Archive: Nov 2014

  1. Transit, Transparency, and the True Cost of Giveaways

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    Letter to Readers

    The season of giving thanks and taking stock is upon us.  With the depressed (and depressing) voter turnout of the midterm election behind us, we choose to find the bright spot instead of wallowing in the dread of intensified partisan gridlock.  In Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — not exactly blue states – voters stood up for workers and approved ballot measures to increase the minimum wage.  But how can low wage workers move into the middle class?  We have to make sure they can actually get to where the good jobs are.  This month we look at recent studies that provide more evidence that meaningful transit accessibility is a crucial part of a comprehensive economic development strategy.  So too is transparency.  We look at a proposed accounting rule that would require government agencies to disclose details about the subsidies they give to developers and corporations in the ever more competitive game of business attraction and retention. But first we focus on Panama, a dynamic nation with newly elected leaders who want to leverage rail transit investments for better housing and economic outcomes for low and middle income people.  So of course they came to California to get ideas.  We’ll tell you what they saw and why Panama is a place to watch. Onward to pumpkin pie!

    Sincerely yours,

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

  2. Rail Transit in Panama

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    Image from ELP Advisors

    Image from ELP Advisors

    With First Rail Transit Line in Central America, Panama Aims to Remake its Urban Centers

    This month, ELP heads south to Panama to explore Central America’s very first rail transit system. With the recent opening of the Panama City’s Metro de Panama, as well as concurrent improvements to MetroBus, the regional bus system, Panama City is poised to not only increase connectivity, but also radically alter its urban landscape.

    In October, a delegation of Panamanian officials, including key legislators, finance experts, and city planning officials, visited California and met with public, private and non-profit sector leaders to discuss issues of social and urban economic development. (more…)

  3. Transit as an Economic Development Tool

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    Growing Evidence that Connecting Low-Income Communities to Job Centers can Reduce Chronic Unemployment

    It’s clear that access to jobs reduces unemployment and expands local and regional economies. But oftentimes, jobs are clustered in areas that aren’t easily accessible to everyone. In particular, many of the nation’s major job centers are hard to access for low-income workers, who are more likely to be transit dependent.

    Given that the “typical American city dweller can reach just 30% of jobs in their city within 90 minutes on public transport,” it should come as no surprise that the employment prospects for transit-dependent households are severely limited.

    There’s growing evidence that increasing access to urban job centers has the potential to reduce chronic unemployment in working class and low-income communities. But policymakers don’t typically consider providing transit service from job poor communities to job rich neighborhoods a viable economic development strategy. The question is: should they? (more…)

  4. Shedding Light on Public Subsidies for Private Development

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    Development (Compressed)

    Image from James Willamor:

    Bringing Transparency to Tax Breaks for Private Development

    Governments have any number of programs, policies, and perks at their disposal to woo private developers to invest in their region. Nationwide, local governments give up $80.4 billion in incentives, with Texas earning the designation as the nation’s most incentive-inclined state, spending $19.1 billion annually to court businesses.

    While high-profile deals to attract investment in state and local economies often involve generous tax breaks and incentives that are well documented by the media, there is no nationwide accounting for these tax-payer subsidies. But that may change with new rules proposed by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. If local governments are forced to disclose subsidies for private development, will that change the economic development landscape? And how should the public and policymakers use this information? (more…)

  5. CalEnviroScreen Update

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    CalEnviroScreen 2.0 Helps Direct Cap-and-Trade Investments towards Greenhouse Gas Reduction in Disadvantaged Communities

    The 2014-15 state budget calls for approximately $832 million of cap-and-trade proceeds for programs that support energy efficiency, public transit, affordable housing and greenhouse gas reduction. At least a quarter of these proceeds will go towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in disadvantaged communities pursuant to SB 585 (De Leon). To identify disadvantaged communities that are vulnerable to the effects of pollution, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) developed the Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) Tool. (more…)

  6. Participatory Budgeting Comes to Long Beach

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    Long Beach’s District 9 Partners with the Participatory Budgeting Project to Bring More Democracy to its Budgeting Process

    We’re excited to announce a new collaboration between the City of Long Beach District 9 and the Participatory Budgeting Project. As an organization, the Participatory Budgeting Project continues to shake up the planning process for cities at home and abroad. Long Beach is opening up part of its budgeting process to the public, to prioritize how funds are spent. The city is following in the footsteps of past collaborators such as the City of Vallejo, San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago. (more…)

  7. Making Playful Spaces

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    How can we Make Our Urban Experience More Conducive for Play?

    When we design cities, are we paying enough attention to making them fun, playable places? In most cases we aren’t. But it’s time to start thinking about how we can thread opportunities to introduce play as part of the fabric of our built environment and as a fundamental component of our urban areas. (more…)

  8. Always Read the Plaque

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    Image from ELP Advisors

    The Strange History of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Clampus E Vitus

    This month some ELP staff visited the LA Aqueduct Cascades to celebrate its 101st anniversary.  At the Cascades gateway sits a recently installed plaque describing the engineering feat of the LA Aqueduct, and if you keep reading to the bottom you’ll see it’s dedicated not just by our beloved LADWP, but also Platrix Chapter Two of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus.

    Wait…who?! (more…)