Cities can create the equality our state and federal governments can’t
Few of us have hope that the federal government can get anything done. The partisan politics in Washington coupled with the pay to play money in politics, provides little hope that meaningful progressive change will occur. But, there is hope, and it is just down the street at your local city government, where things are happening and social change actually is taking place.
The George Bush era spurred a revolt and Obama campaigned and was elected in hopes that our government would serve the people. Yet, little has been done to repair the economic inequality that exists. Economically Obama has been a big disappointment. People are left feeling that our federal government just will not or cannot solve our problems.
There is hope. And it is coming from an unlikely source, your local city government. Cities across America are taking the initiative and enacting innovative policies to level the playing field.
Local governments can lead on wages, housing, urban policing, and the environment and providing universal pre-K Cities like SeaTac in Washington Los Angeles, San Francisco and Richmond California have implemented and or adopted new minimum wage standards, and health coverage laws and even dealing with the housing crisis with bold plan to take over underwater mortgages through the use of eminent domain. New York City is working towards universal pre-K, while San Antonio and Denver have approved sales tax increases to provide preschool programs for families in their cities. And in the cities of Boston and Seattle a $15 minimum wage is supported by both Mayors.
In the 60s and ’70s manufacturing jobs exited America’s cities, and crime was on the rise and urban riots occurred across America. Many localities never recovered from these very tumultuous times. .
Then in 1980s and ’90s, many American cities started booming again, attracting people in finance, law, business and technology, media, academia and the arts. Growth was occurring in places at a very good pace a driving up the cost of housing.
Soon it was discovered that the economic gains made by these new professionals were not trickling down to others. The less-skilled blue-collar and service workers earn more, but more expensive housing negated their gains in wages. This left about 66 percent of these cities residents losing economic ground.
Today our cities are testing policies in hopes of reversing, the effects of poverty and widespread inequality that the previous policies have created. Local politicians are always seeking new ideas that will enhance their reputations while effecting positive policies. So they look to other governments where successful policies have been implemented. Cities have the freedom to make change in a less non-partisan environment so they have the freedom to experiment and enact change more swiftly.
In Cleveland, a group of worker-owned green cooperatives in low-income neighborhoods have been serving the city’s hospitals and college campuses since 2008. They created three new cooperatives, one to provide laundry services, another to harvest local food, and another that creates solar energy, that they sell back to the city. They generate approximately $6 million a year in income while hiring local residents and give them an ownership share in the business.
These kinds of local initiatives are the way we can make progressive change to close the gap, of the growing poverty and inequality levels in America.
Our local cities can lead the way to equality in a way that our partisan bickering and play to pay politics that our state and federal governments can’t.