All-In State and Local Policy Webinar: Tools and Strategies for Equity by Farah Z. Ahmad, Center for American Progress

While All-In Nation lays out a federal policy agenda to create a more equitable economy, advancing equity and inclusion means changing policy at all levels—including local, regional, and state policy as well as federal policy. In fact, the most innovative policies to dismantle barriers and expand opportunities tend to develop first at the local, regional, and state levels and then gradually make their way into federal policy. Last Tuesday’s webinar, the third in the All-In Nation Webinar Series, highlighted three state and local policy strategies that are promoting equitable growth, including an organizing and policy effort that is expanding opportunities for California’s boys and men of color, and “construction careers” policies to ensure low-income workers and communities of color can access good jobs in the construction sector. PolicyLink Associate Director Marc Philpart moderated a discussion among the following three panelists.

New York City Council Member Brad Lander described how the New York City Council Progressive Caucus developed and is advancing an “all-in” policy platform for New York City. The policy platform includes an agenda for both the city’s council and mayoral office through 13 bold ideas as a means to move toward a 21st century for all, with policies ranging from investing in sustainability to strengthening democracy. The Progressive Caucus, now 20 council members strong among the 51-member city council, is also creating campaign support for progressive city candidates like Democratic mayoral primary victor Bill de Blasio, and establishing a nationwide network of city officials to help move local progress from the bottom up. With the help of community groups, labor unions, and various political and government officials, the caucus has achieved significant wins including the establishment of a living wage, participatory budgeting, paid sick days, and the Community Safety Act, which reformed racial profiling.

Moving on to state-level policy changes, Oakland Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson described California’s efforts to expand economic opportunity for boys and men of color. Swanson described how young people of color are a growing and hugely important demographic, representing more than 71 percent of California’s young people. By improving their opportunities in areas such as health, safety, education, and leadership, policy leaders improve the opportunities for almost all youth. Swanson shared Oakland’s best practice of involving youth voices in the development of strong equity and inclusionary policies and stressed the need to prioritize boys and men of color in government budgets, given that much of state money is spent within the juvenile justice system instead on measures to prevent entering the criminal justice system, such as improved educational attainment. Annually in California, close to $50,000 is spent per inmate while barely $10,000 is spent per K-12 student.  If California invested in increasing the graduation rates of young men of color above its current 57 percent level to 100 percent, these graduates would generate $37.2 billion for the state of California over a lifetime.

Lastly, Executive Director of Partnership for Working Families Leslie Moody addressed the success of using construction careers policies to advance a local equity agenda. Construction careers policies are a time-tested win-win-win strategy for cities, communities, and responsible contractors that increases development and creates high-quality urban jobs while stimulating the economy. These policies can include pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship programs, local and disadvantaged hiring preferences, living wage standards, and a minority/women-owned business strategy, among other tools. Moody detailed construction career successes including the Oakland Army Base project, an $800 million redevelopment, which resulted in local and disadvantaged hiring for many of the 2,800 long-lasting construction jobs and 2,000 permanent operations jobs that coincided with the project.

As the All-In State and Local Policy Webinar showed, when it comes to equity, local leaders are innovating the way forward to create more inclusive and prosperous cities and states.

As New York City Council Member Lander said during today’s discussion, “There is so much reason to focus on cities because that is where economic prosperity is generated. And while that is where so much growing inequality is occurring, there is also a growing appetite to do something about it.”

Watch the webinar here.

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Posted September 26th, 2013