12 Days in the Life of CPI

March 21, 2008 -- Center on Policy Initiatives

By Donald Cohen, CPI Executive Director

We're used to a fast pace at CPI.  But we outdid ourselves during a recent 12-day stretch: We published new research, won new policy at City Hall, involved hundreds of people in a complex policy campaign, and maintained almost daily presence in local media.  The following chronology provides a picture of the work of CPI’s fantastic eight-person staff and demonstrates the media, policy and organizing impact we are having in San Diego.

On Thursday, Feb 28th, CPI released an industry analysis of campaign contributions in upcoming city elections, showing the real estate and development industry greatly outspending all others.  The analysis is based on our Follow the Money searchable database of contributions to local candidates, which has been recently updated to include all current campaign filings.  Voters need to know where candidates get their money and how this might influence their positions on the creation of quality jobs, accountable development, and equitable economies.  This service makes it easy to search and sort through the reported contributions.

Some of the media coverage:

On Friday, Feb 29th, CPI released Making Ends Meet, the 2008 version of our self-sufficiency wage calculations for individuals and various size families living in San Diego.  As the study reveals, the cost of living in San Diego County has far outpaced the region’s stagnant income growth.  Wages for many workers are not sufficient to cover basic household budgets without assistance.  Making Ends Meet tells the story of workers who are struggling to sustain their families and highlights the need for policymakers to implement policies that create wage growth across industries.

Some of the media coverage:

On Monday, March 3rd, CPI Research and Policy Director Murtaza Baxamusa fielded calls from five reporters on five different local subjects: the Mayor’s budgetary proposals on city service levels, the tourism industry, the impact of commodity prices on the economy, the upcoming local elections, and economic prosperity for low-wage workers.  One radio reporter said she couldn't quote him because CPI has had too much air time lately.

Some of the resulting media coverage:

On Wednesday, March 5th, CPI organized testimony before the City Council Budget Committee on two separate topics: strengthening the City’s Living Wage enforcement program and the City’s inadequate measurements of service levels.  CPI brought workers and leaders of the faith community to the meeting to tell Council members that many of the City’s contractors are failing to fully implement the required Living Wage.  As a result, the Committee directed staff to prepare strengthening legislation.  In addition, CPI Research Analyst Corinne Wilson, gave a presentation showing how the mayor’s privatization program could lead to deterioration of city service quality without having accurate measures of services before being contracted out.

Some of the media coverage:

On Friday, March 7th, while finalizing the editing and design of a new report on the overuse of temporary workers in RiversideCounty, to be published later this month, we also prepared an op-ed on how San Diego should plan for economic prosperity.  The op-ed, “Stop Subsidizing Economic Doom,” by Murtaza Baxamusa, CPI Research and Policy Director, makes the case that the City of San Diego must step back and reevaluate its failed economic development strategy from the past decade and build a strong local economy that maintains a family-sustaining standard of living for all working families.

On Monday, March 10th, working with our coalition partners, CPI organized more than 100 people to a rally and city council hearing calling for Living Wages to be included in the City’s land use blueprint for the next 20 years.  The council passed our proposals, using the more specific terminology, "self-sufficient wages," by a vote of 5 – 2.

Some of the media coverage:

It was a great week and a half!  And things haven't slowed down since then, as we are plunging into battle with the Mayor over his plan to privatize many city jobs.  Through all of our research, communications and advocacy work, CPI is keeping the needs of working families front and center.