The confluence of the Occupy movement and demographic change is shifting the public discourse about class and race and breaking ground for new political spaces. In the tumultuous months since the February 2011 takeover of Wisconsin’s Capitol, Occupy Wall Street as well as actions at stockholder meetings of banks and protests by university students and faculty have shed light on who owns our wealth and how they use it. (Baham)* The failure of the recall effort in Wisconsin emphasizes the urgency of constructing new spaces in which our majority coalitions can come together outside the constraints of corporate-dominated political parties to develop creative and effective strategies.
Faced with the dual threat of a rising majority of voters of color in many key states and mass public demonstrations against economic inequality, the system is pushing back. Supreme Court decisions ceding increased power to corporations as “persons” have in effect privatized the election process. Right-wing strategists are backing voter suppression and anti-immigrant legislation in states across the nation, seeking to fan racial animosity and redirect popular anger toward scapegoats (Keyes et al., Lewis, Kromm, Bacon).
As Governor Scott Walker explained to one of his billionaire backers, the public workers in Wisconsin got the brunt of a classic “divide and conquer” strategy—but instead of going after immigrants, gays, or women, this attack targeted workers who are one step up on the economic ladder: public sector employees.
On December 6, an important step was taken in the battle to keep neighborhoods, with good transit, affordable to the low-income residents who depend on the bus and BART to get to work, school and other places they go to daily.
The Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) Board voted on a final set of One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) Scoring Criteria. Responding to the recommendations of Urban Habitat and members of the Equitable Transit Oriented Development Coalition (see list below), the Board increased the possible points earned for affordable housing and anti-displacement to 9 (from 3). They also increased the points for projects that improve access to frequent transit to 6 (from 3).
For the first time in its history, San Francisco youth will be able to travel to and from school, work, after-school programs and other activities throughout the city for free.
A vote by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency board (SFMTA) on Wednesday to approve the Free Muni for Low-Income Youth means that the cost of public transit no longer will be a barrier to opportunity for young people in San Francisco.
For the past two years, youth and transit advocates tirelessly fought to transform the free Muni program from an idea into a reality.
B1’s incredibly narrow loss is bittersweet for us at Urban Habitat, who had worked incredibly hard to make sure it would improve transit for Alameda County’s low-income and working-class residents.
Measure B1 included many important benefits to the county’s transportation system and, particularly its most vulnerable residents — in the form of funds for restoring AC Transit service, improving paratransit for the elderly and disabled, new bike lanes and sidewalks, and seed funding for a countywide Free Student Bus Pass program. These are all funds badly needed to put Alameda County on a path toward more sustainable and equitable transportation modes.
The funds in B1 would have enabled AC Transit to add back bus lines that had been cut, expand evening and weekend service, and make buses run more frequently and more on-time. Without B1, AC Transit may need to cut further from its already skeletal service, and it will definitely try to push another fare hike on its already-taxed riders.
Working Together: Collaborative Strategies Supporting Economic Prosperity for Low- and Moderate-Income Communities
BCLI Issues and Advocates Speaker Series
Working Together: Collaborative Strategies Supporting Economic Prosperity for Low- and Moderate-Income Communities in the Bay Area
October 17, 2012
In 2010, the BCLI hosted one of our most popular Wednesday panels on innovative strategies for job creation, where we heard about new and exciting models that were building wealth and supporting economic development in low-income communities. Two years later, the Bay Area continues to see a lack of job growth and economic opportunity, coupled with dwindling public funds to support workforce and economic development.
In light of the dismal economic climate and limited resources, a collaborative made up of public, private, labor, and non-profit organizations is working to draft a “Regional Prosperity Strategy” for the Bay Area to understand, strengthen, and expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals. The goal of the collaborative is to support a sustainable regional economy with good jobs that are accessible for all people, pay a living wage with benefits, provide workers with a voice on the job, and allow workers to advance up a career ladder.
BCLI Issues and Advocates Speaker Series
Protecting Communities, Securing Benefits:
Lessons Learned in Silicon Valley
September 19, 2012
During the current economic crisis, cities everywhere are courting development to create jobs for their residents and to support struggling local economies. But at what cost is it acceptable to allow companies to move into our communities if they are not providing their fair share of local tax dollars, jobs to local residents, and affordable housing to their workers?
For the first panel of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute’s Issues and Advocates Speakers Series, we hear from experts about the impacts of Silicon Valley’s job growth on affordable housing, transit, and the environment, and consider what this growth means for low-income communities and communities of color. You learn how a coalition of local community-based and regional organizations and a non-profit civil rights law firm worked together to gain community benefits from a large corporation that was planning the development of their new headquarters.
Please join California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, our partners, and local leaders for a provocative conversation about the health and well-being of your family and community.
Join us in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego or Sacramento to learn more about CLCVEF’s 2012 Latino Environmental Poll. Through a panelist-audience discussion of our new Latino environmental poll, we will explore what the findings mean for California’s future and what you can do to help protect our air, land and water in the Bay Area.
The forums are open to the public and will announce the results of our ground-breaking survey of Latinos’ environmental attitudes and concerns. Discussions will include an overview of statewide survey results as well as a deeper examination of local results with a panel of regional advocates. Together with these experts from and advocates for California’s Latino communities, we will analyze specific implications and next steps for protecting the environment and public health.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, the East Palo Alto City Council approved the Ravenswood Business District Specific Plan (the Plan) after hundreds of hours of community meetings, workshops, public hearings and informational meetings.
For more than three years, the Envision-Transform-Build East Palo Alto Coalition, consisting of Community Development Institute (CDI), Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA) , Youth United for Community (YUCA) , and Urban Habitat (through the Great Communities Collaborative), has been engaging East Palo Alto residents to work on the Plan process.
The stretch of land in the northeastern portion of East Palo Alto is mostly industrial with various vacant parcels strewn throughout the area. It is the last large swath of land that can be developed in a community that is already built out.
Demand Transparency and Accountability from Chevron, the County Health Department and the City of Richmond
The Richmond Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) denounces the damage done by the Chevron refinery fire in the strongest possible terms. Though smoke poisoned the atmosphere throughout the region, sent hundreds of people to the hospital, and stopped BART trains, once again the harm fell hardest on Richmond’s low-income community and people of color.
Members of REDI’s partner groups have deep roots in these communities, and we see this event as both a source of outrage and a call to action: We demand transparency and accountability so we can protect the health of our community.
It is unacceptable that people had to sit imprisoned behind duct-taped doors with headaches, burning eyes and lungs—or had symptoms bad enough to force them into the toxic air to seek medical help. To make matters worse, few people got warning robocalls from the Contra Costa County Health Department—they only heard the sirens, saw and smelled the smoke.
Hard work and heartfelt testimony by young people and their allies broadened support for Free Muni for Youth among the members of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)—but MTC still wasn’t ready to fund a project that mainly benefits low-income youth and youth of color. The Commission rejected a proposal to allocate $4 million to the Free Youth Pass pilot program by a vote of 8 to 7 at its July 25 meeting. Commissioners from San Francisco, the Peninsula and the South Bay backed the program, while East Bay and North Bay representatives opposed it.
Youth from POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) responded to the vote with an unscheduled public comment, filling the room with chants of “Spread the word, spread the truth/Free Muni for all our youth!” and “We’ll be back!” before leaving the building.
Around 70 youth and supporters from all over the Bay Area attended the Wednesday morning MTC meeting. On the steps outside the agency’s headquarters after the vote, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos put the events in perspective.