Community Benefits Agreement News Weekly Roundup

February 28, 2014 -- Partnership for Working Families

Coatesville adopts development agreementsCoatesville, PA Daily Local News

Local Policies That Work for WorkersNY Times

Far-sighted cities around the world are adopting an improved process for ensuring that all residents benefit from infrastructure investmentsThe Toronto Star



Coatesville adopts development agreements

Coatesville, PA Daily Local News

By Kristina Scala


COATESVILLE — Coatesville City Council, eager to increase their financially unstable tax base, is now entertaining the possible establishment of a Community Benefits Agreement with future developers. “The enemy of Coatesville revitalization is time and if we fail to act, shame on us,” City Council Vice President David Collins said. “We have an opportunity now to start something. We can either start something now ... or we can procrastinate.”

State Senator Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, recently partnered with the city and community leaders to host a public forum on Feb. 27 at 7:15 p.m. at Lincoln University’s Coatesville campus, 351 Kersey Street, to address community needs and concerns. Dinniman said he is concerned the community and local business owners are being left out of the redevelopment picture for Coatesville.

“I can tell you that what I have seen again and again occur — from whether it’s the state or it’s the county — that they will do their RFPs and they will hire politically connected engineers, architects and developers who will come into Coatesville (will build), but who are not concerned or have as their aim to build a community as well as to build a building,” Dinniman said.

He is pushing the city to form and enforce written agreements with developers for local jobs, job training and internships for students. He mentioned a handful of other opportunities that would better the Coatesville community to give the city “a chance for success.” “The community forum is simply a first step to gather ideas,” Dinniman said. “I hope this will eventually evolve into a community benefits agreement as these projects go forward.”

Collins called Dinniman’s proposal a “win-win” situation for the city. He said he is on board for taking steps to establish a community benefits agreement to present to developers. “It’s a partnership,” he said. “It’s not something that is forced down their throat. It’s a negotiated agreement.”

City Council member Ed Simpson does not see Dinniman’s proposal as an initiative that will completely benefit the city. He said he was concerned some of the agreement items proposed by Dinniman might not be helpful since the city has a difficult time attracting developers. “I understand that Senator Dinniman is trying to do what he feels is necessary for the citizens of Coatesville,” Simpson said. “Unfortunately, I think there needs to be more thought put into what he is trying to do.” He said city council should further assess the idea before moving forward on it.

Simpson said he agrees city council should hold the forum to better understand the needs of the community, but city council needs to take a deeper look at initiatives that would benefit all parties. “Coatesville is the only area in Chester County that hasn’t progressed in 20 years,” Simpson said. “When we extend our hand out, like Mr. Dinniman is doing, we should start thinking about putting our hand out as a greeting to welcome people in, not asking for something.”

David N. Sciocchetti, urban development consultant with Chester County Economic Development Council, said Coatesville needs business development to “enhance its tax base.” “There is a desire and a need for new development (in Coatesville),” Sciocchetti said, supportive of the city possibly forming a CBA. “Clearly, that desire and need has to be balanced against what’s also good for the rest of the community.”

Creating a successful CBA depends on various factors in both community and developer needs. The city would need to structure an agreement that will benefit both parties, but there is room for negotiation, he said. “Most developers looking to work cooperatively with community,” Sciocchetti said. “If the community is working with them, generally a lot is accomplished.” The city has other options to explore other than establishing a CBA. “If you just keep in mind that this is a partnership that the developer is looking to achieve his goal” and the city is looking for development that will benefit the city as much as possible, Sciocchetti said.

Agreements, or partnerships, similar to CBAs are structured differently throughout the county. It might not have a designated title, but municipalities form “a wide range of those types of agreements and those partnerships” with developers to ensure certain needs of community members are met, he said.

“I think (the city should) want to reach the happy medium where everyone walks away feeling like it’s a good thing.”

According to Simpson, establishing job programs and training might be an additional cost to the city. He asked if the state will provide the city with funds to develop the job programs Dinniman is proposing. “If you come up with a plan and put it together Mr. Simpson,” Dinniman said. “There are so many programs out there to provide you with funding. You have the economic development council, which is sitting there with funds. But you are not going to get anywhere until you insist that there be a plan.”

Simpson said he is for pushing this initiative through in Coatesville if Dinniman takes steps to implement a similar program on the state level. “He can’t just force the city to do something,” said Simpson. “(Dinniman) needs to take a step and do it on his level which is the state level. He needs to put up or shut up.”


Local Policies That Work for Workers

NY Times

February 24, 2014

By Nancy Folbre

For years, activists who pushed hard for local policies to improve low-wage jobs feared that their small successes would have only marginal effects. But now, as the debate over proposed increases in the federal minimum wage heats up, their grit and determination may pay off. In her essay in a new edited volume, “What Works for Workers?,” Stephanie Luce points out that more than 125 living-wage ordinances have been put into place since Baltimore first implemented one in 1994. While the number of workers directly affected has been relatively small, no ill economic effects have been documented, and the political demonstration aspect of it has been heartening.

The patchwork of local victories has educated voters about the issues, helping explain why a poll conducted by CBS News in mid-January found that 72 percent of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The patchwork also created valuable points of comparison for assessment of economic consequences.

Variations in state policy provided a natural experiment, making it possible to evaluate employment growth among low-wage companies close to state boundaries where the minimum was raised on one side but not the other. The results showed no negative employment impacts. Analysis of the same variations reveals significant reductions in employee turnover in the first nine months after a minimum-wage increase, a factor that increases efficiency and helps compensate for increased costs.

In 2004, San Francisco implemented a generous citywide minimum wage (currently $10.74 an hour). Yet as a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek points out, local economic growth hasn’t suffered. Both overall private employment and employment among food service workers grew more rapidly there than in neighboring counties between 2004 and 2011. In a powerfully symbolic move, Gap Inc. announced last week that it was increasing its national pay scale to bring it in line with the minimum wage in San Francisco, where its headquarters are.

San Francisco has long been in the vanguard of progressive local policy efforts, analyzed in considerable detail in a new book, “When Mandates Work” (the basis for the Businessweek article cited above). In addition to the citywide minimum wage, an innovative quality standards program for employees at San Francisco International Airport in 2000 increased wages and increased education and training requirements to improve airport security and customer service. The sharp reductions in turnover that resulted make the program an exceptional exemplar of “high road” employment strategy.

The city also took steps to improve a more personal sector of the economy, using Medicaid funds to provide home care for more older people and individuals with disabilities. It did this while creating an institutional framework allowing home care workers to unionize, earn higher wages and gain access to health insurance. A similar framework has now been adopted in 12 other states, including Oregon and Washington. Negotiations with real estate developers in the city also moved in a creative direction, with community benefit agreements that established legally binding conditions for the redevelopment of the Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point setting targets for affordable housing and job creation.

Other innovations pioneered in San Francisco include domestic partner benefits, an ordinance on paid sick leave, health spending requirements that anticipated some features of the Affordable Care Act, and improved enforcement of labor standards. “San Francisco may be unique in the unusual scope of these employer mandates,” explain the book’s editors, Miranda Dietz, Ken Jacobs and Michael Reich. “But it is not unique in the economic conditions that created the need for the policies or in the efforts of labor and community coalitions and local governments to address them.”

Indeed, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, who campaigned on his commitment to reduce inequality, may want to look west. The Bay Area has set an impressive example.

Nancy Folbre is professor emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Far-sighted cities around the world are adopting an improved process for ensuring that all residents benefit from infrastructure investments

The Toronto Star

By: Colette Murphy Executive Director, Atkinson Foundation

Feb 24 2014

What if . . . . . . we expected — and got — more from public infrastructure investments? Many cities are making substantial investments in themselves. Like Toronto, they’re making multi-million-dollar deals to extend transit systems, improve social housing stock, restore architectural treasures and build community facilities. Some are no longer satisfied, however, with the traditional contracting process. Los Angeles, Edinburgh, New York and others expect more — more for their money, more for residents, and more of themselves and their partners.

These far-sighted cities expect developers and civic coalitions to negotiate Community Benefit Agreements as a first step in the planning process. CBAs are legally binding contracts. They define the benefits residents will receive from the development, such as local hiring and training programs, living wage guarantees and affordable housing. They single out groups who are not already benefiting from the city’s growth — young workers, newcomers, foreign-trained professionals and low-income communities — and send opportunities their way.

How would your idea transform the city?

CBAs demand a disciplined process for finding common ground and strategizing to deliver the highest returns. They earn community support for development projects, diffuse opposition, and build the reserves of trust, skill and resolve needed to tackle other complex issues.

Toronto is becoming a city that expects more — and gets more — from urban redevelopment initiatives. Metrolinx and the Toronto Community Benefits Network, an alliance of residents, labour, and community groups, are currently negotiating a CBA for the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT. It’s leading to a smarter strategy for investing provincial dollars, creating apprenticeships and jobs for low-income communities, support for affected neighbourhoods and world-class infrastructure.

How much would your idea cost?

It’s not about new money. It’s about working differently with the resources already on the table, and building a broad base of supporters. Unlike old-style backroom deal-making and shallow public consultations, this process empowers everyone who has a stake in the outcome and sets their sights higher. It counters the cynical view of development as serving only a select few with real evidence that it can serve us all. CBAs have the potential to help make Toronto more cohesive, more prosperous and more equitable at the same time.