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// Films // Neighbor by Neighbor: Mobilizing an Invisible Community in Lewiston Maine

Neighbor by Neighbor: Mobilizing an Invisible Community in Lewiston Maine

Craig Saddlemire / États-Unis / 2009 / 98 ' / Anglais

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The Viable Community
Craig Saddlemire
The Viable Community

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It’s an exceptional story about the people of Lewiston, but it’s also a universal story about the challenges faced by many urban neighborhoods across the USA.

Synopsis

In the summer of 2004, the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine announced a plan to develop a four-lane boulevard across downtown’s low-income neighborhood. This project was called “The Heritage Initiative.” Contrary to its name, this plan was going to eliminate the downtown’s heritage by displacing 850 people from their homes as well as destroy playgrounds, vegetable gardens, and historic buildings. Moving residents out of the city and improving traffic flow was at the heart of this proposal… It was 1960’s Urban Renewal all over again.

As tragic as the circumstances were, the threat of a road destroying the neighborhood required residents to rise to the challenge of becoming *community organizers. Instead of allowing their neighborhood to be paved over, the residents of downtown organized themselves into a group called “The Visible Community.” They received support from non-residents alike – social service leaders, college students, and other people who recognized the Heritage Initiative as an unfair way of “cleaning up” the downtown at the expense of the people who lived there.

What happened next was an incredible story of people coming together to protect their homes, hold their political leaders accountable, and work towards creating a democratic planning process that honored the input of low-income people as much as any other person’s voice.

This movie documents 5 years of development and community organizing in Lewiston, Maine. It reveals the strategies, the mistakes, the prejudices, the lessons… all of the difficult stuff that makes up the political process – the act of making decisions and setting policy TOGETHER.