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Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy;
For more than a decade, states and cities across the country have served a leadership role in advancing science-informed climate policy through city, state and multi-state efforts. The rapid pace by which state climate policy is emerging is evidenced by the number of new laws, directives and policies adopted in 2018 and the first half of 2019 alone. Currently, there is an active ongoing dialogue across the U.S. regarding the intersection of climate and equity objectives with efforts targeted at addressing needs of disadvantaged communities and consumers. This climate/equity intersection is due to several factors, including recognition by many cities and states that climate change is and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations and will exacerbate existing stressors faced by disadvantaged communities and consumers. Research indicates that a greater proportion of environmental burden exists in geographic areas with majority populations of people of color, low-income residents, and/or indigenous people. It is well known that certain households (including some that are low-income, African American, Latino, multi-family and rural) spend a larger portion on their income on home energy costs. States and stakeholders are realizing that a transition to a low-carbon future by mid-century will require significantly increased participation of disadvantaged communities and households in the benefits of climate and clean energy programs.
Heartland Alliance National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity;
Implementing the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model boosts employment outcomes for transition-age youth facing barriers to employment. LifeWorks, a non-profit organization serving transition-age youth and their families in Austin, TX, realized that workforce models popular within the youth development field may not address the significant and complex challenges faced by their participants. LifeWorks staff began to look toward behavioral health approaches to employment and discovered the Individual Placement & Support model. This case study discusses how IPS offered LifeWorks a new approach to workforce support for youth that might better address the types of challenges their participants faced.
Jobs for the Future;
How many people work in green infrastructure? What are the jobs? What level of compensation do they offer? What are the educational requirements? How much potential is there for job creation as green infrastructure investments increase? How is the green infrastructure workforce within the six U.S. cities examined for this report similar to—or different than—that in the nation as a whole?
This issue brief attempts to answer these and other questions about current and emerging workforce trends related to the rise in green infrastructure activities. It summarizes the results of research conducted by Jobs for the Future (JFF) as part of NatureWORKS, a national initiative to understand the jobs, careers, skills, credentials, and potential of the U.S. green infrastructure workforce. The study was funded by the U.S. Forest Service's National Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program as recommended by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, NUCFAC.
The research focused on occupations involved in the direct installation, maintenance, and inspection (IMI) of the green infrastructure (GI) and their first-line supervisors. This report describes the GI-IMI involvement of occupations whose work includes green infrastructure activities. It also discusses the emerging movement to certify green infrastructure workers in the stormwater management field as a way to both raise the quality of GI work and promote green infrastructure implementation, thereby expanding the workforce.
Laura and John Arnold Foundation;
The increase in Austin's pension debt over the last decade is due in part to the fact that as the population grew, demand for public services increased and the city added more than 1,000 public employees between 2010 and 2015. As the cost of providing benefits rose, the city failed to keep up with contributions to the system—skipping nearly $170 million in payments to the Employees' Retirement Plan, which is the city's largest retirement plan, over eight years. At the same time, it suffered a series of investment shortfalls system wide, which compounded the effect of the missed contributions and led to a widening gap between assets and liabilities.
Despite the fact that the city is paying more and more into the plans each year, unfunded liabilities are continuing to rise. In fact, Austin spends more than half of its pension payments on debt—rather than benefits for public workers. Yet even these payments might not be sufficient to pay off the unfunded liabilities, and if the city earns less than expected on its investments, debt will rapidly rise.
The brief explains that the city must take immediate steps to pay down the unfunded liabilities in order to improve the stability of its pension plans. Local leaders in Austin should take note of the pension crisis that is unfolding in Dallas. Two years ago, Dallas' pension system was in a similar position to the one that Austin is currently in. However, Dallas' pension debt doubled to $4 billion and its funded ratio plummeted to 56 percent after the plan administrators made a series of reckless decisions that have pushed the city's largest plan, the police and fire fund, to the brink of bankruptcy.
The situation in Dallas should provide a cautionary example of how quickly debt can spiral out of control. In the brief, McGee and Diaz Aguirre call on Austin's leaders to make the changes necessary to ensure that the city is able to uphold its retirement promises to public workers. The authors present a number of recommendations that would help stabilize the system and address the plan's underlying structural flaws, including:
Making adequate funding non-negotiable and committing to pay down current unfunded liabilities in 30 years or less.
Establishing prudent and realistic funding and investment policies.
Establishing local control of the pension fund in order to improve oversight and accountability.
Consider enrolling new workers in plans that are simpler and easier to manage, like Defined Contribution or Cash Balance plans.
This brief is a partnership between Urban and the Center for Policing Equity's National Justice Database, in collaboration with the White House's Police Data Initiative. The brief analyzes publicly available data in 2015 vehicle stops and 2014 use of force incidents on the part of the Austin Police Department. Findings indicate that even when controlling for neighborhood levels of crime, education, homeownership, income, youth, and unemployment, racial disparities still exist in both use and severity of force. We also document that APD has a high level of transparency, and the analysis demonstrates the value of that democratization of police department data in examining whether community-level explanations are sufficient to explain observed racial disparities.
Partners for Sacred Places;
Arts in Sacred Places (AiSP) was designed to facilitate long-term, mutually beneficial space-sharing relationships between arts organizations - with inadequate or no home - and houses of worship with space to share. AiSP maintains a database of information on arts organizations and sacred places; provides tools such as training, documentation, and budget and legal assistance; and acts as a matchmaker and facilitator for partnerships. Partners for Sacred Places also has strong expertise on adaptive re-use of vacant religious properties, leading design charrettes, community and political engagements, and business and funding plan development.
The proposed project, with national implications, addresses the facility needs of both sectors in a unique way that has the potential for catalytic change. To elevate the issue, we explored the complex space problems faced by the dance and theater communities and held two national convenings to disseminate research findings and educate leaders in the field on the direct and significant potential for impact that this solution offers. A recorded version of our Philadelphia convening can be found on this page along with the final version of our report.
Focus on Learning
The project highlights:
what has been done to date;what resources currently exist;what is the status and health of the dance and theater communities in the region; andwhat are their space needs.
Annie E. Casey Foundation;
This report tells how four tax-preparation programs are breaking the mold and tackling the world of health care enrollment. Readers will learn the challenges and opportunities associated with such a move, which has the potential to help millions of low-income Americans take a critical first step toward a healthier future.
National Institute for Transportation and Communities;
This report presents finding from research evaluating U.S. protected bicycle lanes (cycle tracks) in terms of their use, perception, benefits, and impacts. This research examines protected bicycle lanes in five cities: Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C., using video, surveys of intercepted bicyclists and nearby residents, and count data. A total of 168 hours were analyzed in this report where 16,393 bicyclists and 19,724 turning and merging vehicles were observed. These data were analyzed to assess actual behavior of bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers to determine how well each user type understands the design of the facility and to identify potential conflicts between bicyclists, motor vehicles and pedestrians. City count data from before and after installation, along with counts from video observation, were used to analyze change in ridership. A resident survey (n=2,283 or 23% of those who received the survey in the mail) provided the perspective of people who live, drive, and walk near the new lanes, as well as residents who bike on the new lanes. A bicyclist intercept survey (n= 1,111; or 33% of those invited to participate) focused more on people's experiences riding in the protected lanes. A measured increase was observed in ridership on all facilities after the installation of the protected cycling facilities, ranging from +21% to +171%. Survey data indicates that 10% of current riders switched from other modes, and 24% shifted from other bicycle routes.
National League of Cities;
Mobile food vending generates approximately $650 million in revenue annually. The industry is projected to account for approximately $2.7 billion in food revenue over the next five years, but unfortunately, most cities are legally ill-equipped to harness this expansion. Many city ordinances were written decades ago, with a different type of mobile food supplier in mind, like ice cream trucks, hot dog carts, sidewalk peddlers, and similar operators. Modern mobile vending is a substantial departure from the vending typically assumed in outdated local regulations. Vendors utilize large vehicles packed with high-tech cooking equipment and sanitation devices to provide sophisticated, safe food usually prepared to order.
Increasingly, city leaders are recognizing that food trucks are here to stay. They also recognize that there is no "one size fits all" prescription for how to most effectively incorporate food trucks into the fabric of a community. With the intent of helping city leaders with this task, this guide examines the following questions: What policy options do local governments have to regulate food trucks? What is the best way to incorporate food trucks into the fabric of a city, taking into account the preferences of all stakeholders?
Thirteen cities of varying size and geographic location were analyzed for this study. Information on vending regulations within each of these cities was collected and analyzed, and supplemented with semi-structured interviews with city staff and food truck vendors.
Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE);
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been monitoring, supporting, and analyzing the cross-sector collaborative work undertaken in 16 District-Charter Compact cities. CRPE tracks progress on agreements and reports on local political, legal, and financial barriers to collaboration, and also facilitates networking and problem-solving among participants. Using data and documents from interviews with district and charter leaders, this interim report details the first two years of Compact work and finds evidence that these cities have made mixed progress on a number of fronts, such as facilities sharing, equitable funding for charter schools, more high-performing schools, and improved access to high-quality special education. But challenges like leadership transitions, local anti-charter politics, and key leaders' unwillingness to prioritize time and resources for implementation have thwarted efforts in some cities. The report includes key Compact agreements and measurements of progress for each city, plus a checklist for district and charter leaders considering a collaboration Compact.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation;
Communities across our nation are experimenting with new ways to engage citizens in the decisions made by civic leaders from the public, private and non-pro!t sectors, working sometimes together and sometimes at cross purposes. Ultimately, success at making democracy work and sustaining healthy communities requires engaged individuals, organizations, and institutions.
Across our country, community engagement bright spots are emerging. These initiatives foster a sense of attachment, expand access to information and resources, and create opportunities for citizens to play more active roles in setting priorities, addressing issues, and planning the longer-term sustainability of their communities.
The National League of Cities, working with The John S. and James L Knight Foundation, selected 14 communities that the two institutions are engaged with to explore how well or poorly some of these experiments are faring today. This analysis then focused more closely on four communities -- Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Austin -- to document the lessons learned and the challenges ahead.
National League of Cities;
CPER's founding funders had ambitious aims from the start. They sought specific education reforms that would expand opportunities and improve student outcomes. Yet at the same time, they looked beyond individual policy targets to questions about how policy decisions are made: Whose interests drive decision-making? What parties are considered to have relevant knowledge? Funders shaped CPER with the goal of transforming the policymaking process and enabling diverse stakeholders in vulnerable communities to fully exercise their educational rights—as one essential component of realizing a broader opportunity and justice agenda.