Differentiating a suburb by declaring it a “trailblazing pro-life city”?

Suburbs compete with other communities. They engage in decisions and branding that might given them a particular status and/or an edge. Does this fit a possible decision in Alvin, Texas?

Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

Elected officials in the city of Alvin are considering an all-out ban on abortion that would declare the Houston-area suburb a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” even with the procedure virtually banned by a new state law. 

One of the leaders behind this measure said he aimed to make Alvin, a city of about 26,000 residents in northeastern Brazoria County, a “trailblazing” pro-life city. 

City Council Member Joel Castro said he believes the measure is necessary to enforce the statewide ban. He referenced other small Texas cities, including Lubbock in west Texas, that have implemented similar ordinances. 

The ACLU has pushed back on cities that have implemented similar ordinances in the past, arguing they are unconstitutional and that “cities cannot punish pro-abortion organizations for carrying out their important work.” Abby Ledoux, spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the ordinance feels “extremely cruel” and just adds more restrictive layers to the statewide ban, ultimately endangering women in an area where access to abortion care is already limited. 

On one hand, there is the aspect of leaders and residents believing this is the right stance. Numerous communities have developed statements, regulations, and ordinances intended to pursue what they think is right.

But, I wonder if this is also connected to branding. Could a community serve its residents and seek to attract residents, businesses, and others based on taking a particular stand? At the least, the suburb of Alvin might be known by more people from taking a stand and others might factor the community’s stance into a decision about staying there or moving there.

This reminds me of the work of scholar Thomas Vicino in Suburban Crossroads: The Fight for Local Control of Immigration Policy. This book highlights the efforts of three communities to develop and enact their own policies amid concerns about federal immigration policies. The context here is a bit different – Texas has new laws regarding abortion, federal law is clear – but the idea is the same: local governments take it on themselves to address a controversial issue that they feel is important.

Chicago starts new round of advertising battle with Texas

Chicago and Illinois have been part of advertising campaigns from other states – Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin – in recent years. Several weeks ago, a Chicago group countered with a full page ad in the Dallas Morning News:

World Business Chicago, the city’s public-private economic development arm, purchased the print ad, which opens with “Dear Texas” before jumping into reasons companies should consider moving north. It cites the Midwest city’s startup ecosystem, attraction of tech and engineering graduates and a top-ranked logistics and transportation sector as strengths.

Then it hones in on what it perceives as Texas’ new weakness.

“In Chicago, we believe in every person’s right to vote, protecting reproductive rights and science to fight COVID-19,″ the ad states.

“We believe that the values of the city you are doing business in matters more than ever before,” World Business Chicago CEO Michael Fassnacht told Bloomberg News Friday.

So goes on the ongoing battle between different cities and states in the United States with sizable differences. Certain locations stand out as outliers for the two sides; places like California, New York City, and Chicago for liberals and Texas, Florida, and other Southern locations for conservatives. Certain places do have sizable differences in culture and character but are they as easy to reduce to stereotype as their opponents often do? Many Americans live in more in between spaces – such as suburbs – compared to the ideal type locations often discussed.

The real question in all of this is whether such marketing campaigns work. Would a business or resident in Texas or Dallas see this ad and then make a move to Chicago? What factors prompt people and organizations to move? Multiple features of Chicago mentioned in the article could matter: human capital, a central location, a particular culture, certain regulations. Texas’ new abortion restrictions seem to have fired up many and some companies have announced plans to help their employees in Texas. At the same time, moving is not an easy task. Texas, like most places, has its own appealing factors.

Ultimately, is such marketing more about dunking on the opponent? I would be interested in checking back in with World Business Chicago to see how the advertising worked out.

Where are the social scientists to explain the global warming debate?

Amidst all of the political discussions regarding climate change and global warming, one social scientist suggests a sociological analysis of this public issue has been lacking:

But something is missing: academic explanations of why people flout reams of scientific conclusions, bristle at the notion of cutting carbon and regard climate change as a sneaky liberal plot.

“The social sciences are glaringly missing,” says Andrew Hoffman, an expert on the sociological aspects of environmental policies at the University of Michigan, for which he’s researching climate denial. “That leaves out critical questions about the cultural dimensions of both defining the problem and finding solutions.”

He provides unvarnished reasons for that. One concerns his colleagues’ dismissal of the conservative movement. They deny the deniers, he seems to say, by tending to “ignore the far right.” More broadly, social scientists — like sociologists, psychologists and communication researchers — are generally disengaged from public policy debates.

The story goes on to suggest that some research suggests that this debate may be similar to the debate over abortion: both sides attempt to frame the issue and then influence enough lawmakers to make their side heard. This seems like easy pickings for sociologists interested in social problems. Notwithstanding the science, how have both the supporters and skeptics’ movement been formed, framed, and publicized?

If this social scientist is correct, this means there are some real opportunities for sociologists to provide some overarching analysis of this important public debate.