Economic Justice In Practice
One of the critical issues happening in our ward is the loss of affordable housing at a faster pace than can be built. This is a concern across the state (it is estimated that we lose 4,000 affordable units a year and only build in 1,000), and as a recent hot bed for development our ward is right in the middle of this crisis. Addressing this crisis by focusing on more ways to protect and build affordable housing is one of the reasons why I jumped into this race, and it's something that resonates widely across our ward among people who enjoy stable housing but are concerned about their neighbors, as well as among those who live with housing instability.
As I have been having these deep conversations across the ward it became apparent, however, that the platform frame of housing justice was too narrow for the work ahead. As we rebuild from this global pandemic and address systemic inequalities, what we need to focus on is ECONOMIC JUSTICE. Economic justice encompasses the early ideas around housing justice that this campaign began with:
reparations for housing discrimination, empowering communities to design equitable development scorecards with decision-making power at the planning table,
early notification when a building that a tenant is living in will be put up for sale and good faith negotiation (right of first offer)
single room occupancy and other forms of co-housing,
and a priority on bonding for new affordable housing
But it also means focusing on recovery for our small businesses, aggressive action to fill empty storefronts with entrepreneurs who will contribute to our economy, changing planning documents to include input from the most-affected stakeholders along business corridors at the start of a planning project (particularly woman and BIPOC-owned businesses), and taking leadership to address root causes of cycles of poverty by joining other cities in piloting universal basic income.
Small Business Recovery: As your Ward 10 city council member we will launch quarterly small business summits that include business associations as well as independent business owners in order to provide opportunities for networking, identification of ward priorities, and strategies for ways to improve city structures.
Fill Empty Storefronts: Many of us living in Ward 10 have watched our vibrant business corridors empty out -- and this was long before Covid hit. We can encourage property owners to host pop-up shops and other community-identified priorities with tax incentives. For those who refuse to find ways to activate their spaces, I will work with other city council members across the city to advocate for a blight tax because knowingly sitting on empty spaces without plans for their use can no longer be the status quo.
City Infrastructure Projects: Ask anyone what they love about their neighborhood in Ward 10 and chances are they will talk about their small business corridors. Those of us who have traveled in other places in the US or the world has a sense of what a treasure our small business corridors and nodes are, and how it makes us different and special as a place. However, our planning processes do not adequately take into account the economic and intangible quality of life value that these spaces provide. Infrastructure developments must follow best practices of community engagement -- something our own parks board provides a much better model for -- by including community input from the outset. What is more, that input must center on those most affected by the project who must be at the planning table. Our business node in East Harriet along Bryant and our businesses at the heart of Uptown along Hennepin have just experienced the frustrations and long term consequences of our current planning processes. Now our small businesses at the north end of Hennepin are facing the same problem. Yesterday I walked over to learn from some of our Black owned businesses what the process has been like and what the projects will mean for them. What I discovered -- a total absence of engagement outside of a mailed postcard -- is completely unacceptable. I urge you to sign this petition coordinated by the Uptown Association.
Universal Basic Income: The first time I encountered the concept of universal basic income was in the context of international development. Over the last couple of decades, in a global context, experiments with direct access to cash rather than elaborate programs with non-profits -- particularly when the cash goes to mothers -- often has better chances of lifting people out of poverty. We are now seeing this kind of experimentation at the national level. A pilot project for UBI out of Stockton, CA just released promising data showing that people on the margins of poverty have significant successes creating economic stability after two years of $500 cash payments. And Mayor Carter in St Paul has signed on to the idea as a Mayor for Guaranteed Basic Income. The goal would be to help create a crush of data showing the effectiveness of UBI in order to build the political momentum for more permanent funding at the federal level. I want us to go from leading the country in wealth gaps, to leading the country in ways out of poverty cycles.
Now is the time to turns these ideas for justice into practical, deliberate, real-world action with leadership that sees the big picture as well as the step-by-step processes to create real change.