Black and white and orange

Enough about Dr. Zeus and what he saw on Mulberry Street. Give me Daniel Manus Pinkwater and his paint-spilling seagull any day.

Yeah, I read Zeus to my kids. I guess I wasn’t “woke” enough to ken to some of his racially tinged caricatures.

Anyway, I much preferred Pinkwater’s “Big Orange Splot.” Because after said seagull dumped a big can of orange paint on Mr. Plumbean’s neat roof (no one knows why) something wonderful happened in his cookie-cutter neighborhood.

First Plumbean and then, one by one, his neighbors began to remake their houses in outrageous colors and designs.

Why? Well, as Plumbean said: “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”

Whatever point Zeus was trying to make, Pinkwater’s message was loud and clear”

Celebrate creativity. But also celebrate diversity. Especially in our neighborhoods.

Listen, if we are going to engage in cancel culture, let’s cancel something that matters.

You don’t have to go to Zeus’ Mulberry Street to find evidence of racial and class segregation. We’ve got plenty of both in neighborhoods all over America…and in Gainesville.

And we know from history that exclusionary zoning has played a key role in keeping so many neighborhoods pure white.

“Housing is one of the main drivers of segregation and systemic racism in America,” David Garcia, housing researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR recently.

As it happens, the City of Berkeley – California’s Gainesville – was the first in America to enact single family zoning laws. That was in 1916, and the reason was crystal clear – to keep “those people” out of Berkeley’s neat neighborhoods.

But Berkeley’s city council, following the lead of a handful of other progressive American cities, has now voted to phase out exclusionary zoning rules that have not only enforced segregation but contributed to a shortage of affordable housing in that flagship university city.

Of course, saying you are going to do something and actually doing it are two different things. More than one city commission has seen its resolve dissolve in the face of overwhelming neighborhood opposition. And even college town liberals who would never dream of uttering the phrase “those people” will go to the mats, ostensibly, in defense of their property values.

We saw it here when commissioners abandoned GNV Rise – a modest attempt to incentivize affordable housing – after being accused of catering to…who else?…greedy developers.

But to their credit, commissioners haven’t given up. Now they’ve hired a consultant to present them with zoning reform proposals that might help ease the segregating impact of exclusionary zoning and create opportunities to build affordable multiple housing units in neighborhoods that currently exclude them.

“I think that most people in Gainesville care about the issue of equity, and one of the great sources of inequity in our city has been our exclusionary zoning policies that have benefited the affluent, and been predominantly white residents, and caused great harm to our traditionally Black neighborhoods,” Mayor Lauren Poe has said. The goal being to correct “the systemic and structural policies that have led to this inequity.”

Predictably, opposition is already building, and never mind that not a single recommendation has yet to be made.

Just as Plumbean’s neighbors initially objected…before they saw the light and turned their cookie-cutter block into something worth celebrating.

It’s time to have that discussion in Gainesville, Florida’s Berkeley.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at Email him at

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