Building Communities of Opportunity by Reducing Barriers to Housing

Parks. Transit. Quality schools. Safe streets. When people imagine the core infrastructure of a healthy community, these are the elements that likely come to mind. Rarely is housing part of the picture. Yet, safe, affordable housing—near good schools, parks, transit, and healthy food options—ensures that individuals can access jobs, obtain the education and training necessary to earn a living, and lead a healthy lifestyle. Increasingly, however, low-income people of color across the state are being priced out of their neighborhoods, relegated to substandard housing, and pushed into areas that lack quality community infrastructure. To ensure that all Californians have an opportunity to reach their full potential, the state must take more aggressive steps to ensure that it’s vulnerable populations have adequate housing.

California’s Housing Affordability Crisis Is Driving Displacement

California is facing an escalating housing crisis. Driven in part by enormous wealth created by the tech industry, corporate investment in local and regional housing markets, and supply constraints, housing costs have soared. At the same time, real wages have been stagnant or declined. These twin challenges – rising rents and inadequate wages – have left the state’s low-income residents and residents of color struggling to meet their housing costs. More than eight in 10 low-income households cannot afford their rent (i.e., they pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent), and close to 60 percent of Black and Latino renters have unaffordable housing costs, versus just less than half of their White counterparts.  Moreover, skyrocketing costs are spreading throughout the state, particularly in the coastal regions, leaving families with limited housing choices. In the Bay Area, for example, two minimum-wage workers can find affordable rent in just 5 percent of the region’s neighborhoods.

The lack of affordable housing options, combined with other factors like inadequate protections for tenants, are driving people out of communities. More than six of every 10 households living across 13 counties in Northern California are now at risk of displacement, according to the University of California–Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project.  In the Bay Area, cities like Oakland are underdoing extreme gentrification. 

Displacement comes with costs – longer commutes, poorer educational outcomes for children, high stress levels for families, and the loss of access to important community infrastructure. In fact, when low-income households leave their homes, they often move to lower-income, under-resourced neighborhoods. A recent study of households displaced from communities in San Mateo found that those families moved to areas with fewer health-care facilities, less jobs, and poorer air quality, substantially reducing their quality of life.

The State Must Do More to Protect Vulnerable Populations

After years of failing to address the housing crisis, in 2017 California took action to increase the supply of affordable housing. The state established a permanent source of funding for affordable housing through a new real estate transaction fee expected to generate $250 million annually and placed a $4 billion housing bond on the November 2018 ballot. 

While a good first step, these efforts, alone, are not sufficient to address the housing crisis. It may take years for projects funded by the real estate transaction fee and affordable housing bond to be built. And even if such projects could be brought on line immediately, more funding is required to meet the state’s affordable housing need.  Meanwhile, rents continue to rise and growing numbers of residents are being displaced from their communities. 

The need for additional action is especially urgent given recent changes to federal housing policy. In January, the Trump Administration effectively suspended the implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, and enacted corporate tax cuts that are expected to reduce funding for affordable housing and, in turn, decrease the number of new affordable units built in California by 48,000 over the next decade.  Perhaps most callously, Representative Dennis Ross recently unveiled legislation that would raise rental costs for low-wage workers receiving federal rental assistance, by $500 per month for some. 

What more should California do to ensure that all Californians have access to quality housing?

  • Strengthen tenant protections. There are a range of reforms the state could enact to enhance protections for tenants, including repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which would allow local jurisdictions to establish stronger rent control policies, and strengthening eviction protections for renters. Fortunately, several tenant protection policies will likely be voted on by the electorate and California Legislature this year, such as the Affordable Housing Act of 2018 (repeals Costa-Hawkins), AB 2343 (provides tenants with more notice before eviction proceedings can be initiated and additional time to respond to eviction complaints), AB 2925 (statewide just cause eviction), and AB 2364 (Ellis Act reforms). Policymakers and voters should support these important measures.
     
  • Prevent discrimination against especially vulnerable populations. Some populations face unique barriers to accessing safe, affordable housing.  For example, individuals with criminal records and Housing Choice Voucher holders are routinely discriminated against by housing providers.  Immigrant families, sometimes faced with the threat of deportation of family members, are also subject to mistreatment by landlords. The state should address barriers faced by these populations, by passing legislation that prevents a landlord from discriminating against voucher holders, restricting landlords’ use of criminal records in the evaluation of housing applications, and providing additional protections for immigrant families.
     
  • Support the rehabilitation of California’s aging housing stock. Due to the lack of affordable housing options, low-income Californians are often forced into substandard, aging, unhealthy housing. Unhealthy conditions found in hazardous housing can lead to cancer, lead poisoning, and mold-related conditions likes asthma, resulting in missed school days and poor school performance for children, as well as missed work days for parents.  The state should work to improve the condition of existing housing for low-income Californians by providing more resources for rehabilitation, strengthening local jurisdictions’ capacity to enforce their housing codes, and passing innovative policies like proactive inspections.
     
  • Facilitate the construction and preservation of affordable housing. California needs 1.5 million additional units to satisfy the demand for affordable housing. To meet the need, the state should work to preserve existing affordable housing, support community land trusts and other tools that facilitate community control of housing, and significantly increase the state’s investment in the creation of new affordable units. Several policy proposals pending this year would provide additional funding for affordable housing, including the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, which would provide $3 billion in funding for affordable housing, and SB 912 (Beall), which would provide another $1 billion for affordable housing.  In addition, legislators have requested a state budget allocation of $2.5 billion to support affordable housing and homelessness programs.

Resources

Leveraging California’s Transportation Investments to Achieve Triple Bottom Line Return

At all levels of government the transportation infrastructure sector comprises one of the largest arenas of public spending.  In California, state transportation dollars are estimated to grow more than $20 billion in 2018-19, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office 2018-19 Budget Report.  This is in part due to the recent passage of SB 1 (Beall), the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which increases our transportation funding by $54 billion over the next decade for “fix it first” highway and road projects, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, public transit, and other uses. With many new transportation projects underway in California, and more on the horizon, now is the time to leverage these massive investments to achieve triple bottom line returns and maximize positive mobility, safety, and economic outcomes throughout the state.

Transportation plays a powerful role in shaping access to opportunity and creating healthy, socially vibrant communities. The type and location of projects that our state and regional transportation agencies choose to fund directly determine whether communities are able to access critical amenities and resources and breathe clean air, which impacts the health and productivity of all residents.

With the passage of SB 1, California has taken an important step to provide much needed resources for public transit and active transportation, and target planning dollars to our communities of highest need.  California should build on this momentum by further aligning state transportation programs with equitable investment goals and prioritizing the mobility and safety needs of low-income people of color living in neighborhoods that lack adequate transit service and basic pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. State investments should also be mandating strong public participation requirements to ensure that resources are supporting projects that provide meaningful, effective transportation solutions to community identified priorities, and to ensure that displacement, increased traffic pollution, and other harmful impacts, are avoided.  This is especially important as SB 1 contains a harmful provision that exempts diesel trucks from stronger air quality regulations, allowing them to continue polluting in communities already overburdened by poor air quality.

New investments in transportation infrastructure also provide an opportunity to bring important economic benefits  to disinvested communities in the form of workforce development, well-paying jobs and contracting opportunities. As low-income communities and people of color continue to struggle with persistent poverty and high levels of unemployment, the state can and should do more to target transportation jobs and careers to individuals facing multiple barriers to employment. SB 1 includes an annual investment of $5 million for pre-apprenticeship programs that focus on the recruitment of people of color and disadvantaged youth, which will support their preparation and pathway into apprenticeships and other credential attainment programs.  While this is a critical on-ramp to good paying jobs in the construction industry, the real economic impact of these workforce investments won’t be fully realized unless we ensure that these same communities are connected to the employment opportunities that are created from building, operating, and maintaining our transportation system. This is critical for strengthening our families and neighborhoods, and boosting regional economies through the increased purchasing power of women and men who secure and maintain employment.  It also comes at a time when we need California to assert leadership and commitment toward equitable employment outcomes and protect against the current federal administration’s decision to eliminate the Department of Transportation Local Hire Pilot program in 2017.

To increase job access in the transportation sector for those that need it the most, the state should prioritize projects that employ effective strategies for recruiting, training, and hiring local, low-income, underemployed, and underrepresented youth and adults such as community workforce agreements, project labor agreements with targeted hire commitments, and partnerships with community based training programs. An additional component that a targeted hire policy should address is the widespread racial discrimination and implicit biases in hiring that exists throughout our institutions. Based on the demographic breakdown of many jurisdictions, specific populations, including the African American community, are often underrepresented in industries such as construction, even when workers have successfully completed their training programs. Therefore, these policies must include criteria and/or a status for underrepresented workers to ensure that the workers who are recruited and hired reflect the workforces of our regions.  Lastly, in order to foster strong accountability and ongoing monitoring of these policies, they should require a minimum of 30 percent of the work hours to be performed by individuals with barriers to employment, and robust project reporting data on worker demographic information and job quality.

California has an opportunity to lead the nation in advancing a more equitable public infrastructure system that ensures everyone has the resources and supports they need to contribute and thrive.  By taking advantage of our state’s enormous transportation arena to achieve multiple benefits in all communities, we can secure a future of shared prosperity.

Resources:

California’s Infrastructure Needs a Makeover for a Climate Resilient Future

The science is clear. Our climate is changing. In California, we are already feeling the impacts of climate change in the form of more regular and longer lasting droughts, flooding, wildfires, higher temperatures, and impacts on our fisheries, forests, wildlife, and other natural resources. As global temperatures continue to rise, all Californians will feel the impacts. However, communities of color and low-income communities, those who have born the negative consequences of our fossil fuel economy, will be hit first and worst by climate change.

This fact has serious implications for our state’s future.  While the United States is projected to become majority people of color by 2042, California hit that mark decades ago. To secure an equitable and prosperous future for California, implementing strategies that allow our communities to thrive—even in the face of a changing climate—is critical.

As our earlier blog noted, smart, targeted investments in infrastructure can build community resilience by expanding economic opportunity, improving community health, and connecting people to critical services.  Unfortunately, California’s infrastructure is crumbling, and we need significant investments over the next decade to repair, upgrade, and expand our infrastructure. Last year, state lawmakers committed to getting started by making new investments in transportation, climate infrastructure, and housing. This year, the legislature and voters are considering a range of proposals that would create another set of investments in water, parks, and housing. While this represents a fraction of what is necessary, they present real opportunities to innovate and think about how we build infrastructure that can physically withstand climate change, and, lift up disinvested communities so that they are able to thrive even as our climate changes. So, how do we make sure we take advantage of this opportunity? In addition to the principles we outlined earlier this week, here are four ideas that we think are important:

 1. Include Impacted Communities in Infrastructure Decision Making from Planning to Completion

Frontline communities have been left out of the conversations and decision-making around the planning and designing of their own communities, leaving their destinies to the often discriminatory and profit-driven practices of corporations and government representatives who have little knowledge of their unique challenges and needs. As a result, these communities and their members are left fighting for their right to live healthy and free from pollution with access to opportunity. To begin reconciling this, California should ensure that low-income people, communities of color, and other populations that are vulnerable to climate change are provided with meaningful opportunities to shape infrastructure decisions that will impact their lives. Furthermore, California should provide direction and resources to local and regional agencies on integrating climate justice in planning efforts, policy development and implementation, and distribution of resources with an emphasis on intentionally engaging and including frontline communities throughout the process. Ensuring early, continuous, and meaningful participation in the development of policy and funding decisions will lead to more thoughtful, effective, long-term solutions.  
 

  1. Promote Interagency Coordination to Build Climate Resilience

In Built to Last: Challenges and Opportunities for Climate-Smart Infrastructure in California, our partners at the Union of Concerned Scientists note that the overarching challenge to California effectively supporting a climate resilient future is that we do not currently have a state level body dedicated to addressing this problem and providing coordination, data, and technical support to other state agencies as well as to local and regional agencies. To address this, they recommend that California should establish a well-resourced center that provides agency staff with actionable climate related information and guidance that is updated regularly. The center would serve in a coordinating role, would respond to requests for technical assistance, provide support to state agencies working to incorporate climate resilience in their programs and decisions. Finally, the center could serve as a resource to local agencies and technical assistance providers working with communities to develop resilience strategies. Establishing a centralized hub of information and capacity would strengthen a network of climate resilience advocates, nonprofits, government agencies, and policymakers to ensure a coordinated effort towards climate resilient communities across the state.  
 

  1. Conduct Vulnerability Assessments

We know that low-income communities and communities of color will be hurt first and worst by climate change. However, California does not currently have a clear picture of how different communities will be impacted by climate change, where infrastructure investments can increase community resilience, or where existing infrastructure may be prone to failure. To prepare for the future, California should take the recommendations of the Climate Justice Working Group and conduct regional cross sector vulnerability assessments that:

    • Identify and prioritize climate change related threats to the region’s frontline communities.
    • Assess how existing critical infrastructure and public services will handle changing conditions, and how the state can develop new and strengthen existing infrastructure and services to enhance climate resilience.
    • Provide direction and resources, such as funding and capacity building, to local and regional agencies on integrating climate justice in planning efforts, policy development and implementation, and distribution of resources.
    • Ensure these local and regional agencies are also engaging frontline communities in their research, planning, implementation, and decision-making.
       
  1. Build Infrastructure to Withstand the Impacts of Climate Change

It seems obvious, but building infrastructure that can actually withstand the effects of climate change is important to making sure money is well spent and making sure the infrastructure functions when disasters hit. Government agencies, utilities, investors, and other infrastructure decisionmakers typically do not include climate related cost and benefit information when evaluating infrastructure investments and infrastructure codes and standards frequently do not consider what the science tells us about our changing climate. This omission results in projects that are ill-equipped for longer-term climate stressors, and is a missed opportunity to avoid damages and maximize cost and risk saving. State and local governments and agencies should update their assessments and standards to better integrate climate risk considerations, as well as the benefits and opportunities of climate-smart projects. These changes should incorporate the latest climate data and technology and should be done with an eye towards protecting our most vulnerable residents. This will ensure sound decision-making and will result in projects that will continue to serve us for many decades to come. 

From the current President’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, to attacks on the EPA, and the intensifying effects of climate related natural disasters, there is barrage of challenges to building climate resilient communities and infrastructure.  However, California is already positioned as a global leader on climate change and has a major opportunity to capitalize on the advancements we have made to date. But we must demand climate smart planning and decision-making from our state and local policymakers. Climate smart improvements to our state's infrastructure are long overdue and will provide the literal foundations for our communities to not only survive, but thrive, in the face of a changing climate.

Investing in Water Infrastructure Now is Critical for California's Future

For decades community leaders and environmental justice advocates have worked to bring attention to the water problems impacting low-income communities and communities of color across California. Together they have secured significant water equity wins. In 2012, California became the first state to establish the human right to water.  Substantial new investments have been made to expand access to safe and affordable drinking water. And new requirements have been established to ensure that local planning processes identify water infrastructure deficits in disadvantaged communities and develop strategies to address these deficits.

Despite these important wins, our work is far from done. Over one million Californians live in communities that do not have reliable access to safe drinking water. Many live in places where the cost of water is so high that residents are forced to forgo spending on other critical household needs in order to pay their water bill.  Children attend schools where their drinking water is contaminated with lead.  The availability and quality of our drinking water resources are increasingly impacted by the changing climate.

And drinking water is not the only water challenge low-income communities and communities of color are facing. Dams, water management practices, changing water temperatures due to climate change, and a host of other factors are decimating California’s fisheries—impacting the livelihoods, food sources, and cultural traditions of Native American communities who have managed these natural resources for thousands of years. Climate change induced flooding and sea level rise threaten people’s homes and their lives. Failing or completely absent wastewater treatment systems are causing public health and economic impacts for households and communities.

We have a lot to take care of and investing in our water infrastructure now is critical to begin tackling these problems. While California has a history of leading the nation on protecting its’ natural resources, applying this leadership is more important than ever. The Trump administration has demonstrated over and over their desire to unravel the national Clean Water Act, promote privatization of our water resources and management systems, reopen our coastline to offshore oil drilling, and defund key programs that fund water infrastructure.

To protect what we have already accomplished and secure water equity for all Californian’s it is critical that Californians, and our elected leaders, step up. Fortunately, there are some important things California can do now to secure our water future.  

  • State legislators are considering a variety of important proposals that would address critical water infrastructure challenges for low-income communities and communities of color.
    • SB 623 (Monning) would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, a permanent source of funding for safe and affordable drinking water. Water justice advocates and state water agencies have been calling for this for years. The fund would provide grants to address critical operations and maintenance needs, fund repair and replacement of failing drinking water infrastructure, provide technical assistance, conduct lead pipe replacement, consolidate water systems, and other projects designed to secure long-term safe drinking water for all.
    • AB 1215 (Hertzberg) would bring much needed sewer service to communities that do not have adequate service by facilitating service extension and consolidation of service providers where it makes sense.
    • Advocates are asking for a $23.5 million budget allocation to address emergency drinking water needs.
       
  • Voters can support proposition 68, a bond proposal that is on the June ballot. If passed, $4 billion dollars in bond revenues would be invested in water, parks, and natural resources. Unlike many bonds of the past, proposition 68 includes a significant focus on investing in our most disadvantaged communities.
     
  • California voters and California leaders can also support Rep Keith Ellison’s federal Clean Water Act of 2018, H.R. 5609. The bill would invest $35 billion each year in water infrastructure and clean water programs, and target important resources to communities with clean water violations.

Six years ago, California set a national precedent by recognizing the Human Right to Water.  It’s time to deliver on that promise by addressing the water infrastructure needs of low-income people and people of color across our state.

Additional Resources:

National Infrastructure Week: Equitable Infrastructure Investments Can Transform Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color

At PolicyLink, we know that smart, targeted, equitable investments in infrastructure can have a transformative impact on low-income communities and communities of color. That’s why we are excited to join equity infrastructure advocates in California, and throughout the nation, for National Infrastructure Week—a time to collectively garner more public awareness and advocacy to support increased investments in infrastructure.

This week we will be posting a new blog each weekday exploring infrastructure equity in our home state of California. We encourage you to share our blog posts with your network and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #Build4Equity. Also, join the Union of Concerned Scientists and PolicyLink for a twitter chat on Wednesday, May 16 @ 12 pm PT/ 3 pm ET. The discussion will focus on the role of climate smart infrastructure in building community resilience, advancing climate justice, and fostering an inclusive economy. Register today and follow the chat on twitter at #Build4Resilience.

California’s changing demographics and the need for equitable growth

Over the last several decades California has undergone a radical demographic change. Today, people of color represent over 60 percent of all Californians. Because youth are at the forefront of this demographic transformation, there is a racial generation gap between old and young: 62 percent of Californians over age 65 are White, and 73 percent of those under age 18 are of color. Today’s elders and decision makers are not investing in the same educational systems and community infrastructure that enabled their own success. This investment gap puts all of California’s children—and the state’s economy—at risk. A growing body of research tells us that inequality is not only bad for those at the bottom of the income spectrum but subsequently puts everyone’s economic future at risk. Greater income equality contributes to more sustained economic growth and to more robust growth. California’s ability to maintain its leadership in the global economy hinges on its ability to remove barriers and create the conditions that allow all to flourish.

Investing in California’s Future

Unfortunately, California is not doing well. Our state has some of the highest income inequality in the nation and 14 million Californians—over 36 percent of our population and disproportionately people of color—live at or near the poverty level in communities that frequently lack the basic infrastructure of a healthy place. Decades of disinvestment, deeply entrenched patterns of discrimination, and a host of tax and land use laws affecting development patterns have isolated residents of these communities from quality opportunity and services, exposing them to environmental harms, and ultimately shortened lifespans.

Infrastructure is vital for sustaining and reinforcing community. The networks, roads, schools, drinking water, sewer systems, facilities, and properties that comprise public infrastructure define neighborhoods, cities, and regions. Unfortunately, too many Californians live in communities where critical infrastructure is deteriorating or is completely lacking. Residents of these infrastructure deficient places may be unable to access safe and affordable drinking water or wastewater treatment services; connect to good schools and jobs; benefit from libraries, health-care facilities, and emergency services; or safely walk, bike, or play in their neighborhoods. Over the next 10 years, an estimated $750 billion is needed to upgrade and repair our existing facilities and meet the needs of our growing population. While this problem is affecting the entire state, the duel burden of poor infrastructure choices in the past, and insufficient investment in infrastructure for the future falls heaviest on low-income communities and communities of color—the very people who constitute most of our population.

Recently, California has begun to get serious about tackling our infrastructure problems by dedicating new funding to transportation, climate infrastructure, water, schools, and housing. However, in most instances, equity has not been sufficiently incorporated into these discussions or woven into policies and programs. To ensure that our infrastructure investments contribute to a future of shared prosperity we must make sure our investments are guided by principles that expand equity for our most disinvested people and places. Here are four recommendations that can set us in the right direction.

Recommendations:

  • Choose strategies that promote equity and growth simultaneously. Equity and growth have traditionally been pursued separately, but the reality is that both are needed to secure California’s future. The winning strategies are those that maximize job creation while promoting health, resilience, and economic opportunity for low-income workers and communities of color.
  • Target programs and investments to the people and places most left behind. Public resources must be spent wisely. Focusing the state’s programs and investments on climate smart infrastructure that upliftsthe low-income families and communities that have been left behind will produce the greatest returns.
  • Assess equity impacts at every stage of the policy process. As the policy process begins, and throughout, ask who will bene­fit, who will pay, and who will decide; and adjust decisions and policies as needed to ensure equitable impacts.
  • Ensure meaningful community participation, voice, and leadership. California’s new majority needs avenues for participating in all aspects of the political process—from the basic act of voting to serving on boards and commissions to being elected as state leaders. Recognizing historical and ongoing patterns of exclusion and being intentional about establishing transparent processes for low-income communities and communities of color to meaningfully shape infrastructure decisions will lead to better programs and projects.

A half-century ago, California set a precedent for investing in its future—and succeeding. Under the leadership of Republican Governor Earl Warren and Democratic Governor Pat Brown, the state built a world-class education system and infrastructure that enabled a poor, uneducated population to create the world’s ninth largest economy. Bold leadership is needed to build the next economy, and having an equitable and inclusive society results in shared prosperity.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

January brings us three months closer to Equity Summit 2018, where thousands will convene to set an equity agenda for the nation. The 15th of this month marks what would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday, and 2018 is also the 50th anniversary of his Poor People’s Campaign, which advocated economic justice for all people.

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose transformative leadership forever changed America’s consciousness around issues of civil and human rights, we reflect on his words and message, which continue to inspire movement-building and mobilized action

Dr. King’s condemnation of racism and economic inequality resonates strongly today, as the nation continues to grapple with discrimination, the degradation of human rights and civil liberties, institutional violence, and poverty.

His words continue to evoke a sense of social and political exigency that can be felt in today’s sociopolitical climate.
 
“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

We Are All Dreamers

Turning our backs on young Americans who arrived in this country with family or other adults seeking a better life is morally reprehensible. The Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program places over 800,000 young people at risk of deportation and separation from their loved ones and reneges on a promise made to those young people by our government.

Yesterday’s action underscores the Administration's pursuit of normalizing racist and xenophobic beliefs through an agenda rooted in the criminalization of people of color. Igniting polarization by race and ethnicity and scapegoating our immigrant brothers and sisters threatens the culture, economy, and security of our nation. Again, we must stand up for the latest target of this hate-filled Administration whose efforts to splinter the nation for the benefit of a cruel minority have no end. We are all DACA children.  

Ending DACA is morally wrong and economically foolish.  For years, PolicyLink has argued that Equity is a moral imperative and the Superior Growth Model.  The diversity of this country is critical to its economic growth and prosperity.  The actions against DACA will negatively impact the economy in ways underscored by recent studies revealing a loss of billions from the national GDP over the next decade and the loss of contributions from thousands of valuable workers and entrepreneurs.   

Young people covered by the DACA program must be protected and the nation’s promise honored.  Now more than ever, we need Congress to act quickly and confirm that Americans of every race and creed are valued, that our government keeps its promises and rejects hate and xenophobia, and that the U.S. is a place that welcomes all who come sharing a democratic vision and valuing freedom, justice, and equity for all.   

Here are a few things you can do to demonstrate your support:  

  1. Call your members of Congress and demand their support for the Dream Act. And, with DACA ending, it's time for Congress to pass a clean version of the bipartisan Dream Act. Use dreamacttoolkit.org to call and urge your member of Congress to stand up for Dreamers.  
  2. Attend a rally: You can locate rallies in your area using Resistance Near Me.   
  3. Show your support online: Raise your voice to support the #DreamAct by tweeting and posting your support for young immigrants. Make it clear that they are #HereToStay. Find sample tweets & hashtags below.

Sample Tweets:

  • Trump decision on #DACA is morally wrong & economically unwise. Congress must stand up 4 young immigrants & America. Protect immigrants now!
     
  • Will Congress pass the Dream Act, which creates a path to citizenship for Dreamers, without using their loved ones as bargaining chips? 1/2
  • Or will they stand idly by and let the president destroy the lives and livelihoods of immigrants? #HeretoStay 2/2
     
  • 800,000+ dreamers are in our workforce. Ending DACA not only disrupts their lives but also their employers, coworkers, patients & more.
     
  • Trump's decision against Dreamers is not the end for immigrants. Congress must do right by them: pass the Dream Act. #HeretoStay
     
  • @HouseGOP @SenateGOP have a choice: side w/ 800,000+ young immigrants and protect them... or uphold Trump's hate agenda? #HeretoStay
     
  • @realDonaldTrump has stripped legal status of young immigrants who make America strong. Congress must right this wrong: pass #DreamAct!
     

Expansion of CalEITC to Reach More than One Million Additional Low-Income Working Families

 

On June 27, Governor Jerry Brown signed a budget that significantly expands the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), a refundable state tax credit that increases the economic security of low-income working families. Effective for the 2017 tax year, low-income workers with self-employment income and working families with incomes up to about $22,300 will be able to benefit from the credit. Initial estimates from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy indicate that more than one million additional families could benefit under the expansion.

“The expansion of CalEITC represents a significant step toward creating a more equitable California, one in which all Californians, no matter race, gender, or socioeconomic status, can thrive and reach their full potential.” – Lewis Brown, Senior Associate, PolicyLink

Read Full Statement at Children's Defense Fund -- California 

RESIST Trump’s Disastrous Budget!

The preliminary budget released from the White House yesterday is a NIGHTMARE for the entire nation --- poor and low-income people, middle-income people, people of color, children, seniors, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, working people, those living in rural areas, those living in urban areas. EVERYONE.

The proposed budget bolsters attacks on immigrants, threatens the well-being of communities, and decimates the values that undergird this country, while prioritizing military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy. If the full budget proposal to be released in May has ANY resemblance to this draconian preliminary budget, it must be considered DEAD ON ARRIVAL.The people of this nation CANNOT allow Congress to pass anything close to what is proposed. Additionally, a mild step back from the proposed budget will not be tolerated. The budget ultimately passed MUST be fundamentally different from what is being proposed by this Administration and must uphold the longstanding values of the country, advance fairness and inclusion, expand opportunity, and protect the nation’s most vulnerable.

Believers in justice, fairness, and decency cannot be silent during these attempts to wipe away years of work toward a more inclusive and equitable society.  NOW is the time to unite and organize!! All people, faiths, associations, and organizations who care about people and the nation, must come together to resist this assault on the American people and the fundamentals of responsible governance. We encourage EVERYONE to get involved. Stay alert and watch what is happening with the Trump Administration and Congress, call your congressional members and hold them accountable for your concerns, join efforts in your community to advance important policies, and push back against harmful ones. Click here to find out what is happening in your community and GET INVOLVED today. And, to learn more details about the preliminary budget document released yesterday, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website has a number of resources.

This is a critical time in our nation’s history. We CANNOT allow the current Administration to destroy progress and inflict suffering on millions of people. Like you, PolicyLink will continue to resist and defend. Just earlier this week, we joined with our partners Public Advocates, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and Poverty & Race Research Action Council to launch CarsonWatch, a watchdog effort that will be fighting back against attempts to gut invaluable housing and community development programs and roll back the clock on civil rights protections, including important rules under the Fair Housing Act. We hope you’ll visit the website and join the effort by signing up for alerts.

In the days to come, PolicyLink will announce a framework for our broader resistance efforts that will provide additional ways to take action and be heard. Stay tuned. Be encouraged. We SHALL NOT be defeated.

PolicyLink Joins Public Advocates to Launch CarsonWatch


Will you help?

Today, PolicyLink is partnering with Public Advocates, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council to launch CarsonWatch to monitor activities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Too much is at stake to let HUD’s activities go unmonitored.

The agency is being led by Dr. Ben Carson, a fair housing skeptic with zero housing or federal agency experience, who was appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate to lead an agency whose impact will be felt among veterans, the elderly, and disabled as well as homeless families across the country. Already there are promises to cut $6 billion from the agency’s budget. Communities around the country are in jeopardy of losing flexible redevelopment funds that have received bipartisan support for decades.

Secretary Carson has the power to roll back the clock on civil rights protections – and has likened existing fair housing protections to “social engineering.” He could undermine programs that enable countless Americans to make their rent each month – and has called poverty a “choice.” The lives of many of the 100 million people in the United States currently living in poverty, which includes those living in rural and urban areas, will be further and unnecessarily disrupted by these cuts. Communities will face shortfalls for services they can’t cover. Families will be forced to struggle to further tighten insufficient budgets to make ends meet.

Secretary Carson also has the power to steer taxpayer support to Trump business interests, lining his boss’s pockets in the process. He even refused to rule out such unethical actions during his Senate confirmation hearing. We are deeply concerned about this appointment and worry that Americans may be at risk of losing their homes and watching their civil liberties dismantled before their eyes.

That’s why we’re proud to join Public Advocates, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in the launch of CarsonWatch. We hope you will, too.

Sign up today to keep watch at CarsonWatch.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thank you for your support.

New Executive Order, Same Illegal Discrimination

Yesterday the Trump Administration released a new executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”  This order revises the infamous “Muslim Ban” executive order from late January, which was blocked by the courts.  We are confident that the courts will similarly block enforcement of the revised executive order.  

The new executive order makes some changes aimed at withstanding court scrutiny, but the basics of the order remain in place – including its illegal discrimination against immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, without any factual basis in national security needs. (The Administration has stated that the new executive order will advance “the same basic policy outcome” as the prior order.) The Administration’s changes constitute tinkering around the edges, while leaving in place the order’s central, discriminatory purpose and effect.

Following is more detail regarding the new executive order, including a short explanation of legal claims against the order that are likely to be addressed by courts.  We have also included a list of some of the national advocacy organizations advancing legal and non-legal strategies to protect immigrants and refugees from the devastating effects of the Trump Administration’s hasty and baseless actions.

PolicyLink stands with advocates for immigrant communities and families around the world in opposing the discriminatory and needless revision of our nation’s longstanding immigration and refugee programs. To better serve the Equity Network in these challenging times, PolicyLink has added a seasoned public interest attorney, Julian Gross, to our staff. The information below was prepared by Julian, PolicyLink James O. Gibson Innovation Fellow, based in the PolicyLink Oakland office.

Changes in the New Executive Order

The new executive order is drafted more carefully than the prior order, and contains some changes clearly aimed at helping the order withstand court challenge. The new order is somewhat more limited in scope than the prior order: it applies only to individuals who are outside the United States as of March 16, and who do not have or have not recently had a valid visa. In addition, there are explicit exceptions to the new travel ban for many classes of people, including lawful permanent residents, others permissibly in the country, certain dual nationals and diplomats, persons who have already been granted asylum or refugee status, and others. Finally, there is a new “waiver” section, allowing discretionary case-by-case waivers for several other categories of people, including those needing immediate medical care, those who have provided assistance to the U.S. Government, and those working for international organizations, etc.

This narrower version eliminates some situations in which the prior order was obviously overbroad and plainly unrelated to valid security concerns. However, the core provisions of the prior order are still in place, and the majority of the legal claims that were raised in multiple lawsuits challenging the prior order are just as strong with regard to the new executive order. These claims are described below.

Crucially, the legal claim that was the main basis of the nationwide injunction against the prior executive order is not affected by the changes made by the Administration. (The Ninth Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction against the prior order based primarily on a holding that the order violated individuals’ procedural due process rights.) This and other claims are sure to be raised against the new executive order, either in existing cases or in new litigation, on behalf of states and affected individuals. 

Legal Claims Against the New Executive Order

The following legal claims were raised against the January 27 executive order. These and others will likely be raised against the new executive order as well.

  • Equal Protection. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires “strict scrutiny” of government classifications based on national origin or religion. Strict scrutiny is the highest constitutional standard, making it very difficult for the government to justify its actions and have them upheld by courts.
    • Claim: The executive order explicitly discriminates against individuals based on national origin, without adequate justification.
    • Claim: Based on the choice of countries the executive order targets, the executive order discriminates against individuals based on religion, without adequate justification. Note that the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however, including the choice of countries affected.
       
  • Establishment Clause. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state-endorsed religion, or limiting the free exercise of religion. Government actions that discriminate between religions can be challenged under the establishment clause.
    • Claim: By singling out majority-Muslim nations without legitimate basis, the executive order discriminates between religions, in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
    • As noted above, the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however.
       
  • Procedural Due Process (Fifth Amendment). The Constitution’s due process clause requires a fair process before the government denies important personal rights and interests, often including adequate notice, court hearings, right to counsel, avoidance of arbitrary action, and so forth.
    • Claim: The executive order affects individuals’ protected rights without providing them adequate opportunity to defend themselves.
    • This claim is crucial, in that it focuses on the reality of how the order will be implemented, including the degree of access to courts and judicial oversight.
       
  • Immigration and Nationality Act. This law, passed by Congress in 1965, sets rules that the executive branch has to follow in dealing with immigration issues.
    • Claim: The executive order violates the INA, which prohibits the executive branch from discriminating between countries in issuance of visas, and which establishes rights to asylum for certain individuals.
       
  • Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This federal statute requires courts to apply strict scrutiny in reviewing actions that inhibit individuals’ free exercise of religion.
    • Claim: The executive order violates the RFRA’s prohibition of government substantially burdening exercise of religion.
    • This claim is based on the executive order’s exclusive focus on majority-Muslim countries, and other aspects of its design and implementation.
    • As noted above, the Administration attempted to partially address this claim in the revised executive order by removing the original order’s “religious minority” exemption, which was seemingly aimed at benefitting Christians, given the countries at issue. This claim still applies to other aspects of the new executive order, however.

In addition to the above claims against the executive order, there are crucial legal issues that courts will have to address based on the Administration’s defense of the executive order. These include:

  • how much judicial review is permissible with regard to the executive’s actions assertedly related to national security and the country’s borders;
  • the ability of states to bring claims on their own behalf or on behalf of others; and
  • which of the above legal claims may be raised by non-citizens


Details Regarding Content of the Executive Order

The executive order suspends entry into the United States of non-citizens from Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. (Executive Order Section 2(c).) The suspension initially runs for 90 days from March 16, 2017.

  • The order includes new provisions indicating that the travel ban applies only to individuals from the listed countries who meet all of the following criteria:
       (i) are outside the United States on March 16, 2017;
       (ii) did not have a valid visa at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time on January 27, 2017; and
       (iii) do not have a valid visa on March 16, 2017.
       (Section 3(a).)
     
  • In addition, the order includes new provisions indicating that the travel ban does not apply to individuals from the listed countries who meet any of the following criteria:
       (i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
       (ii) any foreign national who is admitted to or paroled into the United States on or after March 16;
       (iii) any foreign national who has a document other than a visa, valid on the effective date of this order or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission, such as an advance parole document;
       (iv) any dual national of a listed country when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-listed country;
       (v) any foreign national traveling on a diplomatic or diplomatic-type visa, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visa, C-2 visa for travel to the United Nations, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa; or
       (vi) any foreign national who has been granted asylum; any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States; or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
    (Section 3(b).)
     
  • The executive order includes a new waiver provision, allowing discretionary waiver, on a case-by-case basis, of the travel ban for individuals in any of several categories, including:
       (i) previously admitted for specific activities;
       (ii) previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the effective date of this order for work, study, or other lawful activity;
       (iii) seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations;
       (iv) seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship;
       (v) an infant, a young child or adoptee, an individual needing urgent medical care, or someone whose entry is otherwise justified by the special circumstances of the case;
       (vi) employed by, or on behalf of, the United States Government (or is an eligible dependent of such an employee) and the employee can document that he or she has provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government;
       (vii) traveling for purposes related to an international organization or to conduct business with the U.S. Government;
       (viii) landed Canadian immigrant who applies for a visa at a location within Canada;
       (ix) traveling as a United States Government-sponsored exchange visitor.
       (Section 3(c).)
     
  • The executive order indicates that Iraqi nationals “should be subjected to thorough review,” but does not impose a presumptive ban, the way the order does with regard to the six listed countries. (Section 4.) This is a change from the prior executive order.
     
  • The executive order formally revokes the prior executive order, no. 13,769. (Section 13.)
     
  • The executive order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to request from other countries information it deems relevant to security evaluations of applicants for entry, and contemplates blocking entry of individuals from countries that do not comply with such information requests. (Sections 2.(a), (b), (d)-(f).)
     
  • The executive order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to develop a uniform, enhanced screening program “to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission.” (Section 5.)
     
  • The executive order suspends admissions under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. The order requires review of security procedures for screening individuals in the program, and indicates that the program may only be resumed “for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.” (Section 6(a).) The new order removes the prior order’s legally questionable provision that future refugee admissions be prioritized for individuals facing religion-based persecution, but only where the person’s religion is a minority religion in the country in question.
     
  • The executive order caps the total number of refugees that can be admitted at 50,000. (Section 6(b).) The prior order’s permanent suspension of admission for refugees from Syria has been removed.
     
  • The executive order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program. (Section 9.)
     
  • The executive order contains other provisions relating to federal government reporting and reconsideration of certain programs and positions. (Sections 7 and 8.)
     
  • The executive order requires the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Attorney General to track and report a range of crimes and actions taken by foreign nationals. (Section 11.)

 

Advocacy Resources

Following are some of the many organizations working to protect our immigrant communities.

  

Oakland Attorney Angela Glover Blackwell Wages Fight for Equity

Cross-posted from The San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly 40 years ago, when San Francisco’s struggling Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood was losing yet another business to hard times — in this case, a grocery store — one attorney had seen enough.

Angela Glover Blackwell, an early believer in the need for fresh foods in the inner city, petitioned the governor’s office to intervene and make sure the community maintained a full-service grocery. The alternative was letting residents shop at liquor stores and gas stations.

The petition didn’t go as planned — a new store didn’t open. But the case marked the dawning of Blackwell’s long and distinguished career in social justice, which most recently had her working with the Obama administration to bring grocery stores to underserved cities nationwide.

“I think the last 10 years have been my best,” said Blackwell, now 71, as she sat in her window office on a recent weekday at PolicyLink, the Oakland research and advocacy group she founded 18 years ago. “We need to keep working to make sure we’re creating opportunities.”

From her desk, which sits beneath pictures and posters that sound rallying cries such as “Equity” and “Protect Oakland renters,” Blackwell oversees a staff of 70 public policy experts and attorneys in California, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her organization partners with communities all over the country to help disadvantaged people, often minorities.

The effort, which not only involves healthy food but issues ranging from housing to transportation to education, earned Blackwell a nomination for the 2017 Visionary of the Year award sponsored by The Chronicle and the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary’s College.

“With shifting demographics, the big story is that the majority is becoming people of color,” she said. “The fate of our nation will depend on what happens to people of color.”

Among her organization’s recent work is helping implement the federal government’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. The program assists with planning in depressed neighborhoods; for example, making sure residents have basics like public transit and Internet.

PolicyLink is also helping with business development in poorer parts of Detroit, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It’s also aiding in the creation of community art projects from Alaska to Mississippi.

“We cross all the issue areas and all the work domains,” said Blackwell, as she clutched a copy of “The Equity Manifesto,” PolicyLink’s call to action that takes its employees to wherever they might find inequality.

While Blackwell frequently travels in the pursuit of social justice, as well for speaking engagements and fundraising, sometimes the need is right in her backyard.

PolicyLink recently helped create Oakland’s affordable housing strategy, a work in progress designed to protect 17,000 city households from being pushed out of town by rising real estate prices and to create 17,000 new homes over eight years.

“They’ve been a critical partner to me as mayor,” said Oakland’s Libby Schaaf, noting that Blackwell was a source of inspiration for her long before the two got to know each other and exchange cell phone numbers.

“As a young college student, I saw her speak at a League of Women Voters event, and it’s really the first time I felt inspired to get involved with local politics,” Schaaf said. “I remember almost feeling drawn, like you’d be drawn to a minister.”

Blackwell lives near Oakland’s Lake Merritt in a house she’s been in for four decades. She is married with two grown children, and three grandchildren, all of whom live locally. Trying to make time for work and family — her husband is an orthopedic surgeon — is tough, she said, but she manages, eating out a lot and waking up early to go to the gym.

Blackwell grew up in St. Louis, where her neighborhood was anything but the neglected communities she advocates for today. It was an economically diverse area with good schools, parks and a healthy mix of businesses, she said, though as she got older she saw it slide.

“Rather than walking to a grocery store, or driving, we were driving farther and farther into the suburbs,” she said.

Blackwell got her bachelor’s degree at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University before going to law school at UC Berkeley.

Before PolicyLink, she worked as a senior vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, overseeing the organization’s cultural activities. Before that, her career had a number of chapters, including 11 years practicing law at the nonprofit firm Public Advocates in San Francisco.

It was during her time there, in 1979, that she fought unsuccessfully for a grocery store in the Bayview, though her effort prompted Gov. Jerry Brown, during his first time around in the office, to form a commission to explore the problem of “food deserts.” The state Department of Agriculture followed up with money to support farmers’ markets in communities that lacked fresh food.

As chief executive officer at PolicyLink, Blackwell’s push for fresh foods continued when she helped the Obama administration launch the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which today provides funding for groceries and markets in low-income areas.

While she worries that government assistance programs may take a hit under President Trump, she tries to remain optimistic.

“It’s too early to say there’s going to be no opportunities,” she said.

This winter, Blackwell authored an essay called the “The Curb-Cut Effect” in a Stanford University journal about how assisting one group, say the disabled, benefits everyone. She hopes Trump’s moves to help red state voters who supported him out of economic concerns will also help those suffering in poor, urban areas.

“The good news,” she said, “is that the economic inclusive agenda that will reach people who are white, rural and working class is the same economic inclusive agenda that will reach people of color.”

Visionary of the Year award

This is one of six profiles of nominees for The Chronicle’s third annual Visionary of the Year award, which is presented in collaboration with St. Mary’s College’s School of Economics and Business Administration. The honor salutes leaders who strive to make the world a better place and drive social and economic change by employing new, innovative business models and practices. The six finalists were nominated by a distinguished committee that included Chase Adam, co-founder of the nonprofit Watsi and winner of the 2016 award; Greg Becker, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank; Emmett Carson, founding CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Ron Conway, angel investor and philanthropist; Zhan Li, dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary's College; Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland; Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a documentary filmmaker; and Michael Walker, executive vice president and regional executive of City National Bank.

Chronicle Publisher Jeff Johnson, Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper and Editorial Page Editor John Diaz will select the winner, which will be announced during a March 30 event.

To read more: www.sfchronicle.com/visionsf

PolicyLink Joins Civil and Human Rights Organizations to Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNITED STATES SENATE
Civil and Human Rights Organizations Oppose Confirmation of Jeff Sessions

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 144 undersigned organizations, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Senator Jefferson B. Sessions (R-AL) to be the 84th Attorney General of the United States.

Senator Sessions has a 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law, and hostility to the protection of civil rights that makes him unfit to serve as the Attorney General of the United States.  In our democracy, the Attorney General is charged with enforcing our nation’s laws without prejudice and with an eye toward justice.  And, just as important, the Attorney General has to be seen by the public – every member of the public, from every community – as a fair arbiter of justice.  Unfortunately, there is little in Senator Sessions’ record that demonstrates that he would meet such a standard. 

Read entire letter at LCCHR.

25 Disruptive Leaders Who Are Working to Close the Racial Opportunity Gaps

 
Living Cities unveils 25 Disruptive Leaders list, recognizing remarkable individuals who are shaking up the status quo and creating new approaches to address our nation’s most stubborn challenges.
 
 
In celebration of Living Cities 25th Anniversary, Living Cities recognize 25 Disruptive Leaders who are working to improve economic outcomes for low-income people in America’s cities. The list recognizes activists, government employees, artists, community members, entrepreneurs, elected officials and philanthropists from across the country who are committed to addressing racial disparities; empowering and mobilizing others to do the same. In these challenging times, we are more convinced than ever that this type of bold leadership not only is required, but must be celebrated. We believe that their work and leadership embody what’s possible when we lead and work together differently towards a more equitable America.
 
What is a Disruptive Leader?
 
Disruptive Leaders act with urgency and unrestrained imagination. They take risks, put their own personal capital on the line to challenge the status quo, work to take down the barriers that cause racial disparities and embrace the responsibility to question, collaborate and lead for lasting and meaningful change.
 
America’s Top 25 Disruptive Leaders
 
The changes we need to see in cities won’t happen by luck or chance, but by a different type of leadership. These 25 leaders represent a diversity of sectors, roles and experiences. What they share, however, is a deep-seated impatience with the status quo, a willingness to act and to bring others along with them.
 
Join Living Cities to celebrate and congratulate the diverse leaders who make up the #Disruptive25
 
The List: 25 Disruptive Leaders
 
Mayor Steve Adler
Mayor Adler was elected Austin’s 52nd Mayor in December 2014. He is leading Austin towards a new level of inclusive civic engagement between residents and their elected officials. Mayor Adler practiced civil rights law for many years and served nearly ten years as Chief of Staff and General Counsel for Texas State Senator Eliot Shapleigh, working primarily on school finance, equity and access issues. He has been deeply involved with, and has chaired, many Austin civic and non-profit institutions over the past 20 years.
 
Nancy O. Andrews
Nancy O. Andrews is the president and CEO of the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF). Since 1984, LIIF has served 1.7 million Americans, investing $1.5 billion to create, enhance and preserve affordable housing, child care centers, schools, healthy food retail, health clinics, green facilities and transit-oriented development in distressed neighborhoods nationwide. LIIF is trailblazing new ways to tie together housing and health and to measure the social value of investments through their Social Impact Calculator.
 
Tawanna Black
Tawanna Black, Executive Director for the Northside Funders Group, is a nationally recognized thought leader, well known for influencing, inspiring and equipping cross-sector leaders to transform personal convictions into actions that produce equitable and thriving communities. The Northside Funders Group is a place-based, collective impact organization of 20 corporate, community and private foundations and public sector investors committed to aligning investments and strategies to advance equity, build social capital and extend the prosperity of the Twin Cities to one of its most impoverished neighborhoods.
 
Angela Glover Blackwell
Angela Glover Blackwell is the President, CEO and Founder of PolicyLink, the leading voice for “equity as a superior growth model” and the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color in the areas of health, housing, transportation, education and infrastructure. Prior to founding PolicyLink, she was a Senior Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation and, as a lawyer, founded the Oakland (CA) Urban Strategies Council. In 2010, Ms. Glover Blackwell co-authored “Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future.”
 
Raj Chetty
Raj Chetty is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University, and recipient of both a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal, given by the American Economic Association to the best American economist under age 40. Chetty’s research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His current research focuses on equality of opportunity, seeking to address the question of how to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances of succeeding.
 
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist, blogger and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His most recent book, “Between the World and Me,” was released in July 2015. It won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. He was the recipient of a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2015.
 
Jason DeParle:
Jason DeParle is a reporter for The New York Times, based in Washington. For more than 20 years, he has written extensively about issues involving poverty. A two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a recipient of the George Polk Award, his first book, “American Dream: Three Women, Ten Children, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare,” won the Helen Bernstein Award from the New York City Public Library.
 
Martin Eakes
Martin Eakes is the co-founder and CEO of Self-Help and the Center for Responsible Lending. Self-Help has proven that access to responsible savings, loans and transactions is critical for promoting financial security, family health and improved opportunity for low-income families. Since 1998, Self-Help’s Community Advantage Program has helped more than 50,000 lower-income families, especially those of color, to become homeowners in 48 states. In 2008, Self-Help Federal Credit Union was formed to build a network of credit union branches to operate on an uncommon scale. It now has 22 branches, $600 million in assets, and serves over 80,000 people in three states.
 

Free Our Dreams: California's Youth Gather for Advocacy Day

 

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

 

Power Your Advocacy with New Equity Data

Clean air and high-quality schools are fundamental elements of “communities of opportunity” that allow residents to thrive. Last week, the National Equity Atlas, produced jointly by PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), added three new opportunity indicators to equip local leaders with relevant data to build equitable cities and regions:

 

The National Equity Atlas team was proud to participate in the “The Opportunity Project,” an Open Opportunity Data event held yesterday at the White House where the new Atlas indicators were showcased. The White House effort focuses on facilitating the development of a suite of digital tools that puts neighborhood-level information on access to opportunity at the fingertips of families, community organizers, non-profits, local leaders, and the media.
 
Writing in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, on March 7, PolicyLink President and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell noted the importance of disaggregating data by race and ethnicity is critical to understanding trends and developing solutions: “Recognizing this ‘people’ dimension of poor neighborhoods — and the complex interplay of race and place — is essential for catalyzing equitable and sustainable economic prosperity for all.”
 
School Poverty Data Highlighted in The Atlantic
The Atlantic is already demonstrating the analytical power of this new data. Abigail Langston and Sarah Treuhaft from PolicyLink are quoted in “The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools,” by Janie Boschma and Ronald Brownstein, who note that in about half of the nation’s largest 100 cities, most Black and Latino students go to schools where at least 75 percent of all students qualify as poor or low-income:
 
“Kids who spend more than half of their childhood in poverty have a high-school graduation rate of 68 percent,” said Abigail Langston, a senior associate at PolicyLink, and a public fellow at the American Council of Learned Societies. “You see how these things compound over time. There is a link between housing policy, economic and racial segregation, you see what those do to schools and to people who grow up in those neighborhoods.”
 
In the article, promising school integration models from Dallas and New York City are lifted up as tools to address these gaps. The Atlantic also uses the National Equity Atlas’s school poverty indicator in the stories “Separate and Still Unequal” and “Where Children Rarely Escape Poverty.”
 
Join upcoming Equitable Development and Environmental Justice Webinar
On Friday, March 11 the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice will conduct the free webinar “New Data Tools for Supporting Analysis of Equitable Development and Environmental Justice.” Sarah Treuhaft, who is PolicyLink director of equitable growth initiatives will present the new air pollution indicators in the National Equity Atlas. The webinar will also feature a demo of the new environmental justice screening and mapping tool. Register here

Summit Snapshot: The Moment

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?

AB 2060 Workforce Bill Signed Into Law

California has one of the largest and most expensive prison systems in the nation and is currently under a federal court order to reduce its prison population. System and community leaders across the state have recognized the urgent need to lower the numbers of current prisoners and the rate of recidivism, in order to decrease state prison costs and increase public safety. 

Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown helped California take a major step toward achieving these goals by signing AB 2060 (Supervised Population Workforce Training Grant Program) into law. Authored by Assemblymember Victor Manuel Pérez and co-sponsored by PolicyLink, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, and the California Workforce Association, AB 2060 will establish a new competitive workforce training grant program for women and men re-entering our communities and families after being released from prison, to ensure that they have access to training and education, job readiness skills, and job placement assistance. The bill was also identified as a priority by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

Law enforcement officials and judges agree that opportunity-enhancing strategies are less expensive than incarceration and more effective at reducing recidivism and improving community safety and stability. Investing in workforce development opportunities for reentry populations is a critical step toward expanding access to well-paying jobs and careers, which in turn will improve offender outcomes and reduce recidivism rates, resulting in economic savings and improved public safety.

The program established by AB 2060 is designed to serve the distinct education and training needs of individuals who require basic education and training in order to obtain entry level jobs with opportunities for career advancement, and also individuals with some postsecondary education who can benefit from services that result in certifications and placement on a middle-skill career ladder.

Administered by the California Workforce Investment Board, the new grant program will build on the most promising workforce development strategies and incentivize counties to foster collaboration and coordination with Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIBs), the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, community-based organizations that serve re-entry populations, labor, and industry. Regional coordination also advances realignment goals, which shift some of the responsibility for housing prisoners from the state to the local level.

An allocation of $1 million from the Governor’s Recidivism Reduction Fund was secured to launch this effort through the budget process earlier this year. AB 2060 will leverage the State’s investment by rewarding counties that commit matching funds. This translates into additional dollars for the program and will help to sustain the strategy over time, ensuring that more women and men can be served.

We must work at the regional and state levels to ensure that every Californian has a fair chance to contribute and thrive. By investing in workforce training and job placement for the women and men re-entering our families and communities, we can improve neighborhood safety and stability and secure a more prosperous future.