Jobs and Justice: Civil Rights and the Racial Wealth Gap

Small Business Exchange Online
By Danielle Beavers

I have the exciting job of leading Greenlining’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative. We seek to reframe the narrative on diversity to focus on justice and its role in ending the racial wealth gap once and for all.

In this year of Greenlining’s 25 anniversary, it’s important to take stock of where we’ve been to better inform where we want to go.

The truth is that Greenlining’s been doing “diversity and inclusion” work since the 1980s, when we were just a coalition of community activists. Ortensia Lopez, one of Greenlining’s founding mothers, explains it best: “We decided to form an organization focused on all multicultural communities, to work together and exert power. We felt it was important for different communities to work together: Rather than fighting each other for a slice of the pie – or for crumbs, which was often all we got – we’d work together to make the pie bigger for everyone.”

As the organization evolved over time we took those values of diversity and inclusion and operationalized them into policies to make meaningful impact for our communities and close the racial wealth gap. We started with supplier diversity in energy and telecommunications. The California Public Utilities Commission’s General Order 156 mandates that the state’s big utilities (think PG&E, Verizon, etc.) must disclose their level of contracting with minority-,women-, disabled veteran-, and LGBT-owned companies.

WHEN CIVIL RIGHTS MEANS JOBS
It sounds simple, but we quickly found out that what gets measured gets done. In 1986 women- and minority-owned companies received just $2.6 million in contracts from these huge companies; in 2016, thanks to the transparency required by GO 156, that number rose to $8.8 billion, without a single quota or set-aside. That represents a massive boost for diverse-owned businesses, enabling them to expand, hire more workers, and help close the racial wealth gap.

In 2012 we built off the success of GO 156 and sponsored AB 53, legislation which created similar public reporting requirements for insurance companies in California. Four years later that expanded into the Multistate Insurance Diversity Survey, including California, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington (combined these states represent 65 percent of the national insurance market). In 2016, insurance companies in these states spent $7.9 billion with diverse suppliers.

We’ve also advanced supplier diversity through partnership. In 2012 we started working with the newly established federal Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion at 20 of the nation’s financial regulatory agencies to diversify the financial industry. In 2014 we partnered with California’s largest depository banks to release the nation’s first report that compared banks against one another on their level of contracting with diverse businesses.

In parallel with supplier diversity, Greenlining also advances workforce diversity policies. Our Health Equity team has a long history making the case for diverse health workforces and pipeline programs that bring young people of color into health careers. We’ve also turned our attention to Silicon Valley and last year shook up the tech world with a No Uber Oakland campaign, with specific demands on employment practices, when the company announced a move to downtown Oakland (it eventually pulled out).

CORPORATIONS, FOUNDATIONS AND DIVERSITY
Corporate America remains a critical front in the struggle for civil rights, and we continue to hold corporations’ feet to the fire in a variety of fields: Last month we released a corporate board diversity report examining California’s 59 most influential companies.

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. In 2007, after our research showed that major foundations gave only a tiny percentage of grants to people of color-led nonprofits, Greenlining touched the third rail of the nonprofit world and sponsored a bill to mandate diversity reporting from California’s largest foundations. AB 624 would have required foundations with assets over $250 million to report on their governance and domestic grantmaking. Notice that I wrote would have. We received tremendous pushback, including a hit in which the author called us “shakedown artists”– a badge I wear with honor– and eventually we came to an agreement with 10 of the most powerful foundations to sign a multimillion dollar pledge, and the major commitments were indeed fulfilled.

Greenlining has always viewed economic justice as a critical component of civil rights. Over the past 25 years it became clear that our diversity and inclusion work served as the connective thread, and in 2016 we decided to make diversity and inclusion a formal initiative. This allows us to de-silo, share best practices across industries, and make the implicit explicit.

We sometimes forget, but the racial wealth gap and access to jobs always formed a key part of the civil rights struggle, dating back to Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Our recently-launched Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Framework marks the beginning of the next phase of our efforts to make economic justice a reality for all, and turn the racial wealth gap into a distant memory.

California Leads the Fight Against Trump

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

At the beginning of May, California, joined by 16 other states and the District of Columbia, sued the Trump administration over its attack on auto fuel efficiency standards. It was just the latest in a long list of California lawsuits against the administration. For people wondering why the Golden State fights Trump so much, I have a simple answer:

We’re fighting for you.

California’s actions focus on values we care about, and standing up for those values will make life better and safer for every American.

For decades, California has led the fight for clean air, creating standards that have helped save the lungs of all Americans. Rolling back fuel-economy mandates will increase air pollution and accelerate climate change, raising everyone’s exposure to ruinous storms, floods and droughts, from the Rocky Mountains to Texas and Puerto Rico.

But this goes far beyond the environment. Led by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California—followed by the NAACP and a large group of other states—has also sued to keep the administration from distorting the 2020 Census by adding a new question about citizenship.

Many experts, including six former Census Bureau directors, believe such a question will discourage immigrants from responding, as stepped-up raids spread fear in immigrant communities.

The Census is not some abstract exercise. Census data is used to shape everything from congressional and legislative districts to where federal funds go. Whatever state you live in, the dollars your community receives for transportation, health care, school lunches, unemployment insurance, assistance for rural areas and much more, depends on Census data.

Much of this money goes to programs that help poor and working-class Americans, who will suffer most from an undercount.

California’s protections will create a model for the whole country and send ripples nationwide.

Another battle lawsuit involves the administration’s effort to force California and other states to assist in enforcing federal immigration laws by withholding funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” whose police don’t actively join in immigration enforcement. The state of California sued the Trump administration over this issue last year, and the administration is now suing back.

A study last year examining county-level data found that “crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.” Many police chiefs support sanctuary policies, knowing that forcing local cops to enforce federal immigration laws makes immigrants fearful of talking to police, hurting their ability to solve and prevent crimes.

Beyond the courts, California’s legislature is moving ahead with net neutrality legislation to counter rollbacks of federal protections. In plain English, net neutrality means you get to pick what websites or information you want to access with whatever device you choose, without your internet provider playing favorites. Without such rules, corporations can create “fast lanes” for content they prefer or for those who can afford to pay extra. (Comcast, for example, could do this for shows from NBC, which it owns.)

California’s protections will create a model for the whole country and send ripples nationwide.

All of these issues involve fundamental American principles like fairness, public health and safety—all under threat from the Trump administration. California is fighting for us all.

Orson Aguilar is president of The Greenlining Institute, based in Oakland, California. This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

California Leads the Fight Against Trump

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

At the beginning of May, California, joined by 16 other states and the District of Columbia, sued the Trump administration over its attack on auto fuel efficiency standards. It was just the latest in a long list of California lawsuits against the administration. For people wondering why the Golden State fights Trump so much, I have a simple answer:

We’re fighting for you.

California’s actions focus on values we care about, and standing up for those values will make life better and safer for every American.

For decades, California has led the fight for clean air, creating standards that have helped save the lungs of all Americans. Rolling back fuel-economy mandates will increase air pollution and accelerate climate change, raising everyone’s exposure to ruinous storms, floods and droughts, from the Rocky Mountains to Texas and Puerto Rico.

But this goes far beyond the environment. Led by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California—followed by the NAACP and a large group of other states—has also sued to keep the administration from distorting the 2020 Census by adding a new question about citizenship.

Many experts, including six former Census Bureau directors, believe such a question will discourage immigrants from responding, as stepped-up raids spread fear in immigrant communities.

The Census is not some abstract exercise. Census data is used to shape everything from congressional and legislative districts to where federal funds go. Whatever state you live in, the dollars your community receives for transportation, health care, school lunches, unemployment insurance, assistance for rural areas and much more, depends on Census data.

Much of this money goes to programs that help poor and working-class Americans, who will suffer most from an undercount.

Another battle lawsuit involves the administration’s effort to force California and other states to assist in enforcing federal immigration laws by withholding funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” whose police don’t actively join in immigration enforcement. The state of California sued the Trump administration over this issue last year, and the administration is now suing back.

A study last year examining county-level data found that “crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties.” Many police chiefs support sanctuary policies, knowing that forcing local cops to enforce federal immigration laws makes immigrants fearful of talking to police, hurting their ability to solve and prevent crimes.

Beyond the courts, California’s legislature is moving ahead with net neutrality legislation to counter rollbacks of federal protections. In plain English, net neutrality means you get to pick what websites or information you want to access with whatever device you choose, without your internet provider playing favorites. Without such rules, corporations can create “fast lanes” for content they prefer or for those who can afford to pay extra. (Comcast, for example, could do this for shows from NBC, which it owns.)

California’s protections will create a model for the whole country and send ripples nationwide.

All of these issues involve fundamental American principles like fairness, public health and safety—all under threat from the Trump administration. California is fighting for us all.

The Business Case for Diversity Leaves Little Room for Our Hearts and Minds

Common Dreams
By Danielle Beavers

Narratives are critical to building movements. They provide the “why” that helps us understand issues and take action to right wrongs. For Black Lives Matter, “the why” is combating the anti-Blackness that leads to death at the hands of cops. For the #MeToo movement, it’s ending sexual harassment and assault.

I’ve written before on why we must rethink and reclaim racial diversity’s “why” for it to become a vehicle for justice. Our movement needs to develop a new, more compelling frame.

While “the business case” for diversity—the argument that diverse groups are more efficient and good for a company’s bottom line—may be true, it’s uninspiring. I say this with some humility, since my own organization has made this argument in the past. Sure, we’ve seen the needle move in some spaces, but the truth is it hasn’t compelled America’s major institutions to make the changes our people need. It’s time to evolve.

The business case for diversity keeps the focus, the “why,” on corporations and institutions. In this dynamic, efforts to diversify the workforce serve organizational efficiency, not people of color. Yes, diversity has real advantages to corporations, and it does make business sense. What’s problematic is historically marginalized people having to make the case for our humanity. Despite an increase in educational attainment and the impending demographic revolution, we continue to be redlined out of the job market and the racial wealth gap continues to widen. Diversity’s “why” must always serve people of color, and it must be used to increase our access to jobs and economic opportunity.

True, corporations aren’t legally bound to rectify racial inequities. That’s exactly why the public can’t leave it to them alone or limit ourselves to advocating within the business community’s comfort level. We must be willing to talk about subjects that are uncomfortable, including the business community’s role in tolerating and propagating discrimination.

The business case may want our bodies, but it leaves little room for our hearts and minds.

Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, serves as a great example of this dynamic. The NFL valued him to the tune of $126 million for winning games, but things quickly changed once he started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest police violence. Eight months after his first demonstration he found himself without a team and continues to be unsigned, despite his high ratings. This is where the difference between diversity and inclusion becomes critical. Diversity speaks to numbers, while inclusion forms culture and how it supports, or doesn’t support, people of a shared identity.

People of color and our allies must be explicit and uncompromising in demanding access to economic opportunity. Civil rights leaders did this by fighting for access to education, the workplace, and contracts. We must reclaim diversity’s radical origins and advance a narrative that first and foremost serves people of color, not businesses. We must use our “why” to fight for policies that hold corporations accountable and change the structures that limit our potential.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “…while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.” Corporations will only be as good as we make them be. We must harness our collective power through relentless, unapologetic activism.

The Business Case for Diversity Leaves Little Room for Our Hearts and Minds

Common Dreams
By Danielle Beavers

Narratives are critical to building movements. They provide the “why” that helps us understand issues and take action to right wrongs. For Black Lives Matter, “the why” is combating the anti-Blackness that leads to death at the hands of cops. For the #MeToo movement, it’s ending sexual harassment and assault.

I’ve written before on why we must rethink and reclaim racial diversity’s “why” for it to become a vehicle for justice. Our movement needs to develop a new, more compelling frame.

While “the business case” for diversity—the argument that diverse groups are more efficient and good for a company’s bottom line—may be true, it’s uninspiring. I say this with some humility, since my own organization has made this argument in the past. Sure, we’ve seen the needle move in some spaces, but the truth is it hasn’t compelled America’s major institutions to make the changes our people need. It’s time to evolve.

The business case for diversity keeps the focus, the “why,” on corporations and institutions. In this dynamic, efforts to diversify the workforce serve organizational efficiency, not people of color. Yes, diversity has real advantages to corporations, and it does make business sense. What’s problematic is historically marginalized people having to make the case for our humanity. Despite an increase in educational attainment and the impending demographic revolution, we continue to be redlined out of the job market and the racial wealth gap continues to widen. Diversity’s “why” must always serve people of color, and it must be used to increase our access to jobs and economic opportunity.

True, corporations aren’t legally bound to rectify racial inequities. That’s exactly why the public can’t leave it to them alone or limit ourselves to advocating within the business community’s comfort level. We must be willing to talk about subjects that are uncomfortable, including the business community’s role in tolerating and propagating discrimination.

The business case may want our bodies, but it leaves little room for our hearts and minds.

Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, serves as a great example of this dynamic. The NFL valued him to the tune of  $126 million for winning games, but things quickly changed once he started the #TakeAKnee movement to protest police violence. Eight months after his first demonstration he found himself without a team and continues to be unsigned, despite his high ratings. This is where the difference between diversity and inclusion becomes critical. Diversity speaks to numbers, while inclusion forms culture and how it supports, or doesn’t support, people of a shared identity.

People of color and our allies must be explicit and uncompromising in demanding access to economic opportunity. Civil rights leaders did this by fighting for access to education, the workplace, and contracts. We must reclaim diversity’s radical origins and advance a narrative that first and foremost serves people of color, not businesses. We must use our “why” to fight for policies that hold corporations accountable and change the structures that limit our potential.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “…while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.” Corporations will only be as good as we make them be. We must harness our collective power through relentless, unapologetic activism.

Hiding Your Diversity Data Helps Keep #PhilanthropySoWhite

Glass Pockets
By Orson Aguilar

At this point, it’s no secret: Philanthropy needs to diversify. Diversity, or the lack thereof, has become something of a hot-button issue in recent years. We’ve seen dozens of articles urging foundations to make changes, including a 2016 op-ed co-written by Dr. Robert Ross, Luz Vega-Marquis, and Stephen Heintz entitled, Philanthropic Leadership Shouldn’t Look Like the Country Club Set.

And a handful of foundations have demonstrated what is possible when they make diversity, equity, and inclusion organizational priorities. The California Endowment (TCE), one of the pioneers in these efforts, adopted a 15-part Diversity Plan in 2008, and since that year, TCE has published four “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Audits” to track its own progress. The audit is simple and profound, stating: “By openly reflecting on our progress and challenges related to diversity, equity and inclusion, we hope that the audit fosters a broader culture of continuous improvement where we challenge ourselves to always do better and to advance — for the field, for our staff, and for the communities we ultimately serve.”

And yet, despite this heightened awareness and the concerted efforts of a handful of organizations, diversity and equity in philanthropy as a whole haven’t changed much. The data published by the D5 Coalition suggest that we have seen virtually no increase in the number of people of color who hold staff and leadership positions at foundations, and little increase in the representation of women.

“Making philanthropy more diverse and inclusive should be a top priority for everyone.”

More frustrating is the fact that very few foundations have decided to voluntarily disclose their demographic data since the attempted passage of California’s A.B. 624, proposed legislation that would have required large foundations in the state to collect and disclose demographic data for themselves and for their grantees.

According to a search on Glasspockets.org, only 10 of the more than 90 foundations publicly committing to working more openly have disclosed both their diversity data and their diversity values policies. The list of 10 foundations includes foundations such as The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. They should be applauded. Interestingly, more than 40 foundations have stated that they have diversity/values policies, yet most of them fail to disclose their own diversity data.

Making philanthropy more diverse and inclusive should be a top priority for everyone, regardless of whether or not your foundation focuses on supporting communities of color. This isn’t just a numbers game. As Ruth McCambridge reminds us in her recent article for Nonprofit Quarterly, “Lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in philanthropy enlarges the understanding gap between philanthropy and the communities meant to be final beneficiaries.” By not including more people who understand the experiences of communities of color in leadership positions, foundations put extra distance between themselves and these communities and can’t know how best to serve them.

Diana Campoamor and Vikki N. Spruill, veterans in the struggle to diversify philanthropy, jointly wrote in 2016, “Few would argue that there has been too little discussion about making the sector look more like the people it serves. The real challenge has been to set in motion the measures that assure greater diversity throughout the sector.”

“The only way philanthropy will remain relevant is if it evolves along with the communities around it.”

Just as it took #OscarsSoWhite to jolt the Motion Picture Academy into action, will it take #PhilanthropySoWhite taking off on social media to transform this sector? A group of people has championed this issue from within the world of philanthropy for years, and yet progress remains slow. It’s no longer a question of awareness; it’s a question of priorities. Of course, every foundation has its own vision and purpose, but the only way philanthropy will remain relevant is if it evolves along with the communities around it. That means being intentional about hiring more people from diverse backgrounds who can bring much-needed perspectives to the table; tracking the demographics of people who benefit from grant dollars; tracking the demographics of foundation board and staff, and being transparent about all of those numbers.

Why is transparency so important? Because we’ve seen it drive massive change in other fields. Since the California Public Utilities Commission began requiring the companies it regulates to report how much contracting they do with businesses owned by women, people of color and service disabled veterans, these companies’ contracts with diverse businesses went from $2.6 million in 1986 to $8.8 billion in 2016. In philanthropy, transparency can drive the field to build more coalitions of foundations that can hold each other accountable to high standards of transparency and inclusiveness. It can help them learn from the inclusive practices already adopted by some foundations.

Ultimately, it’s going to take a bigger push than anything we’ve seen before to transform the sector. Otherwise, philanthropy will become more and more out of touch with the people it seeks to serve, and it will become increasingly unable to address the needs of a rapidly changing America.

What is perplexing is that large foundations value data and frequently fund social justice efforts to obtain more gender, racial, LGBTQ and ethnic data as positive outcomes of their grants. The fiscal impact on foundations to collect this data about their own operations and grantees would be negligible. Foundations like TCE have demonstrated “the sky didn’t fall” when the data was published, as critics suggested would happen 10 years ago.  Just the opposite: The foundation learned from its data to make better decisions on how to operate.

In an era of greater transparency, and increasing recognition that we are a diverse and multicultural nation, we urge more foundations to take the leap and conduct and share their own diversity and inclusion audits.

Transportation Planning: People First, Not Cars

Capitol Weekly
By Hana Creger and Alvaro Sanchez

If you’ve ever sat in traffic crawling at 5 miles per hour or been late to an appointment because of inadequate public transportation, I don’t need to tell you that transportation represents a constant challenge in California. Too many of those problems stem from a planning process that has consistently failed to put people first. California can do better.

And let’s not kid ourselves about which people are most likely to get left out of transportation planning decisions: Low-income communities of color. Go to almost any major urban area and you’ll see freeways built to whisk drivers from wealthy areas to the airport or downtown business districts, slicing through and disrupting low-income neighborhoods.

People of color breathe disproportionate levels of toxic smog from transportation-related emissions, which contributes to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other illnesses than their white counterparts. In addition, low-income people—who are disproportionately people of color—spend a greater proportion of their income on transportation costs compared to wealthier people. The poorest 20 percent of Americans spend 40.2 percent of their take home pay on transportation (mostly for private vehicle expenses), while those who make $71,898 and greater only spend 13.1 percent.

Meanwhile, officials keep pushing for new and wider freeways, car-centric bridges and other projects that ultimately just increase traffic and worsen pollution.

Enough. It’s time for California to rethink transportation planning and establish a planning process that puts people first. And that process must clearly and specifically take into account the needs of those whose needs have traditionally been marginalized or ignored altogether, particularly communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. We have some ideas about how to accomplish this.

With the help of a technical advisory committee with multifaceted experience in transportation planning and environmental justice, The Greenlining Institute has put together a Mobility Equity Framework that lays out a new path.

We propose that transportation planners follow three steps:

1. Conduct a community needs assessment. Start by asking, “What are the most pressing, unmet transportation needs of a particular underserved community?” But don’t just pose that question to a room full of politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, reach out to the community that’s impacted via community meetings, surveys, online forums and other mechanisms, following a process known as participatory budgeting. You don’t have to invent the wheel: A wealth of guides and toolkits can be found in the Participatory Budgeting Project’s Resource Center.

2. Do a Mobility Equity Analysis.
Not all modes of transportation are created equal, particularly in their impact on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. For our Framework, we’ve identified 12 crucial equity indicators. Looking closely at these 12 factors forces planners to consider issues like affordability, reliability, effects on pollution and health, as well as other factors that might lead to particular harm in under-resourced communities. A systematic, community-based review of these factors (which can, of course, be augmented based on individual community needs) can help clarify who benefits and avoid unintended negative impacts

3. Elevate community decision-making power. It’s not enough to make a show of listening to the community but then shut the public out of the actual decision-making process. Public participation throughout the processes of identifying needs, brainstorming project ideas and voting can take place in the form of town halls, community meetings, mail-in ballots, or other formats best suited to the community.

This all may sound rather radical. It’s not. Some agencies have already started putting some of these ideas into practice. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission just became the first transportation funding agency to utilize participatory budgeting, and will now fund pilot projects in disadvantaged communities.

What we propose does represent a major shift away from how California and its cities and counties have traditionally done transportation planning. But look around. Look at the snarled traffic, the overwhelmed public transit systems and stubbornly wretched air quality in so much of our state.

Isn’t it time to try something new?

Ed’s Note: Hana Creger is Environmental Equity Manager and Alvaro Sanchez is Environmental Equity Director at The Greenlining Institute.

Will Congress Spark a New Great Recession?

Newsday
By Orson Aguilar

Four years before the subprime mortgage meltdown devastated the U.S. economy, my organization warned Federal Reserve Board Chair Alan Greenspan that a deregulated financial sector was hurtling us toward disaster.

The New York Times, in recounting this 2004 meeting, noted that representatives of Greenlining Institute “implored Mr. Greenspan to use his bully pulpit and press for a voluntary code of conduct.” He was not interested.

Astonishingly, similar warnings are being ignored all over again.

After the 2008 crash, Congress passed a series of reforms known as the Dodd-Frank Act. While many of us felt this law should have gone farther, it did put in place a series of common-sense protections designed to curb the “wild west” atmosphere on Wall Street.

In mid-March, the U.S. Senate acted to slash those protections, passing a financial deregulation bill known as S.2115, rightly derided by critics as the “Bank Lobbyist Act.” Among other things, the bill would exempt some truly massive banks—up to $250 billion in assets, big enough to include American Express—from regulatory oversight designed to keep them from driving the economy into a ditch again.

The Senate passed the bill despite a warning from the Congressional Budget Office that it would increase the likelihood of a federal bank bailout and increase the budget deficit.

As in the Great Recession of 2008, the impacts of this policy would likely hitcommunities of color the hardest. A recent investigation by Reveal foundthat banks continue to practice illegal forms of race-based discrimination, a.k.a. redlining, in home mortgage lending. Obtaining home lending data is key to shining light on this bias, and hiding that data is exactly what the banks would prefer.

Because black, Latino and Asian American borrowers were specifically targetedby predatory subprime lenders, Congress beefed up reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, to be effective this year. Increased public reporting of statistics like borrower credit scores, mortgage loan terms and the assessed points and fees would help regulators find patterns of discrimination and stop redlining.

But the Bank Lobbyist Act rolls back these new reporting requirements for banks and credit unions making under 500 home mortgage loans per year—even though lenders still must collect this information for their underwriting files. By allowing banks to hide data they’re already collecting, the bill will make it harder to detect and prevent patterns of discrimination. Effectively, it’s a Redliner’s Bill of Rights.

Now that the Senate bill has passed with a bipartisan majority (sixteen Democrats joined all Republicans in voting “yes”), consideration moves to the House of Representatives. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has indicated he wants to combine the Senate bill with existing House legislation that’s also regarded as dangerous by consumer advocates.

It’s time to sound an alarm. We need to remember what caused the Great Recession, and let Congress know we’ll be watching to see whether it proceeds with this mad experiment in bank deregulation.

California Shows How to Fight Climate Change and Help Underserved Communities

Alternet
By Emi Wang

Something amazing is happening in California. The Golden State has taken bold steps to act on climate change, including regulations to cut carbon consumption and charging polluters for the carbon that they emit. The money from polluters is placed into a fund called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), where it goes to work promoting the clean energy economy in communities across the state.

Of course, California isn’t the only place to put a price on carbon. A group of northeastern states, as well as Ontario and Quebec, have taken similar action, generally using some form of cap-and-trade mechanism like California.

But California took its effort a step farther, recognizing that poverty and pollution go hand in hand—and that smart policies can help tackle both.

Thanks to the work of the California Climate Equity Coalition, of which my organization the Greenlining Insitute is a part, 35 percent of those resources must be invested in the state’s most polluted and economically disadvantaged communities, communities that have experienced decades of disinvestmentredlining and heavy pollution.

As of 2016, this has meant $419 million invested directly in projects in neighborhoods to help families save money on their energy bills, get solar panels or purchase an electric vehicle. Grants to community groups and local governments help them transform concrete city blocks with tree-lined streets, create community gardens, build permanently affordable housing close to public transit and more.

These investments don’t just reduce carbon emissions. They help ensure that even poor Californians enjoy the savings and health benefits of the clean energy economy, while creating jobs in the communities that need them most. This remarkable achievement can be a model for other states and nations fighting climate change.

What’s not so amazing is that the infrastructure that California has created is enormously complex and hard to understand, even for someone like me whose job it is to track this stuff. And for the everyday renter, community-based group or local city planner, it can be dizzying to try to understand what resources are available to you and your community. So we’re trying to solve that problem.

The Tool: UpLift Resource Finder

These resources can’t help people and communities fight climate change or embrace clean energy if they don’t know about them. That’s why we created the UpLift Resource Finder, to help folks navigate through the complicated world of California Climate Investments. The Resource Finder contains a comprehensive database of over 40 grants and rebates that individuals, families, community-based organizations, schools, municipalities, tribes and businesses can use to act on climate locally.

Whether you’re a community group looking to plant trees or a family wanting to find electric car rebates, the Uplift Resource Finder makes it easier to find out how California’s climate investments can help you. It also has an interesting story for non-Californians. We offer the tool in two views:

  1. Guided Tour: Don’t know where to start? We’ll walk you through four questions to get you to your results.
  2. Full Database: Want to look at the full database? Skip ahead to the full listing and filter your results manually.

We hope that this tool will make it easier for anyone to see what grants and rebates are the best fit, so that all California communities can participate in our fight against climate change. But even if you’re not from California, it’s still worth a look to see all the ways dollars collected from polluters can make life better for people and communities. We’re showing that the fight against climate change isn’t something distant and abstract; it can change lives for the better and make a real difference in neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of neglect.

How Money from Polluters Helps Californians

San Francisco Chronicle
By Orson Aguilar

If you follow the news, then you’ve seen repeated arguments about California’s efforts to fight climate change — fights over cap-and-trade, effects on consumers, funding for high-speed rail and more. But there’s a hidden story you may have heard less about.

It’s the story of people like Richmond resident Kendra Tramiel, who got help trading in her old, gas-guzzling clunker for a much more reliable and far less polluting hybrid. It’s a story about the residents of West Gateway Place in West Sacramento — a complex that provides affordable housing for dozens of families and whose energy-saving features and proximity to transit, bike and pedestrian routes are estimated to be equal to taking more than 140,000 cars off the road.

These stories happened because of how California uses the money it collects from polluters for the carbon they put into our air.

All over California, low-income families are getting their homes weatherized, getting help buying an electric or plug-in hybrid car and much more. Communities and local governments receive grants to plant trees and create community gardens, build affordable housing near public transit and replace smoke-belching diesel school buses with clean electric buses, among other benefits — all because of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, powered by cap-and-trade dollars.

Some $614 million has already been put to work on projects benefiting disadvantaged communities, two-thirds of which has gone to projects directly located within those communities — with more added every day.

In a state that combines remarkable wealth and economic vitality with unacceptable levels of poverty and a growing affordability crisis, these smart greenhouse gas reduction expenditures not only clean the air in neighborhoods that need it most, they help address wealth inequality and tackle some of California’s most urgent problems.

Putting affordable homes near transit — like West Gateway Place, the MacArthur Park Apartments in Los Angeles and other projects happening statewide — not only eases our affordable housing crisis, it saves energy and cuts traffic and air pollution while reducing the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide going into our atmosphere. Projects like this make life better for the whole neighborhood and also create good jobs.

California’s approach is unique. While a few places — including a group of northeastern states — have programs in place to put a price on carbon, none has made the sort of concrete commitment that California has made to use the money generated to attack the combined, interwoven problems of poverty and pollution. Our governor and Legislature have actually written it into law that 35 percent of carbon proceeds must benefit disadvantaged communities or low-income Californians. And it’s working.

If there’s one drawback to all this, then it’s that the public has had no easy, convenient place for individuals, local governments or community groups to find out which of these benefits they qualify for. But now they do: Resource Finder lets users answer a few short questions and be directed to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund-funded resources that meet their needs.

Despite fierce opposition from fossil fuel interests, California has mounted a unique and successful effort to simultaneously fight climate change and uplift our most economically stressed and pollution-burdened communities. The nation and world should follow our example.

Orson Aguilar is president of the Greenlining Institute. The Resource Finder is at http://upliftca.org/resource-finder.