SANE Clarifies Role of CBA in Milwaukee

November 18, 2008 -- Partnership for Working Families

By Mark Spadafore, SANE Executive Director & Jean Kessner, SANE Board Member

Letter to the Editor sent to Syracuse Newspapers on Friday, October 24th, 2008

The Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy applauds the Syracuse Newspapers for focusing on how the City of Milwaukee removed its elevated highway in favor of a local road (“Tear Down Route 81?” by Greg Munno – Tuesday October 21 Syracuse Newspapers). However, what’s missing from the Onondaga Citizen’s League study and from the article is that when Milwaukee redeveloped the Park East area, it signed a community benefits agreement for the redevelopment.

The resulting Park East Redevelopment Compact CBA (PERC) applies to sixteen acres of county land and requires developers to provide prevailing wages for construction jobs, incorporate green design elements for buildings, and implement job training programs. The plan also requires the county to provide affordable housing and contribute to various community programs, such as programs to train and find placements for minority workers. Additionally, the agreement set up a Community and Economic Development Fund to be financed by land sales. The fund is to support the Community Advisory Board, which will oversee and monitor the implementation of the PERC.

The best part about what happened in Milwaukee was that the local community now has an active role in the redevelopment of that area. Similar to what happens in many cities like Milwaukee, development was considered “an exclusive affair.” According to a report generated on the PERC:

“Despite the compelling needs of residents and the presence of progressive and engaged community organizations, development in Milwaukee has been primarily an exclusive affair. Community organizations argue that their input in development has been limited, approval procedures are difficult to understand, and that ‘there is an unbelievable amount of access among a small handful of developers’ to city officials.”

So in Milwaukee, the Good Jobs & Livable Neighborhoods Coalition, a community coalition made up of labor, religious organizations, low-income women and families, neighborhood organizations and other constituencies, lead a campaign to stipulate that the community would benefit from good jobs, affordable housing, local hiring and training, environmental mitigations and community services. But the most important victory was that local citizens were required to be engaged in the development process.

We can do the same thing here in Syracuse. We should honor the history of the 15th Ward and how it was torn apart by Route 81. We the have the opportunity to right a historical wrong; to provide a voice, through a community benefits agreement, for the people most affected by large-scale development projects. All of Syracuse can win – if we do it right and we do it now!

For more information, contact Mark Spadafore at or visit our website at