Next American Vanguard’s Next Acts

Ever wonder what happened to Next American Vanguard’s class of 2009? Job changes, city highlights and more after the jump.

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Each year Next American City assembles a group of the best and brightest young urban leaders and holds a conference dedicated to enlightening, inspiring and networking this cohort; the application for the 2010 event is open until March 31. Next American City is also in the run-off for a grant of $25,000 from the Pepsi Refresh project. Please vote for us! Here are just a few updates on where the Vanguards have gone…more updates throughout February.

Mara D’ Angelo:
I’m still at Smart Growth America, but early this year, the primary program I’ve been working on, the National Vacant Properties Campaign, spun off into its own organization called the Center for Community Progress. I’ll be staying at SGA, so this is a bittersweet change since it will mean so much more funding and stature for the work that the Campaign’s been doing, but shifting to a liaison rather than staff member relationship to that work. I won’t be lacking for urban policy intellectual stimulation, though. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities between HUD, EPA, and DOT, the Livable Communities Act, and HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods pilot have all been exciting developments in the smart growth world, and I’ve gotten to dive much deeper into federal brownfields and housing policy this year, which has been great. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of 2010!

Manni Marquez:
Well for the past year I have been working on a quality of life plan for the Clarke Square neighborhood located in Milwaukee’s Southside. As part of the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, working with other organizations, resident, and city officials we have developed a plan to revitalize a neighborhood that historically has been plagued by crime, little employment opportunities, and poverty. In 2010 we are working on implanting the plan which consist of nine strategies: 1) Community-School Partnership, 2) Life Long Learning, 3) Employment and Job Training, 4) Youth, Parks, and Recreation 5) Social Connections, 6) Public Safety, 7) Neighborhood Beautification, 8) Housing, and 9) Economic Development. Leading our efforts is the Clarke Square Council, established to operate like a board of directors to oversee the implementation process. The council is composed of a mixture of resident and organization leaders. For full details on the plan please go to

Michael Freedman-Schnapp:
I left the New York Industrial Retention Network over the summer to work full time for the campaign of Brad Lander, who successfully won a seat in the New York City Council representing the Cobble Hill/Park Slope/Kensington area in Brooklyn. Some of you might know Brad from his work as an affordable housing advocate and as the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. He was inaugurated this month and I started as his Policy Director a couple weeks ago. We’re eager to get started on working on city planning and sustainability issues, while making sure we find ways to make an impact on the quality-of-life and economic justice needs of our city. Brad was named the chair of the Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses subcommittee, so we’ll be able to use our planning backgrounds in the process.

Joah Spearman:
Since I last saw you all, I’ve immersed myself into Austin even further if you can imagine that. What I mean is that I’ve scored myself an office just downstairs from the Mayor Lee Leffingwell (elected last year). Technically, it’s not an office though, it’s my store Sneak Attack, where I sit pretty much everyday in the only retail space in Austin’s City Hall building. Along with launching Sneak Attack, I’ve maintained my literary career, including the release of Real Role Models (UT Press) this week. I’m now working on a second book, titled Indisputable (Greenleaf), about Austin’s live music scene.

Sylvie Gallier Howard:
As for me, I am still working in Philadelphia as a consultant. Over the past year I have gotten to work with a great bunch of non-profits. The work thatI am doing is mainly organizational development (resource development, board of directors, strategic planning.), generally with grassroots non-profits. I am working on issues such as public school reform (badly needed in Philly), helping immigrants find legal, decent employment when they arrive to Pennsylvania, after-school programming in a mostly Latino disenfranchised community, and more. This year I will work with two other groups focused on immigrant communities, specifically the Latino community and the Cambodian community. I am excited to learn more about these communities because Philadelphia’s neighborhoods have become more and more interesting and vibrant over the years as we’ve seen our immigrant community grow. On a non-work related front, I’ve got baby bun number two in the oven, due June 2010, and my other little one is a fireball toddler!

Jeff and Randy Vines:
We have some exciting news on the STL-Style front. On January 3, 2010, we took our labor of love ( to a whole new level by moving our St. Louis-inspired apparel design company into an historic storefront in one of the city’s most up-and-coming creative commercial districts. STYLEhouse, as we call it, enables us to expand our line of merchandise, increase our production output and offer a live retail outlet for our historically web-based company. The space will also double as a hub of civic advocacy and community engagement by hosting various events that aim to improve the quality of life in our beloved city. We are also proud to carry Next American City at our shop!

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

Tags: new york cityblightaustinmilwaukeenext city vanguard

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