The Greenlining Institute Mourns the Passing of Co-Founder Bob Gnaizda

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – It is with profound sadness that The Greenlining Institute announces that Robert (Bob) Gnaizda, one of the organization’s co-founders and a ferocious advocate for racial and economic justice, passed away on Saturday. On behalf of our Board of Directors, employees, and coalition partners we extend our deepest sympathies to Bob’s family during this difficult time.

“Since the mid-1970’s Bob was a tireless leader who created community around a simple, shared and powerful vision,” said Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann. “To bring together grassroots community leaders from the African American, Asian American, Latino and disabled communities to both fight institutionalized discrimination and redlining and to proactively bring investments and opportunity into these communities. Bob was fearless. He and John Gamboa forced big banks and other institutions to listen, and brought billions of dollars in investment into communities that had been redlined.”

“Before racial and economic justice was a popular hashtag, Bob was bold enough to say what others wouldn’t and brave enough to do what most wouldn’t,” said Greenlining Board Co-Chair Tunua Thrash-Ntuk. “He wielded a pen and paper that was guided by his vast and unrivaled knowledge of our national economic and banking system. Coupled by his love of people, Bob never shrank in the face of the racial justice fight against outsized circumstance — be it a financially endowed CEO, a Federal Reserve Chairman or a powerful member of Congress or the Cabinet. His uncanny knack for strategy yielded Greenlining and the communities it serves countless wins that bent the arc of justice toward righteousness.”

A community luminary and longtime civil rights advocate, Gnaizda was one of the key leaders who put together the multi-ethnic racial and economic justice coalition that eventually became The Greenlining Institute in 1993. At first, he and fellow co-founder John Gamboa were the organization’s sole staff members, formulating a strategy that used the Community Reinvestment Act to push banks to lend and invest in long-redlined communities of color. His warnings about the growth of predatory lending in the early 2000s led to him being interviewed in the award-winning documentary about the 2008 crash, “Inside Job.”

“Bob is one of the most underappreciated civil rights leaders of our time because he never cared about being honored or celebrated, he cared about the work,” John Gamboa said.

“Bob Gnaizda was a social justice creative genius,” said Orson Aguilar, who led Greenlining after Gnaizda and Gamboa retired. “He mixed his vast legal skills with a creative organizing approach that often mixed baseball statistics with current and historic events. He always sought to uplift leaders of color and never backed away from talking about race. Nobody has worked harder than Bob to build a long-lasting, multi-ethnic coalition. Bob had an enormous spirit that will leave a long-lasting impact on all of us who were fortunate to have worked alongside him in our march towards social and racial justice.”

“Bob was a brilliant lawyer, advocate and comrade for social and economic equity for, with and in our communities,” said Ortensia Lopez, another co-founder and longtime Greenlining Institute board member. “Bob was always ahead of his times and always had great insights and strategies to address our issues. I am honored, privileged and thankful to have worked with him on so many issues.”

A private funeral for Robert Gnaizda will take place in Petaluma on Saturday, July 18, 2020. Plans for a public online memorial are being developed and will be announced later.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


Equitable Building Electrification: Energizing Community Needs

By Carmelita Miller
Facilities Management Journal

Building electrification is coming. As nations around the world grapple with climate change and carbon emission reductions, we see increasing recognition from governments and communities alike that the buildings where we live, work, and play represent a major part of the problem–and, therefore, the potential solution. Many localities are already taking steps to encourage switching from gas to clean, efficient, electric appliances for heating and cooking, particularly in new construction.

Transitioning from gas appliances and systems to electric options signals a significant change for the entire buildings sector. It’s critical that we get this right, because ultimately this will affect all communities and all types of facilities, from single-family homes to large apartment and office complexes, factories, hospitals, campuses and more. Facilities managers need to understand the ramifications of this transition and can play an important role in helping to guide it in a way that benefits all.

The Greenlining Institute examined the issues around electrification for our recent report, Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities. We found that in California, where we’re based the gas used in our buildings produces about one quarter of the state’s total CO2 emissions. As a result, over 50 U.S. localities from Maine to Seattle have either adopted or begun considering measures to spur a switch from gas to electricity, and that number continues to grow. According to the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, New York City has identified 175,000 buildings as prime candidates to switch to electric heating, and is working with its electric and gas utility, Consolidated Edison, along with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Mitsubishi Electric to start making it happen.

Although the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, other governments continue to set ambitious climate and CO2 reduction goals: For instance, the World Resources Institute reports that 46 countries around the globe have already offered specific policies to decarbonize buildings. Meanwhile, California is aiming for an entirely carbon neutral economy, and has committed to a completely carbon-free electric grid by 2045, maximizing the climate gains from building electrification.

Climate and Health Benefits of Electrification

Successful reduction of carbon and air pollution requires shifting towards clean electricity in businesses and homes — single-family houses and large apartment complexes alike. This shift presents the opportunity to achieve multiple objectives: cleaning the aging electric grid, increasing our buildings’ energy performance, and creating policies that align carbon reduction solutions with racial equity outcomes to help the most polluted and underinvested communities.

Today’s highly efficient electric heating technologies offer a cost-effective way to reduce pollution from the buildings sector. For example, using clean electricity in buildings, instead of gas, will reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by between 31 and 73 percent, depending on the size of the solar array and climate zone.

Combining a cleaner source of electricity with energy efficient heat pump technologies can unlock further cost savings and reduced bills. Electric heat and hot water technologies can save households and commercial facilities in energy costs over the life of the equipment, if installed as part of an overall energy efficiency retrofit and consumers take advantage of policies to access off-peak energy pricing. Over the life of a major facility, this can result in significant cost savings. Forgoing the costs to build, connect, and install gas lines and infrastructure in the first place can also reduce the cost of new construction.

Moving away from gas won’t just help reduce carbon emissions. It will also eliminate a major source of indoor air pollution. Burning gas releases nitrogen oxides and harmful

particulate matter. Prolonged exposure to these combustion byproducts can have serious long-term health impacts, especially for children and the elderly, such as triggering asthma attacks, decreasing overall lung function, and increasing chances of serious respiratory illness. This can be a particular concern for schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities and other facilities where vulnerable individuals may gather.

Environmental and Social Justice Communities

The transition away from gas will impact individuals and communities differently, depending on their situation. Renters, for example, will face different issues — and will tend to have less control — than homeowners or building owners. Clean energy movements of the past, including rooftop solar and energy efficiency, have primarily benefited those on the higher end of the income scale compared to those on the lower end, who face compounding barriers to access. Over time, continued reliance upon market-driven, trickle-down solutions that largely fail to deliver for underresourced communities has frayed trust between policymakers and the communities still waiting for their share of previously promised clean energy benefits.

At The Greenlining Institute, our work therefore focuses mainly on what the California Public Utilities Commission calls Environmental and Social Justice Communities. The CPUC defines ESJ communities as communities where residents are:

  • predominantly people of color or living on low incomes;
  • underrepresented in the policy setting or decision-making process;
  • subject to disproportionate impact from one or more environmental hazards; and
  • likely to experience disparate implementation of environmental regulations and socioeconomic investments.

These communities, typically composed of renters, have been mostly left out of clean energy solutions to date, despite often paying the highest prices proportionally in utility bills, transit, and overall health. To ensure that these communities actually benefit from the transition to building electrification, we must consciously design and implement electrification policies equitably.

Residents of ESJ communities face particular concerns as we transition away from gas. While affluent families can switch at their convenience from gas to electricity for heating and cooking — and indeed, some have begun to do so — ESJ communities typically don’t have that luxury. Residents of these communities experience multiple and often compounding economic barriers that make electrification nearly impossible if they are expected to go it alone. In California, for example, one-third of households lack sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. ESJ household budgets, in particular, simply cannot cover the upfront costs of new technology, equipment, and upgrades required to electrify a home.

However, ESJ communities will also be the hardest hit if they wind up as the last customers

served by the gas distribution system. With a dwindling number of customers to support an aging system, costs for individual customers, be they households or businesses, will increase. These costs will disproportionately fall on those who can least afford the risk of the significantly increased bills needed to support aging infrastructure and stranded assets.

The Equitable Building Electrification Framework

Equity begins by recognizing that not all communities have the same social and economic starting point. African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, immigrant communities of color, low-income communities and others have long suffered systemic exclusion from opportunities such as homeownership, educational attainment, high-road jobs, and the ability to live in a clean and healthy environment.

We developed the following five-step framework as a roadmap for various stakeholders. It presents a start-to-finish recipe for how the current goals of building electrification can align with producing healthy homes and safer buildings; creating high quality, local jobs that cannot be outsourced; and establishing stronger connections between everyday people and climate change policies and goals.

  • Step 1: Assess Community Needs. This should include understanding barriers preventing community members from electrifying their homes, residents’ knowledge levels regarding building electrification, and their specific needs, wishes, and concerns.
  • Step 2: Establish Community-Led Decision-Making. Rich community input and engagement strengthen the overall program design quality with stronger cultural competence, ensure local buy-in and investment, and deliver tangible local benefits rooted in the lived experiences of everyday people. Partner with community-based organizations to develop a decision-making process that ensures that decisions are based on community needs and priorities.
  • Step 3: Develop Metrics and a Plan for Tracking. Metrics should include both clean energy benefits like greenhouse gas reductions and community benefits such as local hires and residents’ ability to pay their energy bills without sacrificing other essential expenses.
  • Step 4: Ensure Funding and Program Leveraging. Current low-income energy programs often fail to deliver maximum benefits to all qualifying households due to short and unpredictable funding cycles, poor program design that inadequately reaches qualifying customers, or lack of coordination and integration with complementary programs.
  • Step 5: Improve Outcomes. Using the tracking and metrics plan described above, ensure that there is a continuous feedback loop to improve current and future programs’ reach and impact in ESJ communities. Consider adjustments to ensure the program reaches the people it seeks to reach and delivers the intended benefits.

Together we can usher in a just transition to a clean energy economy through building electrification, but this process requires deliberate and inclusive actions. This framework can be used by anyone interested in solving problems with a fresh perspective, removing barriers to participation in the clean energy economy, and bringing communities together around shared goals.

Moving Forward

The era of fossil fuels is coming to a close, as indeed it must in order to prevent climate catastrophe. The benefits of this transition can potentially extend far beyond climate to reduced energy costs, improved indoor air quality, and many thousands of new jobs. This shift will eventually encompass every type of building, from single family homes to small and large apartment complexes, commercial facilities, college campuses and more.

But decarbonizing our building stock will meet with resistance from gas utilities wanting to preserve market share, and implementing building electrification fairly and equitably presents significant challenges. Marginalized communities, such as what California calls Environmental and Social Justice Communities, face particular risks if policymakers do not take specific steps to ensure that their needs are considered and their voices are heard.

As more communities navigate this transition, the experience and expertise of facilities managers can play an important role in shaping this process and maximizing the benefits of building electrification for all involved.

Carmelita Miller is Energy Equity Legal Counsel at The Greenlining Institute and author of Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities

How banks aim to close racial wealth gap: More minorities in leadership

By Allissa Kline
American Banker

Calls for swift action to end systemic racism have gotten louder in the seven weeks since the death of George Floyd, and expectations have mounted for banks to play a major role — especially when it comes to closing the income gap between whites and Blacks.

But to do that, banks will need to get their own houses in order — including diversifying top leadership and middle-management ranks. New hiring and promotional policies could reshape banks’ understanding of local communities’ needs and expand who gets mortgages or small-business loans and which families build lasting wealth, according to sources inside and outside banks.

Including more people of color in bank management would diversify the flow of capital, said Malia Lazu, the chief experience and culture officer at Berkshire Hills Bancorp in Boston.

“That really could be revolutionary,” said Lazu, a former community organizer who joined the $13.1 billion-asset bank a year ago and oversees its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. “More people of color would own homes, which means they would have equity, which means they may be able to go to college or start a business with that equity. … When you think about who [banks] would make loans to, make investments to, make mortgages to, the ripple effects would be infinite.”

Efforts by several banks to diversify their workforces, leadership teams and boards of directors with more women and minorities have been underway for years. But the combination of the coronavirus pandemic’s heavier toll on minority communities and Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement has put pressure on banks and other businesses to do more — and do it faster. There is still a dearth of people of color in banking, which often means communities of color don’t have the same opportunities to develop wealth as white Americans do.

The main driver of income inequality in the U.S. is institutionalized racism, and more specifically redlining, said Adam Briones, the economic equity director at the Greenlining Institute, a public policy, research and advocacy nonprofit organization in Oakland, Calif. Redlining happens when banks refuse to make mortgage loans and provide other services to people based on race or ethnicity.

Because Blacks are systematically shut out of the way most Americans build net worth — homeownership — they can’t tap into that capital, much less pass it on to the next generation.

“Hard work is pretty evenly distributed among all Americans, but what’s not evenly distributed is what we inherit from our families, which our own individual merit or hard work plays no role in,” Briones said.

The result is a racial wealth gap. How deep is the divide? A 2019 report from the Institute for Policy Studies shows that the median wealth for Black families in 2016 was $3,557—about 2% of the median wealth owned by white families, which owned nearly $147,000 in the same year.

Omar Ocampo, a researcher at the institute, said recent numbers from the Federal Reserve’s Distributional Financial Accounts report show the gap persists. During the first quarter of this year, as wealth distribution among all groups in the U.S. declined by more than $6 trillion, the asset gap between white and Black families remained nearly unchanged, with Black families holding just 6% of the assets that whites own.

Ocampo said he is skeptical about whether the hiring and promotion of more Black professionals by banks will have any real impact on the gap. It may work, he said, if there are more Black decision-makers at banks.

“I think what really matters is, how do we redistribute the decision-making power?” he said.

Metrics, accountability at megabanks

Currently there are no people of color on the executive management teams leading three of the nation’s four largest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — which hold a combined $6 trillion in assets. The other, Citigroup, has one Black banker, Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason, on its 16-person executive management team.

The American Bankers Association, which represents banks of all sizes, not only encourages its members to review their diversity, equity and inclusion programs, but provides resources and services to do so.

In testimony given in February before the House diversity and inclusion subcommittee, Naomi Mercer, the ABA’s senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the industry “has made measurable progress in recent years to diversify its talent pool and leadership and to meet the needs of customers from all walks of life,” but acknowledged that the industry “still has work to do.”

In an interview with American Banker, Mercer said there needs to be accountability on diversity, equity and inclusion matters in order to enact change within an organization. In other words: measure things.

“We talk about measuring everything, not just visible diversity, and we talk about having programs and initiatives in place that analyze the outcomes of what you’ve done,” said Mercer, who joined the ABA in August 2019 after a 25-year military career during which she helped lead the Army’s gender integration program. “Because if you’re not analyzing it, how do you know if the program is effective or not?”

Some banks are already measuring diversity in the workplace. Last year, facing pressure from activist investors, New York-based Citi became the first banking company to disclose the pay gap between men and women across its global operations, with women earning 29% less than men. The $2.2 trillion-asset bank also said that among its U.S. employees, people of color earn 7% less than their white colleagues.

Citi also broke down its U.S. employees by race across all levels of the bank. As of September 2019, just 1.8% of executive and senior managers were Black. Of 66,739 total U.S. employees, 3.4% were Black men while 6.9% were Black women.

To meet its goals — such as making sure that Black and Hispanic colleagues fill 30% of the analyst and associate programs — Citi has embraced targeted recruiting, mentorship and skills development as well as employee affinity groups. It has also designed a compensation program that links executive pay to how well those leaders increase the number of women and U.S. minorities within the bank’s workforce.

JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are taking similar approaches. Last year JPMorgan, the largest bank in the country, with assets oof $3.2 trillion, said it plans to hire more than 4,000 Black students into full-time jobs, apprenticeships and internships over the next five years while also reviewing its recruiting practices, training, products and services and supplier diversity.

Through its Advancing Black Leaders program, which began in 2016, JPMorgan — which was the subject of a New York Times article in late 2019 that described discriminatory treatment of a Black adviser and customers in Arizona — has increased the number of Black professionals in its most senior ranks, raising the number of Black managing directors and executive directors by more than 50% over the last four years. In late June the company said it would cut ties with customers who are racially abusive to call center employees.

As part of Bank of America’s $1 billion pledge to help local communities address economic and racial inequality exacerbated by the pandemic, the $2.6 trillion-asset Charlotte, N.C.-based bank said it would focus on further recruiting and retaining employees in low- to moderate-income and disadvantaged communities. At the $2 trillion-asset Wells Fargo, CEO Charlie Scharf recently told employees that the San Francisco bank will double its Black leadership over the five years (it is currently at 6%) and tie year-end compensation decisions for top leaders to making progress in diversity representation and inclusion.

The Greenlining Institute applauded Wells Fargo’s compensation decision and wants to see more banks do the same thing. Briones said the group is asking other banks to “match or best” these sorts of decisions.

“We want to see competition for who can do better in addressing systemic inequality,” he said.

Efforts at regional, community banks

Greg Carmichael, chairman and CEO of Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati since 2015, said his $185 billion-asset organization already evaluates diversity and inclusion as part of executives’ compensation packages.

“If we’re not where we need to be and plans aren’t making progress, that’s reflected in compensation,” Carmichael said. “We absolutely make those adjustments accordingly.”

As part of a $32.5 billion “community commitment” plan announced in 2016, Fifth Third set out to increase diverse hiring as a way to generate a pipeline of leaders who reflect the communities it serves. Currently, people of color represent 10% of executive and senior managers, 18% of first and midlevel managers, 18% of professionals and 34% of the rest of the workforce, for a total of 26.5% of Fifth Third’s employee base.

Two divisions, commercial and small-business banking, are run by Black men. Carmichael said that Fifth Third has “a lot of work to do,” particularly in the middle layer of the 20,000-employee company where there’s a need for more women and people of color.

The company is partnering with more historically black colleges to recruit Black employees. This year, for the first time, it will publicly share the diversity and inclusion goals it has set for executives and managers.

Last year, Fifth Third raised its starting pay to $18 an hour, a move that is part of a strategy designed not only to attract and retain talent, but to help provide a better quality of life for hourly workers.

Combined with hiring and promoting more people of color, “that’s a way to trickle down through the organization to the next generation to make a difference in the community,” Carmichael said.

“It all goes hand in hand to create a higher standard of living for people,” he added.

Other banks are similarly paying more attention to who they hire and who they promote. Last week PNC Financial Services Group promoted two Black bankers to its executive team, three weeks after it pledged at least $1.05 billion to fight systemic racism. Part of the Pittsburgh company’s financial commitment is to recruit, retain and promote more Black employees.

Meanwhile, M&T Bank in Buffalo, N.Y., is pursuing “sustainable change” that starts with unpacking unconscious bias throughout the $124.6 billion-asset organization’s 17,000-person workforce, Chief Diversity Officer Glenn Jackson said. It is also undertaking journey mapping to help others understand the career paths of Black professionals and working to “reimagine community banking” to know the community in a better way, he said.

“It takes time, but it’s a sustained effort,” Jackson said. “If you just flipped a switch and change it, you haven’t evolved the culture and you haven’t evolved the system, and this is about systems changing.”

At National Cooperative Bank in Arlington, Va., a focus on hiring and promoting more minorities ramped up in February 2019 when the $2.7 billion-asset bank began a series of discussions and exercises on unconscious bias. From there came the formation of a 12-person fellows program that is in charge of implementing the bank’s diversity, equity and inclusion program. The fellows come from all sections of the bank.

John Holdsclaw IV, executive vice president of strategic initiatives, said the bank, which was created by Congress in 1978 and must make 35% of its loans to low- to moderate-income communities, is in the early stages of making changes that will include affinity groups and, perhaps one day, hiring goals for minorities.

One part of the equation for some banks has been to partner with Year Up, a national organization based in Boston that provides young adults ages 18 to 24 who have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, but no college degree, with 21 weeks of skills training and 26 weeks of internship experience at more than 250 top companies, including JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citi, Capital One Financial and Bank of New York Mellon.

Most of the students are low-income, and about 95% are minorities. Founder and CEO Gerald Chertavian, who started the organization in 2000, said financial services providers, which make up Year Up’s largest segment of clients, have an opportunity to play a big role in reducing income inequality.

“When you have a good job where you can take care of your family and buy a home and give your children what they need, that’s how you reduce the wealth gap in this country,” Chertavian said. “[And] how you make this country more equal economically is by giving people more opportunity to move up and be economically mobile.”

But first banks, and all businesses, have to ask themselves some hard questions.

“What are the practices we have in place to recruit and hire individuals [from diverse backgrounds] and also retain and promote them as well?” Chertavian said. “Where are we looking for talent, and what barriers are we putting in the way that might prevent folks from ever being seen in the first place?”

At Berkshire Hills Bancorp, Lazu and her team are starting to ask those questions. About six months ago, the bank hired a recruiter to connect with people of color about job opportunities.

The pandemic has put a hold on the bank’s hiring for now, but Lazu is optimistic that the recruiter will tap into candidates who might have been overlooked in the past. Employing more people of color — and making them feel empowered within the organization — will open up new business opportunities and more.

“The product set will be different. The way we think about marketing will be different,” Lazu said. “You would also see more empathetic management, more management … knowing they need to stop and take a moment for George Floyd.”

California’s Diverse Communities Need Real Solutions to the Housing Crisis

By Adam Briones
Los Angeles Daily News

California is in the midst of a profound housing crisis. While reasonable people can debate solutions, no one can argue that today’s housing market works for anyone but millionaires. Even before the COVID-19 recession, skyrocketing rents made it difficult for even middle-income Californians to make ends meet, and astronomical home prices have pushed the dream of homeownership almost completely out of reach for people of color.

For too long California has failed to deliver the kind of effective housing reforms our diverse communities need. Rather than reasonable solutions, a stark ideological choice is often presented to voters: you can support more targeted low-income housing or the production of market-rate housing, but not both. If we want to remain a growing state that welcomes everyone, we need to move beyond simplistic narratives and accept that our state needs all kinds of housing for all kinds of Californians. At the same time, we also need to recognize that Black, Asian American, Latino and other communities of color were purposefully blocked from the way in which most American families have built wealth—homeownership.

Beginning in the 1930s, public and private sector leaders prevented diverse families from renting or buying into White neighborhoods, otherwise known as redlining. When courts invalidated explicitly racist laws decades later, cities and towns across the country restricted the construction of multifamily housing — a more legally defensible way to keep out families that might “change the neighborhood character.” Since systemic racism requires systemic solutions, any path out of our housing crisis has to address the wealth that was stolen from our communities and what reparations could look like.

Today’s housing crisis has profoundly impacted people of color, which make up more than 60 percent of our population. Our state has six of the nation’s 11 most expensive large metropolitan rental markets and more than two-thirds of Californians facing unaffordable housing costs are people of color. The average rent in Los Angeles has jumped 65 percent since 2010 and the real estate research firm CoStar noted in April that “the coronavirus outbreak won’t fundamentally alter Southern California’s severe housing shortage, which continually tilts the playing field in favor of landlords and owners.” The result is low-income, often immigrant families across the state living in unsafe, overcrowded homes, with no path to homeownership.

First, we must dramatically increase targeted affordable housing resources to help very low-income families and those experiencing homelessness. The private market will never adequately serve these folks and it’s important we make that explicit.  At the same time, making the process to build quality housing fairer will lead to more affordable rents and home prices for the nine out of ten Californians who live in market-rate housing. For this to happen we need our elected leaders to pass legislation that will support diverse housing types and end “one-size-fits-all” building restrictions. A number of important bills in Senate President Pro Tem Atkins’ housing production package can help. Senate Bill 902 and Senate Bill 1120, among other current bills, will help create more of the small-scale housing development California needs and they should receive strong support. But more needs to be done to address affordable homeownership.

Earlier this month, Assembly Bill 3155, a bill focused on creating more entry-level homeownership opportunities by streamlining the creation of smaller projects, was sidelined in the Assembly. Specifically, it would have made it easier to build developments with 10 or fewer units—the kind of projects corporate builders turn down but that are a good fit for small firms owned by people of color and immigrants. While that bill is dead, the principles can and should still be incorporated by Pro Tem Atkins into existing legislation, including speeding the creation of smaller buildings aimed at working-class homebuyers.

Public policy excluded people of color from neighborhoods and homeownership opportunities for generations, contributing to a wealth gap where Black and Latino families have only ten percent of the wealth white families have. By 2040, our state will be 70 percent people of color and our leaders must ensure greater opportunities for affordable rents and homeownership now and in the future. There is no excuse for further delay.

Adam Briones is the Director of Economic Equity at The Greenlining Institute, a policy, research, organizing, and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice.

Greenlining Applauds Small Business Relief in California Budget

Assistance Marks “Ray of Sunshine in a Rough Year”

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The new state budget about to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom provides important relief for hard-hit small businesses, The Greenlining Institute said today. The help will be especially important for entrepreneurs who are people of color or women.

The budget includes $100 million to support the California Industrial Bank’s loan guarantee program that provides financial assistance to small businesses. It also expands of the first-year exemption from the $800 Minimum Franchise Tax normally required of LLCs, a provision which sunsets in three years. The LLC fee waiver will boost small business creation by low and moderate-income entrepreneurs, who tend to be disproportionately people of color and women, by giving them the same ability as wealthy entrepreneurs to protect their personal assets in case their business fails.

“These provisions represent some small rays of sunshine in a really tough budget year,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “As our state faces one of the worst economic crises we have seen in a decade due to COVID-19, and the racial wealth gap only continues to grow, it’s more important than ever that small businesses owned by low-income people of color have all the help they can get in both building new assets and protecting what they have. Ultimately, this means more jobs and prosperity in communities dealing with unprecedented economic challenges.

“We want to thank Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, who is a continual champion for California’s vulnerable, diverse small businesses, for his important leadership on these issues.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


Transit Cops Could Lead Police Reforms

By Joann Muller

Urban transit agencies are rethinking how they prevent crime and maintain order following nationwide protests over racial bias and police brutality in the death of George Floyd and others.

Why it matters: Transit police — an often overlooked arm of law enforcement — are the ultimate beat cops. They’re positioned as potential leaders in the effort to defuse anger and rebuild trust in cities where there’s renewed interest in the concept of community policing.

Instead of treating fare evasion or homelessness with arrests and prosecution, some transit agencies are experimenting with more compassionate responses to try to address the root causes of those problems.

  • At the same time, agency officials argue a strong police presence is necessary to prevent serious crime and to boost declining ridership.

Context: Even before COVID-19, public transit ridership was falling, due in part to competition from Uber and Lyft, but also because of safety concerns. Many transit systems have sought to beef up their police presence to soothe passengers’ worries.

  • New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for example, in December voted to boost the police presence in the subway by 20% over the next four years.
  • But critics say a crackdown on fare-jumpers and homeless individuals looking for shelter in stations often targets people of color and low-income people.
    • One example: In February, Metro Transit Police in Washington, D.C., came under fire for handcuffing and arresting a 13-year-old boy, renewing complaints that they unnecessarily target black passengers for detainment and questioning.
    • “Fare enforcement essentially is criminalizing being low income. And you can say exactly the same thing about transit police who are charged with clearing out homeless passengers,” said Hana Creger of the non-profit Greenlining Institute, which focuses on economic and racial justice.
    • “These are just Band-Aid solutions for much deeper, much more entrenched problems than policing can actually solve.”

    What’s happening: Some transit agencies agree and are taking steps to defund their police budgets or adopt new approaches.

    TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s tri-county regional transit agency, announced this week it is cutting six police officer positions and shifting $1.8 million of its $16.2 million police budget to other community-based public safety efforts.

    • It will launch community-wide listening sessions and create an expert advisory panel on how to provide bias-free transit security.
    • TriMet will also begin piloting nonpolice solutions, such as mobile crisis intervention teams for mental and behavioral health issues.
    • The changes came after an independent review board recently found a lack of accountability by its multi-agency Transit Police and after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler yanked the city’s officers from the transit agency’s police force.

In Philadelphia, transit police have begun using smartphones to stop fare evaders, a common problem that often leads to more serious offenses, Tom Nestel, chief of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), tells Axios.

  • How it works: When someone jumps a turnstile, the cashier alerts a SEPTA officer, who downloads video footage of the offender and blasts it out to the cell phones of other SEPTA officers waiting at stations downstream for the train to arrive.
  • If the accused gets defensive, the officers show them video proof, which Nestel called “a tremendous de-escalation tool.”
  • Instead of a $300 penalty, fare-jumpers get a $25 fine and another chance. If they’re caught skipping the fare four times, they’re banned from the SEPTA system and funneled into social service agencies to help with underlying problems like poverty or drug addiction.

The bottom line: As with any beat officer, transit cops’ daily engagement with the people who pass through their stations can keep more serious problems at bay, says Nestel.

On Juneteenth, Black Leaders Detail Lingering Obstacles to Change

‘It will take more than a holiday’: Incarceration, environmental degradation, lack of investment highlighted.

On June 19, 1865, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston and issued General Orders, Number 3, which enforced the proclamation that all slaves were free. African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth since 1866, and there is momentum to make it a federal holiday.

The murder of George Floyd is the latest painful reminder that the simple act of ending slavery did not create equal citizenship for African Americans. On major issues of citizenship such as criminal justice, environmental justice, and economic fairness, Black people are still waiting.

In terms of criminal justice, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts, and, although Black people make up 13% of the population, 30% of blacks in America are on probation or parole. Supervisor Shamann Walton, whose District 10 includes Bayview Hunters Point, experienced the criminal justice system firsthand through juvenile hall. He’s working to create lasting criminal justice and police reform with specific legislation and a plan, announced with Mayor London Breed, to redirect police funds to Black community initiatives.

“It starts with Juvenile Hall,” Walton said. “They are preparing young people for county jail. It’s a feeder into the prison system.”

“Mass incarceration is a continuation of slavery. They tried to keep black people from reproducing. And in the 80s and 90s, the war on drugs kept black people behind bars, which is definitely another form of slavery.”

“Then the prison industrial complex created free labor. It’s to abuse the oppressed for economic gains.”

Dalila Adofo, Bayview Hunters Point Community Air Monitoring Project Coordinator for Greenaction, finds proof of racial injustice in the quality of the air, water and earth that African American communities are born into. The leading indicator for living near waste dumps, toxic sites, and polluting freeways is race. (A recent study showed that climate change and environmental factors put pregnant Black women the most at risk.)

“Balance is key to me,” Adofo said. “When you look at nature you need balance. You need the right amount of soil and water and sunlight for gardening. We need a balanced diet to thrive.”

“There are plenty of resources—the need to be better or look better or be above other people is what messes everything up. The divisiveness has never worked. We have to be brave and strong and willing enough to envision a balance where everyone can thrive.”

Debra Gore-Mann, President and CEO of the Greenlining Institute in Oakland, which has worked on dismantling structural racism through equity-driven policy solutions, coalition-building, and corporate accountability for the past 27 years, believes “this is the moment to demand an end to racism in every corner of society and to hold those who deny us justice accountable.”

“We a need to continue to embrace solutions to transform the ways we invest in housing, education, employment and healthcare within our Black communities,” Gore-Mann said. “And finally, let us acknowledge that America was built on slavery, and the depth of it, and the trauma it caused and the wealth it created.”

When the “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa accumulated wealth fairly, however, the black community was met with fear, violence and the worst race massacre in US history.

“For centuries Black and Brown communities have been ravaged by the devastating impact of racist policies rooted in anti-Blackness,” Gore-Mann said. “The time has come to transform how our country addresses racism.”

Many protests, rallies and educational opportunities will mark Juneteenth in the Bay Area, including a massive shutdown of ports on the West Coast led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. In terms of what Juneteenth can accomplish if it’s the one day a year the country seriously considers the legacy of slavery, though, the experts were unequivocal.

“The change is going to take more than a holiday,” Walton said. “We need real restructuring. Officers need to be convicted.”

“This should be every day,” Adofo said. “This is not a quick fix. This is generations of pain and hurt and being ignored.”

“My grandpa and I just talked about him being beaten in the Watts riots. These big movements have their place, but the needle won’t move unless people are having dinner conversations or work break conversations. If this is just marches, the needle will not move. If you’re serious about being an ally, it’s every day.”

Gore-Mann said The Greenlining Institute recently visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, both created by the Equal Justice Initiative.

“From the perspective of the memorial and museum, our whole racial past is tied up in and connected to slavery,” Debra Gore-Mann said.  “Juneteenth represents the emancipation from slavery.”

“We hope that the growing popularity of Juneteenth signifies a level of maturity by many Americans that the celebration of black achievement and black contributions is long overdue.”

Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide

By Gissela Moya

As COVID-19 has pushed many Americans online to work and attend school, we hear a lot about Zoom fatigue and other annoyances. But what about the tens of millions of Americans who either have only limited internet access at home, or no access at all?

Lack of internet access in some households and communities has long been a national problem. The pandemic has turned it into a national crisis.

It’s time to close our nation’s digital divide.

Millions of American can access the internet only through smartphones. That’s better than nothing, but plagued by serious limitations: Data caps and slower speeds greatly limit what users can do. And some important tasks — like filling out complex applications for employment or college admission — are much harder, given the limits of a tiny touch screen.

The nonprofit group where I work has been talking to folks here in California and elsewhere about life on the wrong side of the digital divide, which makes everything harder, especially education. We spoke to a high school student taking business classes who struggles to create and upload web design assignments on her smartphone, and an older woman who had to drop out of a professional management course because she had no way to do the course work online.

Fabiola Espitia, a counselor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., told us about a recent high school graduate she counseled who couldn’t take an Advanced Placement exam due to lack of internet access. Others had their education disrupted when the pandemic forced the closing of a campus library, their only internet connection.

Unsurprisingly, the digital divide mirrors economic and racial ones. Last year, a Pew Research survey found distinct patterns in who lacks internet access at home. While 92% of families with a household income of $75,000 or more have a home broadband connection, that figure drops to 56% for incomes of $30,000 and below. While 79% of white households have a home internet connection, just 66% of black households and 61% of Latino households do.

Lack of internet access is a problem in urban and suburban homes, as well as in rural communities. And it is especially destructive when it comes to education. Overall, approximately 12 million students nationwide are affected by this digital divide, putting their futures at risk.

“Schools have shuttered and more than 50 million students have been told to head online for class,” wrote Jessica Rosenworce, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, while dissenting from the rosy conclusions reached by the FCC’s Republican majority in its annual Broadband Deployment Report. “This pandemic has demonstrated conclusively that broadband is no longer nice-to-have. It’s need-to-have.”

COVID-19 has shown us that the digital divide isn’t sustainable if we want all Americans to have a fair shot at success.

The FCC needs to do more to bridge the digital divide, especially in urban and suburban homes. Congress must act swiftly and decisively by providing federal funding to build a future-proof, all-fiber network that reaches every household in the nation, and eliminating state-level bans on communities building their own networks.

Ensuring that everyone in the United States has access to robust, affordable, high-speed internet access should be a national priority.

Gissela Moya is the Manny Garcia Technology Equity Fellow at The Greenlining Institute and co-author of Greenlining’s recent report, “On the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide.” This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Greenlining Institute Hails Wells Fargo Move to Link Executive Pay, Diversity Progress

Urges Other Banks to Follow Suit

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

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute praised this week’s announcement  by Wells Fargo that it will take a series of concrete steps to boost diversity at decision-making levels, including tying executive pay to progress on diversity goals and creating a new diversity and inclusion position that will report directly to the CEO. The specific goals announced include doubling the percentage of Black leaders in senior management, currently reported to be six percent.

“This is what real leadership looks like, and other banks and large corporations need to follow suit,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “Over the years we’ve heard lots of positive rhetoric about diversity and inclusion, but experience shows that the only way to make real progress is through specific goals and an implementation process that has teeth. This should be a model for all banks and other corporations.”

Over the years, Greenlining’s research has found that while many banks have considerable diversity among relatively low-level employees, that diversity declines sharply at the senior management and board levels, where key decisions are made.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


This Urban Planner Has the Keys to a Safe Commute after COVID

By Adrienne Day

Mass transit is in crisis. Ridership has evaporated alongside confidence in a safe commute, and cities like New York are facing billions in transit-budget shortfalls. People who can afford cars are relying on them more than ever, a brewing environmental (and traffic) disaster. The solution is to get people riding again — but how do we do that when public transit still feels risky?

Urban planner, community activist, and 2019 Grist 50 Fixer Alvaro S. Sanchez has long promoted legislation to provide free public transportation for students, seniors, and other marginalized populations. This will be part of the systemic changes required to make transit safe for everyone (fare disputes are the number one reason transit operators call cops, Sanchez says).

“In the context of COVID,” he says, “we should be asking, ‘Who are the most vulnerable people using these services, and how can we make it the most accessible for them?’”

The coronavirus elevated the stakes, but Sanchez’s vision for safe, affordable public transport hasn’t changed. In this conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, he sketched out what that might look like.

Bring confidence to riders

Today, people need to feel a sense of security when taking public transit. I think a clear demonstration that transportation workers, who are often people of color, have access to PPE and are being protected from harmful situations will go a long way toward making riders feel confident that they can ride and not be exposed to the coronavirus. That could also help generate jobs for “attendants,” who could distribute masks and hand sanitizer and keep buses from getting too crowded.

Make the local connection

Then there’s the “first-mile, last-mile” issue, where public transit doesn’t get you exactly where you need to go. Pre-COVID, micro-mobility — such as scooter shares or bike shares — was really starting to play a role in the way that we connect people to mass transit. But there are some really big equity considerations around those technologies. For example, many require a credit card and smartphone to use them.

California is experimenting with both ride- and car-share programs. BlueLA uses electric vehicles and subsidizes its membership fees for low-income individuals. And EV ride-share service Green Raiteros connects mostly Latino and agricultural families in rural parts of the Central Valley to Fresno. Those programs have actually been very successful at replacing the need for those families to buy a car.

Help one, help all

A useful framework here is the idea of “targeted universalism,” something designed to help a subset of people that actually helps everybody. You could think of it as the curb-cut effect. Designing our sidewalks with curb cuts — the small ramps from a sidewalk to the street found at most intersections — allow people with decreased mobility to use streets safely. But it also helps people with strollers or shopping carts. It helps people on skateboards. It helps many people, even though the primary beneficiaries were people using wheelchairs.

These are the types of things to consider when I think what it would look like to develop a transportation system that all members of the black community felt they could use, without being exposed to police violence or discrimination. I would imagine that everybody else is going to feel really safe in that same transportation system. We need this in order to avoid a dystopian future where everybody’s going to just jump in their cars to get where they need to go.