Posted by James Tracy on November 25, 2015
I learned about the history of the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s maligned neighborhood, through walks in it with my Great Uncle, Milton Hendrick, and listening to his stories. He lived at Eddy and Polk Streets and was a veteran of the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific, which gave him an insight into the global economy that I’ve rarely seen matched by the college educated. He also knew the history of the Tenderloin, and rarely got anything wrong. When he died, I feared that most of these stories would evaporate as his generation of working-class people passed on or moved from the city.
A national voice in progressive politics and activism, Shaw is the author of The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, and a contributor to Shelterforce.
Posted by Christie Peale on November 24, 2015
Earlier this month, The New York Times published a major front-page story on deed theft scams that highlighted the staggering homeowner losses at the hands of increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprises that seek to steal homes from vulnerable people in gentrifying New York neighborhoods.
In the article, the Times profiles several homeowners at risk of foreclosure who were tricked into signing over the deeds to their homes, such as Ozella Campbell, an elderly, disabled Bedford-Stuyvesant homeowner who lost her family’s brownstone and now lives in an unheated, illegally converted garage in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
Posted by Randy Shaw on November 20, 2015
On November 4, a near riot broke out in the usually quiet city of Alameda, Ca. The reason? A battle over rent control. Rising rents and evictions are causing tenant displacement, and activists hoped that the November 4 City Council meeting would bring some relief. Instead, the meeting broke out in violence, with a city official assaulting a tenant activist and the police arresting two tenants for the “crime” of advocating for rent control.
Alameda is the latest battleground in the new rent control wars.
Posted by Denise Fairchild on November 19, 2015
Last month here in Rooflines, I argued that place-based community development can make low-income neighborhoods more resilient to climate crises. A commenter countered that my article undermined “income mobility” strategies—which essentially seek to move poor families out of struggling low-income neighborhoods.
This is not a contest: Both community development and income mobility strategies have merit. But, as climate change becomes an increasingly grim reality, we need to double down on community resilience. That means new attention to—and investments in—low-income communities of color.
Doubling down on community resilience is not an affront to fair housing. Rather, it is offered as an antidote to climate crises, which present a new and real challenge to the long-standing vulnerabilities of low-income communities. It recognizes the historic significance of resilience as an essential survival mechanism, especially for communities of color. It warns against its further erosion by both public and market forces. And it offers an important measure of the success—or failure—of fair housing efforts.
Posted by Josh Ishimatsu on November 17, 2015
In Miriam Axel-Lute’s recent post here, “Place Matters But Place Changes,” she references “a study done by Governing magazine that found a 20 percent gentrification rate for census tracts in the past decade in the largest 50 cities in the country, a greatly accelerated rate from the previous decade.” She goes on to note that, while an increase over past rates of gentrification, a 20 percent gentrification rate still means that 4 of 5 low-income neighborhoods are not gentrifying.
These are basic, straightforward conclusions to draw from the Governing study. However, there are a few huge, inter-related problems with the underlying study in being able to adequately describe our current round of gentrification.
Posted by Steve Dubb on November 16, 2015
Last month, Good Jobs First released a report titled Shortchanging Small Business, in which researchers found that large companies (defined as companies with over 100 employees and/or operating in more than 10 locations) received 90 percent of the $3.2 billion analyzed from more than 4,200 economic development incentive awards in 14 states. The French adage “plus ça change plus c'est la même chose” (the more things change, the more things stay the same) has rarely seemed more apt.
Examples of cities and states throwing money at corporations are almost too numerous to count. One recent case: in 2014, the state of Nevada agreed to provide Tesla $1.3 billion in incentives to encourage investment that is supposed to result in 6,500 jobs. Even if these projections are met, that works out to a subsidy of $200,000 per job—all for a corporation whose leading shareholder, Elon Musk, has an estimated net worth of $12.4 billion. All told, state and local government subsidies to corporations total an estimated $80 billion a year. By contrast, federal community development block grants (CDBG) spending totals just over $3 billion a year.
And yet slowly but surely, a counter-tendency—based on the tenet that ultimately, successful development depends on fostering local capacity—is starting to take hold. In a sentence, that is the theme of a new Democracy Collaborative report titled Cities Building Community Wealth. The report, authored by Marjorie Kelly and Sarah McKinley, profiles 20 cities that have begun to take steps on the path of building a new community-based, economic development paradigm, creating a systems approach that fosters local capacity, local ownership, and economic and racial inclusion.
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on November 13, 2015
At the PolicyLink Equity Summit the last week of October, Orson Aguilar of the Greenlining Institute was taking a poll of the room at the workshop on the "Gig Economy." How many people used Uber? Quite a lot of sheepish hands went up. How many AirBnB? More. Later we found out that not nearly so many of us shopped at Wal-Mart. Was it a class difference? Or a different awareness of business and labor practices?
The point of asking these questions was not to guilt trip anyone, but it did serve to point out (a) that there's a huge demand for these services and (b) there's a large customer base out there that doesn't necessarily yet understand the ways in which these "sharing economy" companies are acting in many ways as badly as Wal-Mart. Could these customers perhaps could be mobilized to support the workers working in them?
The session itself featured Derecka Mehrens of Working Partnerships USA, Dawn Gearhart of the Teamsters Local 117 in Seattle, which is helping Uber drivers to organize, and Seattle Councilman Mike O'Brien. Together they painted a picture of companies that despite their fancy tech trappings were basically going back to the bad old days of piece work payments and no labor protections whatsoever. (See below, or the Driving for Dignity campaign for more.)
I had trouble sleeping that night and got up around 1am to write a column for my local alt-weekly here in Albany, NY, about what I had learned at that session, since there has been a petition started by some business owners to bring Uber to this area. The day after I turned the column in, the paper was seized for back taxes and didn't publish an issue for the first time in 38 years—a victim of mismanagement, but also free ad-listing sites like Craigslist. A fitting demise for a column about a different "disruptive tech" innovation? Perhaps.
But I'm not one to let a hour of late-night writing go to waste, so I'm sharing what I wrote with you. I'm interested to hear from Shelterforce readers what the reaction is to Uber in your metro areas? Is there pushback? Are your constituents eager for the flexible jobs, or wary?
So Wal-Mart’s pretty bad, right? Most progressives can agree on that. Whether or not we actually succumb to shopping there, we know the drill: They pay minimum wage or barely above, don’t offer good benefits, union-bust, drive down working conditions for suppliers, promote sprawl. They could hardly be worse, right?
Imagine something with me:
Posted by Ana Garcia-Ashley on November 12, 2015
Not surprisingly, last Friday's headlines focused on the announcement that the Obama administration had rejected the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
But on the same day, it gave notice of another key decision that, while less headline-grabbing, may have more impact long-term. With no fanfare (or "Back to the Future" jokes), the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration issued a news release announcing the first update to Equal Employment Opportunity regulations on apprenticeship programs since 1978.
If you believe broken or unjust systems have kept too many people out of jobs and held back many lower-income communities of color from getting ahead, this is really good news, and you might want to weigh in positively on this proposed regulation. You have until January 6—but more on that in a moment. . .
Posted by Daniel Kravetz on November 10, 2015
A Mall for “Everyone”
Earlier this year, the City of Minneapolis broke ground on a $50 million overhaul of Nicollet Mall, the 12-block centerpiece of its downtown. Like many main street projects, the Nicollet Mall Project is rooted in high-minded principles of public space: that attractive, multifunctional, green, diverse, and life-filled downtowns beget economic activity and social well-being. The City hired the designers of Manhattan’s High Line to lead the redesign. The website for the project touts that it is “making a mall for everyone.”
There is some irony here. While Nicollet Mall is aesthetically outdated (one writer recently described it as “rather dull”), has poor frontage, and loses pedestrians to second-story skyways overhead, it already attracts tens of thousands of residents, workers, shoppers, tourists, and barflies every day. If you have attended a national conference in Minneapolis, you have probably been there too.
Some say the Mall’s problem is one of too many people, or at least too many of a certain type. Besides the above populations, Nicollet Mall is a gathering place for many of the city’s homeless, mentally ill, and unemployed and disengaged youth. In a city that has come under scrutiny for its racial disparities, it is unsurprising that many of them are also black. It is also unsurprising that many patrons of a different profile seem discomforted or threatened by their presence.
Posted by Miriam Axel-Lute on November 6, 2015
"Place matters, but place changes," Univ. of Southern Calif. professor Manuel Pastor observed at the opening plenary at PolicyLink’s 5th Equity Summit, held this week in Los Angeles. This can be seen as both a warning and a hope—and it led to some great discussions about changing places and what can be done to bend those changes in the direction of more equity.
The "Race, Place, and Equity" panel opened with researcher Raj Chetty giving an overview on the dramatic difference place makes for young children (see my musings about what we are measuring on that front), setting the stage for panelists to call for changes in the factors that make some metropolitan areas so much lower opportunity than others. “This trend of there being no relationship between productivity in the country and how people are doing has got to end,” said Thomas Steyer, president of NextGen Climate.
However, William Spriggs, chief economist of the AFL-CIO, cautioned the audience against allowing the acknowledgment of the importance of place to mean that we fetishize local solutions. Noting that the region Chetty’s research shows is the worst for social mobility are essentially the former Confederacy, as well as “right-to-work,” low-union density states with minimum wages set at the federal minimum and a history (and present) of active voter suppression, Spriggs argued that there comes a time for federal intervention. Local solutions have to produce results. “Experiments are great, but Mississippi, you’ve had 100 years to experiment,” he said, “And you’re getting an F.”
Relatedly, Spriggs noted that we have to be very careful not to allow acknowledging the effect of place and segregation to slip into asking “what’s wrong with black people?” (I think it is worth noting that I saw flash by in one of Chetty’s slides that Prince Georges County in Maryland, a wealthy county that is 64.7 percent black and only 14.2 percent non-Hispanic white, did comparatively well in his rankings of mobility.)
All the panelists spoke in some way about what La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, called the "growing business case for racial equity," echoing the theme of 2011’s Equity Summit, “equity is the superior growth model.”
But while we are focusing on increasing the ability of places to change for the better, we have to remember that they don’t always change for the better, and when they do, those changes don’t always benefit the people we want them to benefit.
Improving Places—For Whom?
Gentrification and displacement were, not surprisingly, big themes at this year’s conference. Opening a well-attended forum on displacement, Kenneth Zimmerman of the Open Society Foundations, referred to a study done by Governing magazine that found a 20 percent gentrification rate for census tracts in the past decade in the largest 50 cities in the country, a greatly accelerated rate from the previous decade.
It’s important to remember that the phenomenon is still very concentrated in hot-market cities, with more than four times the number of gentrification-eligible census tracts not gentrifying and actually increasing in poverty rate over that time. This frustrates many advocates for the areas not seeing any movement. Still, I think there are many reasons why gentrification catches people’s attention in a different way: