States face off over future of Obama global warming plan

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two weeks after officials in two dozen states asked Republican President-elect Donald Trump to kill one of Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature plans to curb global warming, another group of state officials is urging Trump to save it.

Democratic attorneys general in 15 states plus four cities and counties sent a letter to Trump asking him to preserve Obama’s Clean Power Plan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the lead author, announced Thursday.

Source: States face off over future of Obama global warming plan

 

Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

Kathleen Webster lived on Forsyth Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s, when her neighbors started organizing around Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Everything around it was boarded up and closed.

Source: Mapping Tool Aims to Keep Public Spaces Public – Next City

“This community got on bicycles, did a whistle campaign. They organized themselves to take the park back from pimps and drug dealers,” she says.

The police, and eventually the parks department, were more than happy to work closely with the community, Webster remembers. “At the time, they were happy actually to have anybody take it on, because nobody else wanted to be here,” she says. “As one person told me, a parks employee threw the keys at him for a back gate, and said ‘do you want to take care of this?’”

Take care of it they did, Webster and her neighbors. They focused their initial energies on one section of the narrow but long park and transformed it into the BRC Senior Center, which is now surrounded by the Elizabeth Hubbard Memorial Garden (named for one of the original volunteers). The site became the anchor to gradually wrest the park back to healthy, productive community use. Webster, who still lives in the neighborhood, became president of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition, which continues to organize around the park.

But times have changed. The Lower East Side is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Manhattan. Public assets, including parks, park buildings, former schools, library buildings whether they’re in use or not, community gardens and city-owned vacant lots are suddenly in the crosshairs of developers who once wouldn’t touch the neighborhood. Now the volunteers who worked to make the area safe are left wondering: How can they get the attention of public officials when people with deep pockets are drawing up plans and proposing shiny designs for repurposing public assets that seem otherwise underutilized?

“If you think of development as a race, with a starting line and a finish line, in too many communities, government starts at or slightly ahead of the starting line, the developer’s usually way down the road, and the communities aren’t even at the starting line,” says Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, the state chapter of the national civic engagement and government accountability organization.

Common Cause New York has been collaborating with the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center and 596 Acres on the NYCommons initiative to build a modern set of organizing tools to help grassroots groups compete with private real estate developers when it comes to determining the future of publicly owned assets across the city. One of those tools is a new online map and database of all the public assets that, while hard to define, essentially provide some type of potential real estate development opportunity — something a city agency could potentially sell or lease to someone else.

“The baseline thing we need to do is figure out what the set of things is that we’re trying to include in this conversation,” says attorney Paula Segal, founder of 596 Acres, which supports grassroots organizing around vacant publicly owned lots in NYC. “The truth is, we’re in a city, most of our infrastructure and our assets are shared — the subways, the roads, the sidewalks, the water, something like 30, 40 percent of all housing in the city is some form of cooperatively owned. The list goes on and on to the point where privately owned property can start to seem like the real outlier.”

Residents like Webster and her neighbors have long been organizing around many of these assets. About three or four years ago, Lerner says, Common Cause and the other NYCommons partners started to see a pattern in the organizing against a proposed soccer stadium taking away public park space in Queens, around the Midtown Library in Manhattan, and around the future of the main Brooklyn Public Library Branch and other public assets.

“It seemed as if each one of these particular issues was being attacked as if it was a free-standing issue, and the people working on it were thinking of it as ‘this is a parks issue, this is a libraries issue,’” Lerner says. “We started thinking about the fact that all of these separate challenges had similar underlying policy issues that have to do with how does government think about commonly owned, shared assets.”

Residents were spending huge amounts of time and energy, often to no avail for some of these larger proposals and projects involving public assets.

Meanwhile, when it came to vacant lots, over nearly the same two-year period, grassroots groups in four of the five boroughs successfully organized around 36 former publicly owned vacant lots, which were officially declared permanent public parks at the end of 2015. 596 Acres supported 17 of those grassroots groups.

“We were able to get new parks created by getting people involved very early on before anybody talked about flipping anything in vacant, publicly owned real estate assets in their own neighborhoods, transforming them into community resources that maybe weren’t recognized as permanent when they were created, but they became permanent,” says Segal.

596 Acres has developed a number of tools and found or created resources specifically around city-owned vacant land, including its own online map and database, Living Lots NYC, that provides a useful platform for organizers to connect and maintain records of organizing activity around each lot. NYCommons hopes to create an expanded tool set to serve grassroots organizing around the broader universe of public assets in NYC.

They started by asking. NYCommons went to 10 neighborhoods over the spring and summer where they knew people were organizing. Lerner says they found “a tremendous amount of energy in all five boroughs” for sharing best practices and connecting with others doing similar work.

NYCommons picked three neighborhoods for pilots, and provided them documentation, workshop facilitation and other resources to begin developing a tool kit. Many resources already existed, thanks to groups like the Center for Urban Pedagogy or New Yorkers for Parks. The Sara D. Roosevelt Park Community Coalition was one of the pilot sites.

“Movement happens in funny ways, but the NYCommons materials were very helpful as a draft basis from which to go,” says Webster.

The coalition’s current focus is a former recreation center, currently used as a systemwide parks storage facility, smack dab in the middle of a well-used area of the park. “We’ve been having a conversation about this building since 1994,” says Webster.

The group had already successfully lobbied local Council Member Margaret Chin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to earmark $1 million for renovations to the building, but the parks department has yet to propose a new purpose for the building. Webster credits NYCommons for helping get through this most recent round of community visioning for the site. Chin testified at a recent hearing that she supported one of the coalition’s ideas to turn the facility into a daytime drop-in center for the homeless.

Efforts by Webster and the other pilot sites around the city will continue to shape the final NYCommons tool kit and the online platform. Many sites already have data from recent years’ organizing efforts that need to be uploaded. The organizing track records themselves provide vital talking points for future hearings and op-eds and community meetings.

“There’s a real hunger for this in neighborhoods of all different backgrounds,” says Lerner. “Hopefully NYCommons can provide an entrée into a fairly sophisticated, experienced, citywide network of groups who are all thinking along the same lines, putting pressure on government to be responsive, with a similar vocabulary and set of expectations about public assets serving the public.”

Oscar is a Next City 2015-2016 equitable cities fellow. A New York City-based journalist with a background in global development and social enterprise, he has written about impact investing, microfinance, fair trade, entrepreneurship and more for publications such as Fast Company and NextBillion.net. He has a B.A. in Economics from Villanova University.

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Why the municipal movement must be internationalist – Medium

The municipalist movements of the Spanish state can’t ignore the global crisis of neoliberalism. It’s up to us to stand up and defend our idea of bottom up, feminist and radically democratic change.

Article by Kate Shea Baird, Enric Bárcena, Xavi Ferrer and Laura Roth, originally published in Spanish in Público.es on 21/12/16.

The ‘municipal assault’ that’s been launched in many cities in the Spanish state over the past two years has been dizzying. Neighbourhood assemblies. Electoral programmes. Codes of ethics. Party negotiations. Crowdfunding. Electoral campaigns. Coalition deals. Offices. The streets. Administration. Achievements. Contradictions. Mistakes. Lessons learned. It would be easy to get absorbed in the daily victories and defeats if it weren’t for the turbulent global context in which we live. The Umbrella Revolution. Oxi. Refuggees. Nuit Debout. Brexit. Dilma Rousseff. The peace deal in Colombia. Trump. Le Pen. As urgent as the everyday tasks in our neighbourhoods may be, the municipal movement has the responsibility to reflect on our role beyond our cities and the borders of the state.

More at the Source: Why the municipal movement must be internationalist – Medium

Preparing for Trump’s Presidency by Upgrading Municipal Operations

Trump has already threatened that he will limit federal funding to “sanctuary cities” that don’t adopt his immigration policies. Different cities receive different amounts of federal funding, with Los Angeles receiving around 3% of its budget from the Feds, New York and Chicago receive about 10% and Washington DC receives nearly 25%.

The more Trump squeezes the finances of a city, the more its residents need to support each other. This support can’t simply be in the form of words posted in print and social media, but in direct actions. Conventional actions such as volunteering to help the needy won’t be enough. Protests that disrupt the operations of the city will be counter productive.

We need city resident to help city government fill gaps left by a federal government that can no longer be trusted. This municipal capacity building work must be done in an open and transparent manner that invites residents to contribute deeply to this effort. Cities have massive human resources, and we need to mobilize them to create cost savings that will offset the dwindling of federal funds.

The best way to do that is to allow residents to see into capacity building processes so they can figure out where they can most effectively plugin. This will enable residents to self organize affinity groups than can supplement the efforts of city governments to increase their capabilities.

There are many ways citizens can help their cities increase capacity. One way is to modernize city administration by helping governments adopt free and open source technology solutions that enable the government to run faster, better and cheaper. This is a task that the civic technology community is passionate about and one that they could certainly perform given the right access and resources.

The process of transforming administration through open technology implementation has been successfully performed by 18F, a unit within the Federal Government’s General Services Administration that helps agencies figure out how to improve their operations using open-source technology and iterative development processes. They’ve been extremely successful, to the point where government contractors lodged an official complaint that 18F was hurting their businesses by saving the Federal government too much money.

Does anyone familiar with the capabilities of new technologies have any doubt that a governance system that incorporates smart phones and open source software into its design couldn’t out perform the centuries old legacy systems we current use? Instead of talking about it — let’s build it. For our cities. And now. As if the lives of our neighbors depends on it. Because it might!

This might sound like overkill, or too much work, but we have to be prepared if we want to defend ourselves and our neighbors from destructive federal actions. And if it turns out we overreacted and mistakenly volunteered to improve our city, so it goes.

Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

President-elect Donald Trump still has about two months to go before he is inaugurated, but pockets of resistance to his mass immigrant deportation plan are already emerging across the country. Since his election, local officials in at least 18 major “sanctuary” cities have pledged to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. By one estimate, 12 of these cities account for roughly 20 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Original Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones

There are at least 364 counties that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including 39 cities. For years, these sanctuary cities have resisted federal deportation efforts in different ways. Some jurisdictions have policies that prevent police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of residents; in other locales, jails have refused to comply with requests from the feds to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Immigration advocates argue that that these tactics encourage immigrants in their communities to report crimes or cooperate with police investigations.

But critics of sanctuary cities, like Trump, say these policies run contrary to federal immigration law and risk releasing criminals onto the streets. In fact, the term “sanctuary city” has become so politicized that many jurisdictions have hesitated to accept the label. (It is worth noting that evidence suggests sanctuary cities are actually safer for local residents.)

Trump has vowed to stomp out such local resistance by cutting off federal funding to any sanctuary city. That would mean that in a worst-case scenario, these jurisdictions risk losing anywhere between 1 percent and 25 percent of their total city budgets, depending on how much they rely on federal funds. However, a Trump administration may decide not to withhold all that funding. The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump’s advisors are considering specifically targeting law enforcement funding.

Here are some of the metros that have renewed their resistance to federal deportation efforts since the election—in order of what percent of their budgets they stand to lose if Trump stays true to his threats:

District of Columbia
At risk: 25 percent of its city budget.

DC risks more of its budget than any other jurisdiction on this list. A week after Trump’s election, Mayor Muriel Bowser reaffirmed that DC would remain a sanctuary city by keeping in place its policy of preventing city employees and police officers from asking residents about their immigration status. DC also grants driver’s licenses and other benefits to undocumented immigrants.

San Francisco
At risk: More than 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to about $1 billion total.

San Francisco has put in place some of the most expansive sanctuary city laws in the country. In fact, the city has been at the center of the sanctuary city debate ever since 2015, when a young woman was killed by an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had reportedly been deported five times and had just been released from the sheriff department’s custody. Trump repeatedly drew attention to the case during his campaign. After Trump’s election, Mayor Ed Lee and the school district and sheriff’s office, among others, pledged to abide by San Francisco’s current policies. “We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” Lee said. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city attorney is looking into the possibility of suing the federal government should it withhold funds.

Chicago
At risk: At least 10 percent of the city budget, totaling more than $1 billion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city could stand to lose nearly $29 million per year in justice grants. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed that Chicago “always will be a sanctuary city.” He added, “To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety as we’ve spoken to, you are safe in Chicago, you are secure in Chicago, and you are supported in Chicago.”

Providence, Rhode Island
At risk: Approximately 10 percent of the city budget, amounting to $71 million last year.

Providence does not refer undocumented immigrants charged with low-level civil infractions to federal immigration authorities. Mayor Jorge Elorza, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, does not consider Providence a sanctuary city, but he did declare in a statement, “We are standing with cities like Los Angeles and New York City who have made it clear that we will not sacrifice a single resident and we will continue to protect our communities.” He added, “It is important that every resident can live their lives without fear of being persecuted.”

Denver
At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget in 2015, or more than $175 million.

Justice Department funding, the most vulnerable to attack, amounted to about $5.4 million last year. The Denver Police Department released a statement in the wake of Trump’s election saying it does not plan to participate in federal immigration enforcement.

New York
At risk: About 9 percent of the city budget, totaling just over $7 billion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Trump’s threats against so-called sanctuary cities “dangerous.” He said, “We are not going to sacrifice a half million people who live among us, who are part of our community. We are not going to tear families apart.” Should Trump choose to target law enforcement funding, the city’s police department budget is less vulnerable than the overall city budget. Just over 3 percent, or $185 million, of the police budget comes from federal aid.

Baltimore
At risk: About 8 percent of the city’s budget, or more than $216 million

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reaffirmed that the city police will continue its policy of not asking about a person’s immigration status, stipulating that she considers Baltimore a “welcoming city” but not a “sanctuary city.”

Oakland, California
At risk: A rough estimate suggests that at least 4 percent of the city’s funds, or $52 million. (The Oakland City Administrator’s Office did not respond to our request for a specific breakdown of the budget.)

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wrote in an op-ed that Oakland will “proudly stand as a sanctuary city—protecting our residents from what we deem unjust federal immigration laws.”

Minneapolis
At risk: 2 percent of the city budget—more than $25 million.

The police department stands to lose about $2.1 million in federal funding, or about 1.4 percent of its budget. Responding to Trump budget threats, Mayor Betsy Hodges said, “In his quest to scapegoat immigrants, Donald Trump has threatened cities’ federal funding if we do not change this practice. I repeat: I will continue to stand by and fight for immigrants in Minneapolis regardless of President-elect Trump’s threats.”

Los Angeles
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s budget, or $507 million.

This year, Los Angeles is expected to receive $127 million in federal law enforcement grants. LA became one of the country’s first sanctuary cities, if not the first, back in 1979. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck declared that his department will not “engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico
At risk: About 2 percent of the city’s annual budget, or about $6 million in federal funding.

The city’s police department relies on federal funding for just 0.25 percent of its budget, or about $62,000. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales vocally denounced Trump’s proposed policy toward sanctuary cities on Fox and CNN, earning him the title of the latest “public face of ‘sanctuary cities.’” He called Trump funding threats “dangerous.”

Aurora, Colorado, and Seattle:
At risk: About 1.8 percent of each city’s total budget and 2 to 3 percent of Seattle’s police budget.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that standing by his city’s policies is “the most American thing we could possibly do.”

Portland, Oregon
At risk: Up to 1.3 percent of its total budget and up to 2 percent of its police budget.

Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler said, “We’re saying that we’re willing to sacrifice those dollars and we are willing to live with whatever consequences may come our way.”

Other cities that have vowed to restrict their participation in Trump’s mass deportation plan include Philadelphia, Boston, Newark, and Austin.

Source: Here Are the Sanctuary Cities Ready to Resist Trump’s Deportation Threats | Mother Jones.

Sanctuary Cities Must Prepare for Tough Negotiations with the Federal Government

Within a few weeks of Trump’s victory, mayors of big cities throughout America, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles declared they won’t collaborate with the federal government’s orders to deport peaceful, law-abiding residents and will retain their “sanctuary city” status. Trump threatens that he will deny these cities funding unless they comply with his orders. The amount of money that cities could be denied isn’t entirely clear, but Mother Jones estimates that DC could potentially losing up to 25% of its budget, New York and San Francisco could lose 10% and Los Angeles could lose 2%.

But the relationship between the federal government and cities isn’t one-way. Cities could make it difficult for the Federal government to operate effectively by denying them certain permits, kicking them out of office space and disengaging from collaborations.

Cities that want to remain sanctuary cities need to do public assessments of their own city’s “exposure” to the federal government, and also the federal government’s exposure to their city. What functions, services and funding streams could be taken from cities, and what functions, services and funding streams can cities deny the Federal government? Once these dynamics are understood, cities can work on defensive as well as offensive strategies.

If there is one message cities across the US need to convey to Trump, it’s that they won’t hesitate to leverage their people, technology and assets to create new power paradigms if existing paradigms doesn’t meet their needs. Trump needs to know that cities view his belligerence as an opportunity to organize the next “devolution revolution” and ruin his presidency.

Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

Source: Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, gave a fiery speech at a meeting of scientists Wednesday, promising to fight back against attacks on climate science.

Read More:  Gov. Jerry Brown: California could ‘launch its own damn satellite’ – Business Insider.

Mobilizing the Civic Tech Community

The more Trump squeezes the finances of a city, the more its residents need to support each other. This support can’t simply be in the form of words posted in print and social media, but in direct actions. Conventional actions such as volunteering to help the needy and disruptive protect will not be enough. City resident will need to facilitate the transformation of their city government into an entity that can fill gaps left by a federal government that can no longer be trusted.

This municipal capacity building work must be done in an open and transparent manner that invites residents to contribute deeply to this effort. Cities have massive human resources, and we need to mobilize them to solve this issue. The best way to do that is to allow residents to see into capacity building process so they can figure out where they can most effectively plugin. This will enable residents to self organize affinity groups than can supplement the efforts of city governments to increase their capabilities.

This might sound like overkill, or too much work, but we have to be prepared if we want to defend ourselves and our neighbors from destructive federal actions. And if it turns out we overreacted and mistakenly volunteered to improve our city, so it goes.

There are many ways citizens can help their cities increase capacity. One way is to modernize city administration by helping governments adopt free and open source technology solutions that enable the government to run faster, better and cheaper. This is a task that the civic technology community is passionate about and one that they could certainly perform given the right access and resources.

The process of transforming administration through open technology implementation has been successfully performed by 18F, a unit within the Federal Government’s General Services Administration. They help agencies figure out how to improve their operations using technology. Everything they build is open source. And they’ve been extremely successful, to the point where government contractors lodged official complaint that 18F was hurting their businesses by saving the Federal government too much money.

Do you have any doubt that a governance system that incorporates smart phones and open source software into its design couldn’t out perform the centuries old legacy federal system we current use? Instead of talking about it – let’s build it. For our cities. And now – as if the lives of fellow New Yorkers depended on it!

We Need Political Structures for Metro Areas

Over the last fifty years, the percentage of people around the globe living in urban areas has increased from 30% to over 50%, but cities have not seen a corresponding increase in political power. Instead, nation-states and transnational institutions that network them have become the centers of power relations.

In the United States, over half the population lives in just 39 metro areas, but each of these areas consist of many different municipal, county and even state governments. The New York Metro Area, for example, has over 20 million residents in four different states and over a dozen counties, and no political organization to represent its interests.

Over the last two thousands years, cities have frequently been more politically powerful than the nations and empires in which they’ve been located. Cities, municipalities and regional governments have performed many nation-state like functions such as building trade networks, engaging in foreign relations, waging war, completing massive public infrastructure projects and protecting their residents from state violence.

We need new political bodies at the “metro-areas” that can not only advance the interests of residents at national and international levels, but also to perform some of the functions of national and international institutions that are no longer trusted by urban residents.

Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

Source: Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power

This story is part of a special series on America’s rural/urban divide.

Jim Wheeler represents Gardnerville, a little town of 5,600 people about a half-hour east of Lake Tahoe, in the Nevada Assembly. Last fall, he gained instant national notoriety when a video surfaced in which he said he would vote to support slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted. He was roundly criticized by media outlets both national and local, as well as leaders of his own party. Wheeler soon apologized.

But some of his other remarks on the tape triggered nearly as great a reaction, at least in Nevada. He suggested that Clark County in the southeast corner of the state—home to Las Vegas and 73 percent of Nevada’s entire population—should be split off from the state. “This is the biggest divide in the state, North and South,” Wheeler said. “Las Vegas wants everything, and they don’t care about the rurals.”

Ever since, legislators from southern Nevada have vowed to take revenge, strategizing about how they can get a larger share of state resources. It should be a snap. “Southern Nevada has had a majority of the legislators and now has a supermajority,” says Jon Ralston, a prominent commentator on Nevada politics. “If the delegation [could] stick together, they could get anything they want.”

Read more: Rural Areas Lose People But Not Power