POLICY INNOVATION IN OUR CITIES

ABSTRACT: With our federal government gridlocked, many cities around the US are taking the lead in policy innovation. Progressive policies are bubbling up in cities from Seattle and Santa Fe to Cleveland. Minneapolis’s new mayor has championed infant health care, universal pre-kindergarten education, closing racial gaps, and new public transit lines to better connect minority communities to jobs. Pittsburgh’s new mayor is working to establish universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing with a low carbon footprint, responsible banking, and local hiring and paying of prevailing wages on city-funded projects.

New York’s new mayor is working to institute universal pre-kindergarten, raise the minimum wage, expand paid sick days and affordable housing, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and end the “stop and frisk” tactic of the police, which many view as harassment of minorities. New York City has an innovative campaign finance system and an active, progressive, Working Families Party.

In these and other cities, interesting, innovative, and significant progressive policies are being promoted and enacted.

FULL POST: With our federal government gridlocked, many cities around the US are taking the lead in policy innovation. Progressive policies on everything from campaign financing to early education to housing and banking are bubbling up in cities from Seattle and Santa Fe to Cleveland and Minneapolis to Pittsburgh and New York. [1]

Minneapolis’s new mayor, Betsy Hodges, has championed infant health care and universal pre-kindergarten education. She identified closing the large racial gaps among Minneapolis’s growingly diverse population as a moral and economic imperative. Among other initiatives, she is pushing to route new public transit lines to better connect minority communities to places with jobs.

Pittsburgh’s new mayor, Bill Peduto, is also working to establish universal pre-kindergarten. He is building affordable housing with a low carbon footprint. He worked as a City Council member (before becoming mayor) to require local hiring and paying of prevailing wages on city-funded projects. He authored the city’s responsible-banking law, which directs the city’s funds to banks that have loaned money in poor city neighborhoods.

New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is working to institute universal pre-kindergarten too. He proposed funding it through an income tax surtax on the city’s wealthiest residents. This was blocked by the state but the pre-K program is moving ahead with other funding sources. His effort to raise the minimum wage was also blocked by the state, but he has expanded paid sick days. He is also working to expand affordable housing and to end the “stop and frisk” tactic of the police, which many view as harassment of minorities. He has committed the city to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. [2]

New York City has an innovative campaign finance system where small contributions are matched with $6 of public money for every $1 contributed. This amplifies the voice of small donors, encourages voters to make small contributions, and, ultimately, to vote, while blunting the influence of large donors. Many analysts believe that de Blasio would not have been elected without this campaign financing system that enables grassroots candidates to run competitive campaigns. New York’s Working Families Party was also key to de Blasio’s election. It has framed election issues and mobilized voters to help elect de Blasio and a near majority of progressive candidates to the city council.

These are examples of efforts to enact progressive policies that are occurring in many cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Boston. Despite gridlock at the federal level, interesting, innovative, and significant policies are being promoted and enacted in cities around the US.

[1]       Meyerson, H., May/June 2014, “The revolt of the cities,” The American Prospect

[2]       Eskow, R., 10/3/14, “Progressive champion Bill de Blasio models populist change,” Campaign for America’s Future (http://ourfuture.org/20141003/progressive-champion-bill-de-blasio-models-populist-change)

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