In a new report from the Center for American Progress, Joel Rogers and Satya Rhodes-Conway of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) outline policies that cities can adopt to become more inclusive and sustainable. The authors espouse democratic organization as a critical component to social equity and wealth creation and highlight the critical linking of anchor procurement strategies and employee ownership, as seen in the Cleveland Model, to strengthen local economies and stabilize communities.
"A group of Jacksonville leaders trekked to snowy Cleveland in February to check out an economic initiative they hope to use as a model for the struggling northwest part of the city. The people behind that Cleveland initiative, a University of Maryland-based nonprofit called The Democracy Collaborative, held a roundtable in Jacksonville on Thursday and Friday to show a larger leadership group what is working in other cities. Local leaders collectively said they intend to follow through for Northwest Jacksonville, where unemployment is more than double that of the citywide rate."
The city encourages the transformation of vacant and underutilized city parcels into productive community or commercial gardens.The program requires groups of people that want to use a parcel to apply for a permit from the city. They are required to buy liability insurance and to show that they have support of the neighbors around the property. Seven gardens have been permitted since the program began in 2012.
In 2011, Mayor Jones organized leaders from local nonprofits, urban farms, and municipal and state governments to establish the Food Policy Task Force. Seeking to increase access to healthy foods and employment opportunities for low-income residents, the task force developed a series of land use, economic development, and health policy recommendations to reduce food insecurity. To date, the city has hired a Food Policy Coordinator who advises local food businesses and nonprofits on collaborative urban agriculture enterprise and provides technical assistance to promote the development of urban farms on vacant, city- owned land.
In 1999, the City of Richmond launched Neighborhoods in Bloom, a multi-year, coordinated strategy to improve seven neighborhoods in areas with high incidence of vacant and abandoned properties. The city targeted the bulk of its federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, its Home Investment Partnership (HOME) funds, as well as significant amounts of capital improvement funds to build and renovate four hundred housing units. With the assistance of community development corporations and the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, nearly 400 new or renovated houses were sold and more than 130 owners repaired their homes. Since its initiation, occupancy rates have risen eleven percent and housing prices have increased 9.9 percent faster per year than the citywide average.
In 2011, Mayor Jones established Richmond’s Anti-Poverty Commission, known as the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty. The Commission developed the city’s first comprehensive anti-poverty policy plan, connecting all aspects of the poverty problem: employment and economic development, transportation and access to jobs, housing and quality of life, education and preparation for employment, financial literacy and asset development, and removal of barriers to escaping poverty.
The East End of Richmond has been trapped in concentrated poverty for decades. With the construction of interstates 64 and 95 in the 1970s, separating East End from the downtown area and neighboring communities, the neighborhood experienced extreme disinvestment. Today, fifty percent of Richmond’s poor live in the East End. To revitalize this depressed area, Mayor Dwight Jones established a partnership between the City of Richmond, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, and the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority to uplift the East End. They have hosted a series of public meetings to engage East End residents and business owners on the East End Transformation Master Plan. The leading projects that emerged from the charrette include new community centers along 25th Street, redevelopment surrounding Richmond Community Hospital, a new gateway to the city along Nine Mile Road, improved pedestrian and bicycle access to downtown Richmond, and enhanced streetscapes throughout.
Jackson, Mississippi mayor and solidarity economy advocate dead at 66
Chokwe Lumumba, a long-time civil rights activist and the newly elected mayor of Jackson, died yesterday, just weeks before the "Jackson Rising" conference–the launch of an ambitious plan to localize and democratize the city's economy–was scheduled to take place (We understand that the conference will proceed as planned). Our hearts are with the people of Jackson at this tragic moment.
Watch Laura Flanders' interview with Mayor Lumumba, filmed just two weeks ago: