Trump Wants to Make Redlining Easier

The Progressive
By Preeti Vissa Kristipati

The administration is moving to cut public access to information on how, and to whom, banks loan money.

Redlining – the practice of denying loans to home buyers and others based on their race or ethnic background – has been illegal for decades.

But, last year, the investigative news outlet Reveal published a massive investigation strongly suggesting that redlining continues today. Now, the Trump Administration is moving to cut public access to the information that helped Reveal produce its report.

Reveal’s reporters spent a full year analyzing 31 million records collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), a law passed in 1975 to give policymakers the information needed to identify and combat lending discrimination. Under HMDA, banks and other mortgage lenders must report information like the type of property, the loan amount, and the sex, race and ethnicity of borrowers.

Reveal found that African Americans and Latinos—and in some locations Asian Americans and Native Americans, too—were far more likely to be turned down for conventional mortgages than white borrowers. That pattern remained even after controlling for factors like household income and the amount of the loan in relation to that income.

Reporting requirements under HMDA were updated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and again by the Obama Administration to give regulators a clearer picture of what’s happening. The updated rules required lenders to report every loan’s interest rate and the relationship between an applicant’s income and total amount of debt the would-be borrower was taking on. They also required more detail on ethnicity—like whether an Asian American borrower, for example, was of Chinese or Cambodian heritage.

Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—formerly a tough consumer watchdog that’s fast becoming a bankers’ lapdog—has proposed new rules that would roll back the information requirements added by the Obama Administration. The bureau says it will close a web portal that has allowed easy public access to this information, giving vague promises to eventually develop a new tool for this purpose.

The proposed updates would exempt some lenders, such as smaller banks and credit unions, from having to report at all—even though some of them make more loans to low-income borrowers than do major banks. The administration claims these changes will provide “much needed relief” from supposed regulatory burdens.

But this makes no sense. Banks had already begun collecting and reporting the data that was required under Obama. The systems and procedures to do it are in place and working. Changing the rules now won’t relieve any regulatory burdens; it will make lenders rewrite their procedures yet again.

Redlining produced an enormous racial wealth gap, in which the median white family has roughly twenty times the wealth of the median black family. While lenders no longer draw red lines on maps to mark off non-white neighborhoods as no-mortgage zones, Reveal found they often still either declined loans entirely to black people and Latinos or steered them into the sort of high-cost subprime loans that sent millions of people into foreclosure a decade ago.

If the Trump Administration succeeds, that discrimination will continue and be much harder to detect.

White Supremacy and Tech: Panelists Discuss Bias in Data and Algorithms

The Daily
By Thelonious Goerz

Often, data and algorithms are seen as a beacon of objectivity and fairness. But panelists in fields spanning data science, education, social justice, and policy challenged the notion with thoughtful examination last Monday.

At the event, panelists described how gender, trans, and racial biases are being perpetuated in tech, despite the popular myth that algorithms are completely objective.

The event, titled “Connecting the Dots: Racism in Algorithms and Tech,” was moderated by Haleema Bharoocha, a tech equity policy fellow at the Greenlining Institute from Oakland, California. Bharoocha co-hosted the event with the Greenlining Institute, the Critical Platform Studies Group, and UW’s Information School.

Panelists included Nikkita Oliver, a case manager and former Seattle mayoral candidate; Shankar Narayan, director of the ACLU of Washington Technology and Liberty project; Anna Lauren Hoffmann, professor at the UW Information School; and Pedro Perez, co-founder of Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC).

“Technology, often framed as apolitical, reaches into the lives of anyone whose lives are mediated by networks or data analysis,“ Bharoocha said. “Algorithmic bias goes beyond big data concerns: facial recognition technology … can replicate racial bias by reproducing historical injustices from the data sets they are built from.”

While it may seem that data doesn’t “lie,” Hoffmann commented on the nature of asking the right questions when collecting and using data. For Hoffman, bias in data comes from the way we collect our data sets, which are often exclusionary, and make people “data invisible.”

This was most recently apparent in Amazon’s hiring practices. Using artificial intelligence, Amazon created an algorithm to compare and review the resumes of prospective employees against the resumes of their current employees.

Because the majority of Amazon’s employees are white and male, the data set produced a pool of prospective employees that reflected that demographic. According to an article in Business Insider, the algorithm discriminated against women, going so far as to exclude any candidates that went to certain women-only colleges.

The same type of discrimination and bias can be seen in more extreme situations as well. Notably, panelists discussed the predictive policing tactics that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) had used until recently. According to Oliver, SPD uses the crime data to determine the “hot spots” for crime, and as a result, determine where to increase police presence.

Oliver also spoke about a group of community organizers in Seattle that used the same SPD data to determine where to perform outreach and community engagement, which led to a reduction in crime. In this way, Oliver characterized data as a tool that could be used to either criminalize a population or help a population through outreach.

In terms of surveillance, technology does not stop with predictive policing; it also extends to facial recognition. Narayan argued that the way tech is marketed as being neutral is actually misleading, as it can actually have detrimental impacts on communities of color.

Narayan called facial recognition a “supercharging of racism,” as it determines propensities for violence, anger, and whether someone is a terrorist. The problem with these algorithms, according to Narayan, is that these technologies are not able to be evaluated by third parties before use. Some of this is due to the nature of black-box and proprietary technologies, which are often kept secret so as not to expose novel technology to competitors.

Narayan pointed to the need for regulation and policy surrounding these systems, especially when they claim to be able to predict certain traits.

While this characterization can seem grim, Perez offered some positivity about the emerging future of technology and algorithms.

Perez is the co-founder of GOKiC, an organization that provides children of color with more access to computer science and tech. Through after-school resources and workshops, Perez teaches young children about coding in an inclusive and socially conscious environment. According to Perez, GOKiC uses examples to teach computer science that engage kids culturally, material which he finds to be more resonant.

Perez further explained that a lot of youth have limited access to technology. Many of the children that GOKiC serves don’t have a computer at home, which impacts their school performance, according to Perez. These barriers further disadvantage children of color and contribute to maintaining inequality.

At the panel’s conclusion, Hoffmann noted that data and algorithms should be used to challenge white supremacy and the status quo. Rather than asking how we can modify the algorithm to be fair, Hoffmann urges tech workers to also look at the system that the algorithm represents, to look beyond what is already on the surface.

“All of the Tools in Our Tool Belt.” A Community Foundation Steps Up its Impact Investing

Inside Philanthropy
By Alyssa Ochs

Impact investing is one of the hottest topics in institutional philanthropy right now. And while private foundations have tended to be on the leading edge of this movement, a growing number of community foundations have been jumping into impact investing or ramping up existing efforts. The latest example is the San Francisco Foundation, which last month announced a $50 million commitment for an investment pool aimed at generating positive social and financial returns. That sum represents 6.3 percent of the foundation’s $800 million endowment.

We’ve written often in recent years about TSFF’s move to put racial and economic equity at the center of its work. It has emerged as an early adopter of a strategy that’s been gaining traction across the foundation world. TSFF Vice President of Programs Judith Bell told us last year that the foundation is “all in” on equity and is looking to expand its civic leadership and elevate the foundation’s voice on key equity issues.

That commitment has been clear in TSFF’s work on housing affordability. The foundation and its president, Fred Blackwell, have been playing a critical role is galvanizing a stronger public-private response. (Which is why IP named Blackwell “Foundation President of the Year” in our 2018 IPPYs).

Given its ambitious equity agenda, it’s not surprising that TSFF is putting aside some serious new cash for impact investing. As we’ve often discussed, the daunting scale of key equity challenges—especially the affordable housing crisis—requires far greater resources than what’s available through traditional grantmaking. The momentum behind impact investing, which has been growing for years, is further fueled by a mounting sense of urgency among funders grappling with entrenched equities in top metro areas like San Francisco. Dipping into the “other 95 percent” of capital that foundations control is one way to step up the fight.

“The scope and complexity of the issues that we are trying to address in the Bay Area require us to use all of the tools in our tool belt,” said Blackwell in announcing TSFF’s new investment fund. “We see investing in a values-aligned manner as part of how we achieve our overall mission, and we don’t think we have to sacrifice returns.”

TSFF is no newcomer to impact investing—in fact, the funder’s first loan program kicked off in 1989, before impact investing was even a thing. Yet recent surveys show that only about 17 percent of foundations are pursuing impact investing strategies today, which means that funders like TSFF are still in the minority. Meanwhile, there remain serious questions about whether it’s really so smart for foundations to use their endowment capital in this way.

The term impact investing can be fuzzy, describing a range of approaches by foundations looking to align their endowments more closely with their missions. That’s clear in the way TSFF describes impact investing on its website, and in its March announcement of the new fund—which it says will be composed “of a diversified portfolio of managers using a variety of impact investment and socially responsible strategies, including social screens and environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.” It’s not clear yet how much of the $50 million fund will be available for, say, investing in affordable housing projects.

But the new commitment comes on the heels of TSFF’s move last year to put aside $10 million for the Bay Area Community Impact Fund for loans to local nonprofit organizations and social enterprises. Before that, TSFF approved a $500,000 program-related investment loan to the Greenlining Institute to renovate its downtown Oakland headquarters in 2015 and set aside $5 million to make other loans to nonprofits in the Bay Area in 2009.

Reflecting a growing push among foundations, TSFF also said in its March announcement that it’s looking to work with investment firms owned by people of color and women. And it’s steering clear of controversial investments, such as fossil fuel companies, tobacco companies and private prisons. Donors who have set up donor-advised funds at TSFF also have the opportunity to grow the new impact investing pool. According to foundation estimates, the targeted risk-adjusted return for the investment pool is between 7 and 8 percent.

Together with its donors, TSFF gave $154 million to nonprofits last fiscal year to serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

CA Bill Aims to Boost Insurance Contracts for LGBT Firms

Bay Area Reporter
By Matthew S. Bajko

California leaders are pushing legislation aimed at boosting insurance companies’ contracts with LGBT-owned firms and other certified minority-owned businesses. It comes as lawmakers are also seeking to increase hospital contracts for such businesses.

Under Senate Bill 534, introduced by state Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the state’s $310 billion insurance industry would be required to biennially report how much it is contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and LGBT individuals.

Gay Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a former state senator who will be the commencement speaker May 24 at City College of San Francisco, is a co-sponsor of the legislation. It revives the state agency’s Insurance Diversity Initiative that expired in January and would expand its scope to include LGBT- and veteran-owned businesses.

“California’s nation-leading insurance industry can be an engine of prosperity for diverse businesses, benefiting our communities and the customers they serve,” stated Lara, who took over leadership of the California Department of Insurance in January. “SB 534 will continue to leverage the rapid growth of the insurance sector’s role in contributing to vibrant local economies.”

When the state insurance agency was collecting data on insurers’ contracts with certain diverse-owned firms, it saw procurement between insurers and such businesses increase by 93% over a five-year period. It went from $930 million in 2012 to $1.8 billion in 2017.

“California is a diverse state and becomes more diverse with each day,” stated Bradford. “Ignoring that fact also ignores the proven value diverse businesses have and the importance of making our economy more inclusive. Insurance spending on diverse businesses increased 93% over the few years the supplier survey was administered. I think that difference speaks to the enormous impact this measure will have.”

The bill passed out of the Senate’s judiciary committee last Tuesday, April 23, and will now be taken up by the chamber’s appropriations committee. In 2017 Bradford had introduced a similar bill but it died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee; it remains to be seen if this year’s bill will survive.

Hospital contracting bill waits review

Similar legislation pending in the state Assembly would require California hospitals with annual operating budgets of more than $25 million to publicly disclose how much they are contracting with LGBT-owned businesses as well as those owned by women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups.

As the Bay Area Reporter’s Political Notes column reported April 8, the transparency requirement is aimed at seeing more such companies benefit from the estimated $230 billion the state’s hospital industry spends annually. It mirrors recent efforts to encourage other industries in the state, from public utilities to transportation agencies, to also increase their contracts with minority-owned firms.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-authored the legislation, Assembly Bill 962. It currently is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s suspense file, as it needs to be reviewed by California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, AB 962 would result in “one-time contract costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to OSHPD for an information technology solution that will collect, store and make available supplier diversity reports (Health Data and Planning Fund).” The statewide office also noted that it could “necessitate an increase in the current level of assessments on hospitals and long-term care facilities to support the increased costs.”

The California Hospital Association, United Hospital Association and Sharp Healthcare have expressed opposition to the bill unless it is amended. The lobbying groups contend that “manufacturing of specialized products is extremely limited and there are virtually no diverse suppliers for hospitals to consider in many cases.” They have also argued that hospitals, in order to secure cheaper prices, participate in group purchasing organizations that have diversity policies.

The analysis by Assembly staff suggested that the bill’s July 1, 2020 deadline to comply “seems aggressive” since it could take longer for the state to create a standard form that hospitals can use to submit the required information.

The Senate bill is also facing opposition unless amended by a coalition of organizations representing insurers doing business in California. It would require as of July 1, 2020 that each admitted insurer with California written premiums of $100 million or more submit a report in even-numbered years to the state’s insurance commissioner on its minority, women, LGBT, veteran, and disabled veteran-owned business enterprise procurement efforts during the previous two years.

The bill would also require insurers to report on the diversity of their governing boards and set goals for supplier and board diversity. But that provision of the bill has raised objections from the insurer groups, which argued that asking and publishing information about a board member’s sexual orientation or gender identity, for example, “may violate laws and is problematic,” according to a Senate staff analysis.

Based on those concerns, the bill was amended to state that the board members would be asked to voluntarily disclose their personal demographic data and that “no adverse action” would result in their choosing not to. The bill was also amended to specify that only “the aggregate data collected for each demographic category will be reported.”

Data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that men held 80% of major insurers’ governing board seats, with people of color holding just 12%. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13% of insurance companies reported zero women and 35% reported zero persons of color on their boards.

“SB 534 will ensure that California’s insurance providers think about diversity when they make procurement decisions and choose their boards of directors,” stated Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “California leads the nation in diverse-owned businesses, which creates the ideal environment and opportunity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion among insurance companies and other large businesses.”

The Oakland-based institute is co-sponsoring both of the bills requiring insurers and hospitals to report out on their diversity contracting.

TOMORROW: Boots Riley, Aimee Allison, Rep. Barbara Lee Headline Greenlining Institute Economic Summit

Event Also Marks Greenlining’s Official Farewell to Longtime President Orson Aguilar

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit, “Reclaiming Our Time,” happens Friday, April 26 in Oakland and features a stellar lineup. With a theme inspired by Rep. Maxine Waters’ iconic 2017 “reclaiming my time” moment, this year’s Summit will highlight the leaders — especially here in California — who refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. Highlights include:

  • An opening discussion moderated by She the People founder Aimee Alison examining how communities are “reclaiming their time” through the Me Too movement, environmental advocacy and more
  • A “fireside chat” featuring acclaimed rapper, activist, producer, screenwriter and film director Boots Riley in conversation powerhouse poet and playwright Chinaka Hodge
  • A luncheon awards ceremony with a keynote address by Lifetime Achievement Award recipient U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee
  • In-depth panel discussions of the racial equity aspects of critical issues such as tech, transportation and banking – including a rare appearance by Aaron Glantz of Reveal, whose landmark reporting on modern redlining just won a Peabody Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist
  • Equity Lab – a unique, interactive workshop in which participants will learn and apply practical tools for advancing racial equity
  • An art sale featuring the work of local artists Dignidad Rebelde and Francis Mead
  • Greenlining’s official farewell to longtime President Orson Aguilar, under whose leadership the organization grew dramatically

Each year Greenlining brings together powerful voices for change—grassroots community leaders, nationally known advocates, artists, elected officials and more—for a unique event focusing on how to build a more equitable, just society. More than a conference, Greenlining’s Economic Summit is a unique gathering where innovation, art and activism align. See Greenlining’s Economic Summit web page for detailed information on the day’s program.

Journalists wishing to attend are asked to RSVP promptly to Bruce Mirken at

WHAT: The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit

WHO: Speakers and awardees include rapper/filmmaker Boots Riley, Rep. Barbara Lee, Dream Corps President Vien Truong, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and many more.

WHEN: Friday, April 26, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (registration opens at 8)

WHERE: Oakland Marriott, Oakland City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, California, 94607


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

Green New Deal Enlists People of Color

Yahoo News
By Kadia Tubman

Exactly a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the revered civil rights activist did something uncharacteristic. In a speech in New York City, he passionately denounced the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy. The man who championed voting rights for African-Americans and rallied the nation’s conscience to fight poverty and racial segregation had taken on a new cause.

King’s controversial “Beyond Vietnam” speech was denounced in the media; commentators said he “stepped out of his depth and threatened to undermine the movement by alienating his allies.” Even some African-American leaders said King should stay focused on civil rights, despite his argument that U.S. actions abroad were connected to oppression at home.

Today, many Democrats have embraced an issue that hasn’t traditionally been on the list of priorities for people of color: climate change. In 2018, a few months after President Trump called climate change “a hoax,” newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said during a climate change town-hall event that the Green New Deal, the ambitious environmental plan to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, was “going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation.”

Republicans in Congress called it “elitist.”

“I think we should not focus on the rich, wealthy elites who will look at this and go, ‘I love it because I’ve got big money in the bank. Everyone should do this. We should all sign on to it,’” said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. “But if you’re a poor family, just trying to make ends meet, it’s a horrible idea.”

“This is not an elitist issue; this is a quality-of-life issue,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who recently raised the “legitimate question” of whether “it is OK to still have children considering climate change.”

“You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist?” she said in response to Duffy. “Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, who are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint whose kids have their blood ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them ‘elitist.’”

Ocasio-Cortez continued: “We talk about cost. We’re going to pay for this whether we pass a Green New Deal or not. Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we are going to pay. And we’re either going to decide if we’re going to pay to react, or if we’re going to pay to be proactive.”

Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists released a report as a part of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warning that the world has until 2030 to cut carbon pollution to avoid the worst effects of global warming, such as rising ocean levels and devastating storms. Some consequences are already being felt.

The debate has shifted in recent years; environmental issues, once the province of elites, are now seen as affecting all communities and classes. Among Democrats, at least, not to care about climate change is increasingly seen as a form of racism. Air and water pollution, increasing temperatures and extreme weather are a growing concern among people of color.

African-Americans and Latinos are showing higher rates of “climate awareness and concern” while reporting the “highest levels of personal and health effects from climate impacts,” according to a 2018 survey by ecoAmerica, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. “The NAACP also found that one’s race, more than class, is the primary indicator of vulnerability to environmentally-induced negative health outcomes,” the report said.

“In the past, relative elites controlled the narrative and really gave a false impression in terms of who was concerned about this and was actually impacted by it,” said Jacqueline Patterson, senior director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program. “It really is a life-and-death situation for all of us, but for some communities more than others. And so it’s the very antithesis of an elitist situation, because communities of color, low-income communities, women and indigenous communities are actually disproportionately impacted.”

“Changing the narrative is going to be critical because before the narrative was so dominated by polar bears and melting ice caps and not something relating to people’s lived realities,” continued Patterson, “[For example,] after every single disaster that happens, there’s a significant uptake in violence against women. Both [women’s rights groups and climate activists] might not necessarily see climate change as a gender-justice issue until you actually help people to see those patterns.”

Even the Movement for Black Lives lists climate change as a concern for African-Americans, alongside issues such as health care and education. It argues that “Black people are amongst the most affected by climate change. If we’re not serious about reducing emissions, the planet will keep getting hotter and Black people will continue to bear the biggest brunt of climate change.”

On Monday, Earth Day, Democrats announced the formation of a U.S. Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, to be chaired by Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Tom Carper of Delaware and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The caucus will approach environmental issues with specific attention to race and class. “Oftentimes, black and brown communities are the ones that suffer the biggest consequences of pollution and a lack of enforcement on environmental issues,” said Duckworth in an interview with Yahoo News.

“Increasingly, you are hearing more and more people framing climate change as a civil rights issue or as an environmental-justice issue,” said James Marshall Shepherd, director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia. “[That’s because] marginalized populations including African-American and Hispanic and other disadvantaged communities will bear and are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts now and going forward, while at the same time have a very small carbon footprint.”

“But here is the challenge for African-Americans, Hispanic or even broader population,” continued Shepherd, who has previously posed the question of whether black people cared about climate change. “The way we have traditionally, as a scientific community, messaged climate change is that we’ve not messaged it as being about people’s kitchen-table issues, their lives right now, today. It always is projected as this thing off in the future.”

A decade ago, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reported how different communities view climate change. White Americans far outpaced African-American and nonwhite Hispanics in their awareness of the issue: While 66 percent of white Americans were “fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and were taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it,” only 11 percent of African-Americans and 15 percent of Hispanics were doing the same.

But within the past decade, leading civil rights organizations have taken up climate justice in their host of priorities. The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program began in 2009 “because we saw a connection between issues like pollution and sea levels rising and the effect those are having on the health and wellbeing of African-American communities and lower-income communities.”

In its 2017 publication “Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit,” the NAACP crafted strategies for low-income communities to address environmental and climate-justice issues, pointing out that climate change disproportionately affects people of color. For instance, the fact that “people of color have historically been relegated to living in lower, flood-prone areas that are also vulnerable to flooding during extreme weather events and to sea level rise.” Or that “25% of the African-American population lives in the five Atlantic states most vulnerable to climate change.” Or that nearly one in two Latinos lives in counties with poor air quality, and their children are twice as likely to die from asthma as non-Latino whites, according to the American Public Health Association.

“African-Americans, Latinos,” Shepherd told Yahoo News, “they generally understand that like everything in society, when America catches a cold, we get a fever. Now what you have to do to really stimulate action is remove this notion that it’s something far off in the future, about some polar bear or butterfly somewhere. It’s actually about agriculture. It’s about national security. It’s about public health and health care. Things people care about every day.”

“African-Americans and the broader population are starting to pay a bit more attention to climate change because they see some of the things that are happening around them,” he continued. “When [they] look at what happened, for example, with Hurricane Harvey in Houston, look at Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, look at the faces that were most vulnerable. They were people that look like them.”

Shepherd added: “We don’t act until there’s a tragedy. There are still many black and poor populations and communities in Houston that still haven’t recovered. There still are communities in New Orleans that still haven’t recovered from Katrina in 2005.”

When asked if black Americans were more focused on social, criminal and economic justice than on climate change, Shepherd said, “You’re always going to have competing issues, but I guarantee you that almost every single one of those other issues that you could raise [as] important to black people, there’s a climate connection. Even criminal-justice reform, because studies show that violence and criminal activity increases as the temperature increases. If you talk about jobs and job access for African-Americans, well, one of the main solutions to climate change is a new economy, a decarbonized economy that moves jobs in places like solar and wind energy.”

“They definitely understand the severity of the issue,” said Alvaro Sanchez, environmental equity director at the Greenlining Institute, about the communities he works with to lessen the disparities of climate change. “But it’s hard to focus on that when there’s no food on the table, when you don’t have money for rent, when you don’t have health care, where your immigration status is precarious. There’s just so much more that’s more immediate.”

Sanchez’s organization is one of the organizers behind California’s Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) program, which he told Yahoo News addresses “climate change on a neighborhood scale.” The program provides resources to five disadvantaged communities to invest in neighborhood-scale sustainability projects, Sanchez said.

“It’s a catalytic investment essentially that transitions a polluted community into one that in the future will be more sustainable, healthier and will address community-identified needs,” he continued. “It requires a co-governance structure between government and community, so community input and participation in this process is really elevated. They’re not just aware of what’s happening. They’re actively engaged in decisions about how this money is being spent, what projects are going to be funded and how evaluation and performance are going to look like over the years. [Also,] there has to be a workforce development or economic-opportunity strategy for the people who live in that area.”

Sanchez added: “It also requires that the people that submit the application develop an anti-displacement strategy, because we know that if you make these investments you could have the unintended consequences of having to displace people and businesses and cultural institutions.”

Sanchez said California’s TCC program blazes a trail for the Green New Deal. “The umbrella of the Green New Deal is not just about the planet, it’s about our economy. It’s about how we live. It’s about our governance. It’s about how we make decisions about our future,” he said.

But one of the main issues with the Green New Deal was its hefty price tag. Republicans had estimated it would cost $93 trillion. Sanchez says that communities like South Los Angeles and Sacramento have been awarded grants “between $20 million all the way up to $70 million to invest in an area that’s no more than 5 square miles.”

Similar to California, New York passed a bill similar to the Green New Deal last week to set emissions caps for various types of buildings over 25,000 square feet, which include Trump Tower. Five years from now, landlords will be required to “retrofit buildings with new windows, heating systems and insulation that would cut emissions by 40% in 2030, and double the cuts by 2050.” The cost of these upgrades is an estimated $4 billion, according to the New York Times.

Although Trump has challenged the existence of climate change — and claimed that wind power turbines cause cancer — his top federal energy regulator recently said, “Climate change is real.”

“I believe man has an impact,” said the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Neil Chatterjee. “And I believe that we need to take steps to mitigate emissions urgently.”

As for fighting climate change on a federal level, Sanchez said he hopes “over the next few years that the Green New Deal is going to be more detailed about strategies to ensure that a call to action actually delivers something down the line that is going to address not only the climate crisis but the economic crisis, the housing crisis, the employment crisis and our democracy crisis that we’re seeing now.”

“We have to address this as though it’s a crisis, because it is, and everybody has to contribute the way that we’ve done in the past for things like wars,” added Sanchez. “We’re fighting the biggest war of our lifetime. It’s not a crisis that’s coming. It’s a crisis that’s here.”

FRIDAY: Rep. Barbara Lee, Boots Riley, Aimee Allison Headline Greenlining Economic Summit

Event Marks Official Farewell for Longtime Greenlining Institute President Orson Aguilar  

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit, “Reclaiming Our Time,” happens Friday, April 26 in Oakland and features a stellar lineup. Speakers and awardees will include U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, acclaimed rapper, activist, producer, screenwriter and film director Boots Riley, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Dream Corps President Vien Truong and many more community leaders exploring how to move America toward true justice and equity.

Each year Greenlining brings together powerful voices for change—grassroots community leaders, nationally known advocates, artists, elected officials and more—for a unique event focusing on how to build a more equitable, just society. More than a conference, Greenlining’s Economic Summit is a unique gathering where innovation, art and activism align. With a theme inspired by Rep. Maxine Waters’ iconic 2017 “reclaiming my time” moment, this year’s Summit will highlight the leaders — especially here in California — who refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice.

Founded in 1993, The Greenlining Institute envisions a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to economic opportunity. See Greenlining’s Economic Summit web page for detailed information on the day’s program.

Last year’s Summit sold out, and this year’s is expected to as well. Journalists wishing to attend are asked to RSVP as soon as possible to Bruce Mirken at

WHAT: The Greenlining Institute’s 26th annual Economic Summit

WHO: Speakers and awardees include rapper/filmmaker Boots Riley, Rep. Barbara Lee, Dream Corps President Vien Truong, She the People founder Aimee Alison, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo and more.

WHEN: Friday, April 26, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (registration opens at 8)

WHERE: Oakland Marriott, Oakland City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, California, 94607


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

9 Major Opportunities for Electric Buses & Trucks

Meeting of the Minds
By Joel Espino

When most people think of electric vehicles, we think of cars, like Teslas, Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs. But trucks and buses are going electric, too, and the impact on both our air and our economy could be huge.

In 2016, we at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with The Union of Concerned Scientists to analyze the growing electric truck and bus industry, producing the report “Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California.” While we focused on California, where electric buses and trucks are taking off rapidly, what we found has major implications for the whole country. Especially at a time when many transit agencies across the country are committing to 100 percent electric, many states are increasing their efforts to get more electric cars, trucks, and buses on the road, and The Green New Deal is generating buzz and conversation on climate change.

Here are nine things we found.

1. Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming in California and nationwide.

Including carbon pollution from refining petroleum products, transportation accounts for more than 50 percent of global warming emissions in California, and the transportation sector recently overtook power plants as the largest contributor to climate change nationwide.

2. Trucks and buses form a major part of our air pollution problem.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. They also emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants. And they make up seven percent of the state’s global warming emissions—an amount projected to increase as freight shipments grow.

3. Air pollution from transportation discriminates, hitting poor communities of color the hardest.

Poor communities suffer disproportionately from exposure to traffic-related pollution because they are more likely than wealthier neighborhoods to be near busy roads and highways. Breathing lung-damaging exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis leads to higher rates of pollution-related diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. Race matters, too: even for people in the same socioeconomic class, people of color are more likely than whites to be exposed to pollution from cars, trucks and buses.

In fact, a recent Union of Concerned Scientists analysis that quantified pollution from on-road sources reinforces this finding.

4. Electric trucks and buses are cleaner than diesel and natural gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning you won’t have to gulp pollution while waiting for the bus or walking down the street. In terms of global warming emissions, smog forming emissions, and particulate matter; electric vehicles powered by clean electricity have the lowest emissions compared to any other vehicle technology, including natural gas. The clean air benefit continues even when you look at “life cycle” emissions from electricity generation and hydrogen production.

And these clean vehicles will only get cleaner: California will get at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, has virtually no coal power in the state, and will end contracts for coal power imported from other states by 2025. California also requires that at least 33 percent of hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, a standard the state already exceeds. Bottom line: We’re blazing a path toward clean power that other states can follow.

5. Electric trucks and buses are far more energy efficient.

Depending on the type of vehicle, electric trucks and buses are up to four times more efficient than diesel and natural gas vehicles. This means that for the same amount of energy used to power a vehicle, the electric vehicle will travel up to four times as far. This can lead to significant savings in fuel costs.

6. Electric truck and bus technology is here and ready to clean the air today.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky future dream. Battery-powered electric trucks and buses have ranges over 100 miles. One company recently announced a transit bus with a 350-mile range. Fuel cell trucks and buses have long had ranges over 200 miles. While these vehicles may cost more to purchase, reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is becoming competitive with traditional technologies. Electric trucks and buses can accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel and natural gas vehicles. They’re quieter, too.

7. The heavy-duty EV industry is creating good jobs.

Some of the leading electric bus and truck manufacturers in California pay assemblers $13-$20 per hour for entry level jobs, which is considerably above typical pay for assembly jobs in California. These jobs can also lead workers into higher-skilled, well-paid occupations. When we asked representatives of heavy-duty EV companies what jobs were likely to grow the most if demand for heavy-duty EVs increases, they unanimously identified assembler positions. Increased investment in this technology should spur growth of good, well-paying jobs—especially if unions and community benefits agreements like the one BYD struck are in the mix.

8. This industry can be a great source of jobs for underserved communities—if workers get the training and skills they need.

Leading electric bus and truck companies in California typically require one to three years of related experience for assemblers, a higher standard than assembly jobs in general manufacturing. Jobs in EV manufacturing, charging and maintenance require significant electrical skills. These requirements can be barriers to employment for people from low-income communities. But good, readily accessible training programs can overcome this barrier and make sure those most in need of good jobs will get a fair shot.

9. It will take conscious effort to bring workers from marginalized communities into the electric truck and bus workforce.

We don’t currently have enough training programs accessible to those who need them. Manufacturers can help fix this by partnering with workforce training organizations and community colleges to establish pathways for training and certifying workers from these communities and placing them in quality jobs. This emerging industry needs effective, equitable workplace policies, programs, and practices to ensure opportunity for all.

You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. We have to put the policies and actions in place now so that we can leverage the clean air and economic benefits of this technology to fight environmental injustice and give an economic boost to people most in need.

The proposed Green New Deal has already begun to stimulate new discussions of the role of transportation in fighting climate change and strengthening communities. Electrification of trucks and buses should be part of plans going forward to fight climate change, clean our air and – with help from the right policies — bring new opportunities to underserved communities.

Oakland Can Step Up Support for Diverse Small Businesses, New Report Says

Small Business Advisory Group Offers Detailed Recommendations

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – As Oakland undergoes rapid development and increased gentrification, small businesses – especially those owned by people of color – find themselves in an increasingly challenging environment. In a new white paper, Advancing Racial Equity in the City of Oakland’s Small Business Ecosystem, the Small Business Advisory Group convened by The Greenlining Institute lays out a series of recommendations for how Oakland can help preserve and grow its diverse small business community.

“We commend the city of Oakland for placing racial equity front and center in its 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy, and for seeking to build wealth in communities of color through entrepreneurship,” said white paper author Sharon Velasquez, Greenlining’s senior economic equity program manager. “The racial wealth gap, built through decades of redlining, will take concerted effort to close. The Small Business Advisory Group hopes its recommendations will jump-start a decisive policy agenda aimed at creating a small business ecosystem where Oakland’s entrepreneurs of color can thrive. We offer the city our partnership for implementation and look forward to convening with the Economic and Workforce Development Department regarding next steps.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Prioritize the creation of a thriving economy by investing in the Economic and Workforce Development Department and Business Assistance Center. By ensuring adequate staffing and robust small business supports, the city will advance economic equity by providing entrepreneurs with critical resources for success. The Business Assistance Center urgently needs expanded hours, a revamped website and satellite locations around Oakland.
  • Collect data on the rate of commercial displacement across Oakland. Presently, no comprehensive data set on commercial displacement exists for Oakland that identifies the number of small businesses at risk of being displaced, the number of small businesses of color that have closed, nor the reasons why. In addition, the city should use data collection platforms to better understand the state of local small businesses.
  • Explore the implementation of commercial tenant protections. Though state law limits what can be done in this area, all possibilities should be explored.
  • Align all city plans so they all contain a racial equity lens, in line with the vision of the 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy and the Race & Equity Ordinance.
  • Expand transparency and community engagement opportunities as the Economic Development Strategy and other strategic plans are implemented. This should include increased outreach to and communication with both individual business owners and Oakland’s ethnic chambers of commerce.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

California Blazes a Trail for a Green New Deal

The Progressive
By Alvaro Sanchez

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a federal plan to fight climate change and boost our economy, the Golden State is quietly showing how it could actually work.

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a Green New Deal to fight climate change and boost our economy, California is quietly showing how it could actually work. The state has a successful model program that could be used by any community that wants to make itself cleaner, more livable and more prosperous.

It’s called Transformative Climate Communities, or TCC, and it focuses on ways that different agencies can work together with communities to make neighborhoods better.

As it is, most governments put each of its various functions in separate buckets. One agency approves transportation projects, another deals with housing, and so on. Often no one considers how their agencies affect each other or what residents need.

But TCC puts communities in charge of pulling these various pieces together, with a goal of reducing carbon emissions.

This might mean replacing old, smoky diesel buses with clean electric buses or light rail, building affordable housing near those transit stops, and connecting it all with improved pedestrian and bicycle pathways. It might mean planting trees that shade those new bikeways and sidewalks even as they take climate-damaging carbon out of the air. It could mean outfitting those new, affordable homes with solar power and designing them to be energy efficient.

And instead of applying to a dozen different bureaucracies for a dozen separate grants, TCC gives communities a “one-stop shop” where they can get the whole package funded.

The result: A community that’s cleaner, greener and easier to get around, with less air pollution and traffic and lower energy bills for residents. And hundreds of people are put to work making it all happen.

This isn’t a fantasy. It’s happening right now in five California communities.

Consider Fresno. This medium-sized city in the middle of the state’s Central Valley agricultural heartland has long suffered from poverty and air pollution. As required by TCC, Fresno’s plan was put together by the residents themselves – who are, after all, the real experts in their community’s needs.

The plan funds about two dozen projects with dollars collected from polluters through the state’s cap-and-trade program. These include affordable housing close to transit, bike paths, a community garden, home weatherization for low-income families, electric car, vanpool and bikeshare programs. Taken together, the projects will make life better for thousands of low-income residents, clean the air, and put people to work in a region with chronically high unemployment.

There are also full-fledged TCC plans in Ontario, Sacramento, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Watts and the northeast San Fernando Valley.

My organization, the Greenlining Institute, worked with state legislators to create the TCC program and has been able to offer technical assistance to several communities seeking to apply for funds. But we’re the first to admit that we’ve barely scratched the surface. This sort of comprehensive, community-led effort should happen nationwide and on a much larger scale.

What’s needed is a commitment to community-driven transformation and reliable funding.

The proposed Green New Deal offers the opportunity to do that. The idea that we can fight climate change, improve our neighborhoods and build prosperity for struggling communities isn’t some fantasy. California is showing how to do it right now.