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Transparency and public data can help improve the effectiveness of government agencies and elected officials. However, current transparency requirements focus on physical publication and inspection, which favor and protect incumbent power. Local governments often do not have rigorous data collection, and even localities that have the data lack the resources to make it useful. The solution to this problem includes targeted legal reforms, citizen-centered technologies and modernized models of public administration. Tools of digital democracy, such as open data, open 311, and open FOIL, and open meetings are essential for an informed citizenry that consents to be governed in the modern era.
Fracking is an under-regulated, highly contaminative, and unsustainable practice. Because major decisions about large-scale fracking projects are unaddressed by the federal government (since profitable oil companies have utilized their monetary and political capital to keep fracking legal), the anti-fracking movement relies on local action. This brief outlines cities that have banned fracking by explicit ordinances or through other means, such as rewriting zoning laws, narrowing road-use regulations, setting noise limits, or recognizing “critical environmental areas.”
The 2017 partisan tax reform law accelerated the United States’ rising inequality by slashing taxes of wealthy individuals and corporations and expanding the federal deficit, ultimately straining municipal budgets. In order to restore fairness to the tax code and generate revenue for infrastructure and other social needs, this report provides local examples of taxation strategies that target corporations contributing to inequality and wealthy property owners; these include case studies of cities implementing CEO pay gap taxes, high end real estate taxes to fund affordable housing, and vacancy taxes, and cities reducing corporate tax subsidies.
This report lays out a set of policy and political interventions that cities, regions, and states can make to increase municipal revenue and to make their collections more progressive. Cities have historically suffered enormous budget shortfalls and after the Great Recession, available funds depleted even more drastically. There is a desperate need for more municipal tax revenue and for a more just system for collecting it, instead of the current practice of cities collecting their revenue in regressive ways. Across the United States, there are major political obstacles to raising any kind of revenue. And yet, although different, the obstacles at the municipal level are in some ways even greater than they are at the state and federal levels. Nevertheless, there are meaningful strategies that cities and counties can adopt. And there are political strategies that may be effective at generating state-level reform. This report lays these out in detail, discussing the political and policy strengths and weaknesses of each.