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>>>

White People, Show Us

Over the past several days we have watched in disgust as the progeny from our nation’s despicable past terrorized a city, committed murder, and received tacit approval from the highest level of government. White supremacy has found a home in the White House. The President is determined to perpetuate and maintain the social, political, historical, and institutional domination by White people at the expense of people of color. And in so doing, he is creating an environment that is also too toxic for White America. The White supremacy movement will not vanish until people of good will succeed in atoning for our nation’s past, reconciling, and building a bridge to a just and fair society where ALL are prospering and reaching their full potential.

America is seeing in real-time what the fight for equity looks like. When cultures, structures, and institutions are forced to change, the responses by those comfortable with and benefiting from the status quo are too frequently ugly, distressing, and violent. Equity leaders should not expect anything less. We signed up for this. Consequently, when things are at their worst, we must be at our best – body, mind, and soul. PolicyLink remains optimistic and single-minded in our work. We are standing strong in the face of formidable opposition because equity leaders, especially those on the front lines, are making progress.

We also are standing strong because we are getting a sense that increasing numbers of White people are sick of other White people's racist conduct. We applaud the fact that from the streets, to corporate board rooms, to charitable giving, White people are taking up the work of equity. We hope we live in a country where most White people do not sympathize with White supremacists. If our perceptions are real, we have an opportunity to accelerate the advancement of equity, and we must seize it. While people of color are going to see this fight for equity through to victory, there is a powerful role that White people must play, and this role can no longer be eschewed for safer, transactional expressions of solidarity.

Show yourselves to be true patriots by joining with people of color, believing in the potency of inclusion, and building from a common bond to stamp out White supremacy and realize the transformative promise of equity – the imperfect and unrealized aspiration embodied in the Constitution. White America, you can perfect this aspiration! To do so requires that you honestly and forthrightly call out racism and oppression, both overt and systemic. And while this is a good start, it is insufficient. Your work is to lead the way in designing and implementing equity-centered public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms that trump White supremacy and create a just and fair society. This must be your call to action. This is what people of color need from you.

The normalization of White supremacy must be stopped now before it irreversibly poisons the nation’s culture. Your leadership is critical in this moment. You are best equipped to defeat White supremacy. Here are actions you can take that are transformative.

Show us that our perceptions of a White majority opposed to White supremacy are real. Show us that we have a reason to believe that you will fight with more devotion to create a society that is just and fair for ALL, than White supremacists will in their pursuit to maintain their structural advantage, their racial privilege, their "whiteness." By accepting this invitation, you’re not doing anyone any favors. You’re doing the work necessary to make America all that it can be. History has its eyes on you. Show us. Fight for equity.

With gratitude,

Angela Glover Blackwell

Michael McAfee

Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility Provides Feedback to the Senate Finance Committee on How to Improve Tax Reform

In response to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) call for input and feedback from tax stakeholders across the country on how to improve the American tax system through tax reform, The Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility submitted the following letter to the Finance Committee that focuses on reform that outs low and moderate income people first, and fuels upward economic mobility instead of exacerbating an already-growing wealth divide.

The letter hones in on four sets of principles for reform of tax-based aid that can lead to more equitable programs that will expand opportunity throughout the country:

  1. Increasing Financial Security for Working Families;
  2. Making Higher Education Tax Expenditures Work for Everyone;
  3. Using the Tax Code to Encourage Savings and Investment for Retirement
  4. Reduce Subsidies for Mortagage Debt and Larger Homes Owned by High-Income Households

Read the full letter here and sign up for the Tax Alliance newsletter for updates on our work.

PolicyLink Launches All-In Cities Policy Toolkit

Today marks the launch of the All-In Cities Policy Toolkit, a new online resource designed to help leaders inside and outside city government identify, understand, and choose targeted policy solutions to advance racial economic inclusion and equitable growth.

The toolkit includes an initial selection of 21 tools, including, but not limited to: Equitable contracting and procurement, Financial empowerment centers, incentivized savings accounts, living wage, local and targeted hiring, minimum wage, worker-owned cooperatives, and more. New content and additional policies will be added throughout 2017 and beyond. The toolkit provides examples of specific policies that local leaders can adapt to their own economic and political contexts, key considerations for design and implementation, and outlines where these policies are working to advance racial and economic equity.

This toolkit is just one resource from All-In Cities. Through this initiative, PolicyLink continues its work to change the dialogue about how and why equity matters to city and regional futures, while working hand-in-hand with city leaders to advance equitable growth strategies.

Court Protects Sanctuary Cities From Trump’s Threats

Sanctuary cities have won protection – for the time being – from President Trump’s threats to pull federal funding from jurisdictions that do not cooperate with his anti-immigrant agenda. In a major victory for sanctuary cities and the advocates who support them, a federal district court in California recently blocked the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order that attempts to pull current and future federal funds from local jurisdictions that adopt sanctuary policies.

Ruling in favor of the City of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, Judge William Orrick held that the President’s attempt to coerce local jurisdictions into assisting in enforcement of federal immigration policy is likely unconstitutional. The court issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting enforcement of the main terms of the executive order. This is a critical ruling for the growing sanctuary city movement, because it protects local jurisdictions from the administration’s threatened legal and fiscal consequences – and validates the strong legal arguments against the President’s executive order, as described below.

Though there is no formal definition of “sanctuary cities,” the name usually refers to local jurisdictions that prohibit their employees from assisting federal authorities with enforcement of immigration laws. This approach is an effort to protect the safety and well-being of residents – particularly those who are targets of increased surveillance and threat, such as immigrants, Muslims, and people of color.  Sanctuary policies have been spreading rapidly, as local leaders have sought to push back against the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and discrimination that has characterized the new administration.

When President Trump signed executive order 13768 in January, it injected major uncertainty into local budget processes for cities that have adopted sanctuary policies or are considering doing so, and led to widespread confusion regarding the order’s scope and the impact. Because of the amount of federal funds at stake, many local jurisdictions naturally feared the consequences of any cutback in federal funds based on sanctuary policies.

However, the executive order threatened such cuts to a degree well beyond what the law permits. As explained in a letter from over 300 law professors, the Constitution sets out strict limitations that are violated by the broad language of the executive order:

  • the administration can’t add new conditions to existing federal grants;
  • Congress, not the administration, sets the terms of federal grants;
  • the administration cannot “commandeer” local officials to carry out federal policies; and
  • even when Congress wants to add conditions to future grants, the conditions must be closely related to the purposes of the grant.

Taken together, these legal principles greatly limit the threat to federal funding received by sanctuary cities, now and in the future. The court’s ruling validates these principles, and at least temporarily restrains the administration from using federal funding to coerce local jurisdictions.

Though this lower-court ruling could be overruled or modified on appeal, for now, sanctuary cities, counties, and other spaces have gained significant breathing room as they fight to protect their most vulnerable residents. Local officials considering sanctuary policies – and the advocates for our immigrant communities – should keep in mind that the administration’s threats to cut federal funding are largely empty, and are likely to continue to be reined in by the courts.

November 2016

Integrating Family Financial Security into Cradle-to-Career Pipelines: Learning Lessons from Promise Neighborhoods


With support from Citi Foundation, PolicyLink and the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink (PNI) joined forces with five PNI communities (Brooklyn, New York; Los Angeles, California; Chula Vista, California; Orlando, Florida; and Indianola, Mississippi) to design and carry out strategies for embedding financial security into their pipelines of supports. The collaborative effort set out to embed the concepts of budgeting, emergency savings, saving for college, credit access, into existing PNI programs. The goal was to enhance the overall outcomes of Promise Neighborhoods by empowering youth and their families to gain control over their financial lives and thus, their economic futures. This report documents the early lessons from each promise neighborhood site and highlights the importance of including a financial security strategy as an essential part of a cradle-to-career continuum.

March 2014

Minnesota's Tomorrow: Equity Is the Superior Growth Model


There will be more people of color in Minnesota’s future, a fact that bodes well for realizing a more robust economy in the state. Minnesota’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model, commissioned by the state’s philanthropies, makes clear that realizing the potential of Minnesota’s growing diversity requires adopting an equity strategy that would grow new jobs and businesses while bolstering long-term competitiveness. Equity is an economic imperative that means fair and just inclusion for all into a society where every Minnesotan can participate and prosper.

Minnesota’s Tomorrow: Equity Is the Superior Growth Model summary available.

April 2005

Market Creek Plaza: Toward Resident Ownership of Neighborhood Change


Details Market Creek's planning, design, and implementation process, and highlights the importance of resident involvement in this groundbreaking community development project where Market Creek Plaza, is among the nation's first real estate development projects to be designed, built, and ultimately owned by community residents.