Localism in the Age of Trump



Published on Thursday, December 08, 2016

by Common Dreams

Localism in the Age of Trump

by Richard Heinberg

'Trump’s ascendancy probably represents not a victory for localism or even populism,' writes Heinber, 'but merely a co-optation of legitimate popular frustrations by a corporatist huckster who intends to lead his merry band of cronies and sycophants in looting what’s left of America’s natural and cultural resources.'

2016 will be remembered as the year Donald Trump—a wealthy, narcissistic political novice with a strong authoritarian bent—was elected president of the United States after campaigning against economic globalization. The events are fresh enough in many people’s minds that feelings are still raw and the implications are both unclear and, for many, terrifying. For those who have spent years, in some cases decades, denouncing globalization and seeking to build a localist alternative, this is surely a vexing and confusing moment.

When the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference in 1999 erupted into “the Battle of Seattle,” demonstrators voiced arguments that might resonate with the average Trump voter. They asserted that, for the United States, globalization was resulting in the offshoring of manufacturing that would otherwise have occurred domestically; that while American consumers were gaining access to cheaper consumer products, the hourly wages of workers were stagnating or falling in real terms due to competition with foreign labor; and that the investor class was benefitting significantly while the wage class was losing ground. All of these points were more recently driven home, to great effect, by The Donald.

However, the localist critique of globalization went much further than anything Trump himself has articulated. Anti-globalization activists decried a “race to the bottom” in environmental protections with each new trade deal, as well as the global loss of thousands of indigenous languages and locally-adapted forms of architecture, art, agriculture, and music in favor of a uniform global commercial culture dominated by corporate advertising and centralized industrial production methods. Further, teach-ins organized by International Forum on Globalization (IFG) beginning in the 1990s; books by the movement’s intellectual leaders (John Cavanagh’s and Jerry Mander’s Alternatives to Economic Globalization; Kirkpatrick Sale’s Dwellers in the Land and Human Scale; Michael Shuman’s Small-Mart Revolution and The Local Economy Solution; Helena Norberg Hodge’s Ancient Futures); and thousands of on-the-ground locally rooted cooperative efforts scattered worldwide promoted a vision of a green, sustainable, equitable bioregionalism.

Throughout the last couple of decades, some on the political left argued against localism and for globalism. Returning to a politics and economics centered in the community, it was said, would undermine the grand liberal vision of a borderless world with protections for human rights and the environment. Liberal globalists argued that climate change can only be fought with international treaties. It is by becoming global citizens, they intoned, that we can overcome ancient prejudices and fulfill humanity’s evolutionary destiny. Localists responded that, in practice, economic globalization has nothing to do with moral elevation or with worker and environmental protections, but everything to do with maximizing short-term profit for the few at the expense of long-term sustainability for people and planet.

That philosophical dispute may continue, but the context has shifted dramatically: the commanding new fact-on-the-ground is that the American electorate has for now sided with the anti-globalist argument, and we face the imminent presidency of Donald Trump as a result. Should localists declare victory? As we’re about to see, the situation is complicated and holds some opportunities along with plenty of perils.

True, voters rejected a predatory trade system that, in Helena Norberg Hodges’s words, “put ordinary people in permanent competition with each other.” However, Trump is not a one-man government; nor does he stand at the head of an organization of people with a coherent critique of globalism and a well thought-out alternative program. His administration will reflect the ideas and ideals of hundreds of high-placed officials, and Trump’s key appointees so far consist of business leaders, Republican insiders, and former lobbyists. They also stand to be the wealthiest cabinet in the history of the U.S. government. Crucially, not even Donald Trump himself has a clear idea of how to actually implement his stated intention of bringing back jobs for American workers. His first stab at the task, persuading the Carrier company not to move its air conditioner manufacturing operations to Mexico (actually, fewer than half the jeopardized jobs were saved), entailed doling out huge tax breaks—a tactic that Bernie Sanders rightly points out will simply lead to other companies announcing outsourcing plans so they can win similar concessions.

Let’s be clear: Trump’s ascendancy probably represents not a victory for localism or even populism, but merely a co-optation of legitimate popular frustrations by a corporatist huckster who intends to lead his merry band of cronies and sycophants in looting what’s left of America’s natural and cultural resources. This would be the antithesis of green localism. Indeed, we may see an activist federal government attempt to trample local efforts to protect the environment, workers’ rights, or anything else that gets in the way of authoritarian corporatism. Congress may train its gun sights on local ordinances to ban fracking and GMOs, and on firearm regulations in states with the temerity to stand up to the NRA. Trump’s message appeals as much to tribalism as to anti-globalization sentiments—and only to members of certain tribes.

What should we localists do, then? Bernie Sanders, who ran on a far more genuinely localist platform than Trump’s, says he might work with the new president if conditions are right. In a recent interview with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, Sanders said he would cooperate with Trump where there was common ground, but oppose him wherever the new President impinged on the interests of workers, people of color, immigrants, women, or the environment:

[T]his guy talked about ending our disastrous trade policies, something I’ve been fighting for 30 years. He talked about taking on the drug companies, taking on Wall Street, taking on the overall political establishment—‘draining the swamp.’ We will see to what degree there was any honesty in what he was saying.

Trump has also promised to keep America from invading more countries. Good luck with that.

Specifically for localists, there may be opportunities to collaborate on the revival of domestic manufacturing. However, if that happens on Trump’s terms, the lion’s share of benefits will likely go to business owners. Trump says he wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure for the country, and many localists would agree the nation needs an enormous investment in electric rail, public transportation, and renewable energy technologies if it is to mitigate climate change and the impacts of oil depletion. Yet the infrastructure Trump favors consists mostly of more fossil fuel-dependent highways and airport runways, which we already have way too much of, thank you very much; and he proposes to get that infrastructure built by giving tax breaks to corporations, whether they actually produce anything or not. Collaboration with authoritarian leaders always leads to moral quandaries, as Masha Gessen details in a recent thoughtful essay in New York Review of Books. But there may be few incentives to tempt localists to work with a Trump administration.

Another strategic response to the new leader would be resistance: block him from doing bad things, voice displeasure in creative and strategic ways, and pour metaphoric sand in the gears of the new administration. There will likely be lots of awful things to oppose, including efforts to privatize public assets, including federal lands and even whole government agencies; efforts to weaken consumer protections, women’s rights, immigrant rights, worker protections, environmental regulations (including reversals of steps to deal with global climate change and stays on oil pipeline construction); assaults on civil rights and civil liberties, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights, public education, and more.

Resistance at the local level actually holds considerable promise. As Heather Gerken wrote in a recent article in The Nation,

States can significantly slow down or reverse federal policies simply by dragging their feet and doing the bare minimum necessary. That’s how state and localities have thwarted federal education reform over the last several years. Sometimes states just pull their enforcement resources. . . . Some states even engage in a form of civil disobedience, as many did in refusing to enforce parts of the Patriot Act.

If Trump’s authoritarian personality were to become the main driver of public policy, non-compliance could be the order of the day for elected or appointed state officials, local police officers, prosecutors, juries, state and local agencies, school boards, and teachers—and not just in blue states, nor just in big cities or college towns. Already, according to Gerken,

. . . cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have promised to be sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, while Governor Andrew Cuomo has insisted that New York will be a “refuge” for Muslims and other minority groups. These promises have made the incoming administration so nervous that it has threatened to cut off all federal funding—a threat that is plainly unconstitutional.

Consider a worst-case scenario: At some point after Donald Trump is fully ensconced in the White House, a widespread disaster occurs—perhaps an economic crisis for which the Great Recession was only a dress rehearsal; maybe a natural catastrophe—and the president declares a national emergency, suspending the Constitution. Congress and the Supreme Court decline to resist this unprecedented power grab. While he is making well-publicized efforts to deal with the immediate crisis, Trump decides to use the opportunity to punish his enemies, issuing arrest orders for journalists, left-leaning college professors, immigrant-rights and environmental activists, and anyone else who has managed to offend him. Public vocal opposition to the administration becomes foolhardy. In such circumstances, only quiet but effective local resistance would stand much chance of saving careers and perhaps even lives. Thankfully, as Gerken notes, “As hard as it is to control Washington, it’s even harder for Washington to control the rest of us.”

This Trumpocalypse scenario probably won’t materialize, and we should all pray it doesn’t; I describe it here only because it seems far more likely to occur under the coming presidency than any in recent memory, for reasons I’ll return to below. In any case, the Trump administration may be shaping up to be one of the most centralist and anti-local in history, battling thousands of communities determined to thwart and resist federal policies at every step.

One line of resistance deserves special attention: the protection of vulnerable places. All geography is local, and the salvation of that grand generality, “the environment,” often comes down to a fight on the part of local citizens to defend a particular river, forest, or at-risk species. This is likely to be especially true during the tenure of a federal administration committed to rolling back national environmental regulations.

As important as resistance efforts will be, pouring all our energy into opposition may be poor strategy. Just as important will be building local alternatives—cooperative institutions and enterprises, including community land trusts, city-owned public banks, credit unions, and publicly owned utilities investing in renewables. Such constructive efforts have, after all, always been the main work of committed localists.

Transition U.S. recently published a report highlighting “25 enterprises that build resilience,” including Bay Bucks, a business-to-business barter exchange program in California’s greater San Francisco Bay Area with more than 250 participating local businesses; CERO in Boston, MA, a worker-owned energy and recycling cooperative; Cooperative Jackson, in Jackson MS, which is developing a network of cooperatives engaging in a range of services and pursuits from child care to urban farming; and Co-op Power, a network of regional renewable energy cooperatives in the Northeastern U.S. These are merely representative examples of what amounts to a fledgling global movement that has emerged partly in response to the Global Financial Crisis. It goes by various names—the sharing economy, the solidarity economy, the cooperative economy, the local economy movement—and takes many forms, all with the aims of decentralization and self-organization, and of meeting human needs with a minimum of environmental impact. Sometimes municipal governments get involved, investing public resources into worker-cooperative development. Further, localist successes are often shared internationally—in programs such as Sister Cities International and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which is effectively an international league of municipalities—so as to seed similar efforts far afield.

*          *          *

The next four years may be a time when much that is beautiful and admirable about America is attacked, looted, liquidated, and suppressed; and when some of the more shameful elements of the country are empowered, amplified, and celebrated. If there is a political corollary to Newton’s third law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), then the radical policy shifts promised by Trump will engender an enormous backlash. It is as yet unclear what forms that backlash will take, but much of the energy unleashed will be expressed locally.

The wider historical context within which Trump and anti-Trump forces collide will have enormous significance. While there is often no way to predict events like natural disasters, major terrorist attacks, or the outbreak of a major war, there are sometimes prior warnings. Currently one warning sign is flashing bright: the likelihood of a serious economic downturn within the next four years. Debt levels are unprecedented, a cyclical recession is already overdue, and our oil-based energy system is running on fumes. Hard times for the economy usually result in rejection of the government that’s in charge when the crisis happens to hit. Which means the anti-Trump reaction will likely eventually be intensified even further, though it also means the Trumpocalypse scenario described earlier in this essay might have a handy trigger.

Trump voters were not all racists, misogynists, and xenophobes. Many were simply ordinary Americans fed up with a government that tolerated or actively supported the dismantling of the American middle class through global trade deals and corporate influence, and who also sensed the decline of American civilization (which, it must be said, is inevitable in some way or form). They voted for a man who promised to make America great again; what they’re actually likely to see is more economic turmoil. Trump promised not to touch Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, but the team he’s heading promises to gut those programs. One way or another, many Trump voters will likely feel betrayed. This could translate to a deepening national political cynicism, or to action.

Can we enlist those people and many others not just in opposing Trump, but also in building genuine local alternatives to the globalist excesses that elected Trump in the first place? That can only happen as the result of thousands, perhaps millions of honest conversations among neighbors, friends, and relatives, in towns and cities across the nation. Arguments about politics often accomplish little, but efforts to find common ground in community projects that meet people’s needs could eventually change everything. Localism done right—that is, in an inclusive rather than exclusionary way—offers the best path toward maintaining and building national cohesion. And stronger communities, local economies, and greater self-reliance are all things that many people in Trump’s America would support.

Localism is a long, slow, patient path that requires trust, patience, and hard work. Such mundane work may sound boring in a time of political crisis and turmoil. But it may soon get a lot more interesting.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of twelve books, including his most recent: Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels. Previous books include: Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future; The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies; Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines; and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.

Once-Shuttered Factories Are Now Manufacturing Jobs in Philadelphia

Source: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/rehab-factory-philadelphia-kensington-neighborhood-jobs

By Max Marin | December 1, 2016

As North Kensington goes from post-industrial derelict to next hot neighborhood, CDCs and socially minded developers hope revitalization can sidestep displacement of longtime residents.

Linda Mottolo remembers when her brother worked at Orinoka Mills back in the 1980s. She also remembers a decade later, long after the jobs vanished, when her daughter would break into the shuttered factory building to shoot heroin.

Many properties in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, about 3 miles northeast of the city’s core, tell a similar story.

“There were eight rowhomes here when I moved to the neighborhood,” Mottolo says, standing amid a cluster of vacant lots, as she watches her grandchildren play. “Then they all turned to crack houses. Then they went up in flames, one by one.”

Law enforcement officials have long recognized Kensington, and the adjacent Fairhill neighborhood, as one of the largest open-air drug markets on the East Coast. In online forums, anonymous drug users refer to visiting the area as making the “hajj,” riffing on the Arabic word for holy pilgrimage. The heroin sold there is known to be among the purest available. Abandoned properties offer a glut of injection spaces. For longtime residents, this means living on the front lines of the U.S. war on drugs, in a place that saw more concentrated overdoses, more police stops and more narcotics arrests in 2015 than any other part of the city.

Yet when Mottolo and other residents look around today, they also sees hints of revitalization. Neighbors and organizers from the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) are talking about how to turn vacant lots from drug havens into public spaces.

“In the past few years, we’ve started seeing changes,” says Carlos Mitti, a longtime resident and president of the Somerset Neighbors for Better Living, a civic organization that works closely with NKCDC. “People who were afraid before are now coming outside and caring about their community.”

Until recently, the 5-story Orinoka Mills building, a vestige of Kensington’s former industrial glory, was indistinguishable among dozens of factories that have blighted North Philadelphia’s skyline for decades. But November marked one year since the NKCDC broke ground on a $16.2 million rehab of the old textile plant, funded with a mix of public and private dollars, including some from the city. In June, Orinoka Mills will reopen as the Orinoka Civic House, a complex with 51 units affordable to low- and moderate-income renters, a coffee shop, a community space and, equally significant, NKCDC’s new headquarters.

The project is a landmark advance in the warp-speed development of a larger swath of Philadelphia called the River Wards, the neighborhoods that sit between the Market-Frankford El transit line and the Delaware River. Over the last two decades, NKCDC’s efforts, which are fastened around community empowerment and key real estate investments, have helped stabilize parts of Kensington just south of Orinoka, efforts that in turn helped attract significant public and private capital. The Licenses and Inspections department is on track to issue more new construction permits in 2016 in the River Wards than in any other year in recent history. As of October, the agency had already surpassed the 2015 record of 220 permits, more than double the number issued for the area in 2010.

Consequently, the southern reaches of Kensington are starting to see the issues typically associated with gentrification: rising rents, anxieties about displacement and a cultural shift brought on by an influx of businesses catering to new residents. But in Mottolo’s neck of the ‘hood, where more than 50 percent of residents are living on $25,000 a year or less, those concerns are at a distance. For now, in the area around Orinoka, new development means displacement of something else: the entrenched drug trade.

Still, mindful of higher rents to the south and the signs of dealers being dislodged, local nonprofits are working together — along with residents and private real estate investors focused on social impact — to foster inclusive development with an eye on a turnaround that benefits all.

A CDC With a Plan

Just over a year ago, Kevin Gray, NKCDC’s real estate development director, was at a city auction watching regular bidders yawn at vacant parcels within the boundaries of the nonprofit’s 2013 North of Lehigh Revitalization Plan. Even $2,000 for a corner plot was no blood to the sharks.

“People just passed on them,” Gray says of the sluggish sales in the area north of the main Lehigh Avenue corridor where the Orinoka building is. “There was interest, but there weren’t a lot of people buying.”

The shrugs in North Kensington were a stark contrast to the market frenzy south of Lehigh Avenue. At a sheriff’s sale in May, a vacant lot in that section sold for $46,000, while a rehab-ready brick rowhouse — just north of Lehigh — sold for a quarter of that.

But in the months after construction workers updated the facade of Orinoka Civic House, making it look more like a new development than a derelict factory, attitudes began to shift on the auction scene. Multiple sources familiar with the Kensington real estate market say that there is now a circle of developers who will follow NKCDC wherever they go. The mentality, according to one source, is: “Let’s buy literally everything around NKCDC, [because] that’s going to be valuable.”

Beth McConnell, of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC), notes that the traditional work of CDCs is to stabilize historically disinvested neighborhoods like Kensington and make them healthier, more attractive places to live for both the current population and new residents who might come in. There’s also a perennial concern in the CDC world over displacement, as neighborhoods that poor residents could afford become more expensive. Hence, McConnell notes, the importance of Orinoka’s affordable ambitions.

“NKCDC is seeing the trends of development pressure moving into the neighborhood, but also recognizing — for the people that are living here — they might not be able to afford some of the new stuff that’s being built,” McConnell says.

While NKCDC’s Kensington stabilization plans for north of Lehigh began years ago, their ground game is more visible than it has ever been. In line with its master plan, the group is simultaneously building affordable housing, hosting homeownership workshops, beautifying vacant lots and fostering a healthy community network.

They’re also working on curtailing the drug market. In the months since Orinoka construction began, 24th District Police Captain Daniel O’Connor has seen the effect of the $16 million rehab.

“We have less calls for service in the area,” O’Connor said at a community meeting in October. “In the last year, there was one shooting in the immediate area of [Orinoka], which is a dramatic decrease.”

He cited a combination of factors. NKCDC has been working closely with the police district to foster public safety, by installing security cameras and improving lighting at the Orinoka site. But equally important, O’Connor said, pointing to the packed church room under the roaring El tracks, more community members are getting involved.

None of these changes is happening in isolation.

Beyond Orinoka, the final part of NKCDC’s master plan — spurring capital investment — is progressing at an unprecedented clip. Developers are moving north of Lehigh at the same pace if not faster than the Orinoka building is being converted. Those vacant lots around Orinoka that Gray saw ignored for $2,000 are netting $4,000, $6,000 and in several cases more than $10,000, at auctions.

“This is America,” says Sandy Salzman, NKCDC’s executive director. “You can’t stop private enterprise, which is why it’s so important for us to get in here and help the residents who are still here so they can stay.”

From Abandoned Factory to Job Creator

NKCDC isn’t operating in a silo. They have always kept close communication with major developers in their service area, and north of Lehigh is no exception. But what’s different now — compared to when the CDC started its work in East Kensington over a decade ago — is that smaller developers aren’t playing wait-and-see with the CDC’s capital investments. They’re jumping in early.

Half a mile north of Orinoka, Mike Parsell and his small crew at A-Frame Constructs are rehabbing a former lamp factory into “artist lofts,” which will begin renting for $750 a pop sometime next year.

“If people ask me where is the best place to make an investment and fix something up, I’m very open with them about north of Lehigh,” Parsell says.

His selling points are familiar to many people who’ve been lured to city living across the U.S. in recent years. Kensington is close to public transit and yet still affordable. It has a layered history. And it’s also one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Philadelphia: majority Latino, with sizeable white and black populations, and a large community of Asian immigrants.

Parsell plans to relocate his woodshop into the basement of the old factory, and at the same time, there are much bigger business plans for the heart of Kensington.

In January, Philadelphia developer and entrepreneur Leo Voloshin quietly purchased the 100,000-square-foot Lomax Rug Co. building for $870,000, just a few blocks north of Orinoka. He plans to move his 30-employee South Kensington-based textile design company Printfresh Studios there by next year.

The owners of Johnny Brenda’s and Standard Tap — two bars that were harbingers of development in two other Philly neighborhoods, Fishtown and Northern Liberties — have reportedly eyed a location north of Lehigh as well.

But no one has shown interest in the area quite like the real estate investment firm Shift Capital, which has an office there. Shift began purchasing properties in the neighborhood back when NKCDC’s North of Lehigh Plan was still in its draft phase. Over the last three years, the firm has acquired more than 1.3 million square feet of space in the heart of Kensington. Real estate records show that the group has added more than a dozen properties to its portfolio in the last year, from vacant corner lots along Kensington Avenue to residential buildings.

While there’s already evidence of house flipping for quick profit in the area, Shift CEO Brian Murray says he hopes that the boom in North Kensington skips other all-too-familiar patterns.

“We already know what happens in these neighborhoods. It starts with the auction pricing, but it’s a never-ending cycle of developers and real estate folk thinking that they can squeeze more money out of the neighborhood,” he says.

Murray says Shift’s model is holistic. It starts with taking industrial buildings and returning them to job creators for the neighborhood. Healthy food market Snap Kitchen brought 80 employees to the neighborhood in a Shift development in 2015. Murray says the ink is drying on a lease with a wedding company.

“This is something that I don’t think has happened,” he says. “In a lot of other gentrifying parts, a lot of folks take the industrial and convert it into condos and residential for the quickest buck.”

Murray and Matthew Grande, co-principal at Shift, are also piloting Jumpstart Kensington, which is modeled after a successful program in Philadelphia’s Germantown. Jumpstart’s goal is to provide mentorship and short-term financing to social impact developers who want to bring opportunities back to the neighborhood.

“There’s a number of developers that I have taken on tours of the area, and they’re honest about their goal, which is just to make money,” says Casey O’Donnell, president of Impact Services Corporation, a jobs-focused nonprofit in Philadelphia. “Shift is honest about their goal too … But they really do believe in a double bottom line, if not a triple bottom line.”

City Council recently designated a number of properties in the area as Keystone Opportunity Zones, utilizing a state program that provides temporary tax relief for businesses operating in underperforming corners of the commonwealth. Of concern, however, is that there’s only a small window of time to achieve the double bottom line before the area shifts into a seller’s market, which, Murray notes, begins with the rising auction prices.

A Neighborhood’s Next Steps

On his first day at Impact last year, O’Donnell knocked on NKCDC Director Sandy Salzman’s door. After breaking down the silos and service boundaries of old, the nonprofits are now working closely with Shift and a few other civic-minded developers who are looking to job creation in both Impact and NKCDC’s areas.

Once a month, this informal coalition meets for happy hour at Bentley’s, a corner bar that Shift purchased last year.

As much as O’Donnell dislikes the nebulousness of the term, he realizes that “gentrification” is coming north of Lehigh, and also that coordination among stakeholders is necessary to deal with everything from affordable housing to public safety concerns. For example, although a greater police presence might have dampened drug sales on the corner outside Bentley’s, the tactic means dealers have just been pushed to other blocks.

“It’s like squeezing a balloon. As soon as the purchases around Orinoka started and the greater police presence at Somerset and Kensington, [drug traffic] bumped up at McPherson Square,” he says.

Maria Gonzalez, the director of HACE, the CDC that covers parts of Fairhill and West Kensington, says it’s still too early to tell how much ripple effect the incoming development will have on crime and drug sales.

“Three or four of the largest drug corners in the city are already in my neighborhood. They’re already here,” Gonzalez says. “We cannot be afraid to tackle the problem because we’ll displace it somewhere else.”

But Gonzalez adds that she hopes that leaders can be strategic in how they address root problems of the high-poverty neighborhoods.

Community building is one of those challenges. Carlos Mitti, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, says that fear plays an outsize role among neighborhood residents who feel trapped from the crime and drugs around them. But the new dialogue being fostered by his neighborhood group and NKCDC has changed some of that.

“This has been the main struggle with the community,” Mitti says. “Cameras were a big no-no. People thought they would be seen as spies for the police. But now that’s changed. … They’re talking to each other more, too.”

Salzman hopes those conversations will continue after her retirement.

She plans to step down as director next year, and is looking to leave the CDC in hands capable of addressing Kensington’s next chapter. Her replacement may not be a local. NKCDC’s board of directors is conducting a national search for its new director, says board president Wesley Cascone. They’ve hired a consulting firm that recently brought executive directors to similarly sized nonprofits in the Philadelphia region.

“We can’t all be San Francisco,” Murray, the developer, says. “If you don’t have a strategic answer for that beyond the next two years, then you’re in danger of doing exactly what’s going on in Fishtown right now, where a one bedroom is $1,400 a month.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been changed to clarify that Orinoka Civic House will have low- to moderate-income rental units only and no market-rate housing.

This article is part of Next City’s Philly in Flux series made possible with the support of the William Penn Foundation.

The DC Council Just Passed a Visionary, Sustainable, Clean Energy Bill!


The District of Columbia Council voted unanimously to pass Bill 21-650, the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Act of 2016. This bill does a number of important things including raising the District's renewable energy targets from 20% by 2020, to 50% by 2032, a significant and meaningful increase.

Additionally, the bill's Solar for All program supports ongoing efforts of the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), to bring clean and affordable energy to those that need it the most. It does this by requiring DOEE to develop and implement a plan to reduce the electric bills of 100,000 low income District households with high energy burdens by half by 2032. The net impact of this requirement will be increased utilization of solar energy to help families stay in their homes and use their income for other important essentials.

This bill is the embodiment of a public policy that aggressively embraces sustainability principles that strive to protect the economic and environmental wellbeing of low income residents.

The DC Environmental Network urges Mayor Bowser to sign the bill ASAP!

The Big Banks Can Be Beaten | Working families are turning their anger at Wall Street into action.

For over 50 years, the Institute for Policy Studies has been an acclaimed think tank focusing on a wide variety of social issues.  Wall Street and the Banking industry are areas where they have been doing outstanding work and advocacy.  The following is a sample of their good work - and achievable solutions to a more stable banking and financial system.


The Big Banks Can Be Beaten


By Sarah Anderson

“Bipartisan Closets” by Khalil Bendib

When the 2008 financial crash slammed the New York City construction industry, Maribel Touré’s husband lost his job as an architect. On top of that, Maribel suffered a serious accident.

But what really plunged the family into financial trouble was sending their daughter to college.

As a child growing up in Mexico, Maribel’s father had repeatedly told her that la educación es la clave — “education is the key.” So she worked hard to obtain a college degree in Mexico and then moved to the United States, where she became a radiology technician.

Maribel wanted the same opportunity for her daughter to obtain “the key.” But high tuition bills strained the family budget and pushed them to the brink of foreclosure.

“The government was helping the banks, but they refused to help me,” Maribel said recently. “I never stopped working and I never stopped paying my taxes — the same taxes the government was giving to the banks.”

Maribel is just one of many Americans who were hurt by the financial crisis and want more done to crack down on the Wall Street greed and recklessness that caused it. That’s why she’s added her support to a new Take on Wall Street campaign that aims to channel widespread public anger over our broken financial system into concrete, bold change.

The campaign’s priority reforms would help ensure that Wall Street pays its fair share of taxes. The additional revenue could be used for urgent needs, such as making college more affordable for families like the Tourés.

A small tax of just a fraction of a percent on each stock and derivative trade, for example, could generate massive revenue while also curbing short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, such a tax would be hardly noticeable. The real targets would be the high-speed traders who now dominate our financial markets while adding no real value to the economy.

Closing tax loopholes that now encourage excessive executive pay could also generate much-needed funds for social programs or public investment to fix our crumbling national roads and bridges.

One of these loopholes lets private equity and hedge fund managers pay a 20 percent capital gains rate on the bulk of their income — just half of the nearly 40 percent top rate the wealthiest Americans normally owe. As a result, billionaire financiers pay a lower tax rate than millions of our country’s teachers, firefighters, and nurses.

Maribel Touré ended her story on a hopeful note. She said that after feeling guilty and ashamed about her financial problems for a long time, she decided to fight back.

She joined New York Communities for Change, a coalition of working families in low- and moderate-income communities that fights for social and economic justice. They worked with local officials to put pressure on her bank, so she was able to modify her mortgage loan in time to save her house.

Her story, she said, shows that if we join together, we can win against Wall Street.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies.