Monday, August 3, 2009

Restoring Prosperity August 2009 Newsletter

Restoring Prosperity Report

To subscribe to the newsletter, contact Mara at Smart Growth America

State and National News

News from Smart Growth America's State Stimulus Campaign

June 29th marked the 120-day deadline for states to commit at least 50 percent ($13.3 billion) of the transportation funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). SGA's state stimulus campaign has released The States and the Stimulus: Are they using it to create jobs and 21st century transportation? ( The report evaluates state project lists at this 120-day mark to determine how effective states have been in achieving the goals set forth by ARRA, as well as their success in creating jobs, building towards a 21st century transportation system, and making transparent and accountable spending decisions.

At the national level, the study identifies some discouraging trends:
? Despite a multi-trillion dollar backlog of road and bridge repairs, states committed almost a third of the ARRA Surface Transportation Program (STP) money to new capacity road and bridge projects rather than repair.
? Most states did not use ARRA funding to fill the giant backlog in public transportation investment.
? Overall, transparency of decisions is lacking, and accountability for results is weak.

However, the study also highlights some notable achievements at the state level: seven states are spending more than 10 percent of their funding on expanding public transportation, walking, and biking choices, and 17 states are spending more than 90 percent of funding on road repair. Read more about the report here [].

House Transportation Bill Released

Congressman James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, released a draft of the House Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 []last week. Some of the basic principles for reform are present, but key details are still missing. Positive features of the bill include that it increases public transit funding, simplifies and streamlines federal transportation policy, increases local control, directs money towards repair and maintenance, and helps large metro areas meet their pressing transportation needs. Critical areas for improvement include the need for a greater focus on performance targets and accountability, incentives that would encourage states and localities to coordinate land use and development planning with transportation, and a greater focus on equity and affordability. The Obama administration has requested that the transportation authorization be tabled for 18 months, but Congressman Oberstar has voiced his desire to move forward with the bill. To track the legislation's progress, visit the Transportation for America blog [].

Congresswoman Schwartz (PA) Introduces Green Communities Act

In April, Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) introduced the Green Communities Act (HR 2222) [], which would give grants to municipalities for community greening initiatives. This act [] would provide funds for eighty municipalities to encourage revitalization of parks and other public spaces, landscape community areas, plant trees and participate in other urban forestry projects, preserve open space, construct green roofs, create green stormwater infrastructure, manage vacant lots, and educate the community on these green initiatives. Projects funded through this bill could improve neighborhoods, increase real estate values, encourage commercial development, and reduce violence and crime. The program would extend for five years ? fiscal years 2010-2014 ? and provide a total of $270 million in funding for these initiatives to improve neighborhoods. Advocates are seeking cosponsors for the bill now. For more information, contact Greg Lewis [] at the Northeast-Midwest Institute [].

Middle Class Task Force Announced

On May 26th, a new interagency partnership called the Middle Class Task Force [] was announced []. The task force is "a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America." It is chaired by Vice President Biden, and includes representatives from several executive agencies: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Treasury, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Agriculture, the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors. Among its goals are ensuring that "green" jobs are readily available for middle-class workers, providing training and employment for public housing residents, expanding education, protecting incomes for working- and middle-class families, and improving work and family balance. Through inter-agency coordination, the task force hopes to improve the quality of life for middle-class families and reinvigorate the American manufacturing sector through "green" jobs.

EPA Joins HUD, DOT in Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Earlier this year, HUD and DOT announced an unprecedented agreement to implement joint housing and transportation initiatives.This month, EPA announced that it would also be joining the partnership []. The three agencies will work together to ensure that the goals of these housing and transportation initiatives are met, while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change.The partnership will be guided by a set of Livability Principles [] that touch on equity, affordability, and investment in existing communities. ''Where you live affects how you get around, and how you get around often affects where you live," testified EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. "Both decisions affect our environment. In order to have the most effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy, we should have a strategy to reduce vehicle miles traveled. In order to provide truly affordable housing, we should take into account what residents must pay for transportation, energy, and water.''

Connecticut Passes Slate of Smart Growth Legislation

Thanks to the hard work of 1,000 Friends of Connecticut [] and other state and local advocates, the Connecticut legislature passed several bills this session that advance smart growth and planning in the state. Bills addressed needs including: defining smart growth and making it integral to the state's planning, encouraging regionalism, financing green development near transit, expediting the cleanup and reuse of polluted sites, propping up struggling dairy farmers, protecting the dedicated revenue source (the Community Investment Account) for affordable housing, open space, farmland, and historic preservation, and making the streets more complete for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. The state also passed a vacant properties registration act [], an important tool for communities across the country that are facing heightened vacancies in the fact of the foreclosure crisis. SB 951, An Act Concerning Neighborhood Protection [] requires the registration of any vacant or foreclosed properties with local authorities, and gives those authorities enforcement capability if there are problems with the properties. Read more about the range of legislative victories that occurred this month in Connecticut here [].

Millennial Mayors Congress Launched in Michigan

The Millennial Mayors Congress [] is an exciting new program launched in metropolitan Detroit by the Michigan Suburbs Alliance [] which brings together towns and generations to build ideas and policy for the region. The Congress has two delegates from each of the 22 participating communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties ? one local government representative (the mayor or another city official) and one "millennial representative" ? an 18-35 year old community resident. The millennial delegates include attorneys, students, nonprofit leaders, organizers, technical experts and business owners. On June 6th, the Millennial Mayors Congress had its first meeting, and discussed the issues it may tackle this year: economic development and diversification, building a green economy, energy efficiency, and municipal cost-saving strategies. Through a collaborative, regional approach, the Congress hopes to address some of these issues through shared goals, local action, and coordination.

Restoring Prosperity Policy Case Study

Build on Economic Strengths: Invest in Downtown Revitalization

The Problem: The forces of urban sprawl can often divert resources away from city centers and cause downtowns to suffer economically. This process not only hurts the immediate downtown, but also the health of the region.

The Solution: Invest in multi-pronged approaches to downtown revitalization, taking advantage of the synergistic benefits of historic preservation, mixed-use development, improved public transportation, and local business development. Take steps to make downtown public spaces attractive and safe.

Case Study

State: New Jersey

Policy: Starting in 1998, Newark's neighborhood planning process generated a revitalization plan for the area, which includes the Lincoln Park and Coast historic neighborhoods, in order to combat its slow decline. That neighborhood plan articulated a vision of an arts and cultural district that would include artist live-work spaces, mixed-use buildings, community programs, historic preservation, a Museum of African American Music, and restoration of Newark Symphony Hall, all using green building techniques. The Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) emerged from that process in 2002 as an organization dedicated to implementing the neighborhood plan, and the Newark Municipal Council adopted the plan in 2005. LPCCD is planning to build 300 "green" units, including townhouses and condos, over four years. These will be targeted to a variety of income levels, so that the housing is accessible to current residents as well as new residents interested in green buildings. LPCCD also created the Green-Collar Apprenticeship Program (GreenCAP), which puts local residents to work on LPCCD's construction projects while giving them both traditional union apprenticeships in HVAC, electrical work, and plumbing and specific training in green construction techniques. The first class, with 30 participants, started work in spring 2008.

More info:


The Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institute's quarterly MetroMonitor follows markers of economic health for the 100 largest metropolitan economies in America, including employment, wages, Gross Metropolitan Product, housing prices, and real estate owned (REO) properties.

High Road or Low Road?
Good Jobs First
In this report, Good Jobs First looks at the labor quality and standards for existing green jobs, and makes recommendations on how to assure that newly-created green jobs provide sufficient wages and other quality-of-life benefits.

Reclaiming Foreclosed Properties for Community Benefit
This tool provides a framework for developing a comprehensive foreclosure recovery plan and showcases the most innovative and promising strategies for the acquisition, maintenance, management and transfer of these properties to low-income renters and homeowners, or for other beneficial use.

Ask the Climate Question: Adapting to Climate Change Impacts in Urban Regions
Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
In partnership with government leaders from several large counties and cities, CCAP launched the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative in 2006 to serve as a resource for local governments as they face important infrastructure and land-use decisions in the face of climate change. This document highlights the progress each partner county or city has made in advancing their local climate adaptation efforts and provides a summary of lessons learned and policy implications gathered by CCAP to date.

In the News

Michigan: No More Appeals, Tiger Stadium Falling

California: Rebooting Urban Watersheds

New York/New Jersey: Work Begins on the Nation's Largest Mass Transit Project

New Jersey: Suburban Sprawl Stops in Morris County


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