Approval of Sprint/T-Mobile Merger “Disappointing,” Greenlining Institute Says

Advocates Fear Larger T-Mobile Will Abandon Low-Income Consumers and Consumers of Color 

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute today expressed sharp disappointment at the Justice Department’s decision to okay T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion takeover of Sprint, but noted that the deal is not yet a sure thing. Attorneys general in 13 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust suit in June to stop the merger.

“We’re profoundly disappointed at the decision to approve an anti-competitive, anti-consumer merger,” said Greenlining Institute Technology Equity Director Paul Goodman. “This deal does nothing to allay concerns that a larger T-Mobile will abandon low-income consumers and consumers of color. We see no indication that DISH has the ability or incentive to become a meaningful competitor that will serve communities of color.

“Finally, the agreement between T-Mobile and DISH, which they claim solves the problem of removing a major competitor from the market, is incredibly complex, and far beyond the ability of the Department of Justice or the Federal Communications Commission to enforce. Greenlining hopes that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the attorneys general of other states will prevail in their lawsuit to block this harmful, anti-consumer merger and protect communities of color, along with all consumers who will be harmed by this deal.”

In order to alleviate anti-competitive aspects of the merger, the companies agreed to sell off some assets to DISH Network, including prepaid subsidiaries like Boost Mobile, spectrum licenses and retail stores. Consumer advocates widely consider these measures to be inadequate.


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


A Long Way to Go: What Kind of Change is Needed Within Foundations to Advance Racial Equity?

Inside Philanthropy
By Michael Hamill Remaley


Many people who work in the philanthropic sector are beginning to grapple with embedded racism in ways that they haven’t before. Organizations and individuals are asking existential questions that relate to power, interpersonal relationships and processes—and more foundations than ever say they are centering race in their reconsiderations of what is fair and just. But is this trend more than rhetorical?

“There has been a noticeable shift in philanthropic sector conversations—more focus on racial equity at conferences, gatherings, meetings,” says Michele Kumi Baer, Philanthropy Project Director at Race Forward, which merged with the Center for Social Inclusion in 2017. “And there have been increases in diversity in programmatic roles, there have been some shifts in practice, some new funds being directed to people-of-color-led organizations, and racial equity statements from foundations. But it is hard to tell from this vantage point how deeply people of different positions of power within philanthropic organizations are really being introspective about race and power in their daily practice.”

Kumi Baer’s assessment is more positive than those of other, more critical observers of race and philanthropy. When it comes to applying a racial equity lens to philanthropic professionals’ work at a variety of levels, many say there is a lot of talk, but not much meaningful action.

Cardozie Jones, the founding principal of True North EDI, which facilitates racial equity workshops, coaches leadership teams, and supports foundations and nonprofit organizations in creating more lasting change, has observed that few foundations seeking out his services are at a place where everyone in the organization is thinking about what they can do in their daily work. “Most organizations are still at the Racial Equity 101 stage,” Jones says. “Maybe 30 percent of the organizations that reach out to me have already begun the process of learning about the history of racial inequality and concepts of power, and are ready to advance to deeper ways of grappling with organizational structure, mission realignment or personally applying a racial equity lens to individuals’ work.”

The author of Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva, is even less impressed by the efforts of most foundations. “We indulge those who say that diversity is important by conducting several decades of analyses, hiring consulting groups with absurd price tags. We publish reports. We create a task force and debate mightily over what to call it. We do not actually change, not more than superficially,” Villanueva says.

But a starting point is just that, Jones says. “In racial equity work, I like to make a parallel to recycling: We don’t need a few people doing it perfectly to make progress, we need a ton of people doing it imperfectly.”

Philanthropy’s Long History of Talking About Race

The philanthropic sector has never lacked for discussions of race, and its history of trying to grapple with racial injustice is long. But in the years following the Ford Foundation’s bold 2015 announcement of its intention to center equity in its grantmaking and the 2016 election outcome that shook many in philanthropy, the sector’s newfound intensity of attention on race is reshaping more than just conversation.

The Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) outlined more than two decades of significant race-focused efforts in its “Timeline of Race, Racism, Resistance and Philanthropy 1992-2014,” in which it details an astounding number of projects aimed at racial equity and “diversity” in the sector. It starts by acknowledging that “though this timeline starts in 1992, it is important to recognize that obviously, there was significant pioneering work for many decades around racial justice and philanthropy before this starting point.”

Many of the philanthropic affinity groups that have focused on diversity, equity and inclusion already existed before 1992, but the timeline highlights other major milestones like the 1993 founding of Joint Affinity Groups (now CHANGE Philanthropy); pioneering racial equity and diversity initiatives by funders such as W.K. Kellogg, C.S. Mott, Ford and Annie E. Casey; the founding of new organizations like the Network of Alliances Bridging Race and Ethnicity (NABRE), PRE and the Diversity in Philanthropy Project (which later became the D5 Coalition); and some of the most important sector-influencing reports from organizations like the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Public Interest Projects (now NEO Philanthropy), and the Greenlining Institute. The timeline’s authors say it is hardly exhaustive, but it makes abundantly clear that the philanthropic sector has been building up to its strengthened focus and evolved thinking on racial equity over many decades.

One aspect of the sector’s evolution on race becomes clear in this history, and that is its continuous recalibration of how much to focus on diversity within the sector’s ranks or forcing a broader discussion of power and justice that would necessitate a fundamental reorientation of both the sector and the operations of individual foundations. While experts seem to agree that the sector has a very long way to go on increasing diversity, it is the increasing number of foundations’ more holistic realignment of funding priorities and practices around racial equity that is capturing attention. Since Ford Foundation made its influential announcement, other prominent funders such as the Meyer Memorial Trust, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Chicago Community Trust and San Francisco Foundation have declared that they, too, are pursuing equity frameworks across their grantmaking portfolios.

More recently, the conversation over racial equity in philanthropy has evolved further to examine the daily choices, practices and habits of individuals working in the sector through a racial equity lens. Many more people—whether CEOs, donors, directors of human resources, programs, communications, evaluation or administration—are facing the imperative to question their exercise of power and demonstrate a commitment to racial equity in their work. It is a trend that began to intensify in recent years, but there are questions about just how deeply it is taking root.

What Does It Mean to “Pass the Mic” in Philanthropy?

In order to make real progress on race—as well as on discrimination and power imbalances related to gender, LGBTQIA, immigration status, disability, rural isolation—racial equity experts say people at all levels in philanthropy must continually ask themselves deep and difficult questions about how they do their work.

For the vast majority of leaders in philanthropy who are white, does that mean passing the torch or expanding the circle? For leaders of color in the sector, does it mean being more than a face of diversity, an imperative to force change in an organization that still funds and operates in ways that exclude or perpetuate injustice?

In some philanthropic and nonprofit circles, the phrase “pass the mic” is gaining traction and moving past its original meaning—an exhortation to white people who insist on speaking on behalf of people of color to stop talking and give people who have experienced oppression the opportunity to speak for themselves—to a more general urging of people who hold power in philanthropy to actively help those who have experienced the greatest harms of societal injustice exercise their rightful power in decision-making over resources.

For philanthropists who are becoming more introspective about their own relationships to race and racism in philanthropy, there is a growing recognition that hiring more people of color to positions of power is just one part of the process. According to Villanueva, racism is often inextricably bound up in founders’ fortunes and their guiding beliefs about how to “fix” social challenges.

“Almost without exception, funders reinforce the colonial division of us vs. them,” Villanueva says. “Philanthropy is the savior mentality in institutional form, which instead of helping—its ostentatiously proclaimed intent—actually further divides and destabilizes society.”

But even as he presents this damning indictment of the philanthropic sector, Villanueva works for the Schott Foundation and sits on the board of the Andrus Family Fund, which is controlled by a majority of multi-generational, uber-wealthy white people. His continuing immersion in the sector demonstrates a faith that philanthropic professionals can create real change, not just reinforce power imbalances.

“Privilege is contextual,” says Ana Oliveira, president and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation. “The question for people working in philanthropy is whether they are willing to move past the need for security and safeness and toward taking on racial equity more intentionally. Philanthropy’s history of exclusionism demands a constant examination of the boundaries, which are many. We need to shift dominance. The imperative that everyone in philanthropy has, no matter where they fit into the philanthropic sector, is to constantly ask themselves what impact they are having. What are the ripples out from your work?”

For those who hold power, especially white people, the question is how (or realistically, whether) to shift some of the power they possess. It is a challenge that is both practical and existential. If they are to “pass the mic,” what does that mean for white people who have made philanthropy their career, and who may believe that they, too, have valid acquired knowledge, life experiences, professional aspirations and a desire to work toward social change?

“Listen, we do need white women who are allies. We need to say to white women with privilege ‘You also have a job to do,’” Oliveira says. “It isn’t just ‘pass the mic,’ but what do we do when we come to the table? For white people to not be present is leaving behind potentially important knowledge and expertise. There is no absolute answer for the question of what white people should do.”

“Yes, ‘pass the mic’ is a useful metaphor, but limited,” Jones says. “Passing the mic doesn’t mean leaving the stage. We need one another to disrupt and rebuild. We don’t want to just replicate the same old traditional hierarchical, nondemocratic, top-down structure. Equity does include a redistribution of power, which inherently means a loss of institutional power for those who historically carry the most privilege, but there is nothing simple about what that looks or sounds like. I do know we need to reimagine and rebuild that world together.”

Not Enough Practical Tools for Specific Job Functions

For philanthropists who want to move beyond history and theory to ask deeper questions about applying a racial equity lens to daily practices, what are the resources available to get started? Even though there is an increasing number of consultants in this space, no one has created a comprehensive set of role-specific tools for CEOs, program directors, HR directors, evaluation staff, communications leaders, board members, major donors, etc.

Kumi Baer, whose Race Forward organization has deep knowledge of the sector and created the Philanthropy Project to advance just this kind of change, says she hasn’t seen role-specific tools. She says a valuable starting point is Deepa Iyer’s work on “solidarity practice” and allyship—how white people need to be an “accomplice” or co-conspirator, actually taking on risk. Iyer has received support from Open Society Foundations for her work on Solidarity Is This, a site containing a set of principles and practices that are helpful for anyone working in the sector. Kumi Baer also said that the Johnson Center for Philanthropy is doing some role-specific work on racial equity in philanthropy, but its tools are not widely available to the public.

In 2017, Jones’s True North EDI worked closely with the entire staff of Philanthropy New York, the regional association of grantmakers, to help each department integrate a racial equity lens and shape new annual goals in its operational plan. Each member of the staff was expected to think of new ways to increase racial equity. For example, the communications department sought to increase the number of POC bloggers and increase the number of POC-led media outlets it sourced in its work. That was in addition to its already established commitment to nurturing the voices of POCs in the department itself. But, says Jones, this type of process, in which individuals are engaged in rethinking their daily work to take on racial imbalances and broaden power sharing, is not happening in a lot of foundations.

“I was brought in by the DEI committee of a family foundation in a situation that was probably more typical,” said Jones. “It was really about convincing the president that racial equity work was worth doing at all. What she really wanted was ‘to align with current language,’ not change how the foundation operated. I ended up doing a three-hour session with the DEI committee that led to an internal statement of purpose to pursue staff education on racial equity issues. It was a useful start that led to an all-staff session, but there is a misalignment between leadership and staff that will make the road ahead challenging.”

But there are some wealthy white donors who are thinking more deeply about privilege and sharing power. Jeff Raikes, former Microsoft executive, former Gates Foundation CEO, and now leader of his own eponymous foundation, wrote a recent commentary in Forbes, reflecting on Anand Giridharadas’s book Winners Take All, professing his commitment to shifting power.

“I often say privilege is invisible to those who possess it. And power is wrapped up in privilege. When you have it—especially when you’ve had it for a long time—you don’t notice the myriad ways your ideas are the first to be heard; that your calls get returned before others; the benefit of the doubt you are given at every turn. You must pay attention to see it,” Raikes wrote. “The people you need to listen to—to both correctly identify the problem you are trying to solve, and to come up with ways to address it—are those with lived experience. In homelessness, that means talking to people who are homeless and who have been homeless. No one else knows the barriers to stability better than they do. It means working alongside the communities you seek to impact and letting them shape and guide the direction of your work.”

Listening to communities isn’t the same as giving up decision-making control, of course. But it does demonstrate a deeper recognition of power dynamics that some philanthropic experts say is a significant change taking place.

“When I think about power in philanthropy, I like to say that we don’t need to ‘cede’ power, but ‘seed’ power,” says Adam Liebowitz, Community Food Funders Director at North Star Fund, a social justice fund that supports grassroots organizing and communities building power in New York City and the Hudson Valley. North Star Fund has a 40-year history of centering discussions of power and racial equity in its work, and its president, Jennifer Ching, is a frequent critic of the philanthropic sector’s slow progress on racial equity.

“Racial equity work can feel like ‘just one big hug’ until the implications become apparent,” says Cecilia Clarke, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, which has been recognized as a leader in advancing racial equity. “Our board was uniformly supportive of racial equity work in theory, but as the exploration got deeper, and issues of power came into focus, tensions did arise. But for BCF, the mandate to listen to the community gave staff authority to pursue deeper racial equity work. For private foundations, it is a bit more of a challenge to get started because they are generally are rooted in white male individuals’ money and priorities. Community foundations have a bit more of a built-in imperative to be responsive to community.”

Begin Racial Equity Work, Even Without the Perfect Tools, Leaders Say

The experts and funders who are in the vanguard of racial equity work say that funders can’t wait for all the conditions to be right and all of the tools to be available for professionals to take responsibility for integrating a racial equity perspective into their daily work.

Jones says, “If you’re looking at a power structure that has a top (donor/board), middle (CEO, VPs, directors) and lower levels (managers, admin, etc.), ideally, you would be working at all levels simultaneously. But in reality, you have to work at whatever levels are available, and regardless of where you sit in the organization, consider the areas that are within your sphere of influence. Each of us is a gatekeeper in some way.”

“Beyond what we can do to improve the unequal systems around us, we must honestly grapple with the privileges our organizations enjoy as their beneficiaries,” Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker said in his annual message in January 2019. “This means interrogating our own unconscious biases, cultivating humility in ourselves and our organizations, and more clearly understanding how others experience the institutions of philanthropy—how remote we can be, how insular, how difficult to navigate.” For most people working in philanthropy, these are introspective processes that are not yet taking place.

This is the first in a planned series of articles examining how philanthropic professionals—especially white people—are pursuing racial equity in the sector. Future pieces in the series will examine specific job functions and how leaders in each area are adapting a racial equity lens to their work.

Amid wildfires and bankruptcy, PG&E retreats from its long philanthropic legacy

San Francisco Business Times
By Hannah Norman


In January, as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. grappled with its impending bankruptcy filing, the Oakland Museum of California received a notice that California’s largest utility would be dropping its corporate giving for the foreseeable future.

“PG&E has been a great supporter of the museum for many, many years, as far back as my database goes,” said Rehana Abbas, OMCA’s director of philanthropy. “Anytime you lose funding, it’s hard.

The $38,000 that the museum received from PG&E in 2018 – a little under 10 percent of OMCA’s corporate annual support – was part of almost $28 million in donations the utility contributed that year, much of which landed in its Bay Area backyard. Hundreds of organizations both big and small have reaped the benefit of the utility’s support and partnership over the years, including local food banks, advocacy groups, community centers, arts organizations and more. 

On the hook for billions of dollars in wildfire liabilities and facing hundreds of lawsuits following the Camp Fire, which barreled through Butte County last November, killing 86 people and destroying almost 19,000 structures, the company is now in the hands of the bankruptcy court. In June, PG&E reached a $1 billion settlement with the city of Paradise and over a dozen other local public agencies for losses due to the wildfires sparked by its equipment. The utility has also created a $105 million housing assistance fund to aid those displaced.

This year, PG&E said its charitable giving will focus solely on those organizations “helping our communities prepare for and respond to emergencies.” It declined to say how much it will donate.  

Meanwhile, PG&E’s philanthropic leadership is hollowing out, with top executives leaving for posts elsewhere. In May, Allen Fernandez Smith, who headed up PG&E’s low-income programs and strategies for five years, joined JPMorgan Chase’s global philanthropy team; a week later, Travis Kiyota, a 17-year PG&E veteran and most recently executive director of the PG&E Foundation, found a new role at East West Bank. Both declined to comment. 

The San Francisco-based company’s decades-long philanthropic legacy – and the hole it’s leaving – have not gone unnoticed by the community it has served for well over a century. 

“So many groups over the years have counted on PG&E as a key supporter of their nonprofit initiatives, us included,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Clearly, the bankruptcy and the public perceptions around PG&E are changing things. For a lot of different organizations, it’s an unfortunate thing.”  

For some nonprofits, PG&E’s focus on wildfire resilience and safety has simply meant a realignment of where funding is allocated. Charitable fundraiser United Way Bay Area was in the middle of a massive multiyear, philanthropic corporate gift of $1.5 million from the utility when news of the bankruptcy broke. Only $500,000 into the spending, the nonprofit had no idea whether they’d receive the rest, said Anne Wilson, CEO of United Way Bay Area.

Ultimately, PG&E confirmed the company would fulfill its commitment. “It was a relief,” Wilson said. The utility’s giving within United Way’s network, however, has shifted to focus on emergency services, such as 211, the three-digit number for a 24/7 phone line for community resources. 

Ellen LaPointe, CEO of Northern California Grantmakers, noted that dramatic dropoffs in corporate giving are not entirely uncommon. During the 2008 recession, for instance, as companies’ bottom lines took a hit, so too did their charitable contributions. Many corporate philanthropy departments also regularly undergo shifts in strategies or focus areas, she added.

“It underscores how important it is for funders to be thinking about the sustainability of the nonprofits they support,” LaPointe said. “And the importance of diversifying – not being overly dependent on one source.”

The Oakland Museum of California has found new pockets of funding to make budget, with its most recent new corporate partner being Google. Still, Abbas said they’re staying in touch with the utility so that if PG&E begins giving again, the museum can be top of mind.

Yet not all former beneficiaries are so steadfast on keeping up their relationship with the embattled utility, even if it means losing a major funder. The Greenlining Institute – a Berkeley-based research and advocacy group which said it received $195,000 last year from PG&E’s foundation – has taken a number of policy stances holding the state’s utilities to higher safety and accountability standards.  

The institute also chided PG&E for its new board of directors roster, saying it doesn’t “represent California’s best interests” when it comes to advancing the state’s climate and clean energy goals.

“The way we see it, nonprofit fundraising is always a challenge,” said Greenlining Institute spokesperson Bruce Mirken. “But more importantly, millions of people and nonprofits rely on PG&E to keep the lights on, and safely.”

All told, the utility’s bankruptcy reorganization is expected to last through 2021.   

Rejecting White House Claims as ‘Contrived,’ Supreme Court Blocks Census Citizenship Question… For Now

Common Dreams
By Jessica Corbett

Civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates celebrated Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court blocked—at least temporarily—the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an effort critics had decried as a blatant attempt by Republicans to “weaponize” the national survey for political advantage.

“This ruling is a victory for immigrants and communities of color across America. It is a victory for democracy itself.”

“The Trump administration’s attempt to politicize and manipulate this fundamental pillar of our democracy has failed. Our communities will be counted,” tweeted the ACLU. “This ruling is a victory for immigrants and communities of color across America. It is a victory for democracy itself.”

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, argued the case before the high court. In a statement Thursday, Ho said that “this case has never been about a line on a form. It is about whether everyone in America counts. This ruling means they do.”

The Supreme Court heard arguments for the case in April, after federal courts in New York and California ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s attempt to insert a citizenship question into the next census—which will be used to draw political voting maps—violated the Administrative Procedures Act. Critics charged that Ross’s effort was an illegal attempt to intimidate immigrant communities and undercount people of color to create an electoral advantage for the GOP.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday joined with the court’s four liberal justices in the 5-4 decision, which denied a citizenship question for now while still granting the administration another opportunity to argue before a lower court its rationale for such an addition to the 2020 census.

“It’s unclear whether the administration would have time to provide a fuller account,” The Associated Press noted. “Census forms are supposed to be printed beginning next week.”

“The court should have ruled more forcefully against a citizenship question on the census, but a compromise to block it for now is a step in the right direction that protects our democracy,” Patriotic Millionaires chairperson Morris Pearl said in a statement. “While this comes on the same day on a disastrous and anti-democratic decision on political gerrymandering, the Supreme Court got at least one major decision right today.”

Roberts wrote in the majority opinion (pdf) that Ross’s move to add a citizenship question to the census “cannot be adequately explained” in terms of a request from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for data to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The chief justice explained:

Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the secretary gave for his decision. In the secretary’s telling, Commerce was simply acting on a routine data request from another agency. Yet the materials before us indicate that Commerce went to great lengths to elicit the request from DOJ (or any other willing agency). And unlike a typical case in which an agency may have both stated and unstated reasons for a decision, here the VRA enforcement rationale—the sole stated reason—seems to have been contrived. We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision-making process.

The ruling comes just weeks after the Supreme Court and district courts in New York and Maryland were made aware of “explosive” evidence—left behind by Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting strategist who died last year—which shows that the GOP fought for a citizenship question to create an electoral advantage for “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

In a statement from Common Cause that acknowledged Hofeller’s documents, redistricting and representation director Kathay Feng said, “The last-minute effort to add the question was clearly a cover-up to mask their true motives—to rig redistricting for partisan and racial gain.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, expressed gratitude that the court “has seen through the charade perpetrated by Secretary Ross, evaluated the record which was replete with examples of lies underlying the justification for adding the citizenship question, and has stopped this travesty from affecting the 2020 census.”

“The census is too important to become a toy for government officials to use to achieve political ends. This is particularly so when those ends are discriminatory and would depress participation rates among on communities of color,” Clarke said in a statement. “While the issue is remanded to the Commerce Department, time is of the essence, and our government should now turn to the important business of ensuring a fair count in 2020.”

Greenlining Institute interim president Preeti Vissa Kristipati, in a statement, welcomed the ruling but also highlighted that “today’s Supreme Court ruling doesn’t finally settle the issue.”

“And even if the citizenship question is kept off the 2020 census,” Kristipati said, “at best this is just one step in what will be a long battle—both to stop voter suppression and to end the Trump administration’s relentless war against science and accurate data.”

A quick shift to electric vehicles could drive the Green New Deal forward

Fast Company
By Adele Peters

The transition could keep the U.S. competitive with countries like China but also radically improve the country’s own transportation sector—currently the most polluting of the economy—while creating jobs and improving equity.

There are now 486 electric vehicle startups in China, where electric car sales topped 1.1 million last year. That’s three times more than sales in the United States.

While American automakers slowly add new electric cars in the U.S. market, the Chinese market is a different story: GM, which has committed to an all-electric future, plans to introduce 20 “new energy” vehicle models there by 2023—including electric cars and plug-in hybrids—and 10 of those within the next year. In the U.S., the company only offers one electric car (the Chevy Bolt) and one plug-in hybrid. It’s planning to release electric SUVs and pickups but has not disclosed when those will come to market.

It’s an illustration of the difference that policy can make. China, through national policy, has aggressively supported a shift to what it calls “new energy” vehicles, at the same time the Trump administration works to roll back clean car standards. What’s happening in China helps make the case that the Green New Deal—which calls for a transition to zero-emissions vehicles amidst a full decarbonization of the economy—isn’t just about climate change but opportunities for businesses and jobs to grow. The shift is already underway but could happen more quickly with the right policy, says Hal Connolly, senior vice president of programs at the nonprofit Climate Reality Project. “I think the transition’s inevitable,” he says. “But in order to get it as fast as we want, we really are going to need to pull some policy levers. And it’s not just about addressing the climate crisis, which is, of course, paramount and critical, but it’s also about American competitiveness.”

That’s true not just for cars and passenger trucks but across the transportation sector, from the airline industry to public transportation to the millions of trucks that deliver goods. As companies work to reduce emissions—whether they’re building electric planes or electric scooters—they also have an opportunity to address inequality. The changes that the Green New Deal spell out would create a vast array of new and well-paying jobs that could help even out the economy. And rapidly scaling up clean transportation options can create better access for people currently underserved by transportation options. Under the Green New Deal, decarbonizing transportation could function as a lever to address so many other issues facing the U.S. today.


To tackle climate change and avoid its worst impacts, a UN report last year said that the world needs to radically transform to a zero-emissions economy by mid-century, meaning that every industry needs to begin to change now. By 2030, global emissions need to be 45% lower than 2010 levels (as of 2018, they were at an all-time high). This is the science that underpins the urgency of the Green New Deal and makes it clear that the time for incremental tweaks and changes is long past.

In the U.S., transportation is now the leading source of emissions. Within transportation, the vast majority of those emissions come from passenger cars and trucks, followed by larger trucks and semis and then airplanes. The Green New Deal doesn’t outline specific policies but sets out a general goal to “overhaul” transportation to eliminate emissions “as much as is technologically feasible.”

The largest part of the problem—cars and light trucks—could already feasibly change now. The shift is already beginning. “I think we are actually closer to the electrification of transportation than a lot of people think we are simply based on cost,” says Geoff Eisenberg, a partner at Ecosystem Integrity Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in companies working on environmental sustainability. Batteries, the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, have fallen in cost at least 85% since 2010. Deloitte predicts that the total cost of owning an electric car will be as cheap as a gas or diesel car by 2022 even without subsidies.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the sticker price of larger electric vehicles in Europe will be as cheap as other cars by the same year. Electric cars also have other advantages for drivers, including the fact that their fewer moving parts means less need for maintenance. If a network of EVs can double as storage by attaching their batteries to the electric grid when they’re not in use—something that’s needed as the grid shifts to renewable energy like solar that isn’t available all the time—it’s possible that car owners could eventually also get paid for that service by utilities. A shift to autonomous cars could also force a shift to electric cars, because all of the controls (from electric steering to brake by wire) can be controlled through a single source, making it most efficient for an autonomous “brain.” Autonomous cars could drive costs down so much that people choose to use electric robo-taxis instead of owning cars in a decade.


Automakers, too, believe that future vehicles will be electric. “General Motors believes in a world of zero emissions with a vision for an all-electric future, driven by battery electric and fuel cell electric technologies,” says Doug Parks, vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs at GM. Ford is spending $11 billion over the next few years to launch 40 new electric and hybrid models—though most of them will launch in China. The company also invested in Rivian, a startup making an electric pickup, and plans to make an electric version of the F-150 truck. Toyota plans to bring 10 new electric vehicles to market over six years. Volkswagen is planning 70 new electric models over the next decade. Referring to Volkswagen’s pledge, which will bring 22 million all-electric vehicles to the market, Green New Deal coauthor Senator Ed Markey says, “that wasn’t on the scorecard last year.” He adds that the framework, though not yet policy, is already spurring manufacturers to make changes.

Still, fully electric cars make up less than 0.05% of new car sales now, and in a recent survey, only 20% of Americans said that they’d be interested in buying an EV in the future—more than ever before but still a minority. By 2030, the International Energy Agency predicts that electric vehicles could account for more than 30% of sales in the U.S., but again, most cars would still run on fossil fuels. Stronger policy could speed up adoption by supporting a larger network of electric chargers or new incentives for manufacturers and buyers.

It could also help ensure that the transition happens equitably. “When we talk about electric vehicles, we’re always thinking about how can we leverage those as tools for social justice,” says Joel Espino, the environmental equity legal counsel at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute, noting that low-income communities suffer from the worst air pollution from cars and are also hardest hit by fuel costs. One program in California pays low-income drivers in the most polluted areas up to $9,500 to replace old cars with electric cars (a used Nissan Leaf can sell for $10,000); another is bringing shared electric cars to a redesigned housing project in the low-income neighborhood of Watts. Both are examples of the type of policy that could help speed EV adoption nationally and support equity for low-income communities of color—one of the principal aims of the Green New Deal.

For car companies, strong policy could help ensure that American jobs grow, another aim of the Green New Deal. If the transition is inevitable, the countries that move fastest can lead globally, and those that are slower risk losing jobs, from engineering and design to manufacturing, to other locations. Connolly points to what happened with the solar industry, where China made a concerted effort to dominate. “We have over 200,000 solar jobs now in the United States, and that’s incredible,” he says. “But China has 2.2 million solar jobs, and that’s an opportunity that we missed out on by not competing. My concern is that we could be facing the same sort of situation with vehicles.” In fact, he argues, the situation could be worse. “Unlike solar, where we were going from zero jobs to 200,000, we’re talking over seven million U.S. jobs that could be threatened if we don’t take the lead.”

Related companies, like battery manufacturers, could also create new jobs; if electric vehicles are sold in meaningful numbers, we’ll need far more factories making batteries. Right now, Tesla is the only company making batteries in the U.S. In 2018, the company reported that it had supported more than 50,000 jobs in California in the previous year and contributed more than $5 billion to the state’s economy.


The Green New Deal could also help grow businesses and jobs in parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to transition to zero emissions, like air travel. “It gets harder the heavier the vehicle, just based on physics,” says Eisenberg. Large jets are especially challenging, but a handful of startups are already working on electric or hybrid-electric technology for small planes that could make regional flights. “I think that that’s something that could get a five-year head jump from something in the Green New Deal,” he adds, referring to government support or subsidies that might be included once the policy is more fleshed out. Something similar could happen for large trucks; electric semis are already poised to make shorter trips. Other startups are working on solutions for longer-distance travel, including systems that would let electric trucks swap batteries en route so they don’t have to stop to charge and new designs that use hydrogen fuel cells to avoid some of the challenges of battery electric trucks.

High-speed rail, which the Green New Deal mentions as an important part of the transition, could help address the problem of long-distance passenger trips as airplanes improve. Here, too, China has pushed faster: by the end of the year, it will have 20,000 miles of high-speed rail, two-thirds of the total that exists in the world. The U.S. has none, if high-speed rail is defined as trains that can travel faster than 155 miles per hour. (In the Northeast, the Acela train travels 150 miles per hour for a short distance.) A robust high-speed rail network would also impact businesses. “If you’re a business in Philadelphia and you had high-speed rail lines where people from Pittsburgh and Boston and D.C. could get to Philadelphia in 40 minutes by train, think of how much more talent you’d have access to,” says Connolly. “It really is a competitiveness issue, too.”

Within cities, the Green New Deal also calls for better public transportation as another key way to reduce pollution from cars by helping people drive less. That will involve massive investment—even in New York City, with arguably the best public transit in the country, the MTA needs to spend $60 billion to get to a state of good repair. Buses are already shifting to electric because the long-term cost of electric buses is cheaper; companies like New Flyer, founded in 1930, now believe that it’s possible all buses could be electric in a decade. Companies like California-based Proterra are quickly growing. But they could grow faster with more policy support. Connolly notes that Washington, D.C., has a single electric bus now; Shenzhen, China, has an entire fleet of 16,000.

Building better public transit infrastructure, from bike lanes to subways, can also create more jobs and transform neighborhoods. “It’s a huge spur for economic development in cities that do it right,” says Sonia Aggarwal, vice president of the nonprofit Energy Innovation. It also directly benefits companies like Lyft and Uber that are investing heavily in urban scooter and bike-share systems. Policy could help ensure that transportation improvements are prioritized in communities that currently lack access, or those in which people struggle most with the cost of commuting to work. Often, these are low-income communities of color, and ensuring they’re brought into the fold of benefits created by decarbonizing the economy is a core tenet of the Green New Deal.

For companies, she says, the changes that can come from the Green New Deal—or some variation on it—can offer meaningful benefits. “I think they should be thinking about it, preparing for it, and also looking for ways to take advantage of it,” she says. “It’s actually a huge opportunity to remake our entire transportation system from the ground up. That’s a huge business opportunity. If I were working at a car company or a public transit company right now, I’d be pretty excited about the opportunity that lies inside this.”

Greenlining Institute Relieved as Supreme Court Temporarily Stops Census Citizenship Question

Ruling Means Issue Will Likely Come back

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute expressed relief over today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that at least temporarily delayed the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census. Experts overwhelmingly believe that such a question – which has not been asked since 1950 – would reduce response rates among immigrants. Greenlining Institute Interim President Preeti Vissa Kristipati made the following statement:

“The Trump administration sought to use the Census as a partisan tool. A citizenship question would hurt every state and every community where immigrants live, because when immigrant communities are underrepresented and underfunded, all communities suffer. It would lead to an undercount of immigrants, reducing congressional representation for communities with large numbers of immigrant residents and impacting funding for well over 100 federal programs, which base funding levels in part on Census data. Here in California, where over one quarter of our population is foreign-born, we would see major and lasting damage.

“But today’s Supreme Court ruling doesn’t finally settle the issue. And even if the citizenship question is kept off the 2020 Census, at best this is just one step in what will be a long battle – both to stop voter suppression and to end the Trump administration’s relentless war against science and accurate data.”


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


The 2019 GreenBiz 30 Under 30

Green Biz
By Jen Boynton

Emi Wang, 29

Environmental Equity Senior Policy Manager, Greenlining; Oakland, California

LinkedIn | Twitter

Emi Wang is a change agent for the marginalized at the Greenlining Institute, an NGO that “uplifts and provides economic opportunities for communities of color in California.”

A member of its policy team, she works on coalition-building to support legislation and its implementation. For example, California’s landmark cap-and-trade policy directed some of the funds collected to local community development. Wang’s team at Greenlining managed to increase the portion of the funds from 25 percent to 35 percent — and to direct the money to programs that have a climate or quality-of-life benefit, such as urban tree projects, bike lanes, affordable housing (which can reduce commuting) and solar installations.

Wang grew up in Brooklyn, the child of Japanese and Chinese parents, understanding “the general unfairness of the world,” as she puts it, without having the language to describe the structural inequality she witnessed.

She came to work at Greenlining from a background in community development and realized that climate justice is a key component of equity. For Wang, people who have been the most sidelined, living in the most polluted neighborhoods, have to be at the center of the solutions and the decision-making. And every day, she works to encourage their participation.

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.