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America’s cities are desperate for new infrastructure investment. As local and national leaders ponder strategies for renewing America’s cities, they would do well to learn from the collaborations of community, worker, civil rights, and environmental leaders that are pushing regional and municipal leaders to get more for their infrastructure investments.

National leaders are meeting in Washington, DC this week under the rubric of Infrastructure Week. Their message is clear – we need a renewed commitment to infrastructure investment.

In fact, America’s cities are desperate for new infrastructure investment. Decades of disinvestment and failure to maintain mid-20th century infrastructure have left our cities in crisis. The most dramatic infrastructure failures, like the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minnesota, yield tragic and deathly consequences. But even where those failures are not as dramatic, crumbling infrastructure diminishes property values, hinders private investment, and leaves city residents with reduced quality of life, fewer job opportunities, and less money for much-needed public services. The effects of concentrated poverty that stem from these problems are no less deadly than a bridge collapse: residents of urban neighborhoods have higher rates of asthma and cancer; they face daily exposure to violence and pollution; long-term unemployment and mass incarceration rob their communities of economic and human capital.

Renewed investment is long overdue, but it is not nearly enough. As local and national leaders ponder strategies for renewing America’s cities, they would do well to learn from the collaborations of community, worker, civil rights, and environmental leaders that are pushing regional and municipal leaders to get more for their infrastructure investments. Where they are able to partner with the local and elected officials who control public investments, they are leveraging greater benefits for cities that promise to reduce inequality and clean the environment while improving the health of our communities.

The new vision for infrastructure investment focuses on how major public investments can yield benefits along multiple axes, putting unemployed communities back to work, cleaning and greening urban environments, and making sure infrastructure supports community needs rather than competing with them.

No longer isolated cases, these stories provide witness to the transformative potential of public investment combined with strong policies that address pressing needs on the ground.

Like the comprehensive jobs policies recently enacted around the redevelopment Oakland’s army base. Redevelopment of the base – a tract of land the size of 200 football fields – will probably be the largest and most catalytic project Oakland residents will see in this generation. Slated for the site: a logistics hub that includes warehousing and distribution to augment facilities at the port. A coalition led by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy created a comprehensive agenda that ensures Oakland residents have a better chance at getting into the high quality construction careers created by the redevelopment. Construction and logistics employers will pay real wages that can support families. The hiring program, together with Oakland’s existing ban on screening for criminal records, means people coming out of the criminal justice system have a real chance at long-term employment at the port. Infrastructure investment? Yes. But also investment in the human capital and the West Oakland communities adjacent to the port.

Similarly, when LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority moved forward with a plan to invest $6 billion in new construction, a construction careers policy ensured low-income workers and workers of color would have easier access to new jobs. In partnership with the Los Angeles building trades unions, the Los Angeles Alliance for New Economy led the charge to make sure the 23,400 new jobs would be of the highest quality jobs possible.

It’s not just a California thing. In Atlanta, Georgia Stand Up and its sister organization, Georgia Trade Up, are working to connect low-income workers and workers of color to new construction career opportunities created by public investment, including the redevelopment of Fort McPherson.

Anticipating new taxes to fund redevelopment of the Bradley Center, Milwaukee community and labor leaders can draw on the lessons of the 2008 MORE Ordinance, which applied job quality and job access standards to public infrastructure and publicly-subsidized private development. Such a move would make new public infrastructure a boon to all communities, not only those rich enough to afford NBA game tickets.

In New York, the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding has posed a number of challenging questions to leaders overseeing Hurricane Sandy recovery funds. Can’t that money do more for our communities? Can’t it create better quality jobs for unemployed city residents, and ensure low-income families have equitable access to benefits like mold remediation?

And in Pittsburgh, community and environmental leaders are advancing a new vision for green infrastructure that would create stronger environmental outcomes for the reconstruction of Allegheny County’s outdated water and sewer systems.

Yes, we need more money in our cities. But city leaders that attempt merely to fix crumbling roads and bridges and remediate outdated water and sewer systems are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Yes, please rebuild our cities. And give us more opportunity while you do it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here in Colorado, it's all about privatizing ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... infrastructure to corporate control.  Highways, trains -it's all for sale.

    This is with a Democrat Gov & legislature. So I guess put me down as 'hopeful, but dubious.'

    "Then why don't all girls belong to unions?" "Well, there's some that thinks it ain't fashionable; there's some that thinks it ain't no use; and there's some that never thinks at all."

    by Cadillac64 on Fri May 16, 2014 at 09:20:10 AM PDT

    •  Also, the cities not having money is a ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... self-created problem.  Tax the corporations their fair share and the money goes to the general funds & not politicians campaigns & PAC's.

      So, yeah. That won't get fixed.

      "Then why don't all girls belong to unions?" "Well, there's some that thinks it ain't fashionable; there's some that thinks it ain't no use; and there's some that never thinks at all."

      by Cadillac64 on Fri May 16, 2014 at 09:23:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  At some level of taxation Colorado companies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cadillac64

        will move to Texas so there may not be as much gold in the goose as one might imagine.

        Bringing private investors to infrastructure is one way to bring capital to much needed projects without tax revenue.

        "let's talk about that" uid 92953

        by VClib on Fri May 16, 2014 at 09:58:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is one way, the way that funnels profits ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... to the private sector instead of to government. I'm not sure what your response is supposed to be adding.

          It sure is a shame Presidents' Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower did not have Goldman Sachs around to fund the original building of the Interstate Highway system. Think of the conditions we could have today - paved toll roads for the moneyed folks and the rest of us with dirt.

          It's worked so well for the rural communities with every other utility, hasn't it? And now with the internet?

          You "imagine" whatever you want.  Companies that won't pay their taxes & contribute to the upkeep of our state should move to Texas or wherever today. May the gods & goddesses have mercy upon their employees souls if they ever need a medical procedure that the Texas Corpo-Christians decide is objectionable to their God, or y'know, their building blows up because of their fine safety oversight.

          For the record, I don't respond well when politicians play that smug "oh it could be so much worse if you don't accept this bad policy" bullshit either.

          Peace out.

          "Then why don't all girls belong to unions?" "Well, there's some that thinks it ain't fashionable; there's some that thinks it ain't no use; and there's some that never thinks at all."

          by Cadillac64 on Fri May 16, 2014 at 10:38:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We should have been raising the tax on gasoline (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cadillac64, nextstep

            gradually over the years to fund roads and bridges. We also need to find a way to tax AEVs and hybrids for the use of the roads.

            "let's talk about that" uid 92953

            by VClib on Fri May 16, 2014 at 12:42:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As we move from personal transportation (0+ / 0-)

              I see diminishing returns.

              The better short and long term, and the proper thing to do from the Keynesian economic point of view: deficit spend 5% of GDP on infrastructure, creating 20 million jobs.

              I agree that a rising gas tax would have been the right thing to do, 35-40 years ago. By 1990 it was too late. Today gas represents such a larger pie slice of the family budget that has already been hammered enough.

              .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

              by Roger Fox on Fri May 16, 2014 at 01:28:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent and spot on first diary KMH. (0+ / 0-)

    Looking forward to your next diary.

    Welcome to Daily Kos. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Community Guidelines, the Knowledge Base, and the Site Resource Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.
     ~~ from the DK Partners & Mentors Team.

    It will never happen for the first time until it does.

    by catilinus on Sat May 17, 2014 at 11:04:14 AM PDT

  •  FEDERAL RESERVE AND INFRASTRUCTURE BANK (0+ / 0-)

    The Federal Reserve has the power to make large loans at low interest and no strings attached to large banks and financial institutions.  The power sprung forth from the Federal Reserve Act.  The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act mandated during economic downturns, that the President, the Federal reserve and private corporations work together to achieve full employment and growth.  If the Fed can loan money to private banks, why can not the Fed loan money to the Nation through its President for use in establishing a National Infrastructure Bank which would provide funds to federal departments, state and local to hire private corporations to rebuild America.  The funds could be used by the President to establish CCC, WPA, U. S. Postal Bank and other types of programs to get our nation working, purchasing and expanding once again.
    Remember plants do not grow by watering their leaves, but by watering and fertilizing their roots.  Our roots, workers, wage earners, our people, fellow citizens, have gone without water and fertilizer to long!  

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