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March

2017

Claw Back | Civic Hall

The Attorney General Jeff Sessions is following through on a threat to withhold federal funds from state and local jurisdictions for not complying with federal immigration laws, Jessica Taylor reports for NPR. Sessions also said that the Justice Department would “claw back” grants already disbursed to so-called sanctuary cities as well.

Article: Claw Back by

“It’s hard not to get behind any plan that makes government more effective and tries to use data instead of, say, raw ideology to help craft better policy decisions. So let’s wish the White House success,” Timothy O’Brien, author of the Trump biography “TrumpNation,” opines for the Chicago Tribune. “In fact, let’s toast Trump and Kushner as fast as we can because they’re going to need all of the help they can get if this nod toward innovation is going to amount to anything more than a head fake.” O’Brien proceeds to skewer Trump and Kushner’s understanding of innovation, and of “ahead-of-schedule” and “under-budget.”

Over at Quartz, Heather Timmons has the full list of the issues in the hands of 36-year-old Jared Kushner.

Related: After the healthcare debacle last week, a sobering take by The Washington Post’s James Hohmann on how Trump is actually winning more than you think.

Democrats want to know who is coming and going from the “southern White House”—but they can’t, because nobody is keeping track. Darren Samuelsohn reports for Politico that “Mar-a-Lago…doesn’t keep tabs on the identity of guests who come and go on a routine basis, even while the president is in residence.”

A representative from the heart of Silicon Valley visited coal country, Nancy Scola reports for Politico. California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna told Scola, “There’s got to be greater empathy among those in Silicon Valley for some of the pain that has been caused.” But he also wanted to spread entrepreneurial spirit. “It’s just getting people to dream that they can go try to be like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.” But the people he met with—some of them formerly unemployed workers who have gone through a training program to learn how to develop mobile apps—just want to be taken seriously as applicants for tech jobs.

Whoopsie: Election officials in Hong Kong have reported losing two laptop computers holding the personal information for all 3.7 million registered voters in the city, Ellie Ng reports for the Hong Kong Free Press.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity, ProPublica, the Investigative Reporting Workshop, and New York University have received grants totaling $12 million from Democracy Fund and First Look Media to help continue their work supporting an independent, robust, and free press.

What Works Cities announced today the addition of 10 new cities to its roster, bringing the total to 77, and they launched a What Works Cities certification program.

Enter the Zebra: Entrepreneurs Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, and Astrid Scholz write in a Medium post that developing alternative business models is a central moral challenge of our time. They propose calling these restorative companies “Zebras” as a counterpoint to the destructive, “disrupting” nature of the “unicorn.” “These alternative models will balance profit and purpose, champion democracy, and put a premium on sharing power and resources,” they write. “Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve.”

The Fempowerment Fad: Earlier this month a trifecta of stories about the newly-minted-feminist SHE-E-O Miki Agrawal—of the period-embracing panty company Thinx—revealed that company practices and Agrawal’s behavior were destructive—at least one employee has said Agrawal sexually harassed her—and decidedly un-feminist. A hypocritical unicorn? Not so fast. Buzzfeed’s Doree Shafrir connects this particular feminist hypocrisy to a “new trend” in startup culture, pointing also to Thrive Global founder and staunch Uber-apologist Arianna Huffington, Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, and even the Other First Lady herself, Ivanka Trump.

Kerry Flynn writes on Mashable that Facebook’s new Town Hall feature, which allows you to contact your local representatives in a few clicks, is the best thing the platform has ever done.

Remember, as we previously shared in First Post, The Verge’s Natt Garun is skeptical because the feature relies on the information that officials have provided themselves.

Flynn also reports that Facebook announced that it will start putting out local election reminders to help get out the vote.

Day of Zen

The post Claw Back appeared first on Civic Hall.

Why does Donald Trump demonize cities? – The Washington Post

President Trump is a big-city guy. He made his fortune in cities and keeps his family in a Manhattan tower. But when Trump talks about cities, he presents a fearsome caricature that bears little resemblance to the real urban landscape.

“Our inner cities are a disaster,” he declared in a campaign debate. “You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs.” Before his inauguration, in a spat with Atlanta’s representative in Congress, he tweeted: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested).” He makes Chicago sound like an anarchic failed state. “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” he warned. His executive order on public safety claimed that sanctuary cities, which harbor undocumented immigrants, “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”

With this talk, Trump is playing to his base, which overwhelmingly is not in cities. Party affiliation increasingly reflects the gulf between big, diverse metros and whiter, less densely populated locales. For decades, like-minded people have been clustering geographically — a phenomenon author Bill Bishop dubbed “the Big Sort ” — pushing cities to the left and the rest of the country to the right. Indeed, the bigger, denser and more diverse the city, the better Hillary Clinton did in November. But Trump prevailed everywhere else — in small cities, suburbs, exurbs and beyond. The whiter and more spread out the population, the better he did.

 

Continue reading at the Source: Why does Donald Trump demonize cities? – The Washington Post

 

Immigrants Are Driving Urban Growth, Says Census – CityLab

The big headline that came out of Thursday’s Census release: Chicago is shedding population. In 2016, an estimated 22,000 souls left the blustery shores of Lake Michigan* (and its surrounding 14 counties). They seemed to be bound for warmer climes. In continuing with a dominant post-recession migration trend, the Sunbelt picked up new residents at breakneck speed, with Phoenix and Orlando making some of the biggest gains.

Article: Immigrants Are Driving Urban Growth, Says Census – CityLab by LAURA BLISS @mslaurabliss

But as sharp eyes in the Twitter-sphere noticed, the numbers also reveal another trend: Growth in America’s megaregions slowed significantly. Nine out of ten of the country’s largest combined statistical areas—the largest unit by which you might judge an anchor city’s orb—came in well short of the population gains they’ve averaged since 2010. Most dramatically, the New York City-Newark CSA gained roughly one third of the number of new residents that it averaged, annually, between 2010 and 2016. The chart below reveals that stumble. Washington, D.C.’s CSA also registered a serious slowdown, as did the San Jose/San Francisco area. Only the Dallas-Fort Worth region outpaced its average gains, netting close to 150,000 people in 2016.

What explains the slowdown? Denizens are leaving in higher numbers than in the past. New York-Newark lost 223,000 people in 2016, compared to an average of 158,000 between 2010 and 2015. Los Angeles-Long Beach lost 76,000, compared to an average of 50,000 in past years. Only a handful of CSAs have averaged gains in domestic migration (that is, folks coming in from other parts of the U.S.) over the past several years: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston-Woodlands, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and San Jose-San Francisco. Of those, only Dallas-Fort Worth outpaced its average. The Miami and SJ/SF regions registered net migration losses in 2016—seriously behind, in the Bay Area’s case.

These dips in urban migration could be a blip. But in some of these cities, these numbers are consistent with smaller-level trends we’ve heard about already. We know, for example, that even as Silicon Valley continues to add jobs, it is losing people due to the incredible shortage of affordable housing. Workers are living further and further from their offices, putting a stranglehold on traffic and straining transit systems. It is astonishing to imagine that, at at the much-larger CSA level—which, in this case, includes San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland—the same pattern may hold. Folks are not simply moving out to the suburbs. Some may be moving way, way out out of even the widest bounds you’d normally ascribe to the area.

Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning, the director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation, and expert on all things New York, believes that this dynamic is playing across the New York City CSA, based on his research about super-commuting. Largely because of New York City’s housing crunch, “our population is not growing at the level that our jobs are,” he says. “So you see a growth of people traveling into work at much longer distances, from eastern Pennsylvania, and further out in Connecticut.” The rise of telecommuting also probably contributes, he says.

It’s hard to tease out the influence of local housing markets from these numbers, since they reflect such a wide swath of urban space. New York’s CSA, for example, includes Newark, New Jersey, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, two distressed cities that have been hemorrhaging residents for decades—and not for lack of affordable housing. The new Census estimates don’t include city-level numbers.

But MSA counts (the slightly smaller unit to gauge city populations) show very similar trends. Moreover, looking more closely at the five counties that make up housing-crunched New York City, every borough registers a serious slowdown in growth, thanks to major increases in out-migration. For example, Kings County, New York—also known as Brooklyn—netted just over 4,000 new residents last year, compared to 12,000 in 2015. That was largely because more than 43,000 people migrated out of the borough in 2016, compared to an annual out-migration of 25,000 in previous years. Manhattan lost more than 21,000 last year, compared to a recent average of 16,000.

Yet with the exception of Chicago, all of the major CSAs are still growing. The flight of residents to the exurbs and to warmer states has not thrown these metros into Rust Belt mode yet. What keeps them afloat? A steady influx of immigrants from other countries. Indeed, New York City continues to be the magnet for international job-seekers, as the chart above shows. The new president’s efforts to ban immigration from certain countries suggests that it, and other major CSAs, could lose a critical source of demographic energy in the future. If the Statue of Liberty is forced out of a job, those cities could shift into a state of a Chicago-like decline.

*A previous version of this article misnamed this lake.

Source: Immigrants Are Driving Urban Growth, Says Census – CityLab

Patterns of Commoning: Twelve Design Principles of Permaculture

Permaculture is a type of sustainable agriculture and ecological design and engineering that self-consciously attempts to work in constructive alignment with natural dynamics. At once a philosophy and set of social practices, techniques and ethical norms, permaculture seeks to ensure that all life systems can remain healthy and flourish. This goal can only be met if human beings regard nature as a holistic system that includes human society, which in turn must reintegrate surplus production and waste back into natural ecosystems.

The essence of permaculture has been summarized by David Holmgren in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, in the following twelve principles.

Source: Patterns of Commoning: Twelve Design Principles of Permaculture

1.  Observe and interact. By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

2.  Catch and store energy. By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.

3.  Obtain a yield. Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

4.  Apply self-regulation and accept feedback. We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

5.  Use and value renewable resources and services. Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6.  Produce no waste. By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

7.  Design from patterns to details. By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

8.  Integrate rather than segregate. By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

9.  Use small and slow solutions. Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.

10.  Use and value diversity. Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11.  Use edges and value the marginal. The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

12.  Creatively use and respond to change. We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Patterns of Commoning, edited by Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, is being serialized in the P2P Foundation blog. Visit the Patterns of Commoning and Commons Strategies Group websites for more resources.

Photo by leighblackall

The post Patterns of Commoning: Twelve Design Principles of Permaculture appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Source: Patterns of Commoning: Twelve Design Principles of Permaculture

How Cities Lead the Fight Against Climate Change

It has been almost a year since a summer internship with The Climate Reality Project’s Canadian branch turned into a longer-term commitment for me. During this time, I have been in touch with a number of extremely inspiring Climate Reality Leaders. These volunteers, trained by former American Vice President Al Gore, are committed to giving free presentations about climate change in their respective communities and come from a variety of backgrounds: from teenagers to retirees, they all have a different reason for being involved in the climate movement.

Source: How Cities Lead the Fight Against Climate Change

But one single thing does unite them – the passionate enthusiasm to make our planet cleaner and safer for future generations. Seeing such a large and diverse group rally around this cause is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work at The Climate Reality Project Canada. I had the chance to witness this incredible sense of unity when I joined more than 900 people for a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Denver, Colorado in early March.

Since first becoming involved in the climate movement, my awareness of the fundamental role of cities in addressing the challenge of climate change has grown. The training was an excellent occasion to refine my knowledge of how municipalities can get involved. As former Colorado governor Bill Ritter said during his keynote speech on the opening day of the program, cities and states have the keys to lead on climate, with or without the support of higher levels of government.

Colorado’s Commitment to Climate Action

Colorado, a large producer of fossil fuels, was an appropriate choice for an event on climate change leadership. The state has been at the forefront of climate action for several years now. In 2004, Colorado became the first U.S. state to adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by popular vote and the state legislature has since increased the renewable energy requirements several times. It now aims to obtain 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Its cities, too, are committed to implementing ambitious policies to fight climate change. In 2015, Aspen, the popular ski resort, made a complete transition to 100 percent renewable energy. In August of the following year, the city of Boulder made the same commitment. Currently, Denver is working on a feasibility study to assess how it could also undertake this transition.

esther_1

Over 900 people attended the training in Denver, Colorado to see former U.S. Vice President Al Gore deliver his famous presentation on climate change. © Matthew Chapman

Cities Leading the Way

Cities are well-positioned to lead the way for climate initiatives as they can commit to and deliver on ambitious change. When Aspen reached its 100 percent renewable energy goal, it was the third American city to do so, following Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas. Cities around the world have made similar commitments. In Australia, Sydney has committed to shifting to 100 percent renewable electricity, heating and cooling by 2030. In Japan, Fukushima has set a similar goal to be reached by 2040. According to a 2016 report by the Carbon Disclosure Project, 190 cities around the world have already started implementing measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing a city’s energy supply is a tall order. Not only does this shift offer logistical challenges, it requires a cultural change, a shift in our way of life based so heavily on fossil fuels. Even with strong popular support, municipalities often have trouble transitioning from long-term utility contracts. However, the transition can be justified by the enormous bill that climate change may cause for cities if strong action is delayed any further. The Carbon Disclosure Project report also outlines that many of the cities involved in the study considered climate action to be an economic opportunity, not an encumbrance.

The three-day training in Denver was barely enough to grasp the magnitude of the hard work put in by city leaders, organizations and individuals for the transition towards clean energy. Still, the atmosphere was electric with a sense of inspiration, positivity and purpose. As I take on my new role as a Climate Reality Leader, I can’t help but ask myself – will my city undertake this challenge?

Esther_3

Esther Perrin (middle) and two other leaders to-be at the Climate Reality Leadership training on March 3rd. © Matthew Chapman

About the Climate Reality Project

Founded by Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, The Climate Reality Project is one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to mobilizing action on climate change. Follow the Canadian branch of the Climate Reality Project on Twitter: @Reality_Canada

 

Esther Perrin, Executive Administrative Assistant, NewCities

Esther joined NewCities as Executive Administrative Assistant in early 2017, working with the Chairman, the Executive Director and the General Manager. Passionate about international relations and the global challenge that is climate change, she has also worked with The Climate Reality Project Canada, where she continues to act as a communications consultant.

Source: How Cities Lead the Fight Against Climate Change

Berkeley: If You Work on Trump’s Wall, You Can’t Work for Us

Any businesses that participate in building President Trump’s border wall won’t be working on contracts with the city of Berkeley — and possibly other cities. Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to divest of any company that involves itself with Trump’s wall, the East Bay Express reports. The measure includes any company that designs, finances or works in any way on the project, as well as the contractors who construct the wall.

Source: Berkeley: If You Work on Trump’s Wall, You Can’t Work for Us

The White House budget plan released Thursday calls for a $2 billion down payment on the wall. It’s one of the single largest investments in the plan, but will likely cover only a portion of what Trump has said he intends to build.

“Our city is one that is known for breaking down walls, not building them,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the Express. “We will continue in that tradition regardless of what happens at the federal level.”

Once the federal government accepts contracts for the design and construction of the wall, Berkeley staff will compile a list of all companies involved and ban the city from working on contracts with those businesses.

Berkeley is the first city in the country to pass such a law, but it may not be the last. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James says she wants to cut off companies that help build the structure. Oakland also introduced similar legislation Tuesday morning, led by Council Member Abel Guillén, who says cities should use their financial and social leverage to send a statement of inclusion.

“We want to send a message to other cities in the state of California … to come out and say that our tax dollars should not be spent on the wall,” Guillén told Express in February.

There is some precedent for the measures. When Arizona passed a controversial anti-immigration law in 2010 (Senate Bill 1070), Oakland City Council urged against city contracts with any businesses based in Arizona and boycotted travel by city employees to anywhere in the state.

The federal government recently extended its deadline for bids for the wall, with no date for a formal RFP notice. Kriston Capps at CityLab reported Wednesday on the difficulty of finding companies to work on the project:

“More than 600 companies, most of them small and lacking in significant experience working for the federal government, have attached their names to the list of interested vendors. But the foundation for Trump’s border wall is shifting like the sands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Even as DHS fiddles with the language of its early notice, political maneuvers may be raising the cost of participating in the bidding process higher than any firm can bear.”

The potential negative PR from designing and building Trump’s wall, as well as the divestment movement, is likely putting off many firms from signing on. According to CityLab, no global company with the experience needed to execute such an extensive project has submitted a proposal so far.

Source: Berkeley: If You Work on Trump’s Wall, You Can’t Work for Us

UN-Habitat facing ‘considerable decline’ in core funding, assessment warns

Donor countries are applauding UN-Habitat’s pivot toward urban issues but have raised concerns regarding fundraising efforts, according to a report released this week.

The external evaluation, which has been unusually widely watched, comes as the United Nations agency is angling to take the lead on implementation of the U. N.’s new 20-year urbanization strategy, the New Urban Agenda.

The report also comes amidst internal wrangling and as key broader assessments of the agency are moving forward. UN-Habitat will host its biennial board meeting in May, where several long-simmering issues are expected to come to the fore. In addition, the U. N. secretary-general is preparing to conduct his own assessment of the agency, although the details of that review have yet to be announced.

Released on 15 March alongside reviews of 11 other multilateral organizations, the assessment was prepared by the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN). The network works at the behest of 18 donor countries, including major UN-Habitat contributors such as Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

“UN-Habitat largely meets the requirements of an effective multilateral organisation and is fit for purpose, although performance can be strengthened and improved in some areas,” the report’s executive summary concludes. “Fit for purpose” means that the agency is, in theory, well-positioned to deliver on its mandate.

Source: UN-Habitat facing ‘considerable decline’ in core funding, assessment warns

The analysis covers 2014 to mid-2016, during which time UN-Habitat prepared for last year’s Habitat III summit. The conference resulted in the New Urban Agenda, a voluntary, non-binding agreement on how to plan and manage urbanization.

[See: How will we monitor the New Urban Agenda? This U. N. process will decide]

The MOPAN report commends the agency for its shift from a traditional focus on human settlements, especially slum upgrading, to a more holistic emphasis on urban planning and management.

The assessment also applauds how the agency has pursued that focus, including management reforms by UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos. Clos, who also headed Habitat III, has emphasized a decentralized “matrix” approach to projects more akin to a strategic consultancy. He also has implemented results-based accountability.

Further, the agency’s “powerful new partnerships” with local governments “have the potential to be transformative,” the evaluation states. Clos, the former mayor of Barcelona, has forged alliances with key networks of city leaders around the world during his tenure at the Nairobi-based agency.

[See: UN-Habitat’s vision of sustainable urbanization is good — but not enough]

In a written statement, a UN-Habitat spokesperson said the agency welcomed the MOPAN assessment, “in particular the recognition of the organization’s understanding of, and strong leadership in the field of sustainable urbanization.”

Core funding ‘inadequate’

The report notes room for improvement, however. For one, it encourages the agency to work more collaboratively with other U. N. offices, especially on “cross-cutting” issues such as climate change and human rights. MOPAN’s analysts highlight a similar recommendation from the U. N. Office of Internal Oversight Services, which audited UN-Habitat last year.

“[Core funding] has suffered a considerable decline in recent years and is inadequate to respond to core functions and other organisation priorities.”

MOPANAssessment of UN-Habitat

In the evaluation released this week, however, the main issue is core funding. While overall funding for UN-Habitat, which spent USD 167 million in 2015, has gone up, most of those resources are earmarked for specific projects. Core funding, which pays for permanent staff, “has suffered a considerable decline in recent years and is inadequate to respond to core functions and other organisation priorities,” the report concludes.

[See: UN-Cities? Rumoured proposal gains steam]

This funding challenge has caused some full-time positions to become part-time or short-term consultant positions. The resulting staff turnover may be responsible for the agency’s poor marks in this year U. N. Global Staff Survey, which ranked UN-Habitat among the bottom five U. N. agencies for overall satisfaction, leadership and ethics.

Now, that low morale could have direct implications for the agency’s involvement in overseeing the new global urbanization strategy. James Ohayo, the president of the UN-Habitat Staff Union, recently warned that the situation could “shackle” implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Outside observers likewise question UN-Habitat’s management despite the most recent assessment’s overall positive conclusions. “The agency may be fit for purpose, but the management is not,” U. N. lobbyist Felix Dodds told Citiscope.

As for the agency’s financial woes, that is not necessarily unique to Habitat, Dodds cautioned. “There’s been a movement toward that with many agencies, where core funding has gone down and project funding has gone up,” he said. “But at Habitat, it’s been a more extreme level.”

Secretary-general’s panel

Meanwhile, the Habitat III outcome called for U. N. Secretary-General António Guterres to conduct an independent assessment of the agency with an eye toward determining how the U. N. system will follow up on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Following the December adoption a U. N. General Assembly resolution approving the New Urban Agenda, a spokesperson for the secretary-general said that Guterres’s office will appoint a high-level panel to conduct the independent review and will complete its work by June, followed by a two-day public review by the U. N. General Assembly. In January, the spokesperson said that the panel’s composition would be announced “in the coming weeks,” but as of press time, no further information was available.

[See: What should be new U. N. Secretary-General Guterres’s urban priorities?]

All of these issues and recommendations are likely to come into play in mid-May, when the 58 countries on the UN-Habitat Governing Council will convene at the agency’s headquarters in the Kenyan capital. That meeting will be the next significant milestone this year as the United Nations seeks to resolve the question of who will take the lead on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

This story is tagged under: UN-HabitatThe New Urban AgendaUnited NationsJoan ClosGovernance

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Homepage Label: United NationsHomepage Title: Report: UN-Habitat facing ‘considerable decline’ in core funding

The Way We Build Infrastructure Reflects Our Values

“The communities that are impacted by the changes that are happening in our climate are the same ones that are impacted when it comes to health, and of course it’s the same ones that have racial inequities,” says Gidigbi, director of policy, capacity and systems change at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can’t expect that we can continue to build the same thing and get different outcomes.”

That’s the philosophy behind the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge, or SPARCC, an initiative of the NRDC, Enterprise Community Partners, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and the Low Income Investment Fund. The three-year initiative will provide funding, financing and technical assistance to coalitions of organizations working across sectors and issue areas in six U.S. cities to ensure that new infrastructure projects don’t reinforce the patterns of old.

Each participant — Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the Bay Area — is already planning an array of large infrastructure investments, funded through ballot-approved tax increases or federal grants. And in each, organizations are already working together to make sure neighborhoods get a say in how that money is spent. SPARCC aims to support the creation and growth of these “collaborative tables,” spaces where nonprofits, grassroots advocates, and the public and private sectors can come together to promote equitable change.

Read more at the Source: The Way We Build Infrastructure Reflects Our Values

“These investments come and these places will change, and it will either become more inclusive or less inclusive,” says Brian Prater, executive vice president of strategy, development and public affairs at the Low Income Investment Fund, a San Francisco-headquartered community development financial institution. “It became very apparent to us that if you don’t plan for that growth and ensure that justice and equity are central to this conversation, then the traditional patterns of segregation, concentrated poverty and displacement will be repeated.”

In Los Angeles, where black residents have twice the asthma rate of the general population, and residents spend an average of 81 hours a year stuck in traffic and 57 percent of their income on housing and transportation, transit investment is seen as vital, and inseparable from issues of housing affordability and air pollution. So vital, in fact, that in the past eight years voters have approved two half-cent sales tax increases to expand transit and keep it affordable: Measure R in 2008 and Measure M in 2016.

“Even before Measure R happened there was growing recognition among neighborhood organizations and advocates that transit expansion could be a good thing or even a great thing for the region, but at the neighborhood level for low-income communities and communities of color it could be a potentially disruptive force and create the potential to lead to gentrification and displacement,” says Thomas Yee, initiative officer for LA Transit, Housing, Resources and Investment for a Vibrant Economy (LA Thrives), one of the groups leading the SPARCC effort in Los Angeles.

Since the measure passed, the city has only gotten more expensive, particularly along transit lines. But one thing has changed: “What we’re really excited about, we think Metro has really evolved as a partner to think about equity,” says Yee, referring to the county public transportation agency.

LA Thrives and another partner under SPARCC, ACT-LA (Alliance for Community Transit LA), advocated for Measure M, and will now have the opportunity to work with Metro to set priorities for how the money is spent and communities are engaged. Yee says doing so equitably requires looking at the whole region.

“L.A. County is a really big place,” he says. “The transit system touches the whole county.” Metro’s plans include construction sites in 24 surrounding cities. With the support and funding of SPARCC, LA Thrives and ACT-LA plan to expand their network to include advocates in other high-priority, target cities like Inglewood.

Metro is planning to add three new light-rail stations in Inglewood, while the mayor there has thrown his support behind a massive new NFL stadium. “But there’s really an absence of civic infrastructure there to really grapple with the challenges that come from all that displacement,” says Yee.

Gidigbi also sees regional collaboration, and recognition of the suburbanization of poverty, as key to SPARCC’s integrated approach. “We’re learning things in the city, we want to make sure the surrounding communities are being able to benefit from those pieces,” she says.

With SPARCC, LA Thrives and other partner organizations will also have access to capital financing, a critical bargaining chip at a time when cities may find themselves strapped for cash to implement community engagement programs — or even their planned transit expansions. Just during the reporting of this article, the White House released its proposed federal budget, which would slash funding for the Department of Transportation by 13 percent, imperiling projects approved but not yet fully funded under the New and Small Starts programs.

That includes two projects in Los Angeles — the downtown streetcar and phase three expansion of the Purple Line — and one in San Francisco, another SPARCC city. To SPARCC, the proposed budget cuts only lend credence to the fact that change will need to come from the local and regional levels.

It’s a fraught, but vital moment in shaping the future of cities. As Gidigbi notes, many major infrastructure projects were built in the 1960s, an America vastly different in some ways and eerily similar in others. While transit, housing, health and climate might not all seem to fit together at times, Gidigbi says, “they are so critical to ensuring that what we build today truly represents the values that we stand for today.”

Source: The Way We Build Infrastructure Reflects Our Values

Participatory Budgeting is Gaining Momentum in the U.S. How Does it Work?

It’s tax season in America. With the deadline looming to pay Uncle Sam less than a month away, many are wondering — or grumbling — about how their tax dollars are allocated in the first place. But now participatory budgeting, a concept in which citizens get to vote democratically on how a particular pot of public funds will be spent, has been gaining traction across the U.S. over the last few years, and promising to give citizens a voice in these matters.

Read more at the Source: Participatory Budgeting is Gaining Momentum in the U.S. How Does it Work?

Portugal has announced the world’s first nationwide participatory budget | Apolitical

Portugal has announced the world’s first participatory budget on a national scale. The project will let people submit ideas for what the government should spend its money on, and then vote on which ideas are adopted.

Although participatory budgeting has become increasingly popular around the world in the past few years, it has so far been confined to cities and regions, and no country that we know of has attempted it nationwide. To reach as many people as possible, Portugal is also examining another innovation: letting people cast their votes via ATM machines.

Source: Portugal has announced the world’s first nationwide participatory budget | Apolitical

‘It’s about quality of life, it’s about the quality of public space, it’s about the quality of life for your children, it’s about your life, OK?’ Graça Fonseca, the minister responsible, told Apolitical. ‘And you have a huge deficit of trust between people and the institutions of democracy. That’s the point we’re starting from and, if you look around, Portugal is not an exception in that among Western societies. We need to build that trust and, in my opinion, it’s urgent. If you don’t do anything, in ten, twenty years you’ll have serious problems.’

Graça Fonseca doing publicity for the participatory budget

Graça Fonseca doing publicity for the participatory budget

Although the official window for proposals begins in January, some have already been submitted to the project’s website. One suggests equipping kindergartens with technology to teach children about robotics. Using the open-source platform Arduino, the plan is to let children play with the tech and so foster scientific understanding from the earliest age.

Proposals can be made in the areas of science, culture, agriculture and lifelong learning, and there will be more than forty events in the new year for people to present and discuss their ideas.

Continue reading at the Source: Portugal has announced the world’s first nationwide participatory budget | Apolitical

 

(Pictures via Orçamento Participativo Portugal and Budget Participatif Paris)