What are the humanities, why do they matter? How have they made a difference in your life?
As America’s cities face the challenges of inequality, structural racism, and displacement, local governments must take bold steps to put in place a new model of equitable growth. One imperative is to transform underinvested neighborhoods into “communities of opportunity” that provide their residents with the ingredients needed to thrive. That is why I am excited about Oakland’s Measure KK, a $600 million infrastructure bond that promises to boost opportunity and mobility for residents in long-underserved Flatland neighborhoods, and Measure JJ, a measure to extend and reform renter protections for Oakland’s residents vulnerable to displacement.
Infrastructure — streets, sidewalks, parks, water lines, and more — might not sound like the solution to Oakland’s challenges of uneven growth. But it is crucial. As Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx likes to say, infrastructure is a “ladder to opportunity” for struggling families. Streets and transit routes make it possible to access family-supporting jobs. Parks and recreation centers provide spaces to exercise, play, and socialize. Libraries connect people to learning opportunities. And so forth. Infrastructure is the skeletal support that connects people to resources, opportunities, and each other.
Despite its critical role in bridging to opportunity, years of discriminatory land use planning and inequitable investment have saddled low-income communities of color with some of the worst infrastructure deficiencies. Oakland overall needs an estimated $2.5 billion in infrastructure investment — including a $443 million paving backlog. The neighborhoods where cash-strapped families can afford to live are more likely to have potholes, crooked sidewalk squares, and tattered playground equipment. These inequities aren’t just inconveniences: they drain already-tight family budgets. Oakland residents spend hundreds of dollars every year on flat tires and car repairs due to potholes and bad roads — and this “hidden tax” hurts low-income residents far more than wealthier drivers.
Measure KK has the potential to dramatically improve health, quality of life, and economic security for thousands of Oaklanders. With Measure KK funds, Oakland’s new Department of Transportation is prepared to deliver ten times the current levels of street repairs for 10 years. Imagine, instead of just a quarter of our streets being in good shape, in ten years 72 percent of our roads could be smooth and safe.
Moreover, the funds would go where they are most needed. While typical infrastructure bonds do not target resources, Measure KK includes historic social equity requirements that will ensure that investments are distributed fairly across Oakland, and especially in underinvested, low-income communities of color. Projects will be selected through a transparent, multilingual public process, and an oversight committee will conduct independent audits of the spending. My organization, PolicyLink, is looking forward to working with the city, under our All-In Cities initiative, to develop the best possible equity criteria and make this infrastructure bond a model for the nation in terms of equitable infrastructure funding.
In addition, Measure KK has an intentional focus on “investment without displacement.” $100 million of the proceeds will fund anti-displacement and affordable housing preservation. This is essential in a city facing a ballooning housing crisis, where rents have increased 34 percent since 2011. Measure KK will provide critical funds to protect Oaklanders all across the city from being forced to move out of affordable housing so we can keep long-term residents in our community. Measure JJ will in turn add protections to residents in their existing rental homes as their neighborhoods improve.
Building the infrastructure needed to transform neighborhoods is the right thing to do for our neighbors who are struggling to stay and succeed in a rapidly-changing city. It is also a smart economic strategy. With the right hiring, job quality, and workforce development strategies in place, this investment can provide career pathways to hundreds of Oaklanders of color who are currently locked out of good jobs. Improving infrastructure in distressed neighborhoods will also have indirect economic benefits because living in a neighborhood with quality parks, safe streets, sidewalks, and other quality infrastructure improves one’s economic chances. There is also evidence that lower-wealth residents who stay in gentrifying neighborhoods improve their financial conditions (thus also adding to the local economy), while those who move out end up living in neighborhoods with higher unemployment, lower-performing schools, and lower quality of life.
On Tuesday, Oaklanders have a chance to truly expand opportunity and take a serious step toward making Oakland an “all-in” city where everyone — especially those who’ve been waiting the longest for this moment of resurgence — has a chance to fully thrive. I encourage all Oaklanders to vote YES on Measures KK and JJ this election day.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works.
In the upcoming general election on November 8, 2016, California faces an unprecedented number of propositions. Many of these propositions will have direct equity impacts on the state's low-income communities and communities of color. To help inform your decision making, PolicyLink has studied the issues and created a 2016 ballot guide available in English and Spanish. Please share it widely and encourage your families and friends to participate and vote. For further information, please see the Official Voter Information Guide, polling place information, and additional voting resources offered by the office of the California secretary of state.
Across California, young people of color are courageously leading the charge to protect basic dignity, justice, and fundamental rights for themselves, their families, and their communities. From the Black Lives Matter to the Dreamer movement, from school board meetings to corporate board rooms, these youth are demanding that their voices be heard and their lives valued.
On Monday, August 8, over 400 youth of color from across the state will convene in Sacramento for the Free Our Dreams Youth Organizing Summit and Advocacy Day. Organized by the Movement Strategy Center, PolicyLink, and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, this event will strengthen youth leadership and advocacy skills, build power for a movement led by youth of color, and engage statewide decision makers on key legislative priorities for some of California’s most vulnerable communities.
The rally takes place on the west-steps of the Capitol from 12:00pm-1:00pmET.
In addition to youth engaging legislators, the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color will be reaching out to its supporters to help pass these key pieces of legislation, throughout the legislative season. For a full list of legislative priorities, see their statewide campaign page.
- We need to close loopholes in the TRUTH Act and hold police accountable, vote yes on AB2792 #freeourdreams
- Youth need legal counsel to ensure they understand their Miranda rights, vote yes on SB1052 #freeourdreams
- No youth should have a criminal record because they can't pay a transit fare. Decriminalize fare evasion, vote yes on SB882 #freeourdreams
- Secret police databases of alleged "gang members" violate due process & criminalize POC youth. AB2298 brings transparency & oversight
- For-profit immigration detention facilities are known to abuse detainees. SB1289 will stop police dept from using tax $ to hire them
- Solitary confinement is no way to deal with kids. Vote yes on SB1143 to limit its use on juveniles #freeourdreams
A reflection on the PolicyLink Equity Summit, which took place in Los Angeles, Oct. 2015.
As I sit here among 3,000 people, I cannot help but think this is the moment. I look out and see the faces, young and old, new and familiar. I cannot help but think this is the moment.
The affirmative advancement of fair housing, the empowerment of low-wage workers, fighting urban displacement, ending mass incarceration, Black Lives Matter, addressing immigration, improving the lives of boys and men of color, addressing income inequality. These issues are front and center, with thoughtful leaders ready to take action.
I think this must be the moment. But what moment is it?
Is it the moment that we fear? The moment that we realize the great American dream of opportunity for all is really just the opportunity for a few? That the promise of this young nation is just another in a long line of promises unkept? Is it that moment?
Is it the moment that we throw up our hands and say that our differences are just far too wide, too deep and too complex, and go to our respective corners and try to make it work separately and segregated by race, class, or party affiliation? Is it that moment?
Or is it the moment we’ve been waiting for? The moment when we finally realize that our fates are linked, the moment when we find the highest common denominator. The moment when we find our best selves and live up to the promise of liberty and justice for all.
I hope it’s that moment. No, let’s make it that moment.
See new video: What does it mean to be Bay Area Bold?