less detail were drainage, a perennial Mobile concern, as well as traffic and speeding,
yard maintenance, and street beautification.
Bay Area Women Coalition members, meanwhile, dreamed of getting for Trinity
Gardens such amenities as a Mobile fire station. The nearest Mobile station, in
Toulminville, was located just two miles away, but traffic and circuitous routes to avoid
rail stops left response times inadequate. As one member put it, ―Every month, we lose a
house in this neighborhood, every month, and they're not being replaced—that aggravates
me‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 193). According to a municipal study, trucks from the Toulminville
station were able to meet the six minute recommended response time on only 62 percent
of all calls. Trinity Gardens was thus next in the city‘s line for a new fire station. A
Prichard station was, meanwhile, located on the northern border of Trinity Gardens,
specifically on St. Stephen‘s Road (U.S. 45) within the Bullshead community.

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Unfortunately, the City of Mobile had an agreement with the financially beleaguered
Prichard to provide all firefighting services for both the Prichard and Mobile sections of
Trinity Gardens.
The creation of a neighborhood-based health clinic would also be a preoccupation
of BAWC leaders. The neighborhood was served by a Mobile County clinic in Eight
Mile, a city located several miles up U.S. 45 and to the west of Prichard. That in itself
was not a particular problem, even if not convenient. The problem was that many Trinity
Gardens residents relied on public transportation to get to the clinic, and bus service was
minimal in Mobile. Despite the clamor of community leaders, there was still no shelter
for the bus stops in Trinity Gardens either. Likewise, the closest hospital to the
neighborhood was the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Toulminville.
Unfortunately, the shortest route to the hospital from the community required the
crossing of a railroad track, one that was still regularly used by Illinois Central for
hauling freight. Once residents finally entered the medical center complex, they faced
long waiting times at the hospital emergency room. According to local media, the
university hospital reported consistently high operating deficits for years, mainly because
it was left virtually alone within the Mobile metro area in the treatment of indigent
patients. Whether private hospitals in the area needed to agree to treat more such patients,
or whether new ways of funding such care needed to be considered, was a perennial
debate topic. Such deliberation, however, had not led to the creation of any viable
solutions (Rabb, 2001).
Neighborhood leaders did gain some attention just by trying to make the gaining
of a health clinic a top priority, however. One observer recalled that these lobbying

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efforts led the Mobile County Health Department to consider a Trinity Gardens site in the
late 1990s. The agency tried to do so independent of officialdom, however, and failed
miserably. In effect, the agency had no well-known and trusted individual or entity to
vouch for it. Another long-time development watcher noted that the agency did not
receive cooperation from a local school on whose property it wanted to locate the facility.
In other areas, BAWC members found more success. This was particularly true of
housing, with the construction of Richardson Heights. Changes that group members
pushed for, though, would largely be made a reality by others. This seemed to be the
story of the coalition‘s existence. For example, the organization did not win a grant that
would have enabled it to start a community development corporation, one through which
it could have put its ideas into action. Nevertheless, the Bay Area Women had done much
toward helping set the tone for development in Trinity Gardens. Moreover, it was seen by
many from outside the community as more representative of the area than any other
individual or organization. Governmental organizations were among those who managed
to put these ideas into effect. The most substantial contributions made by any government
entities, besides the Mobile city government, was the U.S. Department of Justice. Still,
the effects it had, largely through the controlling of area crime through a program known
as Weed and Seed, was not as great as one might have supposed was possible.
Intergovernmental Initiatives: Weed and Seed
For a neighborhood that had been as focused on crime prevention and blight
removal as Trinity Gardens, the entrance of the federal Weed and Seed initiative into the
community appeared to be a natural fit. It was a well-established program that was
focused on both the here-and-now and the long term, a role reflected in its name. Its goal

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was to weed out crime and drugs, and to plant seeds for prevention. Even so, the
initiatives had as of mid-2003 failed to live up to expectations in Trinity Gardens. Exactly
why had much to do with how it was locally structured. The hands-off role taken by the
federal government in implementing the program may not have helped either.
Weed and Seed had been designed with local control and participation in mind. It
was funded by the U.S. Justice Department‘s Office of Justice Programs and facilitated in
cooperation with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Weed and Seed
had been rather prototypical of its era. It was born during the administration of President
George H.W. Bush and, like so many other programs of the era, relied on such
community support, even while attempting to coordinate the efforts and technical
assistance of multiple federal agencies. The primary Weed and Seed duties in Trinity
Gardens were accordingly handled by local officials, and specifically those of the Mobile
Police Department. The idea was that officials at this level would understand local affairs
better, and thus have more real power in affecting change.
Unfortunately, local control did not work as efficiently in practice as in theory.
As of mid-2003, Mobile Weed and Seed had run through four different local directors.
One was replaced by the police department, while others were promoted out of the
initiative. The local coordinator had just taken over his position in late spring. To make
matters worse, Weed and Seed was designed to encourage partnerships with the private
sector. Even so, there were few businesses of substantial size within the Trinity Gardens
area, and thus few sponsors or partners. Moreover, the Prichard section of the
neighborhood—which included commercial territory—had long been covered by that
city‘s Harlem Area Weed and Seed. As sensible as such a move might have seemed, the

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operations of the Mobile and Prichard sites were never coordinated in any significant
way. They were both initiated and operated separately.
Despite its problems and setbacks, Mobile Weed and Seed was contributing to the
further development of Trinity Gardens. For instance, the program sponsored a summer
children‘s program at the Dotch Community Center. Children were assisted with reading
and math. They were taken on field trips, including a visit to the Aquarium of the
Americas in New Orleans. The department also developed a Police Explorers unit (one
connected to the larger Boy Scouts of America organization) in Trinity Gardens, with
about fifty participants. The unit had more than an educational function, however; it
granted police the opportunity to interact with neighborhood parents. The program was
aimed—as Crothers (2002) suggested was often true of community policing-oriented
programs—at increasing bonds, or trust, between citizens and police, and more especially
police and young people. Furthermore, part of the Explorers concept was to instill in
youth a broader understanding of citizenship, a goal that Levi (1998) had suggested that
government was within its power to meet.
Mobile Weed and Seed also had plans on the table for a housing rehabilitation
initiative. Some $25,000 had been set aside for materials needed to make minor repairs
and paint older homes. The labor was set to be provided by a religious-oriented youth
volunteer organization. The program also furthered the aims of Richardson and the Bay
Area Women with crime prevention, even if only in incremental ways. It allowed police
to dedicate more resources to an area that was already finding success in crime
prevention, and that was reinforcing its success at a critical time. Weed and Seed, it was
said, had already proven its effectiveness in this area. Crime rates had declined in every

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area covered by Weed and Seed in Mobile, including an area a few miles to the east that
borders the city‘s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Even so, those involved indicated
that the program was having to play catch-up. One officer found unused Weed and Seed
signs in mid-2003 to place around Trinity Gardens, ones that had apparently been lost in
the shuffle of federal strategy implementation. The only consolation was that
neighborhood strategy was only halfway through its funding period. Whether this fact
was either a positive or a negative depended on one‘s vantage point.
The Role of Charitable Organizations and Churches
Two features of community life in Trinity Gardens made it certain that
government and civic groups such as the Bay Area Women Coalition would not be the
only entities involved in area development. First, because it was a predominantly lowincome neighborhood, the area had long received the attention of major metro area nonprofit groups. In African-American neighborhoods, the more established or larger area
Christian churches were accorded an extremely high level of respect. As one BAWC
member noted, people in areas like Trinity Gardens were not very trusting of
government, given negative personal experiences connected to the historical treatment of
black individuals and communities. The word or endorsement of a respected pastor,
however, was seen as something that could go a long way in effecting change in the
neighborhood. The churches had what was more or less described as moral authority, or
at least what Weber (1968) might have recognized as charismatic power. This was
arguably brought about through the association of black churches with the civil rights
movement, and their historical role as safe havens for black self-expression. In fact, two

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churches were bringing—or at least trying to bring—to fruition some of the goals of the
Bay Area Women. One was located in Prichard, while the other was in Mobile.
It was not surprising that Church A would have been working along the same
lines as the BAWC. The institution had long been something of a go-to organization for
government. It was an official safe haven for Weed and Seed, for instance, which more or
less made it a community center and site for the strategy‘s educational efforts. The
longtime neighborhood church, however, was acting in some ways on its own. It was,
most notably, bringing to reality the community library sought by the BAWC and others
on the Trinity Gardens development board. According to one source, the facility was to
be affiliated with the Mobile Public Library, although it would be located on church
property. The plans were to have the library stay open until 8 p.m. and be open part-time
on Saturdays. It was hoped that the library would open with some 25,000 books, and
would add to its collection fairly quickly. Furthermore, 25 computers were ready to be
placed in the new facility. All were to have Internet access.
Located in the Prichard section, Church B had no such history of community
development activity. All the same, its leadership had dreams of bringing a health clinic
to the area, something neither local government nor the Bay Area Women had been able
to accomplish. A community development corporation established by the church also
looked to become involved in youth job skills training. The church-established agency,
however, had the potential to become a competitor for both ideas and grants with the
BAWC, as mentioned previously. It also brought to the table ideas for drug rehabilitation,
a concern that had not previously been cited as a community priority. The role of one
major local non-profit organization was more quiet and maybe even overlooked. The

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Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama had nonetheless been active in Trinity Gardens for
almost two decades. In 2003 the non-profit organization continued its work by serving
children in programs at the Dotch Community Center. Before that, the organization
operated out of the nearby Leona Tricksey Center for senior citizens, which had formerly
housed the Dotch Community Center. The Boys and Girls Club was consequently a
fixture of the area‘s youth-targeted development efforts. For instance, it worked with
Mobile Weed and Seed. It was also partnering with a neighborhood church, by way of a
grant it received with Volunteers of America Southeast, to provide job skills training to
adjudicated youth. (The grant required the organization to develop a partnership with a
faith-based organization.)
The organization‘s youth uplift programs extended into the cultural arena. It was a
Boys & Girls Club representative, for example, who suggested that the city put a
recording studio in the Michael C. Dow Amphitheater. The representative took the idea
from a similar program in San Francisco. Other arts programs were set to be made
available for teens at the amphitheater, including dance, music, and other performing
arts-related activities. They were to be held after school, in the evenings, and probably on
Saturdays. Otherwise, the non-profit entity planned to work with a local television station
to teach students how to make their own videos.
At the same time, the youth organization shared credit with the BAWC‘s Dubose
for another cultural coup; namely, the bringing of adult dance classes to the
neighborhood. The classes were led by the director of the Alabama Contemporary Dance
Company, which frequently worked in the area given its association with the Boys and
Girls Clubs. The classes got underway after the company‘s director met Dubose at an

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anti-violence rally in Prichard. The event featured an African dance performance, a
routine similar to one the company used to open ceremonies in New York that
memorialized the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001. The director soon
began holding adult African dance classes in the community, with the idea that adults
who took them would participate in the opening of the Dow Amphitheater in the summer
of 2003. The ceremonies were delayed as a result of heavy rains, which kept the
construction from being completed by the scheduled opening date, but classes were to
continue.
Consistency Versus Expansion in Development
Questions regarding the sustainability of development-related organizational
efforts in Trinity Gardens constituted a crucial issue. What was just as important,
however, and in fact a closely related matter, was the direction in which such efforts
would be channeled. Did they need to continue as they had, or did the focus need to shift
somewhat from crime prevention? Was there a need for a more expansive view of
development in Trinity Gardens, or did civic leaders and government officials with whom
they worked need to keep a steadier course? Opinions differed sharply among interview
subjects. It certainly seemed that vigilance would be required as far as crime prevention
and eradication went. Some observers thought that the manner in which such matters
were approached needed to be reconsidered, at least. Less pressure needed to be placed
on police, in particular, to respond to every small complaint. The fact was, these
observers pointed out, that very little crime actually existed in Trinity Gardens. There
was, consequently, not much left for police and local government to do in this area. Even
so, police continued to receive continuous pressure from neighborhood civic participants.

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The squeaky wheel did indeed get the grease, one observer noted, and Trinity Gardens
residents were right to be so squeaky. Nonetheless, crime was eradicated to such a
point—and people in the neighborhood came to expect so much attention—that any
minor crime‘s effects were magnified. If a ladder was stolen, some residents would have
feared that crime was on the rise again. Of course, one of the observers admitted, there
were still little things that police could have done to ease the concerns of local residents,
among them having an officer to patrol for loitering. Police were looking into funding
just such a patrol through Weed and Seed. Even so, the observer pointed out:
If they‘re looking for a crime-free neighborhood, it‘s not gonna happen.
The only thing that you can hope is to reduce crime to a tolerable level,
but there‘s no area nowhere with no crime. We would like to think so, but
that‘s not gonna happen. (Mikell, 2003, p. 66)
Some residents were looking far past anti-crime measures regardless, as some in
fact long had. At least one civic leader was getting even more ambitious. This individual
had commissioned elaborately detailed plans for a subdivision called Holy Land Heights,
a name that echoed the sometimes nickname of Trinity Gardens—namely, The Promised
Land. (Richardson, it should be noted, was often said to play the Moses role here, even
though, as was noted during the August 2003 environmental court proceeding in the
neighborhood, Moses died without ever setting foot in the original Middle Eastern locale
of the same name.) The development would have been a walled community of the type
often seen in wealthier areas; only the homes in this one were to be marketed to lower
middle income residents.
The proposal also addressed another of Trinity Gardens‘s perceived needs, as
listed in a 1998 report of a Trinity Gardens community development planning board—

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specifically, the need for an exercise and fitness facility. Mobile‘s Dearborn YMCA,
which had served as the black YMCA during the Jim Crow era, was named as the
probable operator of the planned fitness center. Its facilities would be open to anyone
who could afford membership fees. YMCA officials suggested that fees would be needed
in order to pay equipment and upkeep costs. The original idea, which was to have the
facility open to the community, did not appear feasible.
Still, financial issues were holding the plans for Holy Land Heights back. Several
hundred thousand dollars were needed, given the expense of the land, and potentially
high land redevelopment costs. There was in fact a myriad of other problems with the
proposed real estate development. For one, having Prichard, a city with little in the way
of resources and serious crime problems, as a neighbor was an albatross. By the same
token, the undeveloped land on which the theoretical subdivision would be built was
located near active railroad tracks. Earplugs would have been a requirement, in other
words, for the self-selected few who entered the Holy Land—or rather, the Holy Land
development.
As one observer noted, however, such development was needed to keep the
neighborhood‘s development alive. It was essential to try to lure new residents, especially
those with more income, into the area. They needed to be given the sense of living in a
place apart somehow. The other oft-suggested means of making the area viable was the
recruitment and creation of neighborhood businesses. Some observers mentioned that the
lack of a private sector as one of the biggest obstacles in the way of progress in Trinity
Gardens. Because of the lack of such businesses, there was little support for community
activities and initiatives, such as Mobile Weed and Seed.

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The idea that Trinity Gardens could somehow turn itself into a business oasis
struck others as more than a bit absurd, though. Most of the community was zoned for
residential use. Only those areas bordering Interstate 65 were available for non-residential
use, and as noted previously, they were zoned for light industrial use. The nearest
commercial strips were located at the community‘s northern edge in Prichard and to the
south in the Crichton area. Of these, the U.S. 45/St. Stephen‘s Road strip was closer, but
the Crichton community on Moffett Road in Mobile was busier and had more
mainstream, nationally recognized franchise businesses. Even considerable swaths of the
U.S. 45 strip, by contrast, had no businesses on the side closest to Trinity Gardens in
Prichard, but instead featured old warehouses and empty lots. One area resident had been
buying up much of this property, but there were no indications as to his specific plans.
The strategic plan for Weed and Seed suggested that a transitional business zone
be considered for the neighborhood. Such a zone would have promoted pedestrianfriendly businesses and small retail shops, all located within a comfortable distance from
residents, many of whom did not own vehicles. The sorts of businesses attracted into the
zone would not have degraded the character or value of residential neighborhoods
(Mobile Weed and Seed, 2000, p. 77). Nevertheless, there existed no plans for rezoning.
The main hope for developmental sustainability instead appeared to be the possibility of
gaining some sort of cooperation with Mobile‘s next-door neighbor, Prichard.
Meanwhile, others saw opportunities for continuing development in Trinity
Gardens that did not entail the need for great financing. For instance, one police
administrator expressed excitement about the possibility of opening an actual community
garden within Trinity Gardens. There was, it was noted, empty space within the area that

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could be converted into a sort of natural oasis. The administrator envisioned having
people of all ages working in the garden, with the elderly teaching the students about the
ins and outs of working in the soil. The garden would then have become about something
larger than just crops. It would have been a way of developing a cooperative spirit.
Moreover, it was suggested that such efforts had a secondary effect when people from
outside areas were involved. The work changed the way police saw residents and vice
versa. As a consequence, such activities helped to build ties and increase trust between
individuals. In short, they built what Hornburg and Lang (1997) and Putnam (2000)
would have recognized as social bridges and bridging social capital, respectively. The
administrator continued, in speaking of both Mobile residents and Trinity Gardens
residents more specifically:
If they work on a common goal, then they begin to trust each other. And I
also believe that‘s where some of the racial boundaries have been able to
be broken because if we‘re working together on a common goal, then the
issue of what color you are becomes less important; because you start to
realize that you both want the same thing. You want a place to live that‘s
somewhat safe. You want your kids to grow up in an environment that‘s
conducive to them learning . . . You find out that people are pretty much
the same, they want the same things. Until you begin to know a person and
begin to trust him, you‘ll never overcome the racial barrier, I don‘t
believe. (Mikell, 2003, p. 90)
Such sentiments may have sounded corny, the observer thought, but they nevertheless
seemed to be true.
Summary: Assessing Success
What those involved in the development effort ended up seeing as more
important, then, was not so much whether a relationship between agents of the Mobile
municipal government and social capital led to success, but the very fact that a

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partnership was formed. Many of the ideas brought up before the board for the Trinity
Gardens planning process did end up being carried out, or work had started on them.
Richardson‘s crime prevention and litter abatement ideas were apparently paying off.
Even so, many ideas remained far out of reach. In 2003, for instance. there were still no
bus shelters. There was still no neighborhood health clinic. New housing was relatively
scarce. It was safe to say, however, that no one involved in the Trinity Gardens
development process saw it as a failure, or that it would soon fail, given the cooperative
partnership developed between municipal officials and community leadership.
As the data in the next chapter will demonstrate more fully, however, such a
cooperative spirit was not always so easy to develop, especially when sought at a
metropolitan-wide level. Neither, it seemed, were ties between individuals of differing
groups or communities always beneficial. Their worth depended on the circumstances—
and these were far more thorny, at least insofar as they regarded Trinity Gardens‘s
relations with the rest of the Mobile area, than was apparent at the surface level.
Nonetheless, the most serious complexity absolutely did lie at its literal, geophysical
surface; specifically, in the form of a not-so-well-placed border between two notably
different municipalities.

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CHAPTER VII
PROPOSITION 3
Cross-sectoral cooperation appears to be vital to community development
efforts. However, more extensive interaction will be needed for any
further-reaching development efforts.

At the turn of the 21st Century, it would probably have been impossible to find an
American politician or civic leader who would state, without equivocation, that he or she
did not believe in getting citizens to work together. Talk of the cooperative spirit had
become a regular stump line, a cliche, as had the oft-stated notion that Americans did not
work together enough—unlike in some idealized, but not-so-distant past. That there was a
need for people to work together ironically appeared to be one of the few things that the
majority of American politicians and citizens could get behind. The popularity of the
social capital concept was, it appeared, to no small degree a reflection of such sentiments.
In this context, it could not have been surprising to hear elected officials and
administrators in both Mobile and Prichard, Alabama—the two municipalities in which
Trinity Gardens was included—talking about the worthiness of efforts that brought
citizens together, and of utilizing the power of communities to affect change. What was
less talked about was gaining cooperation between differing economic sectors, and
different governing authorities, agencies, or economic groups. Despite getting such short
shrift, the gaining of such cooperation was a crucial matter as it related to development in
Trinity Gardens. At the least, it was an issue that promised to become increasingly

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important as time passed. Whether the neighborhood‘s development efforts could be
taken to a higher level depended on it.
It was not that the major actors in Trinity Gardens hardly ever worked with forces
outside of their world. To the contrary, they had received and sought assistance before,
not only from Mobile city government and the police department but from nonprofit
groups such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, area businesses and public utilities. The area
nonetheless faced some rather unique problems in the cross-sectoral arena, particularly
ones caused by the lack of cooperation between the municipalities of Mobile and
Prichard. At the same time, Trinity Gardens was enormously isolated from the view of
the metro area‘s more affluent, sprawling suburban areas.
Nevertheless, evidence suggested that the quality of cross-sectoral relationships,
as they affected Trinity Gardens, mattered at least as much as their very existence.
Maybe, in certain circumstances, gaining cooperation from leadership and citizens in
other parts of the city or metro area was not even worth the trouble. It was argued by one
observer that the Mobile section of Trinity Gardens might have seen more progress by
gating itself off, given the problems in Prichard. On the other hand, even a surface-level
examination suggested that the neighborhood needed support of the larger business
community of the Mobile metropolitan area, and people in more far-flung suburban areas
in order to keep its development going. The right answer, however, did not clearly
suggest itself. When did attempting to grow from within, and to be self-sufficient, cease
being a good thing? Where could you draw a line?
These issues are explored below, in two distinct sections. The first explores the
story of Prichard, and how its problems affected Trinity Gardens, as well as federal

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initiatives that involved crime prevention in both Mobile and Prichard. Finally, the
chapter includes a more all-encompassing consideration of the neighborhood‘s place
within the larger Mobile metropolitan area.
Prichard: The Road to Bankruptcy
The worlds of the Prichard and Mobile sections of Trinity Gardens are
interconnected in the most literal sense. The boundary between the two municipalities is
not provided by a particular street, or any natural geographic feature. There is,
consequently, almost no sure way to tell what city you were in. In 2003, it was only safe
to presume you were in Prichard when you see more trash out in the streets and in yards
while driving through the northeastern half of Trinity Gardens. There was one notable
exception—a smoothly paved and widened section of Berkley Avenue in Prichard, the
home of two major area church buildings and two schools (one public and one
denominational), with hardly any litter evident. Prichard was ceded the small stretch of
road and surrounding territory in the late 1990s by Mobile‘s city government, since
Prichard officialdom expected new industry to open there. Otherwise, most of the areas to
the northeast were conspicuously grimy. A Mobile administrator explained:
A lot of the difficulties in Trinity Gardens are the political boundaries, the
artificial boundaries of the community. Trinity Gardens tends to view
itself as a whole, when in essence part of Trinity Gardens is the City of
Mobile, and part of Trinity Gardens is the City of Prichard. And I think
that the relationship and the impact of services and policing are very
different depending on which side of the line you happen to live on, for a
host of reasons. That's a problem because some of the people that live in
Trinity Gardens on the Prichard side see that things are substantially
different on the other side of the line, and they wonder why it doesn't
apply to them. And I don't know how we're ever going to be able to
overcome that. (Mikell, 2003, p. 124)

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The primary explanation for the greater amount of litter in Prichard was the city‘s
financial situation. To be more specific, in 2003 Prichard was just coming out of federal
bankruptcy protection. It had been more or less forced to file for legal protection in 2002,
given a fiscal crisis that led the city‘s mayor and its entire city council to be forced out of
(but not removed from) office. What was, in effect, a wholesale expulsion of Prichard
officialdom resulted from fraud charges brought by the Mobile District Attorney‘s office.
The DA led an investigation after the Alabama examiner of public accounts found that
Prichard cheated its employees. City staff had been receiving regular paychecks. The city
had not, however, been paying related expenses, such as matching Social Security
contributions. Those unpaid expenses were worth some $2.5 million. At the same time,
the city had an accumulated total debt of more than $7 million, a debt that apparently
developed over several decades. In an attempt to overcome such massive problems,
Prichard adopted and began operating under the aforementioned bankruptcy plan. It
called for the city to pay off all its outstanding debt within seven years.
The financial crackdown had severe effects on a city already suffering from a
scandalous lack of business development, an unpropitious thing in a state where
municipalities depend on sales taxes. As a consequence, the city found itself barely able
provide even the most basic services. At one point, the Prichard Police Department had
only one patrolman available for the entire city of some 33,000 residents at any one time.
Likewise, the city‘s fire department was unable to respond to calls after gas station
owners demanded to be paid in cash for fill-ups.
The city bore the brunt of the financial pain early, however, and by 2003 appeared
to be well on its way to finding some semblance of stability. Even so, Prichard‘s

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underlying problem with business development had not substantially changed.
Concomitantly, there was not much in the way of retail businesses within the city‘s
boundaries. Its downtown remained full of store buildings so grey that they brought fresh
meaning to the word ―nondescript.‖ The area hosted rent-to-own stores, a spiritual candle
purveyor and pawn shops, all in flat-roofed buildings with bars on their windows. In the
city‘s northern half, retail businesses were scarcely seen until one reached the nearby
suburb of Chickasaw. A Burger King sat just across the border, and more modern gas
stations, apartments, and strip businesses were just up the road. The businesses that
existed in Prichard‘s northern section, meanwhile, had names such as ―Divine Auto
Sales‖ (located next to a church) and primitive, hand-painted signs. To be fair, many
businesses with relatively modern signage and decor were located in Prichard‘s western
section, across Interstate 65—an area in which there was also some residential growth—
but still nothing remotely upmarket.
No one particular phenomenon led to this deplorable state of affairs. Many
interview subjects nonetheless suggested that white flight—the term used to describe a
white residential exodus to outlying areas—unquestionably had a huge impact. The
exodus was prompted by two linked concerns, among them a decline in the city‘s retail
fortunes, and the end of legal segregation. Prichard, several interview subjects noted, was
once a highly popular shopping area, probably the fastest-growing in the Mobile area.
Although a viewing of the area today would make this seem improbable, the city‘s
downtown had once proudly hosted a J.C. Penney department store and other respected
retail establishments. In the late 1960s, however, premier retailers started opening stores
in Mobile again, this time in West Mobile. The end of Prichard‘s retail dominance

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brought with it a soft housing market. The end of segregation, meanwhile, had
consequences that compounded those of the retail decline. According to U.S. Census
data, Prichard had long hosted a substantial African-American population. In its heyday,
the city had been almost equally populated by whites and blacks. All the same, Jim Crow
ruled just as surely in Prichard as it had throughout the Deep South. With the end of
segregation, though, black residents were free to move into formerly all-white areas, and
a softening of the housing market only increased the incentive for blacks to do so. One
consequence was that African-Americans in Prichard began flexing the collective
political power that had previously been denied to blacks in the Deep South. By 1972,
Prichard residents elected a black mayor.
Once the city‘s African-American population gained power, the municipality
quickly fell into financial decline. The exodus of whites, and particularly more affluent
whites, represented the loss a previously dependable tax base, given how formidable the
exodus was. From 1960 to 2000, the city went from being 47 percent to 84.5 percent
African-American. It lost 40 percent of its total population over the same number of
years—from 47,731 residents in 1960 to 28,633 in 2000. The most massive loss, of 17
percent of its total population, occurred between 1960 and 1970, but the decline had been
steady ever since. Prichard's black population had declined between 1960 and 1970 as
well, by six percent. The white population just declined much more, specifically by 22
percent during the same period.
By the early 1990s, the future looked practically hopeless for most of Prichard.
Even one instance of good fortune turned out to be merely a glimpse of what might have
been. More specifically, in 1994 a new, $240 million elevated freeway opened in the

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Mobile area. It connects Interstate 65, which runs north-to-south, to Mobile‘s central
business district and its busy port. This route provides access to Interstate 10, which runs
east-to-west. In so doing, it runs through Prichard and includes two exits there, ones
created at a considerable financial and human cost. About 275 residents were relocated to
make way for this infrastructure, and some 50 businesses were bought out. By the federal
government‘s own, absurdly understated admission, however, the project did not bring
prosperity to Prichard (City Impact Assessment, 1998).
Trinity Gardens and Prichard‘s Future
In short, part of Trinity Gardens was overseen by what had been a municipal
basket case, and there was seemingly little that anyone could do to improve the situation.
The situation was just that stark, that brutal. This should not be taken to mean that
neighborhood civic leaders did nothing to change the status quo, however, or that no one
saw a glimmer of hope with regard to a chance to improve matters. Leaders of the Bay
Area Women Coalition had in fact long worked with Prichard officials. Dubose was
active with the city‘s Harlem Area Weed and Seed, whose program area included the
Prichard section of Trinity Gardens. Her likeness could be seen in pictures displayed
inside the operation‘s headquarters in the Bessemer public housing development. BAWC
members also consistently wrote police and fire officials in Prichard. They tried to put as
much pressure on officials there as in Mobile. (The mayors of Prichard and Mobile had a
cordial relationship, it should be noted, before financial troubles forced the resignation of
Prichard‘s chief executive. The relationship had not been replaced as of mid-2003.)
It was suggested by some observers, however, that working with Prichard
officials proved more difficult for Trinity Gardens civic leaders, given municipal

144
corruption in Prichard. Even after new council was elected in the wake of the fraud
controversy, however, there was still a lack of cooperation between Mobile and Prichard,
a lack in no small part fueled by the latter‘s scarce fiscal resources. Prichard had a
relatively new police chief whose background looked promising in regard to changing
this situation. The chief had formerly headed the Mobile Police Department‘s crime
prevention office. Consequently, he still had many contacts within and good relations
with people inside the MPD. Moreover, he brought ideas and lessons learned from his
days in Mobile with him. He was, for instance, working with neighborhood groups. He
believed in working with neighborhood leaders, and in the tenets of community-oriented
policing. Unfortunately, what several observers thought he did not have was much in the
way of support, financial or otherwise, from Prichard authorities. He could thus not create
as extensive a community-oriented policing plan as might have been expected.
Other Mobile interviewees indicated that the whole idea of harnessing the power
of community leadership never caught on in Prichard. And, this made the city‘s
development all the more elusive. Leaders there were accused of being too focused on big
projects. They were seen as far too preoccupied with attracting major industry and
commercial development. Prichard officials interviewed also believed that the city leaders
needed to concentrate more on cleaning up the city, and on organizing its population. One
official noted that people attending Harlem Area Weed and Seed community meetings
seemed to be longing for someone to ask for their assistance. It was hard to get them to
volunteer, however, because of Prichard‘s crime and blight. It was easy for critics to say
that it was time to mobilize citizens when conditions grew so extreme. Unfortunately, the
official suggested:

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Nowadays, you can‘t just do that, because
they‘re frightened to death with criminals,
and they‘re scared if the criminals see them
out there doing something positive. They‘ve
got something coming through their
window, coming at a very high speed, or
they‘re just being subjected to a lot of verbal
abuse or to an ugly stare. You have to
challenge them to take their community
back and to do it, and it‘s even small things
to do. Yes, we have a lot of fiscal
challenges, but we‘re more than capable by
district - and you take each district you can
have the city as a whole. There are things we
are capable of doing right now, today. I‘ve
got some houses I‘m having torn down in a
neighborhood that was real, real bad with
prostitution and truancy, drugs and just flatout blight. That‘s what‘s really killing
Prichard‘s realty, is the abandoned property.
Your house has no value when it‘s situated
right next to a suburban jungle. (Mikell,
2003, p. 114-15)
Still, only once did an interview subject from Prichard suggest that matters such as blight
removal needed to be addressed before talking about large scale economic development
projects. More often heard was the idea that someone from the private sector was needed
to take a chance on the city.
One planned economic development project did appear poised to have a major
impact on Trinity Gardens. The Harlem Area Weed and Seed project received federal
funding to redevelop the site of the Bessemer public housing development. Most of the
apartments would be torn down to make way for a shopping center, and the buildings left
over would be converted to elderly housing. The decision was made after a process that
included hearings attended by residents of Trinity Gardens, both from Mobile and

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Prichard. Participants involved in the decision in redeveloping Bessemer from both
municipalities agreed that the status quo was no longer worth maintaining.
There was no way of knowing exactly how much the planned development would
affect surrounding neighborhoods, though. Research on the effects of proximity to public
housing projects was contradictory. In 1981, for instance, Roncek and Bell (1981) found
in a study of 4,000 residential city blocks that the effect of proximity to public housing
did have a statistically significant relationship with reports of criminal activity. All the
same, the effect of proximity looked minor once socioeconomic and housing
characteristics of the adjacent blocks were taken into account. Furthermore, blocks near
public housing developments, but not adjacent to them, did not have significantly higher
incidence of violent or property crimes. Later, Hyatt and Holzman (1999) would note that
no one had ever been able to find a connection between public housing and crime. Only a
handful of criminologists had attempted to gauge the levels of crime in public housing,
and all had failed. The problem, the two researchers suggested, was that American police
did not issue crime statistics that took in one public housing development, in an isolated
fashion.
On the other hand, there were still blight-ridden areas of Prichard further north,
ones where tributes to presumably fallen comrades were spray-painted on the sides of
run-down houses. Concurrently, there existed the possibility that crime in Trinity
Gardens had traveled to Prichard in the early part of the new century. One Mobile
administrator stated the case as follows:

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There is some bleed-over from Prichard to Mobile. Criminals are
basically, the way I see it, cowards. They‘re not going to stay where
people are pursuing them and good people are standing up for what they
believe in. They‘re going to go where there‘s the path of least resistance. I
hate to say it, but they may have stepped over into Prichard. (Mikell, 2003,
p. 90)
For such reasons, police in Mobile did not have any qualms about accepting an invitation
to an anti-crime rally in Prichard in 2003, despite jurisdictional issues.
I didn‘t see a problem with it. I think we can do some things to help us on
that side of the line that‘ll bleed over to us to because it‘s awful close.
Sometimes things that begin over there wind up on our side. So if we can
help them, and I believe that the way I see it, I‘m going to do what I can to
help (the chief). (Mikell, 2003, p. 91)
Despite such expressions of a desire to cooperate, whether any partnership could ever
come to fruition was doubtful because of Prichard‘s financial condition or perhaps, as
some Mobile observers put it, because of its failure to embrace the power of citizen
participation—or maybe even both.
Federal Programs in Prichard
The Prichard problem might have also exacerbated inherent and existing problems
of two federal anti-crime initiatives operating in the Mobile area. These programs
included the Justice Department-directed Weed and Seed program and the Drug
Enforcement Agency‘s Integrated Drug Enforcement (IDEA) strategy. Moreover, low
public participation was cited as a contributor to problems in the latter program.
As noted earlier, the Weed and Seed initiatives had plenty of problems. First,
given that the programs were designed with local control in mind, no federal coordinator
could step in and force Mobile and Prichard to coordinate their efforts, despite the fact
that strategy zones in the two respective municipalities bordered one another. To make

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matters worse, Mobile‘s Weed and Seed took in an area with little in the way of a
business community. By contrast, Prichard did at least have enough commercial activity
to allow the program to work as a public-private partnership, as program designers
intended. Still, although both Weed and Seed programs helped push Trinity Gardens‘s
development along, they had not come close to having their maximum effect.
The IDEA program was far more troubled, and interview subjects involved with
the programs traced most of its problems back to the Mobile-Prichard relationship—and,
more specifically, to Prichard alone. This was a shame, one federal observer noted,
because the city had a new police chief, one with contacts in the Mobile Police
Department. It seemed as if there was a chance, with the chief‘s appointment, to
overcome any past lack of cooperation. The observer continued:I think (the chief) wants,
in his heart of hearts, he wants do the right thing for that city. He's got the best intentions
of anyone I've met in Prichard. I'm not saying somebody else has bad intentions, but he
really cares about what he's doing. He's committed, and he's committed for the right
reasons. He's not committed to doing his job for a vote or a bonus or anything like that.
He's doing it because it's the right thing to do and that's his job. I think there's a lot more
politics than he can overcome by himself. His instrument isn't the biggest one in the band.
He's doing what he can do . . . I think Prichard leaders aren't sure how to take advantage
of this without someone giving them a handout. Saying, ―We're going to support this,‖ or,
―Were going to do this,‖ is one thing, but . . . getting an abandoned house cleaned or
having inmates down to cut grass, it's not that hard of thing, but there's not a big crowd to
watch you there (Mikell, 2003, p. 103).

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At the same time, low rates of public participation at public meetings in Prichard
seemed to affect the process, according to observers. If this bit of reportage were
accurate, it appeared that the city‘s path to community renewal would remain indefinitely
blocked. It also would likely have proved almost pointless and futile for Mobile civic
leaders to try to reach cooperative agreements with their peers next door.
Solutions: Annexation, Connected Fates
Whatever the greatest contributor to Prichard‘s woes might have been, the
question of how to improve Prichard‘s situation—and, more to the point, to do so to the
ultimate benefit of Trinity Gardens—did not lend itself to easy answers. It was possible
that increased participation would solve the situation alone. There were still, however,
those nagging fiscal woes with which to deal, ones that no amount of community
organizing could easily overcome. What good would lobbying for changes have done if
local officials were unable to fund any new initiatives?
One consequent resolution to the conundrum, several interview subjects noted,
would have been for Mobile to annex Prichard. Expanding the Alabama port city‘s
boundaries in such a fashion would not necessarily have been to its ultimate benefit,
however. Taking over Prichard would have proven incredibly costly. Mobile would not
have seen much in the way of sales taxes from the new territory for quite some time,
possibly decades. The city would have inherited Prichard‘s crime problems. Finally,
Mobile would have needed assurances of incentives and grants of untold millions before
even entertaining the annexation idea. One administrator explained:

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Mobile wouldn't go for annexation. It would be kind of like you going out
and . . .Why would you buy a 1965 car that was basically worn out? It
needs all this work, and there's no visible dollars there. Now, if somebody
said, I'm going to give you a Duesenberg, and with it comes a $200,000
grant to maintain it because Mr. Kellogg wants somebody to take care of
his car, you'd say, Sure, give me that. I'll take a 1931 Duesenberg and the
$200,000 maintenance grant, that's a no-brainer and it would be fun.
(Mikell, 2003, p. 249)
A more logical or easier option would have been for Prichard to de-incorporate and leave
its administration to Mobile County, if the city‘s fiscal problems continued after coming
out of bankruptcy protection.
In the end, Trinity Gardens‘s civic leaders absolutely had to continue to pay some
attention to Prichard, whether it stayed incorporated or not. A reminder of how dramatic
the effects of a lack of governmental responsiveness across city borders could be
occurred in 2004, when a massive sewer leak in the city sent millions of gallons of
untreated waste into an isolated wooded area just a short drive from the neighborhood.
The Alabama Attorney General‘s office filed suit in order to strip the city‘s water and
sewer authority (which operated, curiously enough, independently of the municipal
government) of its authority.
The incident demonstrated that Trinity Gardens‘s leaders needed to be interested
in its relations outside its borders. However, it seemed clear that its leaders also would
have benefited by seeking connections to networks in all parts of the metro area or,
rather, to concentrate on the seeking of bridging social capital or social bridges (Putnam,
2000; Hornburg & Lang, 1997). The neighborhood needed a whole set of bridges,
really—to the rich and poor places, to the powers that were, and to money and services, if
it hoped to ever thrive.

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Outside Assistance
Community organizing efforts in Trinity Gardens had long involved people from
outside the neighborhood. The partnership that the community‘s civic leadership had
formed with local officials and especially Mobile police had been central to development
efforts. Even so, the assistance and cooperation that the neighborhood received from
forces outside its streets went far beyond that partnership. Major national and regional
non-profit organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, frequently worked within
Trinity Gardens. Richardson asked for and received assistance from the metro area‘s
business sector. Local utilities assisted in the replacement of street lighting, and provided
bulbs free of charge. Surveys of the neighborhood‘s condition were taken with the use of
donated cell phones. The Bay Area Women, meanwhile, received thousands of dollars in
grant monies from businesses and foundations.
Despite receiving such assistance, the neighborhood surely remained a foreign
land to plenty of Mobile residents. There was little reason—outside of visits to
relations—for anyone living in a more affluent section of the metro area to make his or
her way into Trinity Gardens. All the same, Trinity Gardens had received its fair share of
flattering media attention, including two lengthy, front-page features on its development
efforts in the city‘s daily newspaper, The Mobile Register (Nicholes, 1998b; Wilson,
1999). An article on the then-new Dotch Center‘s opening made the front page in the
interim (Nicholes, 1998). The articles, both of which delved deeply into the
neighborhood‘s history, were published within a year of one another. The neighborhood‘s
story had been so well-circulated, in fact, that Richardson felt compelled to tell fellow
council members in 2003 that not all the area‘s problems had been solved. On the other

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hand, the construction of the Dow Amphitheater had been the subject of mocking
derision from some quarters, if only because of its name (Mobile, one observer noted,
had a bad habit of naming things after people who were still alive) and the fact that it had
been a Richardson-associated project. The council member was still seen as something of
a controversial figure by some metro area denizens, if only for his tendency to play up his
achievements.
Others approached Richardson and BAWC members with assistance in an
unsolicited fashion. Among these was a television station that offered to teach students
how to make videos in classes at the Dow Amphitheater. Likewise, a large home building
supply chain donated paint used in the construction of the Richardson Heights homes.
Businesses and individuals from throughout the Mobile metro area similarly donated
supplies and expertise. Unfortunately, an observer suggested, sometimes the donated
items were not of particularly high quality. Paint used in the Richardson Heights homes,
for instance, faded about a year-and-a-half after use, even though the paint was advertised
to last much longer. The observer supposed that when those doing the donating had no
personal stake in a project‘s outcome, and were donating mainly to receive federal tax
deductions, that they did not particularly concern themselves with quality (Mikell, 2003,
p. 163).
What Trinity Gardens and those who called it home surely needed was not so much
decorative essentials as larger-scale private sector or charitable support for more basic
needs, such as health care. Most health care for indigent patients in Mobile was provided
by the University of South Alabama Medical Center, and that state institution ran up
mammoth annual deficits in doing so. Likewise, no one from the private sector or any

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wealthy benefactor offered to build libraries or support adult education in such
neighborhoods. It was left to the government to merely contemplate the building of
simple bus stop shelters.
Mobile once had an organization that increased communication among civic
leaders and groups in different parts of the metro area, one observer noted, and could
have benefited by the presence of a similar group. The long-since defunct group‘s name
was Mobile Community Organization, formed in 1974. The institution was meant to
operate as something of an umbrella for area civic organizations. It was biracial in its
membership. Moreover, it had the support of some of the city‘s largest private sector
names and benefactors—this at a time when most grocery and dry goods stores were still
mostly local and regional affairs. The organization‘s bread and butter had been the sort of
community development issues that Trinity Gardens‘s leadership would take up later.
The only difference in this case was that the issues were addressed at a citywide level.
One longtime neighborhood leader explained:
The key thing about the Mobile Community Organization is that we had
the support of all the group, so if we had a problem here in Trinity
Gardens, people from down the Bay or West Mobile who had a group or
organization would give us their support to solve the problem. So that was
a good system, I think, in working the political system and the people to
get things done. (Mikell, 2003, p. 137)
The affiliation of community-based groups did not last. The observer‘s opinion was that
the group was practically doomed to failure once a popular white director left to take a
job in North Carolina. After an African-American woman took over the organization‘s
reins, financial and moral support for the organization started to dwindle. To make

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matters worse, the director was charged with misuse of funds. The group was never able
to restructure.
That being said, it was not as if Mobile‘s private sector kept itself out local
affairs altogether in the days after the citywide organization‘s demise. Not long after the
city switched to a mayor-council form of government, the Mobile Chamber of Commerce
and many area business people worked with the city and county governments on a
strategic planning process called Goals for Mobile. In so doing, one official thought, the
entities involved accomplished something highly significant:
They laid the framework for redevelopment, for being competitive, and for
going out and recruiting in the international arena the kind of jobs and
investment that we needed. And over the years, those strategic plans have
pulled us together and got us focused not only being Democrats and
Republicans and being separate races or whatever, but being a community
and focused on how we could help that community be more competitive
and improve . . . the crime prevention parts of it, the quality of life parts of
it, by getting inside of neighborhoods and putting police precincts,
recreation centers, fixing their drainage, fixing the sidewalks so the kids
could go to school, putting affordable housing in the neighborhoods and
controlling blight. We set up an environmental court. So that larger picture
of planning to make our city stronger set up a framework where effective
neighborhood organizing can punch into it and they can tell us more
clearly what they need and we can respond to their needs instead of us
assuming what is best for them. (Mikell, 2003, p. 73)
In the end, the idea of increasing ties and trust—or what Putnam termed bridging
social capital (2000), in a reformulation of Hornburg and Lang‘s (1997) concept of social
bridges—between lower-income neighborhoods like Trinity Gardens and wealthier
havens somehow seemed to be too big of an issue to grasp. Certainly, one could easily
get lost in one of the more affluent areas of Mobile after a visit to Trinity Gardens and
feel as if he or she were transported to another planet. This other, more plugged-in place
had fresh produce in its grocery stores, specialty stores galore, the occasional upmarket

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boutique and professional business signs, rather than the vaguely Third World-like handpainted ones seen along St. Stephen‘s Road (U.S. 45) in Prichard. It could seem as if
isolation of a place like Trinity Gardens would be an almost impossible burden to
overcome, that the neighborhood was too far behind in the hyper-capitalist wonderland
that was post-millennial America.
Most residents interviewed did not to seem to mind the neighborhood‘s state of
affairs. To the contrary, most suggested that crime had declined dramatically over the
past few years. The place they called home was in 2003 a quiet neighborhood of working
people and retirees, and residents wanted to keep it that way. More than half of all
residents interviewed pointed out that the area needed sidewalks more than anything else.
They wanted to see its streets as well kept as those in other Mobile neighborhoods
(although, in this rain-sloshed city, even some highly affluent areas had streets crumbling
from flooding).
Residents who were more skeptical of development efforts, by contrast, suggested
that what its people needed more were jobs. There was only so much city leaders could
have done do to help residents in their search for the American Dream, though, especially
in times marked by increasing global economic integration. As Peterson (1981)
suggested, American municipal governments were not structured in a way that enabled
them to have much of an effect on creating jobs for and redistributing funds to lowerincome residents. Mobile was also forced to rely on sales taxes for its operations, given
Alabama law. Even trying to persuade local employers to undertake programs for lowerincome residents would have probably been a waste of time, given that a large crosssection of Mobile‘s private sector was overseen by large corporations. Mobile-based

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chains that had once been well-known regional brands, such as the Delchamps
supermarket and Morrison‘s Cafeteria, did not survive the corporate buyout binges of the
1990s.
Job creation was indeed a concern of Mobile officialdom. The city had
constructed a job training center in south central Mobile. Its library and retail training
facility (a working store of the Dollar General discount chain) was unlikely to make a
great dent on Mobile‘s unemployment rate, which at the turn of the new century was
higher than the Alabama average. Even so, the most that could have been expected from
local government was for its agencies to keep city streets as free from crime as possible,
to clean up abandoned housing and the like. Quality of life matters such as the upkeep,
and construction of municipal parks was not to be discounted, either. Most of what local
leaders could best focus upon was the basics of city governance—the nuts and bolts. By
extension, those in civic organizations who hoped for and lobbied for change were more
likely to be successful by pressing city officials to do what was within their inherently
limited power.
The institutions more equipped to bring greater economic change were, instead,
the state and federal governments. Unfortunately, local civic leaders and organizations
who hoped to have an impact on these institutions had their work cut out for them.
Mobile‘s Congressional representation consisted of conservative Republicans who were
not likely to support extensive economic uplift programs for lower-income residents—
although, to be fair, Trinity Gardens‘s civic leaders successfully lobbied the delegation on
housing issues. By contrast, the neighborhood‘s state legislative delegation was
predominantly Democratic. This was not a fact of huge importance, though, given that

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the state had little in the way of discretionary funds. Alabama voters did not appear
willing to hand politicians in the state capital of Montgomery more tax money. Trinity
Gardens residents were against doing so as well, if the number of anti-tax reform signs
seen in the neighborhood in 2003 during a tax increase and budget reform referendum
campaign were any indication. The signs, more specifically, regarded a tax reform plan
put forward by Republican Governor Bob Riley. Under the plan, Alabama tax revenues
would have been greatly increased, although the taxes of most lower-income residents
would have been cut. Although the plan ended up being supported more in heavily
African-American areas than other parts of the state, anti-tax reform signs were nearly
ubiquitous in Trinity Gardens prior to the election. Only a smattering of pro-reform signs
stating, ―Let‘s Do the Right Thing‖ were found. Richardson maintained a neutral stance
on the matter before the referendum. Voters statewide ultimately rejected the plan by
almost 3-to-1 (Copeland, 2003; Cotter, 2003).
Despite how pleased residents might have been with the state of affairs in Trinity
Gardens and how much they may have supported the state‘s fiscal status quo, their civic
leadership was likely to keep pushing for neighborhood progress. One observer noted that
residents were still not content, however. You could tell as much by looking at the
number of complaints Trinity Gardens residents filed about crime and blight. By contrast,
those living in nearby Toulminville were thought to be much more satisfied. Their
neighborhood had more of a middle class character (Mikell, 2003, p. 24). That Trinity
Gardens had a far stronger identity may have also played a role. Still, some officials
suggested, dissatisfaction was the greater spur to civic participation.

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No matter how strong their drive, civic leaders in places like Trinity Gardens had
to be plugged into the larger metro system if they wanted the neighborhood to progress.
Members of groups such as the BAWC managed to do that to a surprising extent, one
observer noted. As things stood in 2003, however, there was still much work to do. By
the same token, there was a tendency of organizations, including public agencies and
civic and non-profit organizations, to protect their turf, a habit that could only have
worked against the common good in the long term. What it took to overcome suspicion
and too much competitiveness between different groups and agencies, one observer
suggested, was some way of getting everyone to the table and relaxing. In the Deep
South, food seemed to do the trick in the short term, at least, but more substantial ways of
bringing such cooperation about remained elusive.
Of course, not everyone interviewed thought people‘s ideas, be they unique or
banal, always needed to be heard, or that everyone needed to be brought to the table.
Sometimes, one administrator not directly involved in Trinity Gardens efforts suggested,
hearing people out too much could only slow the policy process down. Public meetings
could turn into whining forums (Mikell, 2003, p. 247). Certainly, District 1 Community
Policing Committee meetings attracted regulars who addressed the officials attending in
confrontational or sarcastic manners. Another observer, in a typically New Testamentinformed southern manner involving fishing instruction, talked about the need to teach
residents to be more independent, and to stop relying on government so much for positive
change. Governments and those from whom they sought input and assistance, in other
words, needed to come to the table with one another with respect and something
resembling an equal standing. But, in the lack of such standing, was any greater attempt

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at gaining cooperation among citizens, much less different sectors of a far larger
metropolitan area, really needed?
Summary: Openness versus Isolation, and Leadership
Certainly the evidence presented in this chapter regarding metro area cooperation
demonstrates that the lack of cooperation between Prichard and Mobile had an effect on
Trinity Gardens. Given that part of the neighborhood sat within Prichard, it was probably
impossible to avoid that municipality‘s problems, but no easy solution presented itself. It
also seemed apparent, simultaneously, that Trinity Gardens leaders and Richardson
would need to find support from individuals and organizations working within more
affluent sections of the metro area—and little of this was apparent in 2003, despite the
fact that major area non-profits had been active within the area and that companies had
donated materials for housing improvements and such. One could well argue, however,
that places like Trinity Gardens may have benefited from having their development take
place in some isolation. Such seeming success stories as the building of the amphitheater,
after all, had not been universally praised in Mobile.
What you were getting when wondering about the need for more openness in the
development process, as opposed to shutting certain negative forces out or working in
isolation, were subjective matters. What was being addressed was to a large extent the
need for and purpose of leadership. It was a far weightier issue, and perhaps even the
central one, in regard to the development of Trinity Gardens.

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CHAPTER VIII
PROPOSITION 4
Government and community leadership were essential to increasing the
effect of social capital in Trinity Gardens, and not just government itself.

Grand claims had often been made in public administration practitioner circles for
the power of social capital and the need to promote it. While these claims were usually
questionable, the idea that aspects of social capital are important for communities to have
was supported by interview subjects. Trust, for instance, was seen as having been
absolutely essential to getting certain anti-crime and blight initiatives to work in Trinity
Gardens. By contrast, a failed attempt at bringing a health clinic into the area was
attributed to the lack of trust. Administrators and police also noted that experience had
taught them to seek the help of networks within communities like Trinity Gardens.
People there were participating in the neighborhood‘s affairs.
Many astute observers pointed out that the neighborhood benefited from a certain
extra intangible something; however, a force of the sort needed to get any public policy
or initiative to work, regardless of the level of social capital within a community. Its
residents shared that something extra that sparked the development of once struggling,
but now-successful communities such as the Putnam (2000) favorite of Tupelo,
Mississippi. They had strong leadership, which helped give community efforts shape and
direction.

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Unfortunately, the modern conception of good leadership had much in common
with social capital. The two shared many intangible qualities or, rather, both suffered
from ambiguity. The concept of leadership could, like social capital, be operationalized
for the purposes of a particular research project, or for the study of a given situation, but
it seemed unlikely that anyone was going to soon come across any universal measure.
Similarly, the effects of strong leadership could have been either positive or negative.
The literature from the burgeoning leadership studies field suggested that what was
needed from leadership was indeed something of a highly tentative nature. Whether
leadership was effective or not depended upon ever-shifting or endlessly varying
circumstances.
Likewise, it was not a particularly simple matter to pinpoint how much leadership
had shaped what transpired in Trinity Gardens. It may have been, instead, that
community leaders were as shaped by the neighborhood and the larger social and
political system of which it was but a small part. Richardson and Dubose of the Bay Area
Women Coalition had not, for instance, worked in a vacuum. They were affected not only
by the decisions of other civic and government leaders of the past and present, but shaped
by the fiscal, political, and social environments in which they worked, and by events or
social and political trends. Whether they helped shape the political and social landscape,
in turn, is another question.
The effects of leadership on Trinity Gardens are examined below. A theoretical
overview of leadership in political environments is introduced first, and is followed by
closer looks at Richardson, Dubose, and the Bay Area Women. The chapter concludes
with a consideration of leadership as it emerged from other sources within the

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neighborhood. It should be noted that many of the events, circumstances, and decisions
that affected leadership and are alluded to below were discussed in greater detail in
previous chapters. Consequently, discussion of these matters is kept brief.
Defining Leadership: Administrative Skill and Charisma
It seemed best, before discussing the dynamics and effects of leadership within
Trinity Gardens, was to place such matters within a theoretical framework. It also seemed
prudent to focus more on the study of leadership in modern public or political settings,
rather than within any wider history, and to say that this study revolved around two main
and sometimes opposing ideal types or categories of leadership styles; namely,
transactional and transformational.
The most traditional of these styles was the transactional one. What was most
expected of a leader of this style was how to handle the more technical or strictly
managerial aspects of a position of authority. A transactional leader needed to use the
tools and procedures at his or her command in the most efficacious manner possible.
Furthermore, the leader would know how to use persuasion in the promotion of rational
self-interest, a la Neustadt‘s (1961) ideal American president. The leader needed to know
how to broker and make deals with friend and foe alike. The basic idea here was that
good leadership in a public setting best came through the efficacious use of power, and
the skills and resources at one‘s command, as opposed to any particularly mystical
quality.
Later, from Weber (1968), came the notion of the charismatic leader, the direct
forerunner of the transformational type. The charismatic leader could lead movements
and, by the force of his or her unconventional personality, visionary qualities, and

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strength of oratory, shake up the bureaucratic conservatism of modern-day governments
or administration. Burns‘s (1982, 2003) more specific notion of transformational
leadership was built on top of Weber‘s model. Burns suggested that charisma, combined
with some sort of ethical or moral uplift of followers, could bring about change in any
political organization or body politic. Likewise, Kouzes and Posner (1993) thought that
the credibility of leadership depended on its moral purpose, trust, and the hopes it
engendered, and not just charisma itself.
Unfortunately, scientific research involving transformational leadership was
largely confined to offices and self-contained organizations, despite the fact that the word
―transformational‖ had ascended to the buzzword lexicon of community development
practitioners. There was little research in leadership studies involving the activity of
governments or the development of public policy, despite Burns‘s use of the leaders of
nations as his models (Bass, 1998; Koehler & Pankowski, 1996). The line between
transformational and transactional leadership, moreover, was quite ambiguous, even if
the two basic schools of thought sometimes seemed to be set against one another in the
leadership studies literature. Burns (1990, 2003), for instance, saw authentically
transforming leaders as being individuals who recognized the psychological needs of
citizens or employees, ones ranging up Maslow‘s (1954) hierarchy—from security to
self-actualization. They did not exploit employees, but instead empowered them to meet
those needs through a variety of means. Even so, Burns insisted that minority dissent and
competition—and checks and balances of the sort that reflected a view of leadership as
being primarily transactional—were essential for leadership to be most effective.
According to Bass, critics of Burns and his concept suggested that transformational

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leaders could be anti-democratic, in stressing loyalty to the leader and his or her goals.
The executive‘s vision of the future becomes that sought by the employees. Authentically
transformational leaders will, however, not be coercive. They can, he suggests,
internalize democratic values and facilitate them within an organization or political
community. Bass continues:
Along with its checks and balances, democracy requires that its leaders
also go beyond their own self-interests with a nurtured devotion to the
public good. Both with respect to its leaders and followers, governance
calls for guidance and control of the irrational aspects and the
encouragement of the values of logic and rationality . . . Self-interest
antithetical to the common good can be offset by . . . the appeals of
transformational leadership. (Bass, 1997, ¶37)
Both types of leadership were cited by interview subjects as having been present
in Trinity Gardens, as is demonstrated below. These types were, however, in actuality the
sorts of leadership that dozens of theorists writing before the modern era had stressed.
Surely, for instance, the pseudonymous authors of The Federalist Papers (Hamilton, Jay,
& Madison, 2005)—which Richardson seemed to call forth in saying that Trinity
Gardens was marked by its lack of factionalism—stressed the need for skill and
resourcefulness in leadership, as well as moral purpose. Both sorts of leadership were
crucial to the survival and growth of a new republic, and were arguably just as crucial to
the development of modern-day, inner-city neighborhoods like Trinity Gardens.
The Councilman and His Environment
In August 2003, court was held in Trinity Gardens, a place without a standing
judicial building. More specifically, a session of the Mobile Environmental Court—a
court of original jurisdiction that hears cases involving city code violations involving
blight and pollution—was held at the neighborhood‘s Dotch Community Center. It was

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unusual enough to have court held there, but the tenor of the proceedings was even more
out of the ordinary. The session was something of a shotgun marriage, forced between a
dignified court session and a more colorful community meeting and motivational rally.
What was happening at the community center, though, could not have been seen as
particularly strange when viewed within a neighborhood context. A segment of the local
judiciary paid a visit to Fred Richardson‘s political universe, and had more or less
adapted to the immediate environment.
The councilman was at the center of the event, given that the hearing was being
held in lieu of the usual meeting of the Community Policing Committee. The
organization had not held its typical early evening meeting on this August day, given that
this was the Deep South‘s most oppressively humid month. Even so, it was made clear
that court was held on the day of the usual District 1 meeting for symbolic reasons. In this
spirit, Richardson—who had organized and given moral support and direction to the
policing committee—spoke before the session began, after a brief introductory talk by
Environmental Court Judge Holmes Whiddon. The councilman explained what the court
was all about, and about how Whiddon had thrown his support behind the district and
Trinity Gardens. He then urged residents to be vigilant about blight and litter, eventually
reaching to an oratorical crescendo more typical of evangelical Christian church rallies
than political-oriented meetings. He told citizens, in fever-pitch tones, that they were
going to get rid of litter. ―We‘re going to clean it up!‖ (Mikell, 2003b, p. 2)
What was on display here was Richardson‘s signature style. It was typical of him
to get worked up, to speak to citizens in such an exhortative manner. That he would adopt
such a personal style made sense, though, given his involvement in religion and civil

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rights. First, he had been a longtime, active member of the Stone Street Baptist Church in
Mobile, founded in 1806 and thus one of the oldest black churches in America. The
future councilman had come of age politically in the late 1960s, as one of the pivotal
figures in the civil rights-oriented Neighborhood Organization Workers (NOW) group.
The councilman nonetheless once had a reputation as something of a firebrand.
According to historical accounts, including Richardson‘s (1996) memoirs of the era, the
NOW organization had been opposed to what members felt was the undue moderation of
the city‘s more traditional civil rights leadership. Members of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, the younger members of NOW thought, had
compromised far too often with the city‘s white establishment. This stance was taken at a
time when the NAACP‘s own goals had hardly been completely accepted by more
conservative whites (Nicholls, 2001).
Richardson continued to be portrayed as a controversial figure well into his
mature political years. He was still sometimes painted as being as overtly confrontational.
Moreover, he outlined his credentials in a manner that some felt involved an overload of
braggadocio. He described himself on his official City of Mobile web site, for instance,
as a ―political scientist, historian, writer, playwright, author, and lecturer‖ (City of
Mobile, 2004, ¶ 8). Richardson received further criticism for his globetrotting—or, more
specifically, trade trips and official visits that took him to parts of Europe, Latin America,
and Africa. In Trinity Gardens, however, observers noted that Richardson tried to be not
just a unifier, but someone who gave citizens an opportunity to participate. Interview
subjects noted time and again that the District 1 Community Policing Committee he
organized was singular within the metro area. As one observer noted, the Mobile Police

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Department worked with somewhere between 75 and 80 community groups. Even so, it
was suggested:
We have only one community policing committee, simply because it takes
the motivation and the energy of that district councilperson to pursue it.
And not many—or if any others have the energy that Mr. Richardson has.
Now, others will come and attend some of the community meetings . . .
but they‘re not there to run the show like Fred does. (Mikell, 2003, p. 85)
At the same time, when Richardson could not be at the meetings, you could easily
feel his absence. Richardson controlled the meetings in a way that others did not, or could
not. He was a person of high skills, the observer suggested, in that manner. ―He‘s a
politician, and a good one‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 85).
Even so, Richardson consistently noted that he relied on the power of the people.
In turn, he felt, the people of Trinity Gardens had been uniquely reliable in their strong
support of community initiatives. They took as much initiative as he had. The councilman
believed, and consistently stressed, that the greatest resource he had as a political leader
was the ―human resource‖ and not funding from Mobile‘s municipal budget. Learning to
harness the power of this resource was what he called a dream, one he wanted to sell to
the world at large. Transforming leaders, Burns suggested, were ones who could engage
with citizens, and who would do so in order to stay attuned to the evolving needs of their
constituencies. Richardson had by most accounts been consistently engaged with the
residents of District 1 and Trinity Gardens. Since the beginning of his time in public
office, however, he worked closely with a non-elected official with a similar leadership
style.

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Civic Leadership and Organizational Change
The power of citizen action so praised by Richardson had come from many
sources in Trinity Gardens, including the District 1 Community Policing Committee.
When most interview subjects praised community civic leadership, however, they more
often cited the leadership of the Bay Area Women Coalition, and more especially that of
director Leevones Dubose. Like Richardson, she had what observers recognized as a
charismatic style. She always made her presence felt—as she had, for instance, at the
environmental court hearing. When Whiddon pointed out the attendance of BAWC
members, Dubose blew the judge a kiss and remarked, in a typically flamboyant manner,
―We love you, judge!‖ (Mikell, 2003b, p. 1)
What was just as intriguing about the leadership of Dubose and the BAWC was,
nevertheless, how consistently they used transactional techniques. For example, group
members were not shy in utilizing the power of lobbying. They never let city officials rest
or police slack off in regard to patrolling the neighborhood. Then, they kept pushing for
more comprehensive change. One observer traced the group‘s evolution:
The people in Trinity Gardens said, We‘re not gonna take it anymore.
We‘re taxpayers and there‘s no reason why we shouldn‘t get the resources
that we need to combat the crime, to clean the trash up, to do different
things that it took to increase their quality of life out there. By standing up,
then pushing, demanding things, they got things done, and . . . They‘re
like, Well, gee, is this all that it took? Of course they did it with a lot of
work, they did a lot of rallying together. . . . and once they realized what it
took to get some action or some reaction from city government then they
said, Well, we know this works. Then they kept pushing for a lot of things.
(Mikell, 2003, p. 58)
The Bay Area Women and other groups with which it met demonstrated the power of the
proverbial squeaky wheel, the observer thought. Sometimes, neighborhood civic groups

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would squeak so much that they could leave those on the receiving end of complaints
exasperated. Even so, the observer suggested, they were fighting for what was rightfully
theirs—responsiveness from civil authorities.
Mobile police were, however, willing to take up their challenge, in large part
because the department‘s own goals and way of looking at crime prevention changed.
Actually, it came to be as interested in a more general sort of community development
than just crime prevention. It was a change in orientation that evolved over many years.
As one officer put it, ―We've gone from being enforcers of the law to problem solvers‖
(Mikell, 2003, p. 233). This was part of a larger change or trend in the culture of
American policing. This change led the MPD to, among other things, create what it called
family intervention teams. These units focused on all sorts of family-related problems,
and more particularly problems with deviant juvenile behavior, and poor school behavior
and scholastic performance. As the administrator explained, ―For whatever reason,
communities tend to be turning more and more to the police service for more social
issues than police issues; and a lot of our departments are taking those on‖ (Mikell, 2003,
p. 233).
Bay Area Women Coalition members were, meanwhile, appointed to
government-directed boards that were involved in crime prevention and more general
community development matters. There may have been something of what Selznick
(1949) called administrative cooptation going on here. This would have granted some
greater legitimacy to the BAWC, while giving Mobile agencies a foothold within the
community. Major development actors with both the city and the BAWC noted, though,

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that government and civic leaders could not have done without one another—and that
Trinity Gardens would not have progressed without that partnership.
Even so, the group‘s association with MPD and city government did not win it
every advantage. The recognition the BAWC received from local officials, for instance,
did not secure support from the federal government. Instead, the second Bush
administration‘s focus on faith-based grants as a means of addressing social problems
virtually assured that the Bay Area Women would not receive major funding for its
development and community uplift efforts.
The ever-shifting focus of the federal government had the potential, however, to
demonstrate something valuable to area civic groups, such as the BAWC and the
predominantly male Civic Club. If the potential effect of such shifts highlighted anything,
it was the fact that the leaders of these groups needed to be flexible. They also could not
necessarily rely on the government. Fortunately, some community civic leaders appeared
to be looking beyond Mobile‘s city government and the usual suspects in the non-profit
world as a means of furthering their aims. Even so, government could not be completely
ignored. Certainly, it would have helped Trinity Gardens enormously to have had a more
professional and financially stable government in Prichard. Whether change in Prichard
was too difficult to affect was another question. Meanwhile, crime prevention measures
and street improvements would demand at least some continuing contact with
governmental authorities. Increasing development in Trinity Gardens would, then, require
both innovation and adaptability, as well as some consistency.

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Richardson, Prichard, and the Democratic Creed
In talking about the power of citizens to effect change, Richardson shared in
common with leaders in beleaguered Prichard an employment of the rhetoric of
democracy. Both spoke glowingly of the spirit of cooperation. That these leaders echoed
each other‘s thoughts in this manner, however, could hardly have been surprising. A
central idea of the democratic creed, as Dahl (1961) suggested in his New Haven study,
was that the strength of any government came through the people it represented.
Consequently, to disagree with this idea was tantamount to admitting that one was unAmerican. At the same time, talk of empowering citizens was so common at the turn of
the 21st century that the word "empowerment" grew cliched.
The universality of this creed in American political culture presented a dilemma
in regard to judging leadership. You could not say in good faith, for instance, whether
such sentiments as those expressed by elected officials in Mobile and Prichard were made
with any sincerity. Instead, you could only compare their words with the reality of what
was happening in their communities—and even then, all the positive things occurring
may not have flowed from any presumed democratic orientation of leadership.
Richardson, for instance, may have benefited by working with a community that already
had stronger participation, in the way that Putnam (1993, 2000) suggested any political
community would. That being said, Richardson had other, more tangible resources which
worked to his advantage. The battle against blight would have proven nearly impossible
without the assistance of Mobile‘s Urban Development Department. Richardson‘s
District 1 also received millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements from the City
of Mobile.

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By contrast, Prichard city council members who represented smaller sections of
the neighborhood did not have such easy access to developmental resources. The city‘s
police department did not have nearly as much money or manpower available as did its
Mobile counterpart. The Prichard council members also necessarily had some different
priorities and smaller constituencies within Trinity Gardens, as noted earlier.
Nevertheless, Prichard officials spoke of the importance of mobilizing the city‘s
population. The city‘s long-term fiscal stability and economic growth were crucial
concerns, one council member suggested, but there were more moderate goals that city
leaders could agree upon, such as the need to rid the city of blight. The council member
continued:
Businesses come in to places that number one, they're gonna feel like their
businesses are gonna be safe; secondly, that the city is clean and they have
fire protection also. They even look at the schools and how they are
performing. Believe it or not businesses even look at cemeteries, and the
reason why they look at cemeteries is, if you've got your cemeteries
growing up grass all over that means you're not gonna do very well with
anything else. (Mikell, 2003, p. 157)
Other observers deemed the failure of Prichard to clear itself of blight mostly matters of
creativity and will. One public administrator interviewed suggested that the city‘s policy
priorities seemed rather peculiar or, as he put it, in deadpan fashion, ―different‖ (Mikell,
2003, p. 103). Dealing with abandoned housing and litter was not such a difficult task. If
enough officials and citizens in Prichard had been committed to cleaning up the worst
parts of the city, they surely could have found a way to meet their ends.
In Richardson‘s case, by contrast, interview subjects noted that he did have the
will to change Trinity Gardens, and consequently found the means. Some suggested that
reaching a crisis point as far as crime went may have made it easier to get the

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neighborhood organized. It could not be seriously argued that Prichard and other areas of
Mobile, outside of Trinity Gardens and District 1, did not have critical problems of their
own. By the same token, even if Richardson‘s leadership had been shaped by forces
larger than himself, it seemed hard to argue that he had not taken full advantage of his
situation. He took the circumstances he inherited, both positive and negative, and did
with them what is required for good leadership. He seized the moment.
The Federal Role: IDEA, Weed, and Seed
A much more stark contrast with the leadership of Richardson, and his alliance
with the Bay Area Women Coalition, was provided by a consideration of the role of the
federal government in Trinity Gardens. In all instances of federal activity, the
government‘s role was marked by a largely hands-off relationship with local leadership.
Also, the national government had no direct association with civic groups and leadership
more favored by local officials, among them the Bay Area Women Coalition. Federal
agencies and administrators were not, in other words, active agents in the neighborhood‘s
development, as Richardson and the City of Mobile were, nor were they much concerned
with local administrative networks or alliances. That federal role here reflected a
historical legacy. The national government had once been much more interventionist in
regard to local affairs. In the War on Poverty programs of the Lyndon B. Johnson
administration, for instance, federal monies were funneled through Community Action
Agencies (CAA) operated by non-profit groups, in large part to go over the heads of local
officials in segregated southern locales and the Daley machine in Chicago (Lehmann,
1992). Funds were also granted directly to cities, in other Johnson-era programs. By
contrast, grants with few strings attached had been handed to local government as part of

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President Richard Nixon‘s General Revenue Sharing program, which was inspired by the
backlash over the perceived and actual radicalism of Community Action Agency staff.
Devolution of authority became the dominant federalism-related trend in the 1980s, and
funds traveled to cities by way of state governments. Even so, one feature from the
Johnson era was expanded; namely, requirements for the encouragement of public
participation (Mikell, 1999).
While letting local authorities handle more of their own affairs may have been the
more politically prudent path, the direction of the federal programs in the Mobile area
seemed to suffer at least in part because of a lack of direction from associated authorities.
These authorities in fact had little to no authority to provide such direction. One
administrator spoke of his role in this way: ―It‘s certainly not my position to come in and
say, ‗Why haven‘t you done this?‘ And it is certainly not my position to try to put blame
on anyone or point fingers‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 95). It may also have been that it was
difficult to identify what services or public goods that federal agencies were on hand to
provide. ―Strategies‖ are intangible goods and are usually not something local authorities
desire as much as equipment, technical assistance, and federal dollars. Whatever the case,
the federal government‘s leadership role in Trinity Gardens was quite limited. Despite
years of tinkering with federal implementation procedures in community developmentrelated programs, they were no closer to being the precise tools for reform than they were
in the 1960s. Most of the energy for community change instead came from local officials
and civic leadership. It was only where money was concerned—specifically, funding for
infrastructure improvements, the Dow Amphitheater and the like—that the federal role
became crucial.

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Summary: Muddling Through Community Development
Leadership was certainly, on the whole, essential to the creation of a partnership
between Mobile officials and agencies and civic organizations in Trinity Gardens, and the
boon this partnership was to the neighborhood‘s development. It was a partnership that
could have easily been threatened by the latent power of the federal government in the
shaping of American urban policy. The federal agencies involved in Trinity Gardens
chose, for reasons connected to political history, not to exercise their power in a focused
way and could probably not be counted on to do so in the near future. It seems worth
noting, however, that there had never been any clear development process in the
neighborhood. No one person or group had clearly been in charge of things, or led
residents toward a brighter future along some straight, well-defined path, largely because
no one had a lock on either resources or had unlimited political capital and flexibility. It
appeared instead that all the institutions, individuals, and groups involved in the
neighborhood‘s betterment were to varying degrees engaging in what Lindblom (1968)
called muddling through. The process moved along, seemingly despite or because of the
intentions of any one person. Of course, as the evidence in this chapter demonstrates, the
process would almost certainly have never begun or been carried along without the
leadership of Richardson and the BAWC, a leadership that evidence suggested was of
both a charismatic and transformational variety. That strong, driven personalities had
driven the process was undeniable.
That the individual was important here, however, should also not obscure that
development in Trinity Gardens was a dynamic process. Richardson never attempted to
choke off leadership at the grass-roots level, and in fact he had long sought the input of

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citizens. What was provided was, as noted earlier, a public space, or a focus or general
push, for the discussion of community development issues. Ideas, however, could and did
come from different sectors of the community and those officials, agencies, and
organizations working within Trinity Gardens. Community leaders brought all persons to
the table, in other words, and shaped the ethical parameters of the developmental effort.
Nevertheless, they were not able to control what happened next.

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CHAPTER IX
PROPOSITION 5
No one person, group, or social phenomenon was solely responsible for
the outcome of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens.

If the development of Trinity Gardens could be said to provide any lesson for
American communities, it was likely to be this one: The process of community
development, regardless of who provides the impetus for it, cannot ultimately be
controlled by any one group, institution, or individual. Moreover, in resource-poor
neighborhoods working within an economic and political system notable for its lack of
strong centralization—a phenomenon exacerbated by national political and administrative
trends—the development process may be especially dynamic. As demonstrated in
Chapter VIII, Richardson and Dubose provided essential leadership in working for the
development of Trinity Gardens. Nevertheless, it was apparent that these central actors
depended on the assistance of other personalities and organizations, both in developing
and implementing ideas.
How many people helped in this process was another question. Some interview
subjects, for instance, insisted that the community at large was responsible for changes in
Trinity Gardens. That being said, no one had ever surveyed all or most of the 4,000 or so
neighborhood residents about their goals, nor had most of these residents ever showed up
for a New England-style town hall meeting or democratic plebiscite. Most private (i.e.,

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non-official or politically active) citizens interviewed indicated that they did not take part
in any development activities.
Meanwhile, few residents interviewed cited either Richardson or the Bay Area
organization when asked who they thought was responsible for positive changes in
Trinity Gardens. It was not a startling thing to learn. It had already seemed apparent from
observation that most development ideas came from and were brought to fruition by a
broad group, or social network, of decision-makers based within Trinity Gardens and
other parts of the Mobile area. This group included Richardson and the BAWC, as well
as leaders and members of organizations ranging from neighborhood churches to major
metro area non-profits that had long worked in Trinity Gardens. Several interview
subjects who were involved in this apparent network talked of meeting one another at
restaurants, and about calling each other‘s residences during after-work hours.
This network was not a completely closed system, although there had been some
turfism displayed by particular actors. To a large extent, however, having a broad
network involved in community issues had been essential and most involved knew it. The
BAWC, after all, received grant monies from businesses and foundations, but did not
have the funding or staff available to carry out many initiatives on its own. Richardson
and the District 1 Policing Committee could not solve all community problems either.
The seeking of developmental success took some effort from a large cross section of the
community, as well as those from outside the neighborhood‘s boundaries whose work
brought them into community affairs. They worked together in a way that Hanifan (1916,
1921)—who first used the term ―social capital‖ in print—would surely have recognized
and approved. Development in the case of Trinity Gardens was, to borrow Hanifan‘s

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(1916, 1920) terminology, the product of various parts of the community—if not all of
these parts all the time, then certainly enough of them some of the time to make a
noticeable impact.
Consequently, it would not have been off-base to say that the development of a
neighborhood like Trinity Gardens required some openness to participation and change.
Nevertheless, as the history of federal affairs in Trinity Gardens demonstrates, assuming
that the development process was completely impossible to control was perhaps not the
wisest move. Given that no one entity held most of the political cards or had any sort of
overwhelming financial resources at its disposal in Trinity Gardens, the process there was
left open to swift, sudden changes of direction. The very dynamism of the development
process, then, although a great resource in carrying out the goals of community leaders,
brought with it the possibility of the destruction of their efforts. Finding success in
development efforts had not come easy.
Power Dynamics and Sustainability
The dynamism referenced above was to a large extent reflective of the very
dynamic quality of human existence. Life in every community on Earth was, of course,
often marked by loss—of position and status, or of life and property, due sometimes to no
fault of the affected individuals. Consequently, one could not have said with any certainty
that most of the major figures involved in Trinity Gardens at the turn of the 21st Century
would still be quite as powerful within a few years, even controlling for questions of
resources and control over them. A simple change in the political winds and
demographics could have wreaked such a change. At the same time, community leaders
could have passed away or moved, and in doing so changed the status quo. Coleman

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(1988) discussed the possibility of just this sort of change in his study of the success of
Catholic schools. When a particularly influential parent or couple left, he found, the
effects of social capital went with them—and it was by no means certain that it could
ever come back.
In Trinity Gardens, the disappearance or deaths of Richardson or BAWC leaders
Dubose and Wiley would surely have had a profound impact on local development
efforts. It would not have been a stretch, some suggested, to think that development
efforts would have been completely derailed. Even if these individuals had remained
alive and healthy, however, their influence could have been greatly diminished by
demographic or political change. Richardson‘s position, by contrast, was by its nature
less secure—or at least no more secure than any politician‘s, despite having retaken his
council seat in a landside in his last run for reelection.
That being said, the Bay Area Women‘s leadership was trying to think ahead.
More specifically, its leaders were trying to train others to take over the reigns of
community activism, and were feeling somewhat optimistic about their chances. Dubose
recalled that she had been raised to fight for justice, but it took years before she finally
decided to do so. The group‘s two main leaders had even lived outside the neighborhood.
Dubose had spent many years living in Atlanta, while Wiley had lived in Fairhope, on
Mobile Bay‘s eastern shore. It was only late in life that the two had become active in the
affairs of their home territory. ―Really,‖ Dubose recalled, ―if you look at it, for about 45
years we did absolutely nothing‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 210). Dubose felt that others within
the community had been raised to similarly fight for justice, and that the BAWC
members were trying to empower them. They would, she thought, want to continue to

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press for positive change. It was just a matter of awakening these future leaders, to make
them aware of the baton that Bay Area members were trying to pass. ―They don't really
realize it's a baton. We're trying to show them it's a baton they can take and keep on
going‖ (Mikell, 2003, p. 210).
For his part, Richardson saw every reason to believe that development efforts
would continue, with or without him. Trinity Gardens residents would endure, he
hypothesized, because the neighborhood‘s progress had a foundation. ―They have a
model to go by,‖ the councilman said. ―So, I don‘t think the people in Trinity Gardens are
gonna turn back. They know. I talk to them. They know what they need to do‖ (Mikell,
2003, p. 16).
Of course, the data show that no one had ever been clear on what precisely to do,
nor had they ever been provided with an elaborately detailed model for community
development. The foundation of which Richardson spoke was one that allowed for the
possibility that the baton might be passed to some totally new civic organization, or
combination of groups and individuals, or whoever chose to come to the table. Even, the
model had also depended on the providing of such a community table by determined and
charismatic individuals. What if no one is around to whom one could pass a baton?

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CHAPTER X
CONCLUDING DISCUSSION
The assumption of Trinity Gardens leaders, as suggested in Chapter IX, was that
their late 1990s model of community development, however imperfect or ill-defined,
would continue to be of influence in years and maybe even decades to come. It seems
logical to ask whether this belief is overly optimistic, however, given that neither
Prichard officials, nor any other Mobile representatives, have ever picked up the model.
Was the development of Trinity Gardens just a fluke, or a one-time thing based upon the
efforts of strong-willed individuals, and ones who managed to bring a governmental
bureaucracy on board? Certainly, given the real or perceived failure of so many
government-oriented planning and development efforts in America, and a popular
cynicism regarding institutional and elite leadership that did not die on September 11,
2001—despite predictions to the contrary—the optimism of Richardson and Dubose is
also too easy to shrug off as hopelessly naive. It is far too easy and tempting to say, ―This
will not last,‖ and that there is as such little to be learned from the effort. Whether there is
or is not something of long-range and exportable worth to Trinity Gardens development
process, however, is in need of neither undue optimism, nor excessive pessimism, but
more investigation.
It seems unlikely, after all, that Trinity Gardens will suffer some dramatic decline
in coming years. Unless the community‘s population is decimated due to some sudden
economic or social decline—some social or political phenomena with the impact of the

183
death of Jim Crow segregation, say—Trinity Gardens will surely endure, if not thrive. As
such, Richardson and the Bay Area Women Coalition are likely to be remembered, if
only in passing. Pictures of the councilman, as well as Dubose and Wiley, will probably
be displayed on a wall at the current or a new Dotch Center. Despite so much decline
since the 1960s, the neighborhood has a strong identity and sense of community, and will
likely cling to it as the years pass. Trinity Gardens has a collective historical memory that
the leaders of many American communities, of varying demographics, would find
enviable, and future community leaders, or would-be leaders, will have that to draw
upon.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that one cannot safely assume that community
leaders in Mobile are on target in their positive thinking and exhortations, nor that their
model represents an ideal one for communities nationwide. It is, similarly, also not the
case that sound research can be built on such assumptions. More bluntly, any new or
reworked model of the relationship between social capital and government that is built
more on sheer democratic idealism than any factual foundation could be susceptible to
quick collapse. Likewise, it would be a mistake to see the propositions that were used to
structure the study of Trinity Gardens‘s development process as any final word. This
dissertation‘s research was instead designed with the intention of being a starting point
for a more thorough study of the interaction of social capital and government. In that
spirit, a number of propositions or working hypotheses were developed as a means of
shaping the research and providing some grist for future theory building and testing. They
are listed as follows:

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Proposition 1: Government played a central role in increasing the effect, if not the
stock, of social capital in Trinity Gardens.
Proposition 2: The relationship between social capital and government was
ultimately tied in with the success of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens.
Proposition 3: Cross-sectoral cooperation appeared to be vital to community
development efforts in Trinity Gardens. However, more extensive interaction will be
needed for any further-reaching development efforts.
Proposition 4: Government and community leadership were essential to
increasing the effect of social capital in Trinity Gardens, and not just government itself.
Proposition 5: No one person, group or social phenomenon was solely responsible
for the outcome of community development efforts in Trinity Gardens.
What made these propositions useful is that they managed to be specific to Trinity
Gardens as well as parsimonious, even while providing a possible template for a general
social capital theory. Moreover, they provided a clear structure for the research.
Nevertheless, it was always supposed that the next step in the theory-building process
would be to reexamine the propositions after an analysis of data gathered over the
summer of 2003.
Propositions: Revised and Restated
It seems clear that a relationship between government and social capital exists in
Trinity Gardens that is more complex in reality than initially thought. The problematic
inter-municipal relations of Mobile and Prichard, to cite one significant example, looms
far larger now than at first seemed imaginable. At the same time, the term government
will probably never be efficacious in describing the reality of relations between public

185
servants and community groups, regardless of its specific operational definition here.
Consequently, the writing of a list of revised propositions seemed an absolute necessity.
The rewritten propositions are listed below. All will still apply only to the case at hand,
the development of Trinity Gardens. Nevertheless, they present a clearer description of
reality as seen in the field.
New Proposition 1: Governmental agents—specifically, the municipal district
representation for the Mobile section of Trinity Gardens, in association with municipal
agencies and authorities who cooperated with and expanded upon its efforts—played a
central role in increasing the effect, if not the stock, of the neighborhood‘s social capital.
New Proposition 2: The relationship between social capital and agents of the
Mobile government—specifically, the municipal district representation for Trinity
Gardens, along with municipal agencies and authorities that cooperated and expanded
upon this representative‘s efforts—was ultimately tied in with the success of community
development in the Mobile section of the neighborhood.
New Proposition 3: Cross-sectoral cooperation appeared to be vital to community
development efforts, and was actively sought and granted. However, interaction with the
private sector of the larger Mobile metropolitan area—a type of networking that many
development researchers felt necessary for the most extensive sort of community
development—had been limited.
New Proposition 3a: A lack of one highly significant type of cross-sectoral
cooperation—inter-municipal cooperation between Mobile and Prichard—in Trinity
Gardens hindered efforts to develop the neighborhood in its entirety.

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New Proposition 3b: Despite the fact that federal authorities had ties to Trinity
Gardens, and engaged in networking with government and civic leaders there, the federal
government failed, in its intergovernmental crime prevention efforts, to have much of a
direct or a particularly dramatic impact on development efforts or social capital there.
The reasons for this included a) a lack of power of the sort needed by federal authorities
to encourage intergovernmental cooperation; b) program design; and c) government
efforts that were not always coordinated with the assistance and cooperation of local
government and civic leaders.
New Proposition 4: The municipal representation for the Mobile section of Trinity
Gardens was, along with the leadership of the Bay Area Women Coalition, essential to
increasing the effect of social capital, and not just agents of Mobile‘s municipal
government.
New Proposition 5: No one person, group, or social phenomenon was solely
responsible for the outcome of community development efforts in the Mobile section of
Trinity Gardens.
Ideas for research that stem from these rewritten propositions are provided below.
The subsection begins with an analysis of these ideas, and is followed by a consideration
of alternative means of carrying such research out at both the micro and macro levels.
The Sustainability of Trinity Gardens Development
For at least part of what the propositions or working hypotheses gain in accuracy,
unfortunately, they lose in parsimony. Nevertheless, many ideas for future research are to
be found within those propositions, particularly research involving issues of institutional
structure, cross-sectoral cooperation, and the sustainability of neighborhood

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development. Questions posed by the Trinity Gardens experience are by no means
completely new. Instead, they present a means of looking at old issues of community
governance afresh, and for exploring and questioning presumptions about the relationship
between governing authorities and local communities.
As noted earlier, the issues involved have long been explored, and are frequently
addressed in the literature that was surveyed for this research. The same is true of
scholarship that influenced the dissertation‘s direction. The latter works included such
notable urban case studies as Dahl‘s New Haven study (1961), which dealt in part with
similar questions related to participation and leadership, as well as the interaction
between institutional elites and private citizens. (The way in which Dahl saw city politics
as being pluralistic in nature also had a strong influence in this research, as reflected in
statements regarding the dynamism of Trinity Gardens development.) By the same token,
Orr‘s (1999) more recent research on ―black social capital‖ in Baltimore suggested that
cross-sectoral cooperation was a crucial issue for school reform in a city where whites
held most of the corporate and financial cards, even if trust and cooperation levels were
high in the black community, which dominated public education.
Still, the questions posed by the Trinity Gardens experience are singular in plenty
of ways. The books referenced above, for instance, do not address in any great detail the
sustainability of community development efforts. The term sustainability does rear its
head quite often in social science, by contrast, but does so most frequently in relation to
the long-term environmental or physical survival of political communities. Sustainable
cities are, it is often suggested, ones in which natural resources will be used wisely and
with respect or concern for the environment. Few researchers, by contrast, have looked at

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social capital or leadership as a similar type of resource, and one that needs a consistent
sort of renewal and stewardship. This is true despite Coleman‘s (1988) assertion that a
social network‘s chances of meeting goals and reinforcing community norms could be
harmed by the move or death of one or two key individuals. The possibility of such a
loss, unfortunately, could be crucial in neighborhoods such as Trinity Gardens. If the
good a network does ends with the disappearance of one or two individuals, it hardly
seems controversial to ask whether government or civic leaders should be at all
concerned about nurturing civic participation or social capital. Is the use of community
groups in development too risky, or pointless, given the potentially short shelf life of
group efforts? Is the solution, perhaps, more of a stress on leadership development within
communities? Such questions need to be addressed within the social capital literature,
particularly given the stress on the phenomena as a sort of wonder drug for ailing polities.
Concurrently, plenty of researchers have suggested that charismatic movements,
whether put to use in public policy or religion or any other social phenomena, are
exceedingly difficult to maintain. The work of these scholars also needs to be extended.
The problem here was long ago summed up by Weber (1968). Eventually, he suggests,
all successful charismatic movements lose their way, or find their strengths or platforms
co-opted by larger mainstream institutions. Is such an outcome inevitable and, if so, can
anyone build such an expectation into community development plans, to prepare for it?
The question cannot be answered within this dissertation, given that they fall outside the
parameters of its research design. It may, however, be possible to explore such issues
within particular real world communities in a longitudinal fashion.

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Sustainability: A Structural and Institutional Consideration
More structural and institutional concerns, by contrast, bring to the surface
questions related not just to sustainability, but the spread of successful models to all
sections of a municipality. A few interview subjects suggested that a major reason for the
success of development efforts in Trinity Gardens was Mobile‘s switch from at-large to
district-level representation. Whether the district system presented issues of its own was
hardly discussed, although some interviewees did point out that Richardson‘s
developmental innovations were not carried out in other districts. Meanwhile, police and
other city representatives met with neighborhood groups citywide, but these events did
not bring them into as much contact with community leaders and citizens as had the
District 1 meetings. As one administrator noted, without some contacts within
neighborhoods or easily identifiable community leadership, it would have been difficult
to export a similar model of development to other parts of the city, regardless of any help
from a council member. It thus appears that it would be good for researchers working
within social science fields that address matters of local and urban governance (urban
studies, urban sociology, political science, social psychology, and criminology) to try and
identify ways in which coordination of community leadership can be encouraged at a
municipal-wide level, as well as to bring to light how municipal structure plays a role in
such cooperation (or a lack thereof).
The problem of successful models being contained to particular districts or
neighborhoods is linked, meanwhile, to the larger issue of cross-sectoral cooperation and
coordination of development or policy creation and implementation. Urban problems do
not frequently stop, after all, at municipal boundaries, given the structure of metropolitan

190
systems within the United States. Metropolitan governance is, in turn, affected by
relations with government agencies at the state and federal levels. How to encourage such
intergovernmental cooperation is, however, a thorny issue. It would seem as if
metropolitan cooperation, for instance, would be most successfully encouraged by
incentives or sanctions handed down by authorities at the state or local level. This,
however, is unlikely to happen in connection with federal urban or anti-poverty policy, or
with lower-income community development programs, given the recent political history
of such initiatives. It matters little that incentives are granted and sanctions are handed
down by the federal government in plenty of other areas, such as transportation and
environmental policy, or that major government officials speak in idealistic terms of
bringing democracy and freedom to failed states such as Iraq. The way in which past
poverty programs are discussed in American politics has seemingly precluded anything
even remotely resembling interventionist urban policy in the area of lower-income
community development and anti-poverty policy.
Whether social capital can play any role in encouraging successful cross-sectoral
development appears even more doubtful. Evidence from this study paints a fairly bleak
picture in regard to the effect that civic activity can have on certain cross-sectoral
relationships, especially those involving a sector that happens to be a recalcitrant
municipal government within a larger metropolitan area. Whether this means that the role
of institutions or particular administrators within the Mobile metro area is of greater
significance than the role of civic organizations or citizens, or instead that civic groups
and political participants are only effective as the government leaders with whom they try
to work, is difficult to say. Further study is desperately needed in this realm.

191
The nature of the pressure placed upon Prichard officials by Trinity Gardens
residents may also have played a role in affecting the response of the financially unstable
municipality‘s leaders. In short, the Prichard section of Trinity Gardens may not have
been large enough for municipal leaders in Prichard to see it as crucial to their political
standing and ambition. In such cases, the usefulness of any civic activity—the central
component of the political science conception of social capital, and a type of activity that
helped to bring about other major components of social capital, including social trust—
could be said to be doubtful. Here again, the worth of social capital seems dubious. Why
should residents not bowl alone, metaphorically speaking, if all their activity is likely to
be for naught, given structural forces beyond their immediate control?
Vertical Social Capital Versus Faith-Based Power
A worse alternative, however, would be a strict reliance on governments or
officialdom to give focus to communities or civic activity within a particular jurisdiction.
Putnam (1995, 2000) noticed as much in describing the difference between what he
called horizontal and vertical social capital. Vertical social capital, he suggested, was less
desirable for a community than horizontal social capital because strong vertical ties
encouraged oppression or exploitation of individuals and resources. The governed grew
overly dependent on those who did the governing, in other words—just as they had in the
southern Italian village studied by Banfield (1958). (Southern Italy was the Italian region
where Putnam (1993) found lower levels of social capital, levels that correlated with
lower government performance ranking and greater public corruption there.)
Data from the Trinity Gardens study hint at the negative impact that government
activity could have on community organizing. For starters, the data suggest that

192
faith-based grants could shift the balance of power in neighborhood development efforts.
More to the point, such efforts could halt or slow efforts undertaken by Richardson,
Mobile police, the BAWC, and others. That being said, it can be argued that a moderate
level of Madisonian competition among civic organizations needs to be encouraged by
higher governmental authorities, just to keep any one faction from gaining control. It
seems hard to argue, however, that any power shift created by federal spending will
necessarily lead to optimal development outcomes. Interview data showed, for instance,
that one recipient of faith-based funding talked of how spiritual concerns were of more
importance to his church than, say, getting a jazz concert into the neighborhood.
Temporal affairs, in short, mattered less. Then again, the pastor interviewed saw the
promotion of affordable home ownership and the opening of a health clinic as being
future priorities for a community development corporation started by his church, despite
the fact that the spiritual aspect of such priorities is debatable (Mikell, 2003, p. 32). A
jazz concert, similarly, can be one person‘s temporal affair, while serving as another
person‘s spiritual event.
It should not be assumed, whatever the case, that religious figures can deliver in
policy areas more traditionally associated with government or the secular non-profit
sector, such as the promotion of affordable home ownership, better or as well as the
agents of local government and community organizations. Now, the debate regarding the
balance between federal control and influence, on the one hand, and urban or local
control of efforts involving federal grants, on the other, is already well-covered ground.
Questions about that balance go back as far as the New Deal, when local elites in areas
such as the Mississippi Delta used control of government monies as a means of

193
increasing their own power and wealth. These questions continued to be asked through
and after the Johnson years with the War on Poverty (Cobb, 1992; Mikell, 1999). How to
balance any governmental power with that of local communities remains still a thorny
question.
Analysis of this balance is more often found today in works of political theory,
particularly those of communitarian writers (Etzioni, 1995), than in empirical research
involving local or urban government. In many cases, communitarian theorists have
stressed the need for a dispersed sort of power that allows citizens to feel as if they have a
stake in a community, and to accept a greater moral responsibility to their neighbors.
Among the ways of increasing community control that these theorists have stressed are
the development of micro-enterprises; that is, small businesses with low overhead
(McDougal, 1993). Likewise, some scholars associated with this school have stressed a
renewed role for churches in community service and organizing.
Communitarian ideas have, however, in some cases been processed through the
American policymaking machine, and come out worse for it. To a certain extent,
government came about these ideas after consulting with authentic academic sources,
such as Etzioni. Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000), who has often both been identified with
communitarians, also advised U.S. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Still, it could
be argued that government efforts that brought religion into the policymaking sphere
were not purely communitarian in their orientation, but a result of political compromise
and fitting new ideas into time-worn boxes. Bush‘s faith-based initiative seemed, for
instance, well on its way to becoming a curious post-secular hybrid, something akin to a
Community Action Agency, only with a steeple or some more generally elaborate or

194
distinctive architecture. Certainly, one recipient of millions of faith-based funds, the Rev.
Sun Myung Moon‘s Unification Church, seemed as dubious as any of the more fringy
elements that came to receive extensive negative publicity during the War on Poverty
(Lattin, 2004). Other studies were showing that only programs that were designed
effectively worked, and that their connection to a particular religious faith had nothing to
do with their success or lack thereof. Still another study showed that social service
recipients view faith-based agencies as being more responsive than state welfare offices,
the closest counterparts of faith-based organizations (FBOs) as regards to the types of
services provided. However, FBOs were perceived as no more responsive than nonsectarian, non-profit organizations offering the same sorts of services (Wuthnow,
Hackett, & Yang, 2003).
On the other hand, Brodie (2003) found that predominantly African-American
churches generally try—as the church which operated an existing elementary school in
Trinity Gardens had—to work more closely with government officials and administrators
than churches with primarily white or interracial congregations. Also, they are on the
whole more dedicated to social service initiatives than other faith-based grant recipients.
Still, among these predominantly African-American churches, those most likely to
collaborate with government have been ones with non-hierarchal congregations that were
still attracting older members, but also getting smaller (Boddie, 2003). They also have not
had as much in resources with which to work in the first place. Churches in AfricanAmerican neighborhoods have been, moreover, in general less likely to serve persons
outside of their membership. Perhaps, then, it may be best to be more selective in
choosing churches with which to work, and to consider the sustainability of collaborative

195
relationships with older congregations particularly. Few are bothering to examine such
issues, however, as dozens of federal agencies—ranging from the Social Security
Administration to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—rush to take part in the
latest policy implementation trend (Farris, Nathan, & Wright, 2004). The excitement over
the White House‘s faith-based initiative, and the way in which it is being carried out, is
indeed based more on faith, as opposed to empirical evidence.
It may just be too difficult for the federal government to build authentic governing
or policy coalitions with anyone in a localized community. A history of failed or partially
failed American community development programs in the distance would seem to make
the possibility of developing such coalitions even more slim. Perhaps it was ever thus, the
talk of creating such coalitions in Iraq in this new century—much, if not most, of it
coming from the same sorts of politicians and pundits who condemned the War on
Poverty—to the contrary notwithstanding. Maybe coalitions have to develop over time
among individuals who have long-standing relationships. In other words, as hard as it
may be for people of any partisan or ideological persuasion to admit, maybe such
coalitions can only develop slowly. They may develop best, moreover, among individuals
in a particular community who know one another and have learned through trial and error
not only the importance of social trust, but of learning how to trust one another. Where
government might best come into the picture is in providing carefully developed
incentives—be they monetary, or institutional, or what have you—for continuing or
expanding such behavior. It may provide, as one administrator suggested, a bit of
watering and tending of civic organizations, but it cannot force anyone to cooperate. It

196
can, however, as Richardson demonstrated, do a bit more than was previously assumed
by municipal leaders.
Pragmatism or Grand Theories?
It seems just as wrong to assume that coalitions for community development—or,
rather, those of the type examined by this dissertation—must be put together in what
might be described best as at least a quasi-organic fashion, however, as it is to undertake
programs based on theoretical assumptions or hunches. What is not needed is more
presumptive or ideological thinking, such as that which results in seeing social capital as
being tautologically present whenever positive results occur, or that promotes faith-based
initiatives on the basis of some presumed inherent goodness. What is sorely needed is
useful, or pragmatic, research regarding community relations. Practitioners, in particular,
need specific knowledge about how the relationship between social capital and
governments works in the real world, and how to put to use civic groups and citizen
participation to work for the good of the whole. In the lack of that, however, more
modesty in scholarly ambitions and skepticism of grand claims for certain muchdiscussed social phenomena might suffice.
The need for such pragmatism could be realized by remembering that the worth,
or lack thereof, of a certain style of community organization is not inherent; its worth
may often depend on situational factors instead. It does not always appear true, for
instance, that vertical relationships are harmful, as plenty of research into European and
Latin American corporatist structures—ones that tie the government to various sectors of
the economy and society—have demonstrated over time. Researchers in the comparative
politics field long ago noted how such organizations allow less room for the hijacking of

197
the policymaking process by small, cohesive groups of the type decried by Olsen (1965;
Piatonni, 2001; Ziegler, 1998). The issue here may be one of a balancing of vertical and
horizontal relationships, rather than one or the other.
Consequently, Woolcock (1998) may well have been on-target in suggesting that
the best sort of development, involving social capital, is of both the top-down and
bottom-up variety. The data from the Trinity Gardens study further suggests that his lead
is worth following. It may turn out that Woolcock‘s prediction is wrong for the majority
of cases, and as such his ideas regarding the relationship between horizontal and vertical
social networks demand further study. Nevertheless, only when such ideas are explored
more fully can communities and their leaders come to understand how to better put social
capital to work, or to increase the effect of existing stocks of social capital, while leaving
their citizenry more self-sufficient and development efforts more sustainable. Such
research could end up being contradictory and of limited value, but it is far better to
seriously consider the issues at hand rather than work on hunches. These can lead to
policy failure, and in turn limit the options of future leaders.
Unfortunately, there exists no one best avenue for the consideration of such
issues. To the contrary, there is a myriad of ways to conduct research on social capital
and government, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Among them are
those listed in the subsection below.
Future Research and its Methodological Diversity
The data presented in this case study, even if not generalizable, could be put to
good use in designing varying types of research on the interaction of government agents
and social capital. Moreover, the data and new propositions could be utilized in such

198
research at both the macro and micro levels, even if local governance is more the focus
here. The original propositions were written with just this intention in mind. It was
believed that the data gleaned from an investigation of these propositions could be used
in future research projects involving varying methodologies and designs, ranging from
multi-city case studies, to the ever-popular national survey, to the longitudinal field
experiments often conducted by social scientists working in the areas of criminology and
public health, as well as public administration and leadership studies.
The alternative methodologies considered in this subsection are listed in order of
their appropriateness to the phenomena at hand. This section was written with the goal of
suggesting and exploring future avenues of research to others, while outlining a sort of
ideal schedule of research projects related to the topic at hand.
First, the type of study that would flow most logically from the Trinity Gardens
data is a multi-city or comparative metropolitan study. A multi-city study of the issues
explored here would still not allow for the making of clear generalizations to any larger
state or national population. Research involving inner cities in several metropolitan
statistical areas could nevertheless represent something of a bridge from research at the
local or micro level to a future macro-level study. A multi-city study of the nexus of
social capital and government could, moreover, be as methodologically rich as any
imaginable. The only potential quandary here involves the economic feasibility of such a
larger study. Questions of exact expenses aside, a model for such research is available;
namely, Stone et al.‘s (2001) study of civic capacity in public education reform in
multiple U.S. cities. The research focused on cross-sectoral relationships and cooperation
in education reform. The study‘s data was taken from structured interviews with

199
government officials, civic leaders, and non-profit organization officials involved in
education reform. A disclaimer here must be provided; namely, there is no reason to
follow Stone et al.‘s model to the letter. To the contrary, given the complexity of the
issues involved in the relationship between government and social capital—and that
concept‘s very thorniness—it would probably be more prudent to utilize unstructured or
semi-structured interviews. The civic capacity study could nevertheless provide a solid
starting point and guide.
No matter how the interviews are carried out, there exists the potential to collect
an overwhelming amount, or hundreds of pages, of interview data—about the same
amount as collected here, some 250 double-spaced pages, but multiplied several times
over. On the other hand, content analysis software exists to assist academic researchers in
that process, and there are even programs available to assist in transcribing and storing
vast amounts of audio data. Patterns may then be sought or discovered by coding words
or phrases related to cooperation and community participation, along with other aspects
of social capital such as trust and community norms. Whether using such software could
prove useful depends on how much nuance and detail one seeks from interview data, or
how much simplification a researcher is seeking or willing to accept. Important data may
also be missed in looking for particular words only. Details from the interviews could be
used, in any case, on either a limited or expansive basis to flesh out the issues, or to
demonstrate how certain concepts work in reality. Consequently, a full review of the
transcripts would prove necessary. The result, in the end, could be a more rigorous sort of
research, certainly more rigorous than that allowed by the traditional, single case study.
Even so, the research could be conducted with the same sort of flexibility.

200
By the same token, data from separate respondent categories—such as elected
officials and government administrators, private citizens, or community or civic group
leaders—would be best laid out separately. Each category, in short, would be treated as a
discrete unit of analysis. A researcher could ask respondents questions related to trust and
cooperation, and then gauge how the attitudes of said respondents are affected by their
particular roles or places within a larger community.
Another option is to send substantial mail surveys or administer telephone surveys
to research subjects on similar issues. The mail survey has several advantages, not the
least of which is that it is far less expensive to administer than personal interviews. These
surveys, however, typically have notoriously low response rates, and costly incentives for
participation could be needed to obtain a respectable rate. These surveys also typically
give researchers less data with which to work than one can gain through personal
interviews, and less nuanced data at that, although interviewer bias or reactivity would be
kept to a minimum. A telephone survey, by contrast, would likely result in even less
nuanced or more superficial data, even if a good response rate would have been easier to
obtain. Telephone surveys work best when kept shorter, although half-hour or even hourlong surveys have been conducted in research involving community organizations
(Andrews & Edwards, 2005; Lavrakas, 1986).
However the data is ultimately collected, several independent studies that address
overlapping concerns could be produced from it, either as part of a series or as one
comprehensive piece of research. One research project could focus on the attitudes of
civic leaders, while another could more specifically address the attitudes of elected
officials. Still another could focus on private citizens alone. All these studies could then

201
fit into one larger work or series on the interaction of social capital and government,
much as was the case with the research of Stone et al. (2001). Doing so might prove to
have several advantages, not the least of which is that it would likely provide a better
demonstration of how people in respective categories trust one another, or how willing
they are to cooperate. Moreover, researchers could consider community or metropolitan
norms across distinct respondent categories.
Finally, it seems as if it would be best to take a cue from Putnam‘s (1993) Italian
study and conduct the research in cities with similar populations and institutional
structures. The Trinity Gardens research shows that structural changes—in this case, the
switch from a commission system with representatives elected at large, to a mayorcouncil system with district representation—affected how Mobile representatives viewed
their constituencies. More accurately, the data indicate that council members elected at
the district level have more of an incentive to devote themselves to community building
in lower-income areas like Trinity Gardens than those elected on an at-large basis. Of
course, in other locales an at-large system might make cross-metropolitan cooperation
easier. Likewise, the effectiveness of institutions in any given society or community can
be affected by a number of variables besides the structure of municipal political
institutions. These include local history, the effect of state government activity,
institutional structure, levels of political participation, and the amount of media coverage
granted to local affairs.
Unfortunately, a study that treats a group of individuals as a discrete unit of
analysis cannot provide a suitable means of studying linkages between individuals in
independent community sectors. Pinpointing the linkages between leaders or elites and

202
citizens through social network analysis, then, might explain a great deal more about the
relationship of governments and community groups. Judging the strengths or weaknesses
of such ties, in particular, could carry with it the possibility of telling future researchers
whether the development process is most often driven by an elite strata, or whether a far
larger cross-section of citizens is usually involved instead. Furthermore, one could study
how social networks are involved in differing areas of community development. The
potential negatives of such analysis, however, are myriad, and include the potentially
large expense of conducting the research, as well as risks to validity from researcher
effects or reactivity, given the time it would take to complete the work.
Experimental group studies are another rarely administered option for political
science research. They have advantages that have long proven of benefit in the study of
public administration, as well as social psychology and leadership studies. Studies of the
relationship between government and social capital would almost certainly involve
phenomena studied in all these fields, including inter-personal trust, group decisionmaking, and enforcement of group or community norms. Even so, an experimental lab
study cannot very easily involve whole communities. A better option would be a
longitudinal field experiment undertaken to study how individuals responded to calls
from leadership to participate in community affairs. Researchers would face one major
hazard here, besides the potential for reactivity. Participation might have just been
abnormally low before the study was undertaken, after which it increased to a more
typical level. In short, a researcher might face the danger of regression to the mean.
If more research is done at the micro level and hypotheses regarding the
relationship between social capital and government are refined, a national or state-level

203
telephone or mail survey of similar groups might well be in order. That being said, the
research could have a potential downside. If municipal leaders are surveyed at the
national level, for instance, respondents will come from municipalities of far different
population sizes and demographic makeup. Moreover, if closed-ended questions
dominate, the data collected from a survey will have considerably less nuance than that
collected in personal interviews. A mail survey would thus be the best option, given the
potential it would provide for data richness. Whether an empirical study involves a mail
survey or a telephone survey, however, the data collected from it might have considerable
explanatory power, especially if enough time and care were put into question wording.
The means of studying the relationship between social capital and government are
certainly not limited to those mentioned above. All the same, those listed appeared to
represent the best way to explore the ideas contained within and questions sparked by the
Trinity Gardens study. What the literature of social capital needs is not a study that
purports to explain all, though, but one that is informed by no small amount of modesty.
Just as alternative means of studying the phenomena at hand need to be considered, so it
should be realized that no one best way of encouraging cooperation between governments
and communities can be easily found—or even found at all.
The Evolution of Social Capital
Questions of methodology aside, what needs to be avoided is the search for a
grand, all-encompassing theory or conceptualization of community relations. The very
conceptualization of social capital is already too broad, or too much of a catch-all, for
ideas about social and political relations. Critics such as Fine (2001) are not wrong in
seeing the popularity of the concept within social science as something worthy of serious

204
skepticism. It seems clear today that those initially promoting the idea of social capital
had goals that were more morally than scientifically driven. More to the point, it seems
that the early study of social capital within political science was aimed more at
encouraging people to think about the need for political and social organization than
gaining new knowledge about the political world. Empiricism came in second to
normative theorizing, with a slick overlay of statistical analysis. Even then, there was no
differentiating between the moral worth of trust among persons within qualitatively
organizations, despite the fact that trust may have developed within the International Red
Cross in the same way that it presumably has within the Al Queda terror group.
However muddled the specifics may be, the concept of social capital still seems
useful as an umbrella term for interrelated features of community organizations and
communities, and the trust and norms encouraged within them. What needs to be
considered more today is how well those organizations and communities work together to
encourage trust and norms within a wider geographic territory or larger jurisdiction. To
his credit, when Putnam and a co-author titled a book about social capital in American
communities Better Together (Putnam & Feldstein, 2003), he hinted at coming to a
conclusion similar to that of Woolcock (1998) and Evans (1997), as well as Stone et al.
(2001). What is better, Putnam now suggests, is not the number of organizations or the
very fact that many exist within a particular community, but that they work together. To
borrow a bit of favored American organizational lingo, he believes that people within an
organization or community need to be on the same page.
There is a danger here, however, of again assuming an inherent moral worth in
cooperation across organizational or jurisdictional lines. Just as trust and norms can exist

205
within organizations that have corrosive effects on their communities, given their
adherence to bankrupt ideologies and acceptance of corruption, so can there be
cooperation and coordination across communities or sectoral lines regarding dubious
moral or policy aims. If all groups within a political community agree with government
officials, for instance, that it is well and good to spend as much in taxpayer dollars as
possible while cutting taxes to historic lows, that community is not going to have a
―better‖ existence despite the fact that its citizens work ―together‖ to achieve a goal or
multiple goals.
Consequently, the best way to approach social capital research, and research into
interactive relationships between government and social capital specifically, will be to
approach the subject in a manner that allows for community variation. It needs to be
remembered that what leads to positive or ―progressive‖ development outcomes in a
place like Trinity Gardens might not work elsewhere, even if the community is of a
similar size and demographic makeup. The success of any developmental efforts might
be contingent instead upon many variables that are in many instances difficult to
operationalize and measure, as noted earlier.
For instance, as Bourdieu‘s work reminds readers, being provided with
connections to resources, and having a space or a focus on the debate and discussion of
community issues, may not be enough for a lower-income neighborhood like Trinity
Gardens. There exist, the late theorist suggested, culturally constructed barriers of
language and information—and credentials and esteem—that appear to prop up elites or
ruling classes while making it difficult for those in the lower classes to move upward. No
matter how organized a community may become, Bourdieu‘s theory (1984, 1986)

206
suggests that upward mobility or the continuing betterment of a neighborhood is an
exceedingly complex affair (Swartz, 1997). Elites may need, as one observer of the
Trinity Gardens development suggested, some sort of playing to their need or desire for
esteem—something they get through charitable donations and the like, that grants them
legitimacy within a political community—to keep them interested. Getting private sector
investment may take learning an entirely new approach, as the individual attempting to
develop the Holy Land Heights subdivision was finding out. Government, in this area,
was of no great, or even moderate, assistance.
Given such variations and complications, it is clear that joint top-down and
bottom-up efforts in development need to be studied in as wide array of means as
possible, and that such matters need to be seen as sometimes exceedingly complex
affairs. This is likewise true of the social capital concept. It begs to be approached in a
manner similar to the way that organizational leadership, public administration, human
capital, and other such subjects are considered within academia. The concept needs to be
studied, more specifically, in a flexible and diverse way, with overly simplistic
explanations or single-bullet type theories cast aside. It is time for the academic
understanding of social capital to evolve, or be transformed into something else entirely.

207

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