Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities

Infinite Earth Radio is a weekly podcast produced by Skeo and the Local Government Commission and hosted by Mike Hancox and Vernice Miller-Travis. Each week they interview visionary leaders, dedicated government officials, savvy businesses and forward thinking individuals who are working to build smarter, more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities through social and economic inclusion that values the contribution of all citizens and seeks meaningful lives for everyone. You will discover new leading edge strategies for lifting up and building great 21st century communities, along with cutting edge strategies for revitalizing under resourced communities and empowering excluded populations. Smart Growth, Prosperity and Sustainability are not possible without social, civic, and economic inclusion for people of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds.
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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities



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Now displaying: March, 2016
Mar 31, 2016


Water Infrastructure in Rural Communities

In This Episode:

01:39 Introduction of Hope Cupit and Andy Crocker.
02:18 In light of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, how many Americans lack access to safe drinking water?
03:16 Is it accurate that the number of people who don’t have access to drinking water doesn’t take into account those who may have access to below-standard drinking water?
03:49 Is the lack of water infrastructure disproportionately located in other geographic ways, or are certain populations more likely to be impacted?
05:45 How are investments for new developments justified when distressed communities have been trying for years to get water infrastructure?
08:55 What are the health and economic implications for rural communities that don’t have access to clean water and wastewater facilities?
10:28 What has the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project been doing to address this problem of inequity in access to water infrastructure?
12:26 Is South Carolina one of the states that you work in?
12:49 How do you get infrastructure to communities that have been trying to get onto municipal water supplies?
14:21 On a national level, what are some of the obstacles that get in the way of being able to get communities what they need?
15:50 How are tribal communities enduring the lack of water infrastructure?
18:02 How can people learn more and support the work that you’re doing at SERCAP?
19:36 Hope and Andy share information about the larger network that SERCAP is part of.
21:09 Does the larger RCAP network have its own website?
21:34 Hope and Andy explain why this work is important to them.
23:00 Andy and Hope share one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
23:25 Hope and Andy explain the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
23:55 Hope and Andy share what the world looks like 30 years from now.


Hope Cupit is the President and CEO of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP). She also is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is a Professor at Virginia Western Community College where she teaches Financial Accounting. In 2007, Mrs. Cupit began her tenure at Southeast RCAP as the Controller, then was promoted to become the Vice President/Deputy CEO and was hired in 2009 as President and CEO for the organization. Mrs. Cupit comes from a background of community leadership and has been actively involved with community economic development efforts for over 25 years. She is devoted to assisting the less fortunate and maintaining the integrity of improving the infrastructure of small rural communities. She enjoys working with these small communities, learning first-hand about the challenges people face in everyday life and advocating on their behalf.

Andy Crocker is the Virginia State Manager for Regional Programs at SERCAP.


Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.’s (SERCAP) mission is to improve the quality of life for low-income individuals by promoting affordable water and wastewater facilities, community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency. As a member of the National Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), SERCAP serves all of the rural citizens of seven southeastern states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. To date, SERCAP has brought clean water and wastewater facilities to more than 450,000 residents in our seven state network.

In keeping with their focus on water and wastewater needs, a majority of their services are directed to rural individuals, families and small communities who are tackling the tough financing, infrastructure, and troubleshooting problems associated with getting and maintaining clean drinking water. But SERCAP also focuses efforts to serve those same folks on housing needs, economic development, community capacity building and other development issues facing rural communities.

Take Away Quotes:

“It is estimated that 1.6 million people in the United States do not have access to water, and that cost is 1 trillion over the next 20 years just to fix it, and the estimated cost in that industry—the capital investments by water industry—is 23 billion dollars per year below what should be spent to meet the water-quality needs in this country.”

“There might be only a certain portion of people within the community that really want the water service or wastewater service and are willing to pay for it, and others are not because hookup fees, perhaps, are prohibitive, whereas in a new development those costs are kind of built in to the building lots and selling of the homes and all that kind of thing.”

“Education is a really key component, obviously; and we work pretty closely with, for example, the Office of Drinking Water’s division of Capacity Development which helps us identify at-risk water systems and communities that need that assistance.”

“Mostly, we work closely with the USDA office to obtain grants—mostly grants because the community cannot sustain any loans—so that we can put in the infrastructure to get them connected to the public water system.”


Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

SERCAP’s A Day Without Indoor Plumbing Campaign

Find Your Local Legislator!

National Rural Community Assistance Partnership

Mar 24, 2016


Young Women and Youth for Smart Growth

In This Episode:

01:29 Introduction of Zelia Gonzales.
02:03 Zelia explains what motivates her to be an activist in her community.
02:48 Zelia shares the first time she got involved with becoming an activist?.
03:37 Zelia describes the definition of complete streets.
04:25 Zelia shares about advocacy projects she’s been involved with, including the Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance.
06:51 Can you explain what feminism means to you and why you were motivated to start the group?
08:11 How do your parents and other adults react to your activism?
09:41 Can you tell us how the session at New Partners for Smart Growth Conference went and what did you accomplish or try to accomplish during the session?
11:12 What advice would you give to people in communities who want to get more young people involved?
13:53 As communities work on revitalization issues, are there certain areas that resonate more with young people?
15:05 As the younger generation sees more possibility than the older generation, can the urge of the older generation to stifle the idealism and the potential the younger people seek be a turnoff in the process?
16:59 Zelia shares some of the issues that SYFA is addressing.
18:39 Zelia explains how New Partners for Smart Growth Conferences has supported her and made her a better activist.
20:31 Zelia shares where people can go to learn more about SYFA.
20:55 Zelia shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
21:22 Zelia explains the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
21:40 Zelia shares what Sacramento looks like 30 years from now.


Zelia Gonzales is a high school senior and political activist for a variety of causes ranging from feminism to fair wages. She has worked for the City of Sacramento for two years and will continue through college and career as a public servant. Her work with the Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance (SYFA) has led her to presenting at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference.


The Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance (SYFA) strives to unite high school feminists’ coalitions and clubs from all around the Sacramento area. They unite students with the common mission of destroying patriarchy and inspiring all women and people to be who and what they want. SYFA builds solidarity and cooperation between Sacramento area high school feminists, in order to empower young women, through meetings twice a month and facilitating youth led projects and education.

Contact SYFA at

Take Away Quotes:

“Seeing unjustices around me and recognizing my privilege from a very young age, that allowed me to see the contrast and try to work towards equalizing that out. When I was younger…I saw how they [Zelia’s peers] were treated unjustly through a system, not by any one individual, and as I got older and I could put words to that and I could work on actual topics, I could change that, it really manifested into creating a space for other people to do the same thing.”

“I’ve found people that have been really, really supportive and believe that what we are doing with SYFA and what I’m doing individually with all these other organizations really does make a difference, and so it’s really allowed another activist wave to form, which is youth advocacy.”

“When you’re engaging with youth, it’s really important to remember that they are not held back by anything—you know, they’re not held back by any of this bureaucracy or preconceived notions about certain people or ideas—and so their ideas may be a lot more innovative and fresh than some of the people that have been on staff for fifty years, you know what I mean?”


Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance (SYFA)

Zelia’s session, Young Women for Smart Growth, from the 2016 New Partners for Smart Growth conference

Practicing feminism: Sacramento area students rally for social change

New Partners for Smart Growth conference

Local Government Commission

Mar 17, 2016


How High-Wage Jobs Affect Affordable Housing

In This Episode:
01:31 Introduction of Dr. Chris Benner.
02:29 Chris shares his background and what draws him to issues of economic and social equity and inclusion.
04:46 Chris explains the importance of education for disadvantaged populations for our economic future.
05:14 Chris explains a study of job growth in the San Francisco Bay Area.
07:58 Chris gives information about the next study and how people can get access to it.
08:39 Chris shares the report findings of a lack of housing affordability is causing displacement of residents and long commutes.
10:58 Chris explains the report data of a significant number of low-wage jobs are being created but no new affordable housing units are being created.
13:09 What are the policy implications? What can we do to fix this problem of no new affordable housing?
16:23 Do you see any indication that there’s a movement to create inclusionary zoning or some kind of development incentives to create more affordable housing?
18:00 Are San Franciscans changing how they think of themselves since the city’s character seems to be changing and it now seems to be a city that people can’t afford to live in?
19:58 Chris explains, within a regional context, how residents are needed to have the basis for the sales tax to buy goods.
21:13 Didn’t George Lucas move his company to Emeryville?
21:20 Chris shares how he was made aware of the dynamic of people in poor communities who are shopping in other places that are benefitting from the tax dollars being spent there.
23:46 Chris agrees that the poor pay more in regard to commuting time, cost of commuting, and quality-of-life and economic implications.
24:25 Chris explains how the job, inequality, and political crises play out in the context of housing affordability and the overall quality of life in the Bay Area.
28:19 Chris shares where people can go to learn more about his work.
29:12 Chris shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
30:31 Chris explains the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
31:28 Chris shares what the world looks like 30 years from now.

Dr. Chris Benner is the Dorothy E. Everett Chair in Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship, Director of the Everett Program for Digital Tools for Social Innovation, and Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on the relationships between technological change, regional development, and structures of economic opportunity, focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work and employment patterns. He is the author of multiple books including Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, co-authored with Manuel Pastor (Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California), which helps uncover the processes, policies and institutional arrangements that help explain how certain regions around the country have been able to consistently link prosperity and inclusion. His most recent book, also co-authored with Manuel Pastor is titled Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas. Benner’s work has also included providing research assistance to a range of organizations promoting equity and expanded opportunity, including the Coalition on Regional Equity (Sacramento), Working Partnerships USA (San Jose), the California Labor Federation, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions among others. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBenner

The Everett Program – Digital Tools for Social Innovation at the University of California, Santa Cruz merges the enthusiasm of student leaders with information technology to promote structural social change by building social networking capacity across non-governmental and community-based organizations. Everett’s goal is create a new generation of “info-savvy” advocates using information technology to overcome informational exclusion–based barriers to civic participation and social justice. The learning goes both ways: While advancing the larger public good, Everett students accumulate valuable technical knowledge, while sharpening their leadership and project management skills.

Take Away Quotes:
“I got into this work…[had] sort of a broad interest in social-justice issues, both domestically and internationally, and for me that interest is really rooted in, just, I care about the future; and if you care about the future, you have to care about those populations that have been historically marginalized, because they are the future.”

“That commitment to education for disadvantaged populations is fundamental for our economic future because that is, in many ways, the current workforce as well as the future workforce.”

“We had 15,000 new low-wage jobs just in sort of a narrow categorization of industry categories like restaurants and other types of services. So you’ve got tremendous growth in those kind of jobs and just no new housing that’s available for that.”

“I think part of our challenge is the financing structure of local government, because in California…housing is a net drain on city resources. The cost of services to new residents in the forms of, you know, the water and sewage and electricity and garbage and fire and police and all the things going with that, the cost is higher than the local revenue that comes from property taxes.”

Infinite Earth Radio Ep. 002 Equitable Development and Economic Growth

Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas

Get a free digital copy of the book

Find the book on Amazon

The Everett Program – Digital Tools for Social Innovation at the University of California, Santa Cruz

University of California, Santa Cruz – Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California  

Dr. Chris Benner’s TED talk

Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions Find the book on Amazon

Mar 10, 2016

Making Sure That Underrepresented Communities Are Heard

In This Episode:
01:57 Topic for this episode is introduced.
02:01 Introduction of Helen Leung.
02:12 Introduction of Amanda Daflos.
02:30 Helen shares her background and what motivates her to work on issues of equity, smart growth, and sustainability.
04:17 Amanda shares her background and what motivates her to work on issues of equity, smart growth, and sustainability.
05:54 Helen tells about LA-Más.
06:48 Amanda tells about the Mayor’s Office of Innovation in L.A. and the Bloomberg Philanthropies.
08:01 Helen and Amanda explain alternative approaches to traditional models of community-engagement initiatives that are ineffective.
12:02 What are some practices to ensure that underrepresented populations are represented in decision making?
14:58 How do we keep current residents from being pushed out as private investment occurs in underrepresented neighborhoods?

Amanda Daflos serves as the Director of the Innovation Team (i-team) in the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation in the City of Los Angeles. Her team, funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams grant, works on key mayoral priorities and collaborates across the City to define pathways to improvement. Amanda previously worked as a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting, and has spent the last decade working with on and leading federal, state and local government projects in the US and abroad. Prior to joining Deloitte, Daflos was the Director of Programs for an international non-profit organization where she was responsible for programming and operations in the US, Tanzania, Peru and Nepal. Daflos presently serves as a Deputy to the Los Angeles Honorary Consulate General to Nepal, a role she accepted in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. Daflos holds a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Colorado and a BA from Hamilton College. She is a 2014 graduate of the Leadership Tomorrow program in Seattle and lives in Los Angeles.

Helen Leung is Co-Executive Director of LA-Más, a cross disciplinary non-profit community design organization based in Los Angeles. Helen ensures that all LA-Más projects are grounded in community need and policy potential. She is passionate about redefining the intersection of community development and social equity, with a focus in minimizing displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods. A native Angelino and urban planner, Helen has extensive community-based experience working for former Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti. Helen holds a Masters in Public Policy and Urban Planning from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The Innovation Team (i-team) in the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation in the City of Los Angeles is a group of "in-house consultants" that work on key mayoral priorities thanks to a $2.55 million, three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Los Angeles was one of 14 cities to win the grant, which sponsors the creation of Innovation Delivery Teams that aim to design and implement new approaches for city halls across the nation to improve neighborhoods and residents' quality of life – relying on data, open innovation, and strong project and performance management. The Los Angeles team focuses on neighborhood revitalization in low-income areas, with the goal of improving the lives of existing residents and minimizing displacement of long-time residents and local businesses.

LA-Más is a non-profit that performs design-based experiments with the city (Los Angeles) as their lab. The mission of LA-Más is to look critically at systemic problems in the LA Area and provide solutions based on research and community engagement. By using alternative models of social inclusion and collaboration, LA-Más hopes to shape the future of equitable city growth. Más is an organization committed to offering architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design services to support and strengthen communities. Addressing the health and wellbeing of a community is often a dynamic exercise requiring the coordination of a diverse range of expertise under one umbrella. The organization believes that this interplay of planning, research, and design is itself a community endeavor. To that end, they foster social connections among diverse stakeholders to aid in sustainable place making and to provide multiple paths to community growth. They offer a bottom up approach to challenge and re-define the traditional expectations of civic engagement in the built environment. They uncover new questions that lead to innovative solutions and designs in the areas of public health and community space.

Take Away Quotes:
“I think in Los Angeles there is a long history of, kind of, development seen as evil, and a lot of communities have been trying to take different approaches so they’re not just being ‘nimby’s—not in my backyard—so we put together a panel that has community-based organizations representing a lot of different communities in Los Angeles where there is a long history of advocacy and organizing.”

“Our mayor has been very interested in engaging the community to really understand, at the community level, what is of interest, and as we look at our opportunity on my team to really think about this question of, as neighborhoods are changing, what are ways that we can be engaging individuals and really thinking about what the future of Los Angeles looks like, and we’ve been really, I think, very dedicated to bringing in the community voice but at a very resident-focused level.”

“And there are so many different technologies available now that things we used to do don’t necessarily make sense and the things that we’re doing today probably won’t make sense in the future, in terms of how we interact. Is it Twitter, is it email, is it community meetings—how do you invest in the things that reach the most people, to find the ways that you diversify your communications so that you’re having that two-way conversation, knowing that over time things inevitably have to change.”

City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office

Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams



Mar 3, 2016

Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

In This Episode:
1:36 Introduction of Dan Burden.
1:57 Dan shares what motivates him in his work of bike-able, walkable communities.
3:28 Dan explains his role as Director of Inspiration and Innovation at Blue Zones, LLC.
4:07 Dan explains what blue zones are.
4:54 Dan tells about the Blue Zones Project and how people can get their community to be a blue zone project.
5:55 Dan shares where listeners can get more information about Blue Zones, LLC and the Blue Zones Project.
6:12 Dan tells about the Blue Zones Project he’s been working on in Hawaii.
7:56 Are any projects occurring in primarily low-income or minority communities?
9:05 What are the obstacles of having projects occur in low-income or minority communities?
11:09 Dan shares what role the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference has played in raising the interest in walkable, bike-able communities.
11:56 Dan shares if walkable, bike-able communities are more equitable in addition to being healthier and better for the planet.
13:15 What is it about Missoula, Montana that makes it such a great walkable, bike-able community?
14:25 What do we need to do in our cities to start a transition away from an auto-central design to a more people/bike design?
16:20 Dan shares one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
16:44 Dan explains the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
17:07 Dan shares what the world looks like 30 years from now.
17:44 Dan shares the importance of change.
18:10 Dan explains that we live in a “vuca” world.

Dan Burden is one of the most recognized names in the development of walkable and bicycle friendly communities. During the past 32 years he has been studying, interpreting and implementing insights and skills of changing human habitat to be focused on people first. Dan is the Director of Inspiration and Innovation at Blue Zones. He has relentless energy and has personally helped 3,500 communities throughout the world make their means of transportation healthier, more active and affordable. Many of Dan’s streets designs and town centers are now celebrated in numerous publications and books and, of course, everyday by the millions of feet utilizing his designs. He joins our podcast to talk through the history, benchmarks, key steps, principles and best practices in making walking and all of active transportation the natural choice in motion.

The mission of Blue Zones is to help people live longer, better lives. Blue Zones works with industry leaders to bring the Blue Zones mission to life. The Blue Zones Project is a systems approach in which citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders collaborate on policies and programs that move the community towards better health and well-being. It implements long-term, evidence-backed policies and interventions that optimize environments within communities, nudging people towards healthier choices throughout their day. The program is based on the assumption that we spend 90% of our lives in a 20-mile “Life Radius”. Rather than relying on individual behavior change, the program focuses on making the healthy choice the easy choice. Instead of nagging people to exercise, we make walking easier and more desirable than driving. By making wholesome foods more accessible and less expensive than junk foods, people begin to eat healthier naturally. The approach is based on the cornerstone of sustainability. Unlike other health or wellness initiatives Blue Zones Projects address the environment not just the individual, resulting in long-term impact that stands the test of time.

Take Away Quotes:
“Blue zones, if you can just imagine picking up a blue magic marker, are those places in the world where people live longer, happier, better lives…and the only reason they’re called ‘blue zones’ is that the magic marker someone picked up when they were drawing them happened to be blue.”

“Right now there are roughly 25 designated cities that are blue zones. It’s a formal process that people go through. We want every single one to be successful.”

“[Hawaii wants] to become the healthiest state in the nation. They have many things that are already underway, and so what Blue Zones will be able to do there is to meet them where they are and keep going forward.”

“We, basically, do a full assessment of where the opportunities are and then figure out where we can give the greatest lift, we call it, to where we empower, what we call, the ground cover, the people working from the ground up and work with the leadership and provide the training.”

Blue Zones