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The Green Edition

18 Apr

On Monday, April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day. It was nearly 43 years ago that Senator Gaylord Nelson called for an “environmental teach-in” in reaction to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Inspired by the era’s student anti-war movement, the 1970 teach-in would morph into an annual worldwide demonstration of support for environmental protection. It is with this in mind that we take a moment to look back at the environmental accomplishments we have achieved to date, while staying focused on the challenging issues we have yet to face. This month’s issue hits on our usual range of topics, but we’ve framed each discussion through the lens of sustainability. One of the enduring triumphs of the environmental movement has been its ability to inject elements of sustainability, preservation, and rehabilitation into many of our public policymaking decisions. This month, we look at how environmental sustainability has permeated our economic development strategies, altered the calculus on transportation investments, and dictated the way we approach greenhouse gas emissions reductions. In all of this, we see the recurring trend of big ideas and bigger aspirations. And of course, our constant refrain is: to effect change, you must start with a coherent vision.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano


Nowhere Near the End of the Line

21 Mar

With news of sequestration and federal budget cuts, municipalities across the country are feeling as though they have reached the end of the line. Reduced federal funding has many states, counties, and cities slashing services and considering tax hikes. Everyone from senior citizens, to students, to airport passengers are feeling the sting of the cuts, yet there is hope. Reports indicate we’re beating the odds,  however it is time we look elsewhere for new and innovative methods for creating lasting economic development.

This month we examine areas other than the federal government for sources of economic opportunity.  We observe the State of California seeking to make legislative changes to its economic enterprise zones in the hopes of creating more jobs and economic growth.  We see non-profit organizations mobilizing change through research, community engagement, and the brightest thought leaders. Finally, we leave the country all together to visit Latin America and their innovative transportation solutions.

As we look towards the coming of spring, we can also look to places other than the federal government for our needs. We are not at the end of the line, just figuring out how to build more track.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

Acting Now for Lasting Change

18 Feb

Sustainability and economic development spurred by manufacturing have recently become more prominent fixtures in the national political discourse. The Obama Administration has made a pitch to the American people (and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. Congress) to start calling for bold action on issues of climate change and to demand a coherent policy framework to retain and attract more good-paying, advanced manufacturing jobs to U.S. shores. How much of this rhetoric translates to action is yet to be seen, but we can start looking at policy interventions and new tools that show promise in these arenas. A few months back, we noted that policymaking at all levels of government takes coordination and collaboration – and this is especially true in the areas of climate change and economic development.

This month, we look at the policy landscape surrounding renewable energy production, new developments in the effort to attract advanced manufacturing clusters, and partnerships that train workers for highly-skilled manufacturing work.  We have also invited Ginny Browne from the Participatory Budgeting Project to give us an update about the participatory budgeting process currently underway in Vallejo. Given the complexities and long-term focus needed to move the needle on these issues, it is clear that collaborative models are best suited to help address some of the most pressing problems. Simultaneous investments in innovation and people are essential elements for success.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

Rethinking Investment, Remaking Success

17 Jan

The news that the Governor’s proposed budget is “roughly in balance” confirms our tentative assessment that the Golden State has truly turned a corner and is on its way to a real economic recovery. Without going off the deep-end into a spending-frenzy, now is the time to plan for the not-so-distant day when the state and cities have extra revenue that can be tapped to rebuild our communities.  In this month’s newsletter we highlight some inklings and foreshadowing of the creativity that can help us remake our communities into the places we deserve.

Now is the time to think about what a truly sustainable economic development strategy might look like.  We might start by defining success not by the amount of sales or property tax generated or by the level of real estate development we can spur, but by the number of enduring middle class jobs we can create in growth sectors.  We might define success by the number of entrepreneurs and innovators that choose to start and grow their businesses in our communities.  We might define success by the percentage of families that pay less than a third of their income for housing in safe, healthful communities.

Now is the time not to plan for building more road capacity for cars, but to plan for investing in the public infrastructure, transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements that can help us create more compact, walkable and livable communities.  We might define success by how many different ways a resident can easily access jobs, services, parks, healthy food and educational resources.

Now is the time to plan not just for how to achieve compliance with environmental laws, but how to leverage investments for multiple benefits like stormwater management, open space, distributed energy and recreational opportunities.  We might define success by the percentage of children who breathe clean air and live within a 10 minute walk to a park. We might define success by falling rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

And to help us do this well, we must strive to use the amazing and seemingly-daily advancements in information and communications technology to do our planning and investing in transparent ways that truly engage and inform the public.  We should expect nothing less in a place where dreams are made real and where innovation is rampant.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

More Than Just Optimism

17 Dec

As the year draws to a close, it appears that the Golden State has turned a corner. At the onset of 2012 we called on Californians to remake the state in the image of our boldest vision. And, assuming that the world doesn’t come to an end in three days, it seems like the state is on track to do just that. Voters have stepped up to help right the state’s wayward finances, embracing education and continued funding for clean technology. The state’s cap-and-trade program is off the ground, high speed rail is gaining traction, and a plan to fix our vulnerable water system is in the works. Moreover, it seems that California is once again positioned to be a national leader in innovation. Our progress has been uneven, and great disparities still exist along geographic and socioeconomic lines. Still, it seems like California’s trajectory has shifted upward.

It is with this in mind that we examine some of the programs and practices that hold promise for the future. First, we look at how the world’s second largest carbon market will allocate revenues to put California on a more sustainable path. From there, we turn to a new cabinet focused on fostering collaboration and coordination around transit-oriented development in Los Angeles. Finally, we detail the Chicago Infrastructure Trust’s preliminary effort to seek private financers to build and upgrade the city’s critical infrastructure.

In all of this, it takes more than just optimism to make a difference. Effectiveness and the willingness to take risks are essential.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

November 6th and Beyond

22 Oct

As the November election looms, there’s much talk about gaining momentum. Whether it’s in context of the oft-shifting polls of the presidential race, the highly contested runs for Congress or the Senate, or the ever-contentious spate of state measures, propositions, and initiatives, everyone is looking to gain an edge. But as we look beyond November 6th, it’s important to take note of the policy tools and new ways of thinking that are gaining traction.

This month, we look at the fallout from Governor Brown’s decision to place a hold on any attempts to re-imagine redevelopment as an economic development tool. We highlight several ballot measures across the state that may have implications for sustainable economic development. We give an overview of a visa program that is becoming a more widely used tool to finance development projects. And we take a look at expanding the scope for planning transit-oriented development.

As we look at these emerging trends, we see that there is an underlying momentum that is moving us toward policies and practices that take a more holistic approach to tackling complex issues. Thinking beyond the election, it’s important for policymakers and practitioners to build on this momentum to shape more positive outcomes.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine Aguilar Perez

Making Policy: The Heavy Lifting of Compromise & Collaboration

18 Sep

Policymaking at all levels of government takes coordination and collaboration. In an ideal political and policymaking environment, decisionmakers would adopt a systemic approach that tackles problems by creating a shared set of objectives. But as we all know, such an ideal is rarely achieved. While it would be great to unite under the banner of shared goals and collective outcomes, concessions and compromise are also key to making meaningful change.

This month, we look at policies at the state, national, and local levels. We look at SB 1156, which resurrects certain aspects of traditional redevelopment while adding new provisions for job creation, and environmental sustainability. From California, we move to the national stage and examine how competing objectives at the federal level have resulted in a fractured framework for transportation finance in the U.S. Shifting from federal transportation to local economic development, we look at case studies in emerging industry clusters in Los Angeles.

In all of this, we see that the policies that work engage broad constituencies to achieve a set of shared outcomes even if there are competing ideologies. While collaboration is key, so is compromise. Let’s hope this lesson is one that our policymakers take to heart.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine Aguilar Perez