All-In Cities: Equity Wins Big in the Midterms

On Tuesday, millions of Americans chose to embrace the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, sending a record number of women and people of color to Congress. States also passed critical measures, such as Amendment 4 in Florida, which will restore the right to vote to more than one million formerly incarcerated people. And in Cities across the country, voters passed a number of ballot initiatives to advance equity. For example:

  • Baltimore voters overwhelmingly passed a measure to create an equity fund that could be used to support initiatives and efforts to overcome racial and other forms of discrimination.
  • Portland voters agreed to address the inequities of pollution and climate change with the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative, which will implement a 1 percent surcharge on retail corporations.
  • In San Francisco, voters approved Prop C, a measure that will charge the city's largest companies a marginally higher tax to help fund homelessness initiatives.

Not every race turned out favorably for the cause of equity – and in some instances, we have faced some setbacks. But the surge in voters, rise in new leaders, and new equitable policies show that the equity movement is only growing. The work continues!

  • Southern Cities Convening.Last month, PolicyLink joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation in convening leaders from seven cities across the South – Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, and Richmond – in Nashville, Tennessee for three days of strategizing on advancing economic inclusion policies, including equitable procurement practices and local and targeted hire policies. Learn more about these strategies in our All-In Cities Toolkit, and more about this initiative to advance economic inclusion in Southern cities here.
  • Advancing Health Equity and Inclusive Growth in Cincinnati. As home to nine Fortune 500 companies, and new investment in neighborhoods such as Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati is poised for an economic renaissance. But not all residents are benefiting from this recovery. Persistent racial and gender inequities are preventing many residents, particularly women of color, from thriving. In partnership with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Interact for Health, and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, we released a data profile and policy brief that illustrates how disparities in income, housing, educational attainment, and many other areas are costing the Cincinnati region billions of dollars in potential economic growth each year. Read the profile, policy brief, and fact sheet, and see press coverage here.
  • Building a Cultural Equity Plan. As cities and regions seek to build on the vibrancy of our diversifying country, build intercultural community, and redress historic underinvestment in communities of color, many are developing and implementing cultural plans by bringing an explicit racial and ethnic demographic lens to planning. PolicyLink has adapted a form of planning that explicitly focuses on cultural equity as a dynamic, regular practice: a Cultural Equity Plan. This tool provides guidance and resources for agencies and communities who would like to complete a plan that is dedicated to accomplishing cultural equity in their neighborhood, city, county, or region. By pointing to equity-focused approaches of cities engaging in this practice, it serves to promote equitable development through arts and culture.

Webinar: Community Benefits Agreements and Organizing for Equitable Development. On October 24, we hosted a webinar on Community benefits agreements (CBAs), featuring Jennifer Martinez of PICO Bay Area, and Jackie Paul Sims of Peoples Alliance for Transit, Housing, and Employment. CBAs provide a legal framework for community coalitions to organize and negotiate with developers around job access, wages, training, community oversight, and other benefits a proposed development might bring to the surrounding neighborhood or city. As binding contracts that clarify and align the expectations of developers, community coalitions, and public officials, CBAs crafted with the core principles of just and fair inclusion can be powerful tools for spurring equitable, sustainable development in cities. If you missed the webinar, you can access the recording here.

Tracey Ross
Associate Director, All-In Cities Initiative