In an era of persistent urban inequality and chronic unemployment disproportionately impacting historically marginalized communities and communities of color, new alternatives to the traditional economic development strategies that have failed to bring broad and evenly distributed prosperity to America's cities are clearly needed.
Founded in 1965 as Friends of FIGHT, a group aiming to achieve equal access to good jobs at Kodak, Metro Justice is a member-driven, grassroots organization dedicated to social, economic, and racial justice in Rochester. The organization now has about 1,000 members working collectively to end Rochester’s significant wealth inequality and poverty. Specific ongoing campaigns focus on achieving an industry-wide $15 per hour wage for fast food workers, ending the school-to-prison pipeline through restorative justice measures in school discipline policy, passing a state-wide women’s equality act, and changing the nature of nursing homes to better support elders.
Founded in 1965 as Friends of FIGHT, a group aiming to achieve equal access to good jobs at Kodak, Metro Justice is a member-driven, grassroots organization dedicated to social, economic, and racial justice in Rochester. Read more about Metro Justice...
Launched in January 2014, San Francisco’s Urban Agriculture Program aims to facilitate the use of urban land for farming and horticulture, apiaries, and animal husbandry. To do so, it supports and manages a program of community gardens on city-owned property, where members can grow produce and ornamental plants for personal use, and Urban Agriculture Resource Centers, where all levels of urban agriculturalists can access free supplies (e.g., mulch, compost, and soil) and participate in educational opportunities. As of December 2014, the program encompassed 38 community gardens and had established its first resource center at the Golden Gate Park.
Aiming to help more of the City’s lower-income residents enter the financial mainstream, San Francisco’s Office of Financial Empowerment provides and promotes a range of programs and partnerships designed to help residents learn about money, open a checking account, take advantage of tax credits, save for education, overcome setbacks, and gain independence. One highly successful initiative is Bank On San Francisco. Developed in 2006, Bank on San Francisco was the first program in the U.S. focused on helping people without access to mainstream financial institutions to obtain accounts at banks or credit unions. The program, which results in 10,000 new checking accounts being opened in the San Francisco region a year, has been so successful that over 100 other localities have started or are in the process of developing their own local program. In 2010, the Office launched its Kindergarten to College initiative, which is the first publicly funded, universal children’s college savings account program in the U.S. Every child entering a City public kindergarten is given a College Savings Account (CSA) with $50; children enrolled in the National Student Lunch Program receive an additional $50. Designed to ensure every child can save for post-secondary education, the initiative also includes incentives to promote savings and financial education. Since the program’s start, more than 13,000 accounts have been opened.
Despite the fact that municipalities have a default rate of 0.02 percent on their loans between 1970 and 2012, credit rating agencies frequently threaten cities with credit downgrades, a “political ploy” that often serves to transfer public assets into Wall Street hands. In this report from the ReFund America Project, an initiative of the Roosevelt Institute, Executive Director Saqib Bhatti and Senior Research Analyst Carrie Sloan charge the City of Chicago to resist corporate interests and put residents first. They offer a series of suggestions to stabilize the local economy and provide resources for essential public services, which include ending corporate tax subsidies and tax breaks, partnering with other cities to fight against financing fees levied by big banks, and creating public banks to foster reinvestment.
It is easy to be distracted by what passes for economic news these days, focused as it is on short-term fluctuations and assurances of recovery and revitalization. The simple truth, however, is that year by year, decade by decade, life in the United States is steadily growing ever more unequal.
Jennifer Brooks, Kasey Wiedrich, Lebaron Sims, Jr. and Solana Rice
Findings from the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
One in five households regularly rely on fringe financial services to meet their needs. Nationally, 55.6 percent of consumers have subprime credit scores, meaning they cannot qualify for credit or financing at prime rates. In its 2015 Asset and Opportunity Scorecard, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) describes these and other difficulties faced by many Americans and breaks down disparities by race and state. The report also outlines how a combination of state policies such as protections against predatory lending and the establishment of housing trust funds can help families achieve economic security.