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.

There’s No Need for A Citizenship Question in the Next Census

The announcement last week by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross that the 2020 Census will agree to the Justice Department’s request and add a question about citizenship is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to track them all.  The Constitutionally-mandated responsibility of the decennial census is to count all residents, regardless of citizenship, and actions that would interfere with doing that as thoroughly as possible undercut that grave responsibility. 

A question about citizenship would discourage participation in the Census and lead to systematic undercounting of residents and an incomplete, biased picture of who lives in the United States. The consequences of such an undercount would be dire, skewing political representation and the allocation of federal funds. The undercount would affect immigrant communities of color in particular. For example, as the First Focus Campaign for Children put it, “For Hispanic children, the problem of being undercounted is exacerbated by a recent decision from the Department of Commerce to add a question on citizenship in the 2020 census. Coupling this announcement with aggressive and cruel immigration enforcement tactics currently being undertaken by the Trump administration, the expectation becomes a dramatically reduced participation rate from immigrant and mixed status families who fear the negative repercussions of revealing their immigration status.”

Advocates for an accurate, complete, and fair Census are used to raising their voices to push for more resources to be devoted to outreach, not to warding off bad, inflammatory proposals. But in reacting swiftly to this misguided and cynical step, they have the facts, the Constitution, and the nonpartisan importance of unbiased data on their side. There is no need for a citizenship question in the decadal Census to enforce the Voting Rights Act, as the Justice Department has claimed. There is great risk in adding an untested question at this late stage, jeopardizing years of preparation. We support the lawsuits being filed by several states and other parties and the movement to push Congress to reverse this plan. 

For further information about these efforts, see the following sources:

 

NY Federal Reserve's Search for President Deeply Flawed. Luckily, There's Still Time to Listen to Public and Restart the Process.

If recent reports regarding the selection of the next New York Federal Reserve president are true, the New York Fed Board's failure to listen to the public is deeply disappointing. Community groups, labor unions, and elected officials at the local, state, and federal level were clear about what they wanted: an open and transparent process with significant public involvement that results in someone who prioritizes full employment, is an effective regulator of large financial institutions, and represents the diversity of the district. 

These requests have apparently been ignored, and the consequences could be devastating for the over 100 million Americans who are economically insecure and striving to access quality jobs and rising wages.

The president of the New York Fed has tremendous influence on economic policy in part because that leader gets a permanent seat on the committee that votes on interest rates. John Williams, the presumptive new president, has underestimated maximum employment for years. In March 2015, Williams said we were close to full employment when the overall unemployment rate was 5.5 percent and Black unemployment was 10.4 percent. As Matthew Yglesias points out, if Williams had been at the helm of the New York Fed over the last couple of years and successfully raised interest rates in the way that he called for, millions of people would have remained either locked out of the labor market or stuck with flat paychecks.

The perspectives of low-income and working-class people matter because they have a pulse on the real employment situation in America and how to maximize our human potential. They know that while the headline unemployment number may be low at just above 4 percent, that number hides the reality of persistent joblessness and racial inequity in the labor market. They know that we can do better than 6.9 percent unemployment in the Black community. They weighed in on the New York Fed process because they are the ones whose livelihoods are on the line when officials choose to err on the side of higher unemployment. 

The New York Federal Reserve Board still has time to listen to the public and restart the process. If the New York Fed chooses to appoint Williams, I believe a vetting of the process and the candidate in federal hearings is appropriate, so the public can ask vital questions and get answers from one of the most powerful economic policy makers in America and someone who will have enormous influence over all of our economic lives. 

Announcing the All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network


At PolicyLink, we know that fighting displacement is not only a moral imperative; it is essential for the future prosperity of our cities and our nation. Living in safe, stable, affordable homes, in healthy neighborhoods connected to opportunities, is necessary for achieving equity.

Which is why we are proud to announce the first 10 cities selected for the inaugural cohort of the All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Policy Network. Leaders from these cities -- including local elected officials, city staff, and community leaders – will work together over the next year on strategies to fight displacement and build inclusive, prosperous cities.

The cities are: Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Buffalo, NY; Denver, CO; Nashville, TN; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; San José, CA; Santa Fe, NM; and the twin cities of Minnesota (Minneapolis and Saint Paul).

This network will provide an opportunity to not only advance work in these places, but to capture and share out innovative practices to communities across the country. Read more about the network at All-In Cities.

This network is generously supported by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and The Kresge Foundation.  
 

Temporary test node

 

The Wait for an Infrastructure Proposal Is Over…and the News Isn’t Good!

The waiting is over and the result is painful. For a little over a year, the current administration has alluded to plans to address the nation’s infrastructure crisis. The allusions have become real and reveals contempt for people of color, poor and working-class communities, and the middle class.

The creation and maintenance of a strong infrastructure requires a partnership between the federal government and localities across the country. It is underscored by a mutual commitment to fixing infrastructure, addressing health and environmental threats, and delivering quality jobs for the millions of Americans longing for them.

Instead, this administration is shirking its responsibilities by reversing the 50-year commitment of investing $4 in federal contribution for every $1 invested by states and localities. The result is an infrastructure proposal that increases inequality and will leave behind even more people and communities in need. The proposal will cut highway and public transportation funding, drain wealth from working people through increased taxes and user fees, and gut vital protections for clean air and water. As a final insult, this proposal bestows a huge handout to Wall Street banks by privatizing roads, transit, water systems, and other public assets.

What we need is access to safe drinking water, affordable transportation, high-speed internet connections, and modern energy systems. Congress must reject the Administration’s Infrastructure Scam. Instead, equitable legislation must be enacted to ensure that the federal government makes a meaningful investment into infrastructure. That is the only way to expand economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for everyone. The nation’s infrastructure needs are serious and failing to address them imperils the health, opportunity, and prosperity of our country today and in the future.

HFFI Bill Would Expand Healthy Food Access, Revitalize Communities

Across the country, nearly 40 million Americans live in rural and urban neighborhoods where easy access to affordable, high-quality, and healthy food is out of reach. A new bill, introduced by Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Dwight Evans (D-PA), addresses this critical issue by bolstering an existing program that has demonstrated success in improving access to healthy foods and spurring economic revitalization in underserved communities. The “Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Act” would reauthorize the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) program at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Rural Development, originally established at the agency in the Agricultural Act of 2014.

In 2009, PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and Reinvestment Fund joined forces on a national campaign that, together with diverse partners and stakeholders, led to the launch of the HFFI program at the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services in 2011. Building on the success, HFFI’s inclusion in the 2014 Farm Bill came with strong bipartisan support, officially establishing HFFI at USDA and authorizing up to $125 million for the program. In January 2017, USDA announced the selection of Reinvestment Fund to serve as HFFI’s National Fund Manager.

To date, HFFI has invested $220 million in grants and loans to more than 35 states to improve access to healthy food, create and preserve jobs, and revitalize communities. The program’s public-private partnership model has enabled grantees to leverage over $1 billion in additional resources to expand healthy food businesses such as grocery stores, food hubs, co-ops and other enterprises that increase the supply of and the demand for healthy foods in low-income, underserved rural and urban communities. 

HFFI reauthorization and expansion would build on these past successes, as well as broaden and deepen the program’s impact, by targeting areas of the country that still struggle with healthy food access. Rural communities, small towns, and urban areas would benefit from the program’s investments expanding healthy food-related small businesses, strengthening farm to retailer and consumer infrastructure, and supporting local and regional food system development.  

We applaud the ongoing leadership and commitment of Representatives Fudge and Evans, each of whom have served as long-standing champions of HFFI and improving healthy food access.  Representative Fudge played a key leadership role in ensuring funding was authorized for HFFI in the 2014 Farm Bill legislation, and Representative Evans served an instrumental role to launch the highly successful Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which served as the original model for the federal HFFI program. 

Innovative programs like HFFI represent critical steps forward to ensure that all communities not only have access to healthy, affordable food, but also benefit from quality jobs, business development opportunities, and other resources needed to create healthy, thriving communities of opportunity.  

Trump’s State of the Union Address Reveals Tremendous Misalignment Between Talk and Action

Last night, during the annual State of the Union address, Trump began his speech with strong statements regarding the desire to be one united country — words that contradict his actions. In the last year we have seen DACA revoked, startling race baiting comments after Charlottesville, the slashing of major funding streams that provide a safety net for millions of Americans, the suspension of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule which promotes fair housing choice and increased opportunity for all residents, the repeal of the Clean Water Rule, and the elimination of various committees and processes that advance greater equity and protect the well-being of our citizens. These actions DO NOT align with a desire for a unified country.

The theme of misalignment between the rhetoric and the practice and/or impact continued throughout the rest of his address. For example, in addition to unity, Trump also spoke at length regarding the economy and touted the recently passed tax bill as providing relief for "hard-working" Americans; when in actuality, the true impact of the tax bill is harmful to many Americans and has already stunted the development of desperately needed affordable housing and community development as outlined in a recent New York Times article.

Lastly, Trump touted his plans for a much-anticipated infrastructure investment, calling for an investment that will "give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve;" but the proposal shared thus far reveals that Trump's plan inherently promotes economic and regional inequality by:

  • Ignoring people and communities which are most in need of this investment;
  • Providing another windfall for the Administration's wealthy comrades by encouraging the privatization of public systems;
  • Favoring funding mechanisms which are not feasible for the infrastructure investments needed in low-income communities and communities of color; and
  • Providing for minimal federal investment and shifting the cost burden to working families with increases in local and state taxes.

Despite this Administration's divisive and inequitable agenda, we know that millions of Americans are indeed advocating for a more unified State of the Union. We know that the most important thing one can do to strengthen our democracy is to remain engaged, seek understanding and common ground with people with different points of view, and vote for candidates who truly believe in a just and fair society. At PolicyLink, we remain inspired by the courageous actions of so many who work to advance equitable policies and practices, so that all can participate and prosper and reach their full potential.

It takes cash to get lead out of schools

When will California make it a priority to protect our children from the toxic lead contamination in many schools’ water? From the looks of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, this threat to students’ health and academic potential remains dangerously underfunded. Read full article on The Sacramento Bee.

Partnering with Grocery Stores to Uplift Philadelphia Communities

By Lauren Vague Stager, Uplift Workforce Solutions

"We ARE here as a group!" is one of the phrases that stuck out as I sat in the classroom of the Uplift Workforce Solutions training center. In early January 2018, the fifth cohort of the program began.  There are 29 people in the group, all with one thing in common: they are all formerly incarcerated. 

Mass incarceration is a pervasive issue, and its devastating effects cannot be overstated.  Getting locked up is just the beginning of the nightmare of incarceration. But what happens when someone is released?  The litany of consequences do not end when someone gets out of jail or prison. It is difficult to get identification, most don't have money or a job, and many people don't even have a place to stay. The Department of Justice estimates that over 10,000 people are released from state and federal lockups each week. In Pennsylvania, over 18,000 are released from prison each year. Here at Uplift Workforce Solutions, we know that in many ways, a re-entering citizen's situation will not change until they have their own source of sustainable and legally secured income. Uplift partners with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church and Brown's Super Stores so that we can provide guaranteed employment to re-entering citizens in Philadelphia. We are generously supported by the Nerney Family Foundation and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.  The promise of a job, not just a training program that will help you get a job, is a game changing step.

The program is six weeks, and the subject matter is combined life skills and grocery-specific training, so that both hard and soft skills are assessed and developed over the course of the program.   We have built a simulated supermarket complete with functioning cash registers in our classroom at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, and upon successful completion of the program the participants are placed in a position at either a ShopRite or Fresh Grocer supermarket.

I saw three of the four cohorts complete and graduate from the program last year, the room filling with joy as the participants finish the program knowing that they are all starting a job within the next week. Throughout the program, it has become clear how much the participants and I have in common. Many of the experiences shared by the classes are universal. The cohort spoke about trying to make sure they were a positive part of their children's lives, recognizing when they had done wrong, trying to prove themselves, learning to be comfortable in their own skin, and planning for retirement.  We all have the same hopes and dreams, but trying to achieve our hopes and dreams can sometimes lead us down the wrong path. At Uplift Workforce Solutions, we are reminding our participants of their hopes and dreams, and providing them a job on the way to achieving them.

Uplift is a national non profit organization that focuses on creating access to food, access to healthcare, access to capital and access to jobs in underserved communities. To learn more you can go to http://upliftsolutions.org/ or contact the author, Lauren Vague, at lauren.vague@upliftsolutions.org.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Healthy Food Access Portal.

Trump Administration Undermines Workers' Safety Net

Earlier this week the Trump Administration announced a major shift in policy related to one of the nation’s key safety net components, the Medicaid program.  On Thursday, the Administration issued guidance to states which will allow them to compel people to work or train for work in order to be eligible for Medicaid’s health benefits. In the 50-year history of the program, there has been no such requirement as the country has recognized its responsibility to ensure that ALL of its citizens are able to live HEALTHY and productive lives. 

The Administration defends its actions by alleging that work requirements will enable individuals covered by Medicaid to “break the chains of poverty” and “live up to their highest potential.” However, several studies confirm that work requirements do not help people escape poverty, but rather often lead to individuals and families being worse off and risking their health or family’s well-being by having to decide between working or going without health insurance and needed medical care.

At PolicyLink, all of our work is grounded in the conviction that equity – just and fair inclusion – must drive policy decisions.  We believe that an equitable economy is one in which everyone can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. A just society requires that everyone have the opportunity to thrive and do well.  A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, estimates that 60 percent of the Medicaid recipients whom the federal government considers to be able-bodied adults are already working. These individuals are often working in low-wage jobs and rely upon Medicaid for their well-being and economic security.  With this extreme policy shift, the Trump Administration is ensuring that those at the lowest end of the economic spectrum will be left behind, and handicapped in their pursuit of a better life.  Instead of working to ensure that every American has access to health care and is able to pursue greater opportunities, this Administration continues to advance an agenda which is an all out assault on those members of our society who are most in need.  

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.

Five Reasons Not to Miss Equity Summit 2018

Join us at Equity Summit 2018, taking place in Chicago on April 11-13! 

True to our vision of a more just and inclusive future for America, the Summit speakers and programming have been carefully curated so that attendees feel emboldened to step into their power, activate their imaginations, and help set the national agenda.
 
With just under five months to go, Equity Summit 2018 may just be our most powerful Summit yet! Here’s why! 

1. Powerful Movement Voices
 

In this present moment of challenge and uncertainty, there are key voices from across the movements for equity and justice who continue to instill hope for a brighter future. Equity Summit 2018 will host some of today’s most esteemed policymakers, thought leaders, and advocates, setting the stage for continued movement and solutions building at the Summit and beyond. They include:

As you can see, these individuals represent a diverse intersection of communities and issues that are crucial to unlocking our nation's promise. To see additional speakers confirmed for Equity Summit 2018, go here!

2. Dynamic Discussions and Strategic Spaces
 
If you've attended previous Equity Summits, you likely know that plenaries are the cornerstones of our programming. Featuring conversations with visionary leaders, these plenaries are both inspiring and instructive, establishing the tone for ongoing discussion, and motivating attendees to push the boundaries of their work. Plenaries at Equity Summit 2018 include “Our Power: Radical Imagination Fueling Change”; “Our Future: The Leading Edge of the Equity Movement”; and “Our Nation: Transformative Solidarity in a Divided Nation.”
 
In addition to the plenaries, Summit attendees will have access to workshops that offer opportunities to engage in smaller group settings with experts who are pioneering change within specific issue areas. Immigration reform, protecting renters’ rights, climate resilience, alternatives to policing, and decriminalizing poverty are just a few of the topics that will be explored in the workshops available at Equity Summit 2018. Find an overview of our programming here.
 
3. Chicago’s Transformative History
 
The city of Chicago has a rich legacy of activism and action around some of the most urgent civil and human rights issues of our time. Throughout its history, Chicago has left an indelible mark on the nation — including its status as a destination city during the Great Migration, association with the activism of Pullman porters, and the pivotal role of South Chicago’s Mexican-American community in organizing the United Steel Workers in the 1940’s. Chicago also served as the site of the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Chicago Freedom Movement (which is largely credited with inspiring the 1968 Fair Housing Act), and is where organizations like Advancing Justice-Chicago, Asian American Alliance and the Association of Asian Construction Enterprises (AACE) fought for the inclusion of Asian Americans in the city’s Minority-Owned Business Enterprise program in the early 2000’s. Of course, Chicago is also where a promising community organizer named Barack Obama launched his political career, eventually becoming America’s first Black president.
 
Today, the city continues to be an epicenter for revolutionary organizing and movement building led by grassroots leaders like BYP100 National Director (and Equity Summit 2018 speaker) Charlene Carruthers, and other  Chicago-born-and-bred leaders and artist-activists like Common, Jesse Williams, John Legend, Hebru Brantley, Chance The Rapper, and others. 

For information on where to stay in Chicago, visit here

4. The Moment and the Momentum

Next April marks the 50th anniversaries of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and the subsequent Chicago uprising. April 12th will also be three years since the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore law enforcement, an incident that further ignited the local and national movements for police and criminal justice reform — two of the key issues to be explored as part of the Summit’s Just Society Workshop Series.
 
Most urgently, 2018 kicks off the midterm election season, which, according to Vox, would be “the first nationwide referendum” on the current presidency. With Equity Summit 2018 happening at such a crucial time — and with civic leaders like Voto Latino Executive Director Maria Teresa Kumar and NAACP President Derrick Johnson among our key speakers — attendees will have the chance to connect and share strategies for maximizing civic engagement, ensuring that the issues impacting America’s diverse communities and demographics are adequately represented.
   
5. Your Voice and Leadership
 
We believe that solidarity across social movements, cultures, races, and ethnicities is essential to resistance and the antidote to oppression, hate, and racism. We also believe that the key to a better, more prosperous tomorrow for America lies in the work being driven by people like you, whose tireless efforts on the ground represent the best of what’s working in our cities and communities. As champions for just and fair inclusion, your participation at Equity Summit 2018 will ensure that those closest to the nation’s challenges remain central to finding the solutions.
 
Whether you are a youth activist, grassroots/community organizer, elected official, or nonprofit leader, your voice and contributions matter. Register today and join the cross-section of leaders at Equity Summit 2018 who are radically shaping the nation's future and our collective role in it.
 
Get news and updates on Equity Summit 2018 in real time. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #EquitySummit2018! You can also sign up here to receive PolicyLink email alerts.

Denise Fairchild: Building a Movement for an Equitable Clean Energy Economy

By Courtney Hutchision

This hurricane season — one of the most virulent in decades — has made it impossible to ignore the disparate impact that our shifting climate has on low-income communities and communities of color. At the same time, the current administration is attempting to roll back environmental protections, and double down on fossil fuels that will only exacerbate the nation’s environmental woes. 

Too often, these interconnected realms of environment, energy, economy, and social justice remain siloed, making it difficult for advocates to see their common ground and common struggle. In Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, president & CEO of Emerald Cities Collaborative Denise Fairchild, along with co-editor Al Weinrub, weave together the insight of leading experts from across sectors, putting forth a holistic, systems-changing vision of an equitable energy future. 

Fairchild, whose organization advances environmental solutions that support an equitable economy, spoke with America’s Tomorrow about “energy democracy” and how advocates working in the environmental, racial justice, and economic sectors can help America move toward a more equitable energy future. 

Many of our readers are familiar with environmental racism and the ways in which pollution and climate threat have a disparate impact on low-income communities and communities of color. The notion of “energy democracy” goes beyond disparate impact, however, to re-envision who owns the fuel economy and how it is used. Can you give us an overview of what you mean by energy democracy? 

Energy democracy is an emerging concept that pushes us beyond the movement for 100 percent  renewable energy toward a system that is not only clean but also non-exploitative and democratic. Essentially, we’re asking the question: how do we move to a clean energy future while keeping racial, social, and economic justice at the forefront? This means that our clean energy future should not exploit or harm the environment and our natural resources, and it should not exploit or damage the communities that have been negatively impacted by our past and current energy choices. It also means we need to focus on the use value of renewable energy, not its commodification. We do not want to move into renewable energy and just see the same old patterns of monopolization and concentration of wealth and ownership in the hands of the few. The energy democracy draws on a more indigenous tradition that sees our energy resources as part of the commons — it belongs to everyone and it should benefit everyone. That doesn’t just mean equitable distribution of the energy itself, but equitable distribution of the jobs created in the new energy economy, the resources needed to capitalize economically on renewable energy sources, and the investments that could be made to rebuild under-resourced communities. Right now, the renewable energy economy — though better for the environment — is poised to be just as extractive for low-income communities and communities of color. These populations are more likely to rent and hence have little to no control over whether their buildings use renewable energy sources. Purchasing solar panels are expensive and require a credit score in many instances, putting them out of reach for those who have historically been underserved by banking systems. So there’s a legacy of divestment that has taken place in our communities that’s impacted our bankability, our credit, and our housing, and that bleeds over into whether or not we’re going to be able to participate in and benefit from a clean energy future.

What led you to write this book? 
We wrote the book to build a movement, to be perfectly honest. We knew there were strands of this work taking place, but we wanted to nurture this fairly nascent movement to tie the strands together. We know that a clean energy economy will drive the 21st century economy. Just like agriculture economy gave way to the industrial economy, we are now in an economic transition and it’s imperative that we ensure that communities of color and low-income communities, which have been on the margins of economic life in the past, are full beneficiaries in this new economy. 

In this book, we lay out how people can join the movement at the policy level, because in every state across the country, state government and public utilities are in conversations about what the new energy future will look like. This is probably the last time in the next 50 to 100 years that we will have the opportunity to change our energy infrastructure in a way that benefits the communities that matter to us, so we need to be in those conversations and bring that racial justice and social justice frame. We also provide examples of how people can join the movement at the organizing and leadership level, and make the case for building capacity and knowledge around these issues across multiple sectors in social justice. Advocates sometimes have difficulty seeing how energy relates to racial or economic justice, but at the end of the day it’s about people who have to take their kids to the hospital again and again for asthma because of where polluting sources are placed, or household budgets stretched tight because of rising utility bills. There are so many communities out there finding new, equitable solutions and doing it their own way, and we wanted to create a resource that brought all that together. 

The book has some truly bold and transformative ideas, such as changing the constitutional definition of private property, building collectively-owned utilities, or challenging global trade agreements. Given that the current administration has sought to scale back environmental protections and reinforce a capitalistic and extractionist energy economy, where do you see opportunities for the energy democracy movement to push for reform? 

This work is really about a revolution. It’s going to take long-term collaboration on many fronts: legal, community organizing, and alternative energy solutions. This book provides different frameworks and perspectives on how we win this war, one battle at a time. The struggle around profit, power, and privilege as embedded in our current administration has ramped up the opposition to this movement, but there are reasons to be optimistic. The utility sector and private sector know that the fossil fuel economy is over. Renewable energy technology has become cheaper than fossil fuel and so the business model is going to have to fundamentally change. But just because we have the technology, everyone thinks that will solve all the problems; but this struggle is really about these larger racial justice issues. The new technology makes it so we don’t have to replicate a centralized system, we can have a distributed energy system that’s much more local and can be community-owned and community-run. 

For example, the book showcases a Washington, D.C. community that, concerned about the environment and rising utilities bills, banded together to form an energy cooperative. Using bulk purchasing of solar panels, they helped dozens of households install technology that allows them to fuel their own households and reap the profits made from selling extra energy back to the grid. These organizers formed the DC Solar United Neighborhoods, helping neighborhoods across the city form similar coops and today this model has been replicated in Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. So even in a federal political climate like we have, these changes can happen neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community. 

Advancing Economic Inclusion in Southern Cities


In 2015, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in partnership with PolicyLink, launched Southern Cities for Economic Inclusion, a cohort of seven cities dedicated to advancing economic equity for low-income communities and communities of color. Comprised of city officials and staff, local philanthropy, and business and community partners from Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Richmond, the group convenes regularly to share best practices and learn from experts. Their next meeting will be in Richmond from October 23-25.

This group explicitly identifies and addresses the unique historical, political, and legal obstacles to achieving economic inclusion in the South; namely, the region’s deeply entrenched legacy of racism and segregation, as well as the structural limitations imposed by state laws that strip cities of the authority to advance economic inclusion policies such as local hiring or inclusive procurement.

Leaders from the seven cities are advancing real solutions by:

  • Establishing an economic agenda that both acknowledges and confronts the legacy of race. City and community leaders in New Orleans and Atlanta have created economic opportunity plans that set a proactive agenda to invest in people of color and others who have been left behind and demonstrate how equity will lead to everyone being better off.  
     
  • Bringing together diverse stakeholders to advance an economic inclusion agenda. In Memphis, Nashville, and elsewhere, anchor institutions such as universities and medical facilities, along with business and other leaders in the private sector, are coming together with city partners to encourage growth in the minority business community and bring new investments into communities without causing displacement. 
     
  • Innovating policies and programs to support minority-owned businesses and connect people to jobs. In Charlotte, Richmond, and Asheville, cities have developed pilot procurement programs and incentives to support minority businesses and to help connect individuals with barriers to employment to good jobs.
     

These projects and initiatives are changing the cultural silence on race in economic development policy and strengthening local positions despite state restrictions on local authority. We applaud these city leaders for their work thus far.  Reaching this point has required creativity in policy design, political deftness, and most of all, resilience.  However, advancing this work will require additional investment and strong partnerships across a wide range of stakeholders, including local and national philanthropy, the private sector, and community-based organizations. We hope you will join us to advance an economically inclusive and prosperous South.

California Leads on Juvenile Justice Reform

This week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 190, co-authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Ricardo Lara — ending the regressive and racially discriminatory practice of charging administrative fees to families with youth in the juvenile system.

California and nearly every other state charge parents of youth involved in the juvenile justice system with various fees, including fees for detention, legal representation, probation supervision, electronic monitoring, and drug testing. These fees trap poor families in debt, particularly families of color, and according to a study by the U.C. Berkeley Law School Policy Advocacy Clinic, significantly increase the likelihood of recidivism. Though the fees are designed to reimburse local governments for costs related to a child’s involvement in the juvenile justice system, counties often spend as much, if not more, to collect the fees as they take in. 

PolicyLink, working in coalition with state advocacy organizations, co-sponsored and advocated for SB 190, which will prevent California counties from charging juvenile administrative fees. As the first state in the nation to eliminate the fees, the passage of Senate Bill 190 could spark similar reforms in other states. According to PolicyLink senior associate Lewis Brown Jr., “Imposing fees on poor parents who are struggling to make ends meet is not the way to fund our juvenile justice system. Hopefully, Senate Bill 190 is the first step toward eliminating these destabilizing and counterproductive fees throughout the country.” 

We applaud our coalition partners, as well as Senator Mitchell, Senator Lara, and Governor Brown, for their leadership in addressing this important issue. We look forward to working with others to ensure that SB 190 will serve as a model for other states looking to address juvenile, and other types of criminal justice fines and fees.

Click here for information on Senate Bill 190>>>

Pages