By Christina Clamp for Grassroots Economic Organizing - Cuba has been of interest to me for many years. I lived in Guatemala and Costa Rica from September, 1974 to December, 1975. During that time, Guatemala was experiencing a low level civil war. As Americans, we were not threatened by what was happening in the countryside. Still we were aware of the violence that was occurring at the time. Costa Rica in contrast was “bucolic” by comparison. My undergraduate senior research paper was on the overthrow of the Ubico dictatorship in Guatemala. Through that research, I learned much about the recent political reality. People in the course of oral history interviews about the past, would at times share stories of the death squads roaming the country in search of dissidents and the armed guerrillas. Cuba represented a place that had successfully freed itself from corrupt old style dictators (caudillos) and a place with a clear commitment to universal healthcare and education. I did not expect that we were visiting a “workers' paradise.” But I had expected that there would be a broad based commitment to basic needs. What we found on this trip was a work in progress.
By Eric Dirnbach for Public Seminar. Participatory Budgeting was first used for the municipal budget in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, and since then the PB movement has grown to over 3,000 cities around the world. Portugal recently announcedthat it will use it for the national budget. PB is being used in more than 40 communities in the U.S. New York City is in the midst of its 6th cycle of PB and the program has grown to 31 out of 51 City Council districts. Each district has been allocated at least $1 million for proposed projects. The requirements are that each project cost at least $35,000, last 5 years, be located on city property, and be brick-and-mortar type infrastructure projects such as fixing up a playground or library. I voted in the final PB project selection last year. My district had been presented with 21 options, and chose five projects from among them: a senior center renovation, planting street trees, school science lab improvements, school technology upgrades, and a library renovation. When my City Council Member Mark Levine announced the beginning of this current PB round, I decided to follow the entire process.
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.
By Ana Conner and Tara Tabassi in Truth Out - Urban Shield, the world's largest SWAT training and war-weapons expo, was held in September in California's Bay Area, beginning on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Hosted each year since 2007 in the Bay Area's Alameda County (last year in Oakland, this year in Pleasanton) with exercises all across the Bay, it is attended by hundreds of local, federal and international law enforcement agencies and weapons manufacturers. Since his tenure began in 2007, Alameda County's sheriff, Gregory J. Ahern, has been waging war on Black and Brown communities across the Bay Area. Urban Shield solidifies Ahern's war, and makes it a profitable one. As the Bay Area Urban Shield's core organizer, he has received over $100,000 in contributions for his electoral campaign from Urban Shield vendors, such as 511 Tactical, Adamson Police Products and Corizon Health.
By Matt Stannard in Occupy - A financial transaction tax (FTT) is a tiny charge placed on financial (rather than consumer) transactions. It can range from a dime to fifty cents per $1,000 exchanged. Many countries have particular transaction taxes – Peru for foreign wire transfers, Finland for Finnish securities and derivatives, France for stock purchases of publicly traded French companies with a market value over €1 billion. Brazil used to have a financial transaction tax, then it didn’t, and now it wants one again. Supporters of an FTT in the U.S. have been pushing the plan for years, though it’s not as alluring, loud or radical-sounding as public banks or worker-owned cooperatives. Experts on the tax tell me that global cooperation will make it work even better (money travels easily) and that we can start it anywhere – particularly in cities where financial trading is concentrated, like New York and Chicago.
By Heather Smith in Grist - The first time I heard of Sonja Trauss, she was mobilizing San Franciscans to support new apartment construction. This was not a campaign that went over well in the Mission District, a formerly working-class neighborhood that was in the middle of a full-on freakout over how many people seemed to want to build luxury condos there. One night, when I was walking down 24th Street, I saw that someone had taped up fliers to telephone poles with pictures of Trauss on them. Her eyes had been whited out and replaced by dollar signs. Based on this backstory, I assumed Trauss must be one of the numerous young real estate professionals who come to the Bay Area to seek their fortunes.
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."
By The Laura Flanders Show - Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, a new documentary from The Laura Flanders Show and teleSUR English explores the race, class and gender outlines of the reconstruction of New Orleans. At least seventy-one billion dollars in federal money has been spent. But has every opportunity been seized to bring back not just the place, but its people, so they’re stronger and healthier than before? We explore, from the grassroots, systemic changes in housing, economic development, and policing. How have federal, state and city policies affected the people of New Orleans? Featuring interviews with Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, the commander of military relief operations during Katrina; former New Orleans city council president Oliver Thomas; current city council president Jason Williams; developer Sean Cummings; activists and former public housing residents Alfred Marshall and Toya Lewis; Brice White of the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative; spoken word artist Asia Rainey; youth activist Milan Nicole Sherry; and Rosana Cruz of Race Forward.
By Gloria Walton in Scopela - In the last 20 years, SCOPE has emerged as a local laboratory for L.A. From day one, we were pushing the envelope. Experimenting. How do we build community power and influence? How do we elevate equity in all policies? We believe if you start by building a program for people with the most burdens, facing the greatest barriers, who come from the poorest communities, if you start there and build a program for those communities to succeed, then you have a program that will benefit everyone. SCOPE’s 20-year-old jobs model does that. Our model couples entry-level jobs with job-training and apprenticeships to create real career pathways into good-paying union jobs in entertainment, health care and the green economy. These programs go the extra mile by providing paid on-the-job training, mentoring by experienced senior workers and tutoring to help pass certification exams and tests.
By Nick Licata in PR Watch - There was one problem in finding out—ALEC is open only to state legislators or private-interest parties, i.e. corporations or business associations. Being neither, I wouldn’t be able to get into their conference. A break came last year when ALEC formed ACCE (the American City County Exchange) for city and county public officials. It was to take ALEC’s organizational approach of helping these elected representatives pass laws that could cut taxes, limit government and promote free markets (i.e. turn over government services and functions to businesses). I had assumed that this was a closed association, and that I would be required to take an oath or be screened and approved for admission. There have been Democratic state legislators who experienced difficulty in getting admitted into ALEC meetings. But in the end, they were admitted. Why?
By Food Tank - Around 15 percent of the world's food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population. By 2030, 60 percent of people in developing countries will likely live in cities. At Food Tank, we are amazed by the efforts of hundreds of urban farms and gardens to grow organic produce, cultivate food justice and equity in their communities, and revitalize urban land. Urban agriculture not only contributes to food security, but also to environmental stewardship and a cultural reconnection with the land through education. The Urban Food Policy Pact (UFPP), to be signed on World Food Day, will address the potential of cities to contribute to food security through urban agriculture.
By Chelsea Byers, Janet Weil and Michelle Pineiro for Code Pink - In cities across the United States, we have seen how the militarized mold of policing and the supply of armored vehicles, assault weapons and the like have resulted in police forces who no longer see their role as one of protecting and serving, but as an occupying army. These localized armies -- backed by racist laws, upheld by stagnant leadership and fueled by the war machine itself -- are battling it out to the death with the very civilians they swore to protect in our own streets. Confrontation with this war-ready mentality is a daily lived experience for black and brown citizens across the country, and the implications impact us all. It is incumbent to get weapons out of our streets, and take the necessary steps to change the current mentality and methods of police and civilian engagement.
A city is more that just a place where people live and work. And as more of the world’s population gravitates toward city living, these urban centers must cater to their population’s myriad needs with sustainable solutions like never before. Recently, ARCADIS came out with a highly informative report entitled “Sustainable Cities Index 2015 – Balancing the economic, social and environmental needs of the world’s leading cities.” The researchers proclaimed “A city is much more than just a place for people to live and do business. Cities are areas of emotional attachment, each with their own distinct personality, traditions and attraction factor.”