How Six Cities Are Pursuing Equity and Innovation in Economic Development

The participants in NLC’s Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellowship are tackling unemployment, low income levels, and workforce-related issues in their communities – but each city is employing different tactics.

This week, NLC staff is heading to Houston, one of six cities in our inaugural class of EED Fellowship participants. Our plan is to further provide technical assistance to help the city pursue economic development goals. (Getty Images)

This week, NLC staff is heading to Houston, one of six cities in our inaugural class of EED Fellowship participants. Our plan is to further provide technical assistance to help the city pursue economic development goals. (Getty Images)

The need for equitable economic development programs is dire. The National League of Cities‘ (NLC) new president, Matt Zone, councilmember from Cleveland, Ohio, launched a new NLC Task Force on Economic Mobility and Opportunity at City Summit in Pittsburgh towards the end of last year. According to the Brookings Institute, states and localities spend $50 to $80 billion on tax breaks and incentives each year in the name of economic development, despite a mountain of evidence showing that tax incentives produce mostly marginal returns. These traditional approaches to economic development by local governments have not benefited all populations – and, in many cases, the policies and programs have particularly neglected or even shortchanged people of color, immigrants, and low income communities. Cities need to be intentional about targeting their economic development programs, funding and policies at the specific populations and neighborhoods that are increasingly distant from the growth sectors of their regional and city economies.

To that end, the National League of Cities (NLC), together with PolicyLink and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), launched the Equitable Economic Development (EED) Fellowship last year with the generous support of the Surdna and Open Societies Foundations. Specifically, the EED Fellowship provides one year of technical assistance to a class of six cities to help them pursue more equitable and inclusive economic development policies and programs in traditionally underserved communities – those that have the highest levels of unemployment, lowest levels of income and educational attainment, and represent the highest needs for job- and workforce-related programs in the city. Through leadership development, technical assistance, peer learning and sharing best practices, the fellowship provides city leaders with insights and tools to make equity, transparency, sustainability, innovation, and community engagement driving forces for how they conduct economic development and bring an intentional focus on communities that have been historically disconnected from economic growth and prosperity.

The EED Fellowship kicked off in June 2016 with a two-day retreat, during which the EED Fellows presented the group with one specific project in their economic development agenda on which they would focus during the course of the fellowship. Later in the fall, EED program staff conducted scoping visits to each of the cities, during which they introduced the fellowship and its goals to senior city officials, departments and agencies, met with community or government stakeholders, and advised the EED city fellows to finalize the scope of fellowship project. Two EED fellows from each city then met for a second convening at which they presented a project update to their EED fellowship peers. The mid-year retreat also included sessions with leading experts on economic development issues.

Throughout the year, the EED Fellowship also offers technical assistance via webinars on different topics identified by the six cities. Some of the topics covered include: inclusive strategies for small business development and entrepreneurship support, best practices in collecting data for equitable economic development, institutionalizing equity in economic development programs and policies, and presenting a framework to incorporate an equity lens in economic development incentive package.

The inaugural EED Fellowship class consists of three fellows from the cities of Boston, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Below is a quick summary of each city project, as well as a list of the three EED Fellows from each city:

Boston

The city of Boston is interested in exploring the intentional support of worker co-operatives in the private sector by developing and expanding access to capital and technical assistance for existing worker co-ops and ensuring that new firms focus on promising growth sectors.

  • Joyce Linehan, Chief of Policy, Office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh
  • Trinh Nguyen, Director, Office of Workforce Development
  • John Smith, Policy Analyst, Mayor’s Office of Economic Development

Charlotte

The city of Charlotte is seeking address its economic mobility gap – and encourage investment and involvement of the private sector in addressing the problem – with a set of tactical programs and larger-scale economic development policy reforms. Charlotte hopes these initiatives will allow it to learn about innovative evaluation practices, identify model programs and best practices that address these challenges, better evaluate small-business capacity and connectivity, and measure whether these initiatives are helping to close the gap.

  • Ann Wall, Assistant City Manager
  • Kevin Dick, Economic Development Director, Neighborhood & Business Services, Economic Development Division
  • Holly Eskridge, Entrepreneurship and Small Business Manager, Neighborhood & Business Services, Economic Development Division

Houston

The city of Houston is seeking to focus its economic development activities in the traditionally underserved communities located generally east of downtown, which have the highest levels of unemployment, lowest levels of income and educational attainment, and represent the highest needs for job- and workforce- related programs in the city.

  • Andrew Icken, Chief Development Officer
  • Gwendolyn Tillotson, Deputy Director, Economic Development Department
  • Carnell Emanuel, Staff Analyst, Economic Development Department

Memphis:

The city of Memphis is seeking to address a vacancy problem in commercial buildings that also facilitates the growth of neighborhood-scale businesses. While Memphis has experienced considerable economic growth in the last decade, very little has been occurring in its low-income neighborhoods.

  • Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer
  • Paul Young, Director, Division of Housing and Community Development,
  • Joann Massey, Director, Office of Business Diversity and Compliance

Milwaukee:

The city of Milwaukee is seeking to create a framework that matches responsible development entities that own, renovate and manage their portfolio of foreclosed small mixed-use buildings with entrepreneurs who want to open a business in a commercial space and possibly occupy residential units in that space. The city currently owns, manages and markets a large portfolio of foreclosed properties, mostly located in distressed low-income neighborhoods.

  • Martha Brown, Deputy Commissioner, Department of City Development
  • Ken Little, Commercial Corridor Manager, Department of City Development
  • Matt Haessly, Real Estate Specialist, Department of City Development

Minneapolis:

The city of Minneapolis is seeking to pilot a capital access project for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged businesses located in north Minneapolis, where disparities are worse than the Minnesota state average. The city’s Access to Capital is a formalized program that helps provide qualified Minneapolis businesses owned by people of color with access to financial and knowledge capital at a level they have not previously had, and would not likely have but for the program. The Access to Capital program will bring together potential investors, funders and lenders to offer deal packages that provide documentation and use systems already in place to fund qualified businesses that participate in the program.

  • Craig Taylor, Director, Community Planning and Economic Development
  • David Frank, Economic Development Director
  • Jim Terrell, Senior Project Coordinator, Community Planning & Economic Development

This spring, the EED program staff is planning our next round of scoping visits to each of the cities above. These scoping visits are intended to further assist each of the six cities with their program and provide them with access to subject matter experts recruited from our networks. The visiting technical team will include subject matter experts and practitioners, EED fellows from other cities, and program staff from NLC, ULI, and Policylink. We look forward to finishing our work with our current class and announcing our next class this spring – stay tuned!

carlos_delgado_125x150About the author: Carlos Delgado is the Senior Associate for the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use at the National League of Cities.

Seven Cities Activate Strategies to Connect Kids to Nature

“Imagine a city known for excellent environmental education because its parks are natural classroom. As a city, we are creating greater access to nature for all of our younger residents.” -Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

City leaders address disparities in children’s opportunities to play, grow, and learn in the outdoors through Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN), a partnership between NLC and Children & Nature Network.

In November, seven Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) sites began implementing strategies for connecting children to nature more equitably in their cities. Mayors like Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seek to restore childhood to the outdoors and commissioned eight months of community dialogue, policy scans, nature-mapping, and network building to inform strategies for action, such as:

  • Developing green schoolyards and enhancing access to nature at public elementary schools and early childcare facilities
  • Connecting to nature through out-of-school time programming
  • Cultivating youth leadership and stewardship
  • Bringing more diverse groups of residents in regular contact with natural features in city park systems

The chart below indicates priority strategies among the pilot cities: Saint Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids; Providence, Rhode Island; Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco.

(NLC)

(NLC)

Over the next three years, each of these cities will execute its priority strategies with peer exchange, learning and technical assistance from the CCCN partners and $50,000 grants to kick start city efforts for at least the next nine months. Prominent strategies rely on involvement of key partners such as parks and recreation agencies, school districts, out-of-school time networks, conservation and youth development organizations, and elected and community leaders, as well as adult and youth residents. A metrics framework drawing upon cities’ initial assessment practices and indicators will inform a broader field of cities and partners seeking to measure both systems-level change and direct impact on children. CCCN partners will offer additional resources for municipal action in the coming months, including in-person opportunities detailed below.

Join Us to Learn More

Representatives of the seven-city cohort will share its implementation and planning experience at the 2017 International Conference and Summit of the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), April 18-21 in Vancouver, British Columbia. C&NN extends an open invitation to a wide variety of additional participants to attend the Conference and Summit including other city leaders, planners, public health advocates, field practitioners and thought leaders committed to advancing policies, partnerships and programming for connecting children to nature.

Additionally, city parks professionals can learn more from Austin and the other CCCN cities at a May 17-19 National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Connecting Kids to Nature Innovation Lab.

The CCCN webinar series begins with “Emerging City Strategies to Connect Children to Nature” on Thursday, February 23, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST. Register here to learn more about the priority strategies adopted by CCCN pilot sites.

Cities Connecting Children to Nature is a partnership between NLC and Children & Nature Network. Connect with CCCN through upcoming conferences, webinars, and our newsletter.

priya_cook_125x150About the author: Priya Cook is the Principal Associate for the Connecting Children to Nature program, the newest program of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

Meet Your City Human Development Advocate

“Policy in the human development sphere is all about improving quality of life.”

With a new administration and a new Congress, the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Federal Advocacy team will be busy raising the voices of cities throughout 2017. As part of our initiative, we wanted to introduce you all to our Federal Advocacy team members and share what’s on their minds for 2017. Every week leading up to the Congressional City Conference, we will feature a “Meet Your City Advocate” spotlight as part of a series. This week, I sat down with our human development lobbyist, Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman.

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Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman is the program director for human development advocacy at the National League of Cities. (NLC photo/Brian Egan)

Hey Stephanie, thanks for sitting down with me today. I wanted to make sure I interviewed you early on in the process given the discussion around healthcare, but we’ll get to that in a minute. To get started, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you’ve been? What you’ve done? And most importantly, why you are passionate about cities?

Well, I’m originally from D.C., and then I moved up to Massachusetts for college. I came back to Washington to work on the Hill — in both the House and the Senate. That was in the early 2000s, and it was definitely a hectic time. September 11th had just happened, and then there was the anthrax scare.

I started working in the office for the newly-elected Senator Hillary Clinton, and then went on to work for Representative Payne, whose district covered the Newark and parts of North Jersey area. I mostly focused on transportation policy.

Oh your background is starting to sound very similar to Matt’s: transportation policy, working on the Hill, Jersey. 

Ha-ha, I know – but transportation just was not my thing. I then switched over to the Senate to work with Senator Landrieu of Louisiana, and I started to focus more on health and education — topics like social security, healthcare, etcetera. So that’s where I really laid the foundation for the policy area I work on today. Senator Landrieu was very passionate about adoption issues; both her children and her husband were adopted. While working through those case issues, I deepened my interest in how federal policy impacts individuals.

I left the Hill and headed to New York to go to Columbia for graduate school – and ended up staying for 12 years! I spent some time working for the Bloomberg administration, as the policy director for the city’s workforce investment board. We were responsible for the oversight and implementation of the federal Workforce Investment Act at the local level in New York City.

It was fascinating to come from a world of working on crafting federal policy, and then be afforded the chance to see how it is implemented at the local level. You can work on a lot of fancy things in Washington, but you really measure a program or an initiative based on how well its being implemented and the results you see at the local level.

Immediately before coming to NLC, I did government relations for the New York Public Library. I dabbled into all different policy areas there because of the amazing mandate and reach of libraries, and gained a broad swath of policy experience there — including a front row seat to the city budgeting process. And then I came back to D.C.! Partially to return home, but also [because] NLC was an amazing opportunity to continue my work with cities.

Very cool! You already answered a lot of my second question just now, but why human development policy? Anything else you wanted to add?

Yeah, for me, human development — and all of the services designed to help people that fit under this umbrella term — is a bit of a nexus of all different policy areas. Your citizens need quality healthcare, great, but they also need reliable transportation to access that healthcare.

And ultimately, it’s the people connection. Policy in the human development sphere is all about improving quality of life. I think you see the fruits of labor here — perhaps more so than in most policy areas — because you see the people who benefit from the policies. That’s always been very important to me.

Yeah, definitely. Well along the lines of policy, what do you see in store for human development policy and cities in 2017? 

There are really three pieces to watch. The infrastructure bill should be coming soon, and hopefully there’s a workforce component to it. Any infrastructure investment will create jobs, but I’m also looking for a focus on training that leads to more sustained job creation with career pathways. There are people out of work, and I’d love to see how this bill could reengage and support them, even after the funding runs out. On the education front, we have the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). There may be some examination into college affordability and federal financial aid. And then the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Ah yes, the white elephant in the room.

Yes. Earlier this month, Congress passed a budget proposal instructing the committees of jurisdiction to come up with language that would repeal the ACA. And President Trump has signed an executive order on his first day in office calling for its repeal.

We are in a waiting period at the moment, but NLC has made it very clear that any repeal of the ACA must include a simultaneous replacement. We need to make sure that the financial burdens of healthcare reform don’t fall onto local governments. Whether that’s resulting in an overload of local health resources from millions of additional American’s becoming uninsured, or local healthcare initiatives losing their funding.

Twelve percent of the Center for Disease Control’s budget is appropriated through the ACA. We’re mostly talking about public health programs and vaccination programs. And there’s also grant money through the CDC that flows directly to local areas. Most of the time public healthcare is not administered by a city, but the impacts of health policy often fall on local governments. We’re following this one particularly close.

That’s really interesting about the CDC budgeting. Well, I have my favorite question next. What is your spirit city? With which city do you identify the most?

Oh, don’t judge me.

I would never.

I know it sounds cliché, but I have always been a New York City kind of a person. I’ve always wanted to live there and I had the amazing opportunity to do it. It’s a very interesting place to innovate and try things and then replicate. I think about the first lady of New York’s Thrive Initiative on mental health. New York has the financial ability to experiment with these municipal projects that, if they work, can grow to other cities.

And I mean, you have all that, and then you have great food and great theater as well.

Join us at CCC and meet Stephanie and the rest of your City Advocates. Visit the CCC website to register now!

brian-headshotAbout the author: Brian Egan is the Public Affairs Associate for NLC. Follow him on Twitter @BeegleME

The Federal Government Needs to Fix the Immigration System — Not Cities

An attempt to shift the federal responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws to local governments is an unfunded mandate that diverts critical resources from local government programs.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents work with local police officers to conduct an early morning

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents work with local police officers in Los Angeles. (photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

This post was co-authored by Yucel Ors and Aileen Carr.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. This order would direct the federal government to strip federal grant money from sanctuary cities, which are cities deemed by the Trump Administration to willfully violate federal law by shielding aliens from removal. “The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

The full text of the executive order is available here. The relevant section of the executive order states:

“It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373. In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.”

In response to the executive order, the National League of Cities (NLC) released the following statement:

“There appears to be a false assumption that ‘sanctuary cities’ prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from enforcing immigration laws. This could not be further from the truth. In practice, federal programs intended to partner with cities and towns on immigration enforcement are broken. The reality is that, in cities across the nation, police departments are routinely cooperating with ICE’s immigration enforcement efforts, while at the same time building constructive relationships with their communities to improve public safety. The order signed by President Trump does not clearly define sanctuary jurisdictions, so it is difficult to foresee how and which cities will be impacted by the order. Legislative efforts in 2016 to define and penalize sanctuary cities were defeated in Congress, which could have cost cities up to $137 million or more in COPS hiring grants. We call on President Trump to open a dialogue with city leaders, and work with local governments to enact real, comprehensive immigration reform that respects the principles of local control.”

NLC’s long-standing position is that measures requiring cities to use local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws are unfunded mandates that impose additional disproportionate responsibilities on local law enforcement, increase financial liability on local governments, and ultimately move us further from our foundational principles of federalism. Contrary to the president’s stated public safety goals, this action is likely to jeopardize the effectiveness of many local law enforcement efforts. Many police chiefs, mayors, and city councilmembers across the country are concerned that such policies impede efforts to preserve police-community relations and ensure that residents feel safe reporting crimes and accessing government services.

“One thing I am sure of is that Nashville is stronger and safer when we are a warm and welcoming place for all. While we cannot control border policies here in Nashville, we can pull together as a city by embracing the immigrants and refugees who are an integral part of our community.”

-Nashville, Tennessee, Mayor Megan Berry

“We value the members of our community here and we’re willing to, at some point, sacrifice money to make sure community members feel safe.”

-Beaverton, Oregon, Mayor Lacey Beaty

“Santa Fe is a city that has practiced as part of its values nondiscrimination… We do believe that every person deserves respect and dignity when they’re living in our community peacefully, when they’re contributing. And the issue of law enforcement resources needs to go towards community policing. And so the last thing that we are going to do is serve as an extension of the federal immigration services and begin to issue, through administrative warrants, detention orders.”

-Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mayor Javier Gonzalez

“For more than 150 years, Portland has been a destination for those wanting to apply their hard work to the purpose of creating a better life for themselves and their families. My own family made the trek on the Oregon Trail. We are a city built on immigration. We are not going to run from that history. We will not be complicit in the deportation of our neighbors. Under my leadership as Mayor, the city of Portland will remain a welcoming, safe place for all people regardless of immigration status. This approach is consistent with the Oregon state law and the 4th and 10th Amendments of the United States Constitution. We will not compromise our values as a city or as Americans, and we will resist these policies.”

-Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler

President Trump’s latest executive order is not the first federal measure in this arena – in recent years, Congress has also introduced bills that would cut federal funding to cities they deem to be sanctuary jurisdictions. The most recent bills targeted COPS and CDBG funds, but NLC was successful in efforts to defeat all of them.

Since there is no statutory definition of “sanctuary” cities or policies, and the nature of collaboration between federal and local law enforcement on immigration has evolved significantly over the last decade, there is often much confusion about this issue. Here are the facts:

  • For many years now, ICE agents have routinely worked in all cities, whether or not they have policies that limit the voluntary role cities play in federal immigration enforcement. No city or local government official provides safe harbor to an immigrant who breaks local and state laws.
  • ICE agents have full authority to take people into custody from any jurisdiction as long as they have evidence that the individual violated federal immigration laws. While cities voluntarily cooperate with ICE in all sorts of immigration enforcement efforts, they are not obligated to be a surrogate agency to ICE.
  • Cities are not permitted to have polices that may interfere with or restrict federal law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws.
  • Title 8 of U.S. Code Section 1373 also prohibits cities from restricting local law enforcement from cooperating or exchanging information with federal immigration authorities on any reasonable suspicions they have regarding persons already in their custody.
  • As long as cities are in compliance with Section 1373, the federal government should not be able to withhold funding that has been statutorily authorized and appropriated.
  • Federal agencies may require cities to demonstrate that their policies are in compliance with Section 1373 when they apply for grants and federal assistance. Cities that are not in compliance may need to change their policies prior to receiving federal assistance.
  • The Department of Justice has issued guidance on what cities need to do to comply with section 1373. City leaders can access that resource here.

The short-sighted executive order issued by the president neglects to recognize that is it the sole responsibility of the federal government to prosecute and deport criminals who violate federal immigration laws. At a time when local governments are working to strengthen police-community relations, build trust, advance initiatives to increase economic mobility, and live out their values of inclusion and equity, executive orders and legislative proposals to withhold funding from cities are particularly troubling and counterproductive. An attempt to shift the federal responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws to local governments is an unfunded mandate that diverts critical resources from local government programs, compromises public safety, and hinders local efforts to work with immigrant communities.

Instead of trying to coerce cities and towns to enforce the broken immigration laws of the United States, President Trump should work with local governments to find a solution that respects the principles of local control, effectively enforces current immigration law, and creates a process whereby undocumented immigrants currently living in our cities may earn legalized status through payment of appropriate fees and back taxes, background checks, consistent work history, and appropriate civics requirements.

About the authors:

yucel_ors_125x150Yucel (“u-jel”) Ors is the Program Director of Public Safety and Crime Prevention at the National League of Cities. Follow Yucel on Twitter at @nlcpscp.

Aileen Carr is the Manager of NLC’s Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) initiative.

Legal Steps Sanctuary Cities Can Take If They Lose Federal Funding

The State and Local Legal Center’s Lisa Soronen discusses a few possible legal theories cities may rely on if they sue the federal government in the wake of President Trump’s most recent executive order.

(Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is threatening to sue the Trump administration in response to its most recent executive order, which calls for the removal of immigrants who (according to an immigration officer) are deemed to pose a risk to public safety. The order could theoretically pertain to any immigrant who has had any sort of interaction whatsoever with local law enforcement. (Getty Images)

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities who do not cooperate with the federal government in enforcing federal immigration law. True to his word, President Trump has signed an executive order stating that sanctuary cities are “not eligible to receive Federal grants,” with some unclear exceptions.

Whether and when this executive order will lead to cities losing federal funding, and how much, is unknown. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to sue the federal government “the minute action to withhold funding” occurs.

Much has been written about what legal theories could be relied on to challenge the cancelling of federal funds. It is difficult to gauge the strength of these theories because all are rooted in Supreme Court precedent applying broad constitutional provisions in fact contexts different than this executive order.

Below are a few possible legal theories cities may rely on if they sue the federal government. The first three are based on limitation the Supreme Court has found in the Constitution’s Spending Clause. In short, the Spending Clause allows the federal government to place conditions on money states and local government receive – to a point. The final theory rests on the Tenth Amendment.

If sanctuary cities sue the federal government, they are likely to allege that cancelling all federal funding is “coercive” under the Spending Clause. In NFIB v. Sibelius (2012), Chief Justice Roberts famously described the federal government’s plan to withhold all Medicaid funding if states refused to agree to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion as a coercive “gun to the head.” In that case, states stood to lose more than 10 percent of their overall budget by not agreeing to the Medicaid expansion. Many sanctuary cities would stand to lose that percentage of their budget – and more – if they lost all federal dollars.

As George Mason University School of Law professor Illya Somin points out in a Washington Post article, the fact that the statutory language of most, if not all, federal grant programs to cities doesn’t require cities to assist the federal government with immigration enforcement is another possible ground for sanctuary cities to challenge this executive order. In decisions, including Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman (1981), the Supreme Court has stated that when Congress, using its spending power, imposes conditions on the receipt of federal funds it must do so “unambiguously.”

The Supreme Court also has held that per the Spending Clause conditions Congress place on grants must be “germane” or “related to” the federal interest in the grant program. In South Dakota v. Dole (1987), the Court noted approvingly that South Dakota didn’t challenge the “germaneness” of the Secretary of Transportation withholding a percent of highway funds to states which did not raise the drinking age to 21.

Now imagine if Congress “unambiguously” conditioned a number of federal grant programs for roads, health care, education, etc. on cities assisting with federal immigration enforcement. Cities could argue these conditions are not “germane” or “related to” the federal interests in funding roads, health care, or education.

The Tenth Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government to the states. The Supreme Court has interpreted the Tenth Amendment to contain an anti-commandeering requirement where states and local governments cannot be required “to enact or administer a federal regulatory program.” For example, in Printz v. United States (1997), the Court struck down a federal law requiring local police departments to perform handgun background checks until the federal government could manage the task. Sanctuary cities could therefore argue that they cannot be commandeered into enforcing federal immigration law.

lisa_soronen_new_125x150About the author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Forecasting the Future of Cities Under President Trump

Campaign rhetoric can give us insight into a politician’s perspective, even after they take office.

This is a guest post by Dr. Michael Pagano.

The 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric was laced with mischaracterizations of cities, even as we have come to understand the importance of cities and metro regions as the nation’s key economic drivers in the 21st Century. Yet, campaign rhetoric and the candidates’ statements do speak to an understanding of each candidate’s perspectives on cities and their connections to the federal government.

Rather than work through the list of proposed people-based programs and estimate their potential city impacts, let’s take a look at three broad federal policy areas that will certainly be (or already have been) addressed by the Trump Administration and that clearly have a place-based dimension: infrastructure, tax reform, and sanctuary cities.

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America’s infrastructure needs attention. While much is still unknown about the future of infrastructure in American cities, there are some indications of where we are headed. (Getty Images)

Infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the nation on its infrastructure deficit, and the latest report card isn’t pretty. A failing or near-failing grade is commonplace, and ASCE estimates $3.6 trillion as the infrastructure deficit – a staggering shortfall.

Although President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is still being shaped, the role that cities play in designing the infrastructure plan – and, more importantly, the extent to which the Trump administration will focus on local infrastructure needs – is not entirely known. But here’s what we do know:

First, it is clear that the Trump Administration will call on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to boost spending by $550 billion (and up to $1 trillion, as he proposed during the campaign). In confirmation hearings, Trump’s nominee for DOT Secretary, Elaine Chao, raised the prospects of PPPs to rebuild the nation’s highway system. This kind of PPP activity tends to be unattractive for fixed assets that are ‘jointly consumed’ (e.g., city hall, courts, police stations, fire engines, parks). Shared assets are hard to price according to use, and it is equally difficult to assign a ‘fee’ for their services. However, the more cities can benefit from PPPs (e.g., bridges, water, transit), the more freed-up capital they will have for ‘jointly consumed’ public assets. PPPs may be tempting for cities with massive infrastructure needs and backlogged maintenance projects, but cities should move cautiously to assure that taxpayers’ investments are secure and treated the same as private investments.

Second, infrastructure investment can be for creating new projects as well as maintaining existing structures. Although politicians prefer to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new building or bridge, it’s important to appreciate that both new construction and maintenance projects are necessary and spur local economic activity. And, given the state of so much municipal infrastructure, a federal plan should emphasize ‘maintaining’ these existing structures.

Third, if we learned anything from the 2009 federal government stimulus grants, it’s that infrastructure block grants delegated to states don’t always trickle down to the local level. Cities often know their infrastructure needs better than states do, so cities should be offered the authority and responsibility to decide on the infrastructure projects that they find critical to their economic development strategies.

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Tax reform could have repercussions for cities’ abilities to finance local projects. (Getty Images)

Tax Reform. Whether it’s massive, like the 1986 Tax Reform Act, or just incremental, cities will feel the impact of any potential tax reform. President Trump has said in no uncertain terms that the tax brackets need to be lowered. And although he hasn’t embraced it, there is also talk of eliminating the tax exemption on municipal bonds. Coupled, these two ‘tax reform’ initiatives could reduce municipal issues, which means fewer city-financed infrastructure projects as the costs of infrastructure rises.

Elimination of the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds would reduce the value of bond issues, as the interest rates would increase to compete with the corporate sector for capital. The municipal bond market would most likely require a premium from municipal issuers that, assuming all other things equal, could possibly raise the borrowing costs to cities by some 2 percent more or less. A 200 basis point penalty would probably diminish the volume of municipal bond issuances.

A second tax reform proposal would reduce both the individual and the corporate income tax rates. There appears to be little disagreement that tax rates will be reduced, but at what cost? If the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds is preserved, lowered income and corporate tax rate schedules could reduce the attractiveness of tax-exempt bonds.  Reducing the top marginal tax rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent or lower would require the market to increase the interest rates on municipal bonds to compensate investors. City investment in infrastructure would most likely fall.

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Ellis Island has come to embody America’s symbol as a melting pot. The debate around “sanctuary cities” goes beyond ideological debates around America’s immigration policy. (Getty Images)

Sanctuary cities. Many of the nation’s largest cities have declared themselves sanctuary cities, by which they mean that they have chosen to limit the voluntary role cities play in federal immigration enforcement.

Under the U.S. Constitution, immigration is a federal (as opposed to state or local) responsibility. Although cities may choose to cooperate with federal authorities, these cities argue that they will not divert city resources to fulfill a federal responsibility. Cities that have declared themselves as sanctuaries do so from a variety of positions. Philadelphia, for example, refers to itself as a 4th Amendment city, meaning that the city refuses to hold persons without a warrant.

President Trump’s Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States executive order, signed earlier this week, directs his Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to prohibit federal grants going to cities and other jurisdictions that do not comply with their interpretation of immigration enforcement law. In other words, President Trump appears to be trying to “make good” on his promise to shut off federal funding to sanctuary cities. While it remains unclear which and to what extent cities will be affected by this order, it very well could spur enormous consequences if it emboldens Congress to amend legislation governing the distribution of federal funds. Reconsideration and passage of legislation similar to a failed bill that was introduced in 2016, called the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act”, would wreak considerable havoc for cities.

Chicago, for example, receives nearly $1 billion from federal sources, as does San Francisco; New York City’s federal revenues amount to $7 billion. One estimate of withdrawing federal funds to Chicago and four sister agencies of the city places the impact at some $3.6 billion. And other sanctuary cities receive funds, ranging from federal COPs money to CDBG, which could be in danger if Congress approves.

Even should the penalty for being a sanctuary city be restricted to just ‘policing’ grants, as has been proposed, the impact could still challenge the financial stability of cities. And given cities’ fiscal positions, withholding any federal support would trouble cities. City finances have yet to rebound to pre-Great Recession levels.

An Urban Agenda?

President Trump has other people-based proposals that will have an urban impact, such as reforming primary and secondary education, modifying federal housing programs, and overhauling the Affordable Care Act – but these are broad social issues that affect people residing in cities and rural areas alike. Yet, because the majority of the U.S. population today resides in cities, shifts in these policy areas will disproportionately impact local governments. Any people- and place-based proposal that affects cities or city residents will affect the health, safety and welfare of the American people, and they will affect the nation’s GDP.

Cities are resilient, and cities can adjust to these and other shifts in the federal landscape depending in large part on how much local autonomy they possess. And the relative capacity of cities to adjust to changing circumstances is governed by states. Resiliency depends in large part by how much decision-making authority states allow. Given the numerous policy arenas that Trump has said he will change, cities need to be nimble. To be nimble, states must work with cities so they can adequately adjust and continue to be the economic engines of the nation.

michael_pagano_125x150About the author: Dr. Michael Pagano is the dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelAPagano

Executive Orders 101

Can President Trump cancel President Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders?

Former President Obama signs an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. (photo: White House Archives)

Former President Obama signs an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. (photo: White House Archives)

Former President Barack Obama, like most of the presidents that recently preceded him, issued about 300 executive orders. While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to cancel President Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders, and during his first days in office, President Trump has signed a number of executive orders of his own.

Through executive orders, presidents are able to direct the work of administrative agencies and implement authority granted to their office by a federal statute or the U.S. Constitution.

Executive orders are controversial because no provision of the Constitution explicitly authorizes them. Regardless, they have been used by every president (except one) since George Washington.

Executive orders, while considered to have the force of law, can’t be used to overturn laws – but the orders themselves can be overturned by Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared some executive orders unconstitutional. Perhaps the most famous example is the 1952 case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. The Supreme Court struck down President Harry Truman’s executive order directing the Secretary of Commerce to seize and control all American steel mills. The Supreme Court ruled that neither the Constitution nor the laws of the United States authorized this action.

More recently, the Supreme Court agreed to decide if President Obama’s executive order allowing certain undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the United States indefinitely was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision last summer which effectively affirmed a lower court ruling striking down the executive order on grounds other than its constitutionality.

Can President Trump cancel President Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders? Yes – and he can reverse President Obama’s “constitutional” executive orders as well. For example, President Trump has already reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” by executive order, which prohibits non-governmental organizations that receive federal funds from providing or promoting abortions overseas. Since President Ronald Reagan, Democrat and Republican presidents have alternatively cancelled or reinstated this policy by executive order.

More relevant to state and local governments, President Trump may reverse Obama’s executive orders on climate change, energy, and immigration.

lisa_soronen_new_125x150About the author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.