Throughout the country, large municipalities are laboratories of democracy. New and innovative policies introduced in one market are often exported to others, and ultimately replicated at the state and federal level. This newsletter highlights emerging local policy and regulatory discussions that impact industries, businesses, and organizations across the nation.
Gig Economy & Technology
LOS ANGELES — Proposition 22: California Gig Companies, Workers Get Their Day in Appeals Court
For more than a year, the California voter-approved gig economy law known as Proposition 22 has hung in the balance after a judge invalidated the ballot initiative allowing giant ride-hailing and delivery companies to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. On Tuesday, a California appeals court heard oral arguments in San Francisco on whether it should uphold the lower court ruling that deemed Proposition 22 unconstitutional and unenforceable.
PHILADELPHIA — Autonomous Vehicle Testing Begins for Philadelphia Navy Yard Shuttle
Engineers have begun testing a driverless shuttle in the hopes of making the Philadelphia Navy Yard more accessible by public transit. It is the first such testing to occur in the state since Governor Tom Wolf signed a new autonomous vehicle testing bill into law in November.
Labor & Employment
LOS ANGELES — LA Street Vendors Slam “No-Vending” Zones as Discriminatory
A pair of sidewalk vendors have challenged Los Angeles’ so-called “no-vending zones” that prohibit street vendors from setting up shop in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, calling the zones discriminatory and claiming that they violate state law. The vendors and several community groups asked the Los Angeles County Superior Court to step in and end the no-vending zones.
NEW YORK CITY — “Promise NYC” to Provide Childcare Assistance to Low-Income Families With Undocumented Children
Mayor Adams announced the launch of “Promise NYC,” a childcare assistance program that will assist low-income families with undocumented children, who are therefore ineligible for other federally-subsidized childcare.
RICHMOND — RPS Employees Vote to Ratify Labor Union Contracts
Last week, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) became the first division in Virginia to ratify union contracts, approximately one year after being the first to adopt collective bargaining in 45 years. The School Board will need to approve the contracts in order for them to go into effect.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego County Unemployment Increases Slightly Even as 16,100 Jobs Added
San Diego County’s unemployment rate increased to 3.3% in November, up from a revised 3.2% in October, according to the figures released December 16 by the state Employment Development Department. November’s unemployment rate was considerably less than November 2021’s rate of 4.5%. Last month’s rates compare with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 4% for California and 3.4% for the nation during the same period.
SEATTLE — Hundreds of Boeing Engineers Retire Early Due to Pension Payout Cut
Over 500 Seattle-area Boeing engineers, along with 130 technical staff, retired early within the last month. A pending interest rate adjustment would have dramatically cut their lump sum pension payouts by as much as a year’s salary in some cases.
Policy & Politics
BOSTON — Immigrant Voting Proposal Comes to City Council
Boston City Council has begun discussions on legislation that would allow immigrants with legal status to vote in local elections. However, even if the proposal passed City Council, there are likely to be challenges in the state legislature and the courts.
CHICAGO — Chicago Mayoral Election: New Poll Shows Lightfoot Trailing Garcia, Vallas
A new voter opinion survey suggests Mayor Lori Lightfoot would come in third if the February 28 election were held today. Congressman Chuy Garcia won 28%; former Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Paul Vallas was at 19%; Mayor Lightfoot was at 15% and businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson was at 13%. Other contenders were in single digits.
LOS ANGELES — Three Members of LA City Council Walk Out When Kevin de Leon Appears
In a dramatic appearance by censured Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon on Friday, December 9, three city council members walked out, and several voiced strong criticism of him and reiterated their desire for him to resign. De Leon was one of several political leaders on a recorded call where racist and offensive comments were made; other participants in the call have resigned from their positions.
SAN DIEGO — Leadership Changes Coming to Some Key San Diego City Council Panels; One Member Calls Them “Divisive”
Some significant leadership changes are coming to San Diego’s City Council committees, where new legislation and policies get debated and shaped before reaching the full council for approval. Council President Sean Elo-Rivera is increasing the number of committees from eight to nine and assigning new leaders to arguably the two most powerful ones: public safety and budget.
PHILADELPHIA — Mayoral, At-Large City Council Fields Crowded With Candidates
Last week, State Representative Amen Brown announced his candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia. He is the ninth Democratic candidate to enter the race, as well as the youngest. Meanwhile, 20 candidates have entered the race for seven available at-large City Council seats, with 15 Democratic candidates competing for only five of those.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senate Confirms Seven D.C. City Judges; Seven Court Vacancies Remain
The U.S. Senate voted last week to confirm seven D.C. judges — six to the Superior Court and one to the Court of Appeals. Because D.C. is not a state, it does not have the same authority over its judicial system that states do, and must rely on presidential nominations, which then must be confirmed by the Senate, often leading to long periods of vacancies and frustration at the local level. The city’s courts still have seven vacancies.
Public Health & Safety
BALTIMORE — City Health Department Receives $8.4 Million CDC Grant
The Baltimore City Health Department has been granted $8.4 million in federal dollars for technology modernization and staff recruitment and retainment. The funding comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DETROIT — Detroit Police Expand Mental Health Operations
With Detroit police responding to a record number of run-ins involving residents with mental health challenges, Chief James White on Wednesday announced an overhaul of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team and new tools that he said would give officers more options when dealing with citizens in crisis. The changes, some of which The Detroit News reported last week, include centralizing the Crisis Intervention Team operations and equipping CIT officers with less-than-lethal weapons such Bolawraps, which are hand-held devices that discharge a cord that coils around subjects’ arms or legs to restrain them.
LOS ANGELES — New LA Mayor Karen Bass to Declare State of Emergency on Homelessness
Karen Bass was sworn in as the first female mayor of Los Angeles on December 11, marking another historic achievement in her career. Bass focused her remarks on her plans to solve the city’s housing crisis, with some 40,000 people living on the streets, and said her first act as mayor will be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness. Bass’ plan calls for housing 15,000 people by the end of one year and ending tent encampments using existing funding. She has said the city would put more resources into trained “neighborhood service teams” to connect people with housing and mental health services.
PHILADELPHIA — Homicide Rate Dips Despite Steady Levels of Gun Violence
According to an analysis of police data conducted by the Office of the Controller, Philadelphia has recorded 8% fewer homicides in 2022 than this time last year, making it unlikely it will surpass last year’s record-breaking rate. However, rates of gun violence have not wavered.
Real Estate Development
BOSTON — SPACE Grant Launched
Mayor Wu’s administration announced a new SPACE (Supporting Pandemic Affected Community Enterprises) Grant program, offering $100,000-200,000 to help small, diverse businesses fill vacant storefronts. Funding will be offered to 50 businesses total, focused on major commercial hubs.
CHICAGO — Three Charts That Show Housing Market Hitting a Wall
The Chicago-area housing market hit a wall in 2022. That wall was called interest rates. Booming home prices nationwide were a big part of the rampant inflation that the Federal Reserve vowed to tame early this year, and its efforts certainly brought the nation’s housing market to heel. By autumn, the fizz was gone from some of the boomiest cities, but in the Chicago area, where home prices were up but not up in the stratosphere, prices have been resilient.
DETROIT — Housing Market Slows, But Buyers Aren’t Getting Any Deals
Home sales in metro Detroit continue to decline as fluctuating interest rates, low consumer sentiment and seasonality all rear their heads. Two different monthly market reports released Tuesday tell the same general story, showing that regional home sales in November declined well into the double digits year-over-year and month-over-month. Despite the declines, however, those seeking to buy a home will see little to no price relief when compared with last year, according to the reports.
NEW YORK CITY — City Council Publishes “Housing Agenda to Confront the City’s Crisis”
New York City Council released land use guidelines to address the city’s housing crisis. Speaker Adams also announced plans to pass a citywide Fair Housing Framework, with specific goals for each community district.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego Among Housing Markets Expected to Cool the Most in 2023, Report Says
San Diego is among the home markets expected to cool the most in 2023, said a new report. Housing website Redfin’s lengthy analysis of the coming year says West Coast markets and metros that experienced the biggest gains during the pandemic, will slow the most.
Taxes & Spending
CHICAGO — Cook County Sued Over Property Tax Sales System That “Widens the Racial Wealth Gap,” Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Says
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by two low-income Black residents and two community groups alleges Cook County’s practice of turning over properties with delinquent taxes is discriminatory against Black and Latino Chicagoans. Under Illinois’ current system, a third-party tax buyer can purchase the outstanding property tax debt of a homeowner and get a lien on the property; if the homeowner cannot pay back the debt, plus penalties and interest, within 30 months, tax buyers can confiscate the property.
PHILADELPHIA — City Council President Clarke Introduces New Affordable Housing Legislation
City Council President Darrell Clarke has introduced legislation that would award 10-year property tax abatements to builders and developers who reserve 30% of their units for residents who make 60% of the area median income or less. The goal is to encourage construction of new affordable housing units on North Broad Street.
RICHMOND — Richmond City Council Approves One-Time Property Tax Rebate Checks
Last week, Richmond City Council approved a one-time tax rebate to help ameliorate the financial burden of skyrocketing property values experienced by Richmond homeowners. Residents will receive their checks, equivalent to five cents per $100 of assessed value, in February 2023.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With New HID Abatement Program, D.C. Aims to Create More Affordable Housing Downtown
In January, D.C. will be releasing draft regulations for its new Housing in Downtown (HID) Abatement Program in an attempt to encourage builders and developers to put the city’s record-high amount of vacant office space to good use. Tax relief will be awarded to those who reserve 15% of units to be affordable for 60% of the area median family income.
Transportation & Mobility
CHICAGO — Red Line Extension TIF Earns Full City Council Approval
The City Council on Wednesday approved the creation of a new tax-increment financing district to create $950 million over three decades to help pay for the $3.6 billion extension of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line from 95th Street south to 130th Street. The new TIF will capture future property tax growth within portions of five wards—the 3rd, 4th, 11th, 25th and downtown 42nd—to pay for land acquisition and other costs involved in the project.
DETROIT — State to Spend $85 Million on Detroit’s QLINE Streetcar Over Next 17 Years
Michigan taxpayers will chip in $85 million for the free rides on Detroit’s QLine streetcar over the next 17 years under legislation awaiting the governor’s signature. A bill headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk, which her office said she would sign, would lock the state into a $5 million annual subsidy of the Woodward Avenue streetcar through 2039. Lawmakers approved a $5 million annual appropriation in the fall of 2020 during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic when the street car’s operation was halted and bleeding cash.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles to Receive More Than $200 Million in State Grants for Active Transportation Projects
The City of Los Angeles is set to receive more than $200 million in Active Transportation Program (ATP) grants following a vote on Wednesday by the California Transportation Commission (CTC). The ATP grants fund projects that support and encourage transportation through active modes such as walking, biking, and taking transit by making streets safer and more accessible to people traveling by these means.
PHILADELPHIA — SEPTA Key Tix Officially Launched
After several months of testing, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) officially launched its new mobile ticketing platform, SEPTA Key Tix, last Friday. The transit authority hopes to roll out new features by 2023, including allowing users to pay using Apple Pay or Google Pay and purchase regional rail tickets through the app. The news comes a few weeks after reports that the implementation and testing of the Key Card system has cost nearly twice as much as initially anticipated.