John Sewell has done it all when it comes to city politics. During the past four decades, the former mayor of Toronto has been a community organizer, city councilor, mayor, journalist, activist, writer, housing administrator and social entrepreneur.
Suitably, Sewell will be the presenter of this year's annual Leo Srole Urban Studies lecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His talk titled “Strangled by Suburbia: Can the Culture of Cities Survive?” will be given at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19, in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library on the Colleges' campus. The talk is free and open to the public.
Currently Sewell is working with tenants to redevelop public housing projects in Toronto, helping coordinate the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and working with the Save Union Station Committee. He manages a Web site about local government empowerment, www.localgovernment.ca, and writes its monthly electronic bulletin, which is sent to councilors across Canada. Sewell writes a regular column on urban affairs for eye Weekly magazine and a monthly column for Post City magazines. His two most recent books, published in 2002, are “Mackenzie, a Political Biography of William Lyon Mackenzie,” and “Doors Open Toronto: Illuminating the City's Great Spaces.”
The Srole Lecture is the flagship event of the Urban Studies Program, and named after HWS Professor Leo Srole, who taught in the 1940s and wrote the American city studies classic “The Mental Health of the Metropolis.” The classic is an exhaustive study of New Yorkers and people who lived in towns and country settings and which dispelled for the first time the myth that city dwellers were less mentally healthy than others.
Some of the previous lecturers include Mayor of Rochester William Johnson; Elizabeth Leeds, program officer for the Ford Foundation's Governance and Civil Society Brazil office; Harriet MacDonald, director of New York City's Doe Fund; Jonathan Kozol, author of “Amazing Grace” and “Ordinary Resurrections,” and Reverend Martha Overall of St. Ann's Parish, South Bronx, N.Y.