Five Ways Co-ops Are Countering Corporate Power In Cities

by Curtis Cronn

By Nick Stumo-Langer for Next City – As local economies suffer from market concentration in economic sectors ranging from retail to banking, cooperatives across industries are helping to strengthen communities and keep resources local. This is nothing new; cooperatives have a long history of serving local needs. Today, the cooperative ownership structure continues to create equal economic opportunity and counter concentrated corporate power. From innovative business arrangement to community-owned renewable energy, here are five ways cooperatives are making a difference. 1. Cooperatives allow local resources to improve neighborhoods. In northeast Minneapolis, a “DIY Downtown” was born to revitalize a neighborhood long-blighted by disinvestment and distant ownership. The Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) created a neighborhood reinvestment program where any Minnesota resident could join the cooperative for $1,000, and invest even more by purchasing non-voting stock. After just a year, NEIC bought two vacant properties and sold one to a local bike shop and owns and manages the other which it rents to a cooperatively owned brewery and a bakery. These businesses were in turn financed by a local Minneapolis bank. This process kept property ownership and management local.

Radical Municipalism: The Only Solution To Amazon’s Extortion Of Cities

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By James Wilt for Canadian Dimension – Last week saw a flurry of humiliating pitches by North American cities for Amazon to pick them as the location of the corporation’s second headquarters. New Jersey committed a phenomenal $7 billion in tax breaks if picked. Stonecrest, Georgia, pledged to annex 345 acres to create an entire city called Amazon and make CEO Jeff Bezos unelected mayor. Tucson sent a 21-foot cactus to Amazon, which the company rejected. Meanwhile in Canada, Calgary released a deeply cringey video, bought a massive billboard in Seattle claiming that it would “fight a bear” for Amazon and paid for sidewalk graffiti that joked about how it would also change its name for it. NHL teams in Calgary and Ottawa led arena-wide chants pleading for the company to pick them. Winnipeg bragged in its application that it was the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s name. In total, more 100 cities submitted applications, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Sault Ste. Marie, Halifax, Hamilton and Toronto. This is the near-dystopian endpoint of the neoliberal city: gargantuan corporations forcing cash-strapped cities to publicly bid against each other with tax breaks, subsidies and crass public relations campaigns. In the excellently titled “Amazon’s New Headquarters Should Be In Hell,” author Hamilton Nolan argued: “This is what the extortion of public resources looks like.”

Tent City Leader Blasts Pugh As City Is Moving Homeless Group

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By Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew – For Samantha Smith, the last straw came at the gala fundraiser for the homeless that she attended Saturday at the invitation of Mayor Catherine Pugh. Seated near city officials and the $225-a-head VIP donors at the Lyric Theatre for the annual “Evening of Unexpected Delights” homeless benefit, Smith was shocked to hear her name called out from the stage. “I want to thank a good friend of mine, Samantha Smith, who’s with us this evening,” the mayor said. “Samantha is a homeless individual, but she’s also a leader in the homeless community.” Smith said she didn’t like Pugh identifying her as homeless (“belittling me”) to score points with the crowd. “She used me this weekend,” Smith fumed. “After all I’ve done to save your ass and cover your ass. . . We kept asking her for help and we got nothing.” Smith, the leader of the group that had staged a 10-day Tent City homeless protest action in front of City Hall in August, had previously defended Pugh. But she turned on the mayor yesterday, saying Pugh broke the promises she made when she persuaded the group to disband. Participants had agreed to move to a former school building in West Baltimore where, after a two-week assessment period, an appropriate housing plan would be developed for each person. Instead, after 65 days sleeping on cots in the dilapidated school gym, the group is going to be moved to separate men’s and women’s facilities run by Helping Up Mission, a “Christ-based” emergency shelter program in Jonestown.

Republican Mayor Transforms California City Into ‘The Solar Capital Of The Universe’

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By Jeremy Deaton for Think Progress – Parris isn’t just looking to attract installation jobs. He also wants to bring manufacturing jobs to Lancaster. Accordingly, he encouraged BYD to open two factories in Lancaster that will produce electric buses and large-scale batteries. The Antelope Valley Transit Authority, which manages public transit in and around Lancaster, is purchasing dozens of electric buses to replace its aging fleet of diesel buses. Lancaster is also replacing its street lights with LED bulbs produced by BYD. Next, Parris wants to require new homes to meet LEED energy efficiency standards, come with battery systems that can supply up to four days of power, and include systems that recycle wastewater from showers, sinks and washing machines to flush toilets and water plants. Even compared to other sunny California cities, Lancaster is exceptional, outstripping Los Angeles, San Diego and others in its deployment of clean energy. Asked why other California cities aren’t more bullish on renewables, Bozigian said they don’t have Mayor Parris or his “fantastically innovative” staff. “If other cities, or this state, had leaders like Mayor Parris and the Lancaster City Council, they would all be doing it,” said Bozigian. “You need to have guts, and you need to be decisive. You need to know what’s right, get the information you need, make a decision and do it.”

A Tale Of Many Cities: Potholes In The Road To Municipal Reform

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By Steve Early for Counter Punch – There is no better role model for aspiring radical scribes than Juan Gonzalez. The country’s leading Latino journalist is cohost of Democracy Now!, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, and twice winner of the Polk Award for his investigative reporting. Not many veterans of campus and community struggles in the Sixties and workplace organizing in the 1970s later moved into mainstream journalism with such distinction, Gonzalez has managed to combine daily newspapering with continued dedication to the cause of labor and minority communities. As a New York Daily News staffer for two decades, Gonzalez broke major stories on city hall corruption, police brutality, and the toxic exposure of cops, firefighters, and construction workers involved in 9/11 attack rescue or cleanup work. When he wasn’t cranking out twice-a-week columns, he helped lead a big Newspaper Guild strike and wrote four books including Harvest of Empire, a history of Latinos in America. Gonzalez’s movement background and intimate knowledge of New York City politics makes him an ideal chronicler of the unexpected rise (and near fall) of Bill de Blasio as a city hall reformer.

European Cities Are Reclaiming Public Services From The Private Sector

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By Alexis Chemblette for VIce – In the ’80s a neoliberal tide swept across the West with the idea that welfares states had become too expensive and that privatizing public goods was better for stimulating the economy. During this era of fiscal conservatism, Western governments basically confined themselves supervisory roles over the economy, reduced to watchdogs enforcing norms and standards. But research has shown that as the government progressively pulls out of public life, many people lose access or experience the deterioration of services that improve their quality of life such as affordable housing, education, public transportation and health care. Now, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public services, spearheading a growing movement for “remunicipalization,” meaning the return of public services from private to public. According to Sakoto Kishimoto Lead Researcher at the Transnational Institute (TNI) people are over the idea of privatization. “They’re telling their citizens that they have to divest and squeeze budgets, but the feedback we’re getting is that local populations found public services more efficient and less costly,” Kishimoto said in a TNI report. Here are a few examples of local initiatives that have put the power back into the hands of people.

From Oslo To Vancouver, These Major Cities Have Plans To Go Car-Free

Oslo is one of 12 cities which plans to phase out cars in the near future. Image: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

By Leanna Garfield for TSS – In late 2016, Madrid’s Mayor Manuela Carmena reiterated her plan to kick personal cars out of the city center. On Spanish radio network Cadena Ser, she confirmed that Madrid’s main avenue, the Gran Vía, will only allow access to bikes, buses, and taxis before she leaves office in May 2019. It’s part of a larger effort to ban all diesel cars in Madrid by 2025. But the Spanish city is not the only one getting ready to take the car-free plunge. Urban planners and policy makers around the world have started to brainstorm ways that cities can create more space for pedestrians and lower CO2 emissions from diesel. Here are 12 cities leading the car-free movement. Oslo will implement its car ban by 2019. Oslo plans to permanently ban all cars from its city center by 2019 — six years before Norway’s country-wide ban would go into effect. The Norwegian capital will invest heavily in public transportation and replace 35 miles of roads previously dominated by cars with bike lanes. “The fact that Oslo is moving forward so rapidly is encouraging, and I think it will be inspiring if they are successful,” says Paul Steely White…

Court: Cities Can Sue Banks Over Discriminatory Practices

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By Bill Chapell for NPR – The city of Miami can sue Wells Fargo and Bank of America for damages under the Fair Housing Act, the Supreme Court says, allowing a lawsuit to continue that accuses the big banks of causing economic harm with discriminatory and predatory lending practices. The 5-3 vote saw Chief Justice John Roberts form a majority with the court’s more liberal justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely seen as the court’s “swing” justice, sided with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, wasn’t involved in the case. After lower courts had issued back-and-forth opinions on whether Miami’s lawsuit should continue, the Supreme Court says the city should be allowed to make its case. “But the justices said that to win damages, the city must prove a direct link to the revenue loss and increased costs,” NPR’s Nina Totenberg tells our Newscast unit, “and that is an extremely high bar to clear.” The ruling comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court sided with civil rights groups who argued that, as we reported, “claims of racial discrimination in housing cases shouldn’t be limited by questions of intent.”

European Cities Organizing To Respond To Migrant Crisis

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By Eleanor Penny for Open Democracy – European city councils have launched an initiative to co-ordinate their responses to the migrant crisis, in defiance of the apathy of some national governments. Nationalism, if it ever left us, is definitively back in vogue. With nationalist parties resurgent throughout Europe, more and more European nationals are vesting their political hopes in national governments. But for those new migrants without increasingly-coveted EU citizenship, the institutions most likely to come to their aid are not nation states, but local and city governments. For what now seems like a brief moment, the German state led the way in ‘progressive’ policies towards refugee reception

Habitat III: Stronger Urban Future Based On Right To The City

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By Mike Herd for The Guardian. All the major global challenges – climate change, the economy, inequality, the very future of democracy – will be solved in cities. If nations want to succeed with their policies, we must be counted as serious actors on the global stage. I believe national governments are hostages to the momentum of the previous century – but that’s not the real world any more. We live in a world that functions by networking, by faster and more agile contact between cities. Of course, the perfect city does not exist; the democratic city is in permanent conflict and permanent construction. The point is to be really open; to keep innovating, listening to citizens and watching what is done in other cities to make constant improvements. Cities are able to make politics more cooperative, and not so competitive.

How Urban Governments Are Promoting Worker Co-ops

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By Michelle Camou for GEO – City governments are shaping up as key actors accelerating worker co-op development. It started in 2009 when the City of Cleveland accessed a federal guaranteed loan to help finance the Evergreen Cooperatives. Since then, nine more city governments have moved to promote worker cooperatives through municipal projects, initiatives, or policies because they want to reach people and communities often left out of mainstream economic development. Other city governments including Philadelphia are considering it now.

Corporate Buy Out: Our Cities Are Not Our Own

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By Laura Flanders for The F Word and Alternet – Think you can tell the difference between a city and a business park? It may not be so clear. A corporate buying boom since the financial crash is gobbling up city property and leaving us with places that are literally not our town. Purchasing took off after 2008, when foreclosure rates were high, bank loans were drying up, and record levels of commercial properties were standing vacant. Last year, major acquisitions by corporations topped a $1 trillion in 100 large cities and by major we do mean major — in New York, that’s only counting property-buys of worth $5m or more.

The Unexpected Cause Of Water Crises In American Cities

People stand outside Detroit City Hall, protesting thousands of residential water-service shutoffs by Detroit's water department, during a rally in Detroit, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo)

By Carrie Sloan for Talk Poverty – While the water crisis unfolding in Flint is perhaps the most egregious example of austerity in recent memory, it is part of a larger emergency developing nationally. In 2014, Detroit became the first major American city to enact mass water shutoffs, with 46,000 poor households receiving disconnection notices that May. And in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and other cities, consumers face steep price increases in their water bills. These shutoffs and rate hikes can be traced back to one common source: Wall Street.

Confronting Climate Change, Rethinking the City

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By Stephen Assink for Thriving Cities. For the past 100 years, urban life has been indelibly shaped by the ample consumption of carbon. Our dependence on the automobile can be traced back in part to Eisenhower’s 1956 Federal Highway Act, in which the American government at all levels—city, state, and federal— transformed the American urban landscape into one entirely dominated by concrete. Decades later, it is no surprise that the vast majority of the CO2 emitted by cities is caused by automobile use. Reimagining our cities provides us an important opportunity to reconsider the various structures of urban life—transportation, food, and community—both environmentally and socially. The slow and necessary steps of eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels will certainly be difficult, yet we should see it as an occasion to remake our places that are humane, convivial, and sustainable.

Cities: The Path To Reducing Global Emissions

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By Staff for Tree Alerts – With many cities and regions around the world already demonstrating climate leadership, new research backs up the importance and huge potential benefits of urban areas going low-carbon. Annual global carbon emissions would drop by 3.7 gigatonnes per year by 2030 – the equivalent of India going zero-carbon – through investment in public and low emission transport, building efficiency, and waste management in cities. The report from New Climate Economy also finds the green measures would save massive amounts of money: US$17 trillion by 2050, which is equivalent to one-fifth of global GDP. This could be bumped up to as much as $22 trillion if national low-carbon policies are also put in place. Nick Godfrey, Head of Policy and Urban Development at the New Climate Economy, said “US$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investment, which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefits of these investments.”