Economic Equality

ProGov21 Policy Roadmap: Economic Equality

  1. What’s the Problem & How are Progressives Addressing It

In this age of federal grid lock and inaction it is incumbent upon local government to provide leadership and a path forward to a more justice society. Promoting economic equality is also essential in order to rectify historical marginalization of minority populations. Promoting economic equality requires addressing the past while fighting for a just future.

Broadly speaking a local progressive programs for combating economic inequality are based on investing in just economic development, providing security for working families, and ensuring ample opportunities for future generations. Creating economic equality depends on holistic growth focused on local capture, education and innovation, as well as building around anchor institutions in the community. Providing security for working families through wage and benefits floors and the promotion of workers’ rights ensures all residents benefit from economic growth. Ensuring ample opportunities through education and job training ensures future generations will not face the same racial and economic barriers to mobility.

  1. Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms

The project of generating local economic equality is a project of municipal coordination. Leadership from elected representatives sets the agenda and then requires coordination across departments for successful implementation. For example, following the flood devastation of Hurricane Harvey the City of Houston committed to a master plan, Rising Together, for generating economic equality in its recovery efforts. This plan turned recovery response into a far reaching opportunity to reimagine the city’s future.

Generating an economic equality plan is not a one size fits all endeavor. Each locality must be attuned to local needs and resources. The Mayor’s Innovation Project has excellent resources to help local governments conduct an asset map of their local economy to design a plan. In addition to generating a roadmap cities should ensure their spending promotes economic equality. This includes ensuring contract workers are paid a living wage and that economic development projects are not merely corporate subsidies. All of this, when connected to the local education systems and individual communities goes a long way to building economic equality.

  1. Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them

Once a locality has conducted an asset map they can develop an economic development strategy that promotes equitable growth. The ProGov21 database has a wealth of resources and examples to help you craft an economic development strategy. As mentioned above, the Houston Rising Together plan is exemplary and the Kinder Institute at Rice conducted an excellent review of the Huston plan showing how a community can evaluate their program. The Twin Cities Region equitable development plan is another excellent model of equitable development which creates a unified development plan for the cities, suburbs, and rural counties in the area. Another useful example is from Portland, OR whose five year development plan took a neighborhood by neighborhood approach. The National League of Cities guide to elected official’s role in economic development and PolicyLink’s guide to how equity is a superior local economic growth are also excellent resources.

One important element of promoting equitable development is ensuring smart local investment in innovative lead industries which are likely to provide good jobs into the future. This includes San Antonio’s clean-tech cluster development strategy, Brookings guide to data driven economic growth through Metropolitan Business Plans, the Center for an Urban Future innovation guide, Living Cities guide to embedding innovation in local government, and the Partnership for Working Families report on ensuring local neighborhood capture during economic development projects.

When designing an economic equity program it is important to not reinvent the wheel but to instead build around your existing anchor institutions. ProGov21 has numerous resources including the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities’ guide to using Urban Universities for economic development, the UPenn and Mayor’s Innovation Network study on the economic impact of UPenn as an anchor institution for Philadelphia, the Democracy Collaborative guide to job creation through anchor institutions, as well as their guide to utilizing anchor institutions to improve outcomes for children and families.

While a new economic development strategy is necessary for economic equality it is not sufficient. To ensure working families benefit from development local governments must ensure wage and benefits floors are instituted and that labor rights are promoted. ProGov21’s policy roadmaps to wage and benefits  and job quality provide detailed guides. In terms of wage standards ProGov21 has detailed resources for generating a living wage policy including NELP’s model law and these examples from Los Angeles and Minneapolis.  The UC Berkeley Labor Center has produced this guide that walks you through the data and methods you would need to calculate the impact of a living wage law.

Working families also must have affordable access to health care and housing to ensure economic equality. ProGov21 has roadmaps to both health care and housing. Towards this end numerous cities have extended their living wage ordinances to ensure they include health care and benefits such as paid sick days, see for example: Chicago, New York City, and Seattle.

  1. Taking it to the Next Level

While much has been done in cities and local governments to promote a just economic future much more needs to be done to promote the equity part of economic equality. In particular a municipality’s economic equality program must address historical legalizes of marginalization and discrimination.

The ProGov21 database has excellent resources for cities looking to combat economic discrimination. One great example is Boston’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust which was created in the 1980s to ensure that development generated training and jobs for the cities low-income residents. Other examples include Palo Alto, CA’s first source local hiring, the City of Philadelphia’s Shared Prosperity Plan, and the National League of Cities and NELP’s guide to local hiring plans for citizens with a criminal record.

To combat historical exclusion of minorities in the construction trades the UCLA Labor Center’s has this useful guide to targeted hiring in construction. Similarly, Local Progress has a guide to ensuring racial equality in public contracting. The Partnership for Working Families and the Community Benefit Law Center created this guide for communities to develop Community Development Agreements for their economic development projects. LAANE also has a wealth of materials on CBAs. For examples of the City’s PLAs see UCLA and Mayor’s Innovation Project infographic explaining PLA’s and L.A.’s Ordinance requiring PLA’s focused on hiring of un- and under-employed.

  1. Helpers, allies, comrades: list of useful organizations.