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Transportation Innovations Down South

20 Mar

The sequester has taken some of the wind out of the sails of efforts at federal transportation reform. With funding sources running dry, potentially game-changing transportation improvements are left on the table or scrapped completely. Those that do pass have to contend with continuing hurdles of opposition. What to do when the feds are scaling back? We’ve decided to pack our bags and head to South America: a place where winter comes in June and transportation innovations come year-round. Continue reading

Vallejo Launches Participatory Budgeting

18 Feb
Image from Participatory Budgeting Vallejo

Image from Participatory Budgeting Vallejo

This month, ELP Advisors decided to mix things up a bit and invite a friend and colleague to share her experiences with our readers. Exciting innovations in sustainable development and civic engagement abound and we wanted to bring you an insider’s perspective for one of the topics that we covered back in 2012. We wrote a while back about participatory budgeting [PDF] and wanted to follow-up with an example from California. We’ve invited Ginny Browne from the Participatory Budgeting Project to share some insights from their experiment in Vallejo. Enjoy!

By: Ginny Browne

Just more than a year after emerging from bankruptcy, the Bay Area City of Vallejo is making a new name for itself as a national leader in civic engagement. Last September, Vallejo took this historic step by becoming the first U.S. city to launch participatory budgeting citywide. Continue reading

Coachella Valley and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative

14 Jan

The Clinton Foundation has selected the Coachella Valley as one of two sites in the Nation where it will focus its latest effort, The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). The other city selected was Little Rock, Arkansas, the former President’s home town. Continue reading

Chicago Infrastructure Trust Embarks on its First Project

14 Dec

“As long as our city rests on a 20th century foundation, we won’t be able to compete in a 21st century economy,” says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He made that observation when noting that Chicago is suffering from limited resources to help build and maintain its vast infrastructure network of roads, bridges, transit, schools, and other public facilities. As the Mayor announced last spring, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust is aimed at luring private investment to help fund public infrastructure projects. Now, the trust is launching its first project. Continue reading

Pay for Success Bonds

16 Nov

Image from Darby / John-Michael Maas: http://vimeo.com/41784209

Governments are looking at new financing tools to entice private investment to fund social service programs. The financing scheme, in theory, works like this: (1) a social service innovation promises to ameliorate a social ill in a way that reduces costs for government agencies and taxpayers; (2) an investor, wooed by the promise of said program forks over cash to fund the effort; (3) the program promises to deliver results at a minimum quantitative threshold (e.g., reduce chronic homelessness in a neighborhood by 5%); (4) if the program meets the minimum threshold, then investors recoup their initial investment; and (5) if the program exceeds the minimum threshold, then the investor sees a return, based on the overall savings to the government. In a nutshell, that’s how Social Impact Bonds should work. Continue reading

EB-5 Visas: A Not-So-New Funding Tool

17 Oct

A program created to bring foreign investment to U.S. shores is becoming a more widely used tool to finance development projects. Created by the Immigration Act of 1990, the EB-5 Visa program provides a mechanism for foreign nationals to obtain a green card in exchange for making investments in U.S. businesses. Continue reading

The Hollywood Freeway Park is One Step Closer to Reality

13 Sep

The Friends of the Hollywood Central Park organization is one step closer to making a 44-acre park atop the Hollywood Freeway a reality. A $1.2 million gift from the Aileen Getty Foundation is providing the gap financing need to fund the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Earlier this year, the organization secured $825,000 in funding from the City, leaving a funding gap of $1.2 million to complete the $2 million EIR.  The foundation elected to provide the gap funding, with Aileen Getty noting that the “Hollywood Central Park is about building community and celebrating our commonality in a natural environment.” Continue reading

New Directions in Stormwater Management

15 Jul

In Los Angeles County, the finger pointing about who is responsible for cleaning up polluted stormwater has bubbled up to the United States Supreme Court.

In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court found that the County and its Flood Control District were in violation of the Clean Water Act by allowing the release of untreated water into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers. The Flood Control District claims that it cannot be held responsible for the polluted waterways, since it is not the source of the pollution. The County is hoping that the Supreme Court agrees, and finds that the County’s Flood Control District is not responsible for mitigating pollution from urban runoff that ends up in local waterways.

The battle in Los Angeles County represents a national trend of cash-poor localities scrambling to comply with the regulations of the Clean Water Act.  Cities are predictably looking to other entities to foot the bill. Continue reading

Getting Transit Built Faster

15 Jul

Image from Metro Transportation Library and Archive: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30993133@N04/2925547715/

There’s been some movement on the transportation front as of late, and much of it is good news for the Los Angeles area. First, Metro’s Orange Line extension opened on time and under budget. The line, a successful workhorse of Metro’s transit system earned praise recently, spurring a discussion about the region’s burgeoning rail-on-wheels network. The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece that billed LA as the nation’s most forward-thinking city in terms of transit (uh, move over Portland?). And the feds finally passed a transportation bill that extends a federal loan program that the city is relying on to put some transportation projects on the fast track.

By all accounts, the region’s admittedly ambitious plan to expand transit is well on its way to becoming a reality. But for all the cheerleading, there’s been less chatter about what it will take to make these dreams a reality. Continue reading

Simpler, More User Friendly Infrastructure Finance

17 Jun

We all know how important infrastructure investment is to job creation. The concept is straightforward: the more money we invest in infrastructure, the more jobs we create. Though  simple in concept, getting the resources necessary to invest in infrastructure is no easy feat. And with the dissolution of redevelopment agencies across the state, finding gap funding to finance infrastructure has become increasingly difficult.

Unfortunately, limitations on funding for infrastructure have come at a time when infrastructure investments are ideal because interest rates are low, and laborers are many. Given this reality, Californians are looking for new ways to direct resources toward infrastructure development and improvements. Continue reading