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
CHICAGO — University of Chicago Commits Millions to Startups
The University of Chicago is stepping up its efforts to create more startups, committing more than $20 million to launch three new accelerators focused on deep technology such as data science, artificial intelligence, clean technology and life sciences—areas where the university excels but for which funding often is hardest to find.
CHICAGO — Technology, Health Care, Finance Industries Look for Brighter Skies in 2023
Chicago tech companies laid off more than 2,500 employees in 2022, based on reporting by Crain’s and LayoffsTracker.com. It marked the first slowdown experienced by many entrepreneurs, investors and tech workers, sending tremors across the industry. The sectors being hit hardest were digital advertising, e-commerce and other facets of consumer tech.
NEW YORK CITY – First Legal Cannabis Dispensary Opens in NYC
The first legal adult-use cannabis dispensary in New York State has opened in lower Manhattan. The dispensary is operated by the nonprofit organization Housing Works, and funds from marijuana sales will be reinvested in services to the unhoused and formerly incarcerated.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — AG Racine Uses Last Days of Tenure to Settle Lawsuits With Google, GrubHub
During the last few days of his term, D.C. Attorney General Karlo Racine reached two major settlements: a $9.5 million settlement with Google, whom his office had accused of violating the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by making it unnecessarily difficult for users to prevent their location from being tracked, and one $3.5 million settlement with GrubHub, whom his office accused of utilizing deceptive advertising tactics and imposing hidden fees.
Labor & Employment
BOSTON – $15 Minimum Wage Takes Effect in MA
Massachusetts’ $15-per-hour minimum wage has taken effect as of January 1, the final step in a series of pay hikes first laid out by the legislature in 2018.
CHICAGO — See the Latest Back-to-Office Stats in Chicago
After a Thanksgiving week dip, Chicago office-going rebounded sharply ahead of the yearend holidays, according to data from real estate technology firm Kastle Systems, which analyzed building security card swipes and compared current figures to early 2020. The number of building swipes reveals Chicago’s return-to-office levels are now ahead of national average and on par with New York’s.
DETROIT — Detroit’s Joblessness Rate Drops Below 7% for First Time Since 2000; Experts Urge Caution
Detroit’s unemployment rate has fallen to 6.4%, a 22-year low, according to November figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released last week. It’s the first time since December 2000 that Detroit’s unemployment rate fell below 7%, Mayor Mike Duggan said at a Jan. 5 celebration at the city’s workforce development center. But two experts warned the unemployment drop is due more to a reduction in the labor force than an increase in jobs.
LOS ANGELES — LA County Takes Steps on Fair Work Week Ordinance
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 20, advanced the idea of enacting a fair work week ordinance aimed at giving retail employees more consistent schedules and breaks between shifts. The board instructed its staff to return in six months with an ordinance that would require large retailers in unincorporated areas to give employees 14 days’ notice of their work schedule. Employers would also have to provide workers with 10 hours of rest between shifts and a good faith estimate of weekly work hours.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego Begins Enforcing New Contractor Transparency Rules to Fight Wage Theft, Even Playing Field
A new San Diego law that took effect Sunday requires companies serving as contractors or subcontractors on city projects to comply with more rigorous transparency and accountability measures. San Diego officials say the goal of the new rules, which the City Council approved in August, is to help prevent wage theft and create a more even playing field among contractors by preventing any of them from skirting city rules.
SEATTLE – Tough Job Market Ahead for 2023
Despite the past year of business and job growth in Washington state, WA is only 67,000 jobs (or 1.9%) ahead of February 2020, prior to the pandemic. It is estimated that COVID cost the state over 190,000 jobs.
Policy & Politics
BALTIMORE — Councilmember Cohen Signals Potential Run for City Council President in 2024, Potentially Against Current Council President Mosby
Baltimore Councilmember Zeke Cohen has announced the formation of an exploratory committee ahead of a possible run for City Council president in 2024. Current Council President Nick Mosby — who has recently been the subject of allegations of ethics violations, which he has continuously denied — has not stated whether he intends to run for the position again.
BALTIMORE — Mayor Scott Details Baltimore’s Legislative Priorities for the Coming Year
Last week, in preparation for the first Maryland General Assembly session meeting of 2023, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced the city’s legislative priorities in the hopes that it might secure $497 million funding from the state’s $2.5 billion surplus. These include addressing Baltimore’s vacancy challenges, reforming tax sale and property taxes, and making necessary improvements to public safety, among others.
BOSTON – Governor Maura Healy takes oath of office
Maura Healey took the gubernatorial oath of office last Tuesday, becoming the state’s 73rd Governor. In her first address as governor, she noted housing, cost of living, transportation, and climate changes as major priorities.
PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Says Impeachment Articles Against Philadelphia DA Krasner Do Not Meet Minimum Standard of “Misbehavior in Office”
Following Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s request for their intervention, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently found that the impeachment articles approved by the state House last November do not rise to the standard of “misbehavior in office.” It is unclear whether the scheduled Senate impeachment trial will move forward as planned.
PHILADELPHIA — “Millionaire’s Amendment” Now in Effect in Philadelphia Mayoral Race
Real estate magnate and former City Councilmember Allan Domb triggered Philadelphia’s “millionaire’s amendment” last week through his disclosure to the city’s Philadelphia Board of Ethics that his out-of-pocket donations to his campaign have exceeded $250,000. The campaign finance regulation will double the annual limit on campaign contributions for individuals and organizations in what is already shaping up to be an extremely competitive election.
RICHMOND — City Council Outlines Legislative Priorities For Upcoming Year, Elects New Council President
As 2022 drew to a close, Richmond City Council members came together to unanimously endorse a list of the city’s legislative priorities for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session that begins this week. Priorities include potentially paving the way for a new casino, preventing sewage overflows into the James River, and the implementation of several housing policies. Councilmember Michael Jones was also elected to succeed Cynthia Newbille as Council president earlier this month, officially kicking off the new year.
SEATTLE – Four Councilmembers Will Not Seek Reelection at the End of 2023
Councilmember Alex Pedersen announced that he will not seek reelection to Seattle City Council. In his statement, he noted that he is not a “career politician.” Pedersen is the fourth Council Member who has indicated that they will not seek reelection.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mayor Bowser Intends to Veto City Council’s Criminal Code Overhaul Bill
Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser stated her intent to veto a bill that was unanimously passed by City Council in November that would implement the first overhaul of the city’s criminal code in nearly a century. City Council is expected to override the veto, making the move by Mayor Bowser largely symbolic.
Public Health & Safety
BOSTON – Supreme Court Hears Case Over Police and Firefighter Vaccine Mandate
Last Friday, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments from the city of Boston and police and firefighter unions, based on the idea that Mayor Wu did not have the right to impose a citywide vaccine mandate in December 2021. The state court must now decide whether or not the public health danger was sufficient cause for Wu to enact the mandate.
CHICAGO — Mayor Lightfoot, Chicago Department of Public Health Announce Emergency Supplemental Victim Service Fund to Ease Trauma From Gun Violence
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Community Safety Coordination Center (CSCC) today announced the launch of a new nearly $275,000 Emergency Supplemental Victims’ Fund (ESVF) pilot program to ease the financial burden and trauma inflicted on those directly impacted by gun violence. This pilot program will focus on alleviating the immediate financial impacts of shooting incidents by providing financial assistance in set amounts to survivors and their families.
DETROIT — Violent Crime in Detroit Down, Property Crime Up in 2022
Violent crime in Detroit in 2022 dropped 11% over the previous year as of Friday, while property crime increased by nearly a quarter, fueled by a 41% jump in vehicle thefts, according to the latest Detroit police statistics. As of Friday, there had been 307 criminal homicides in Detroit — identical to the Dec. 30, 2021, total — while the 952 non-fatal shootings represented a 10% decline from the 1,055 shootings recorded during the same period in 2021.
LOS ANGELES — Mayor Bass Launches “Inside Safe” to Tackle LA’s Street Homelessness
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Wednesday, Dec. 21, launched her “Inside Safe” initiative to move people living in tents and homeless encampments off the streets and indoors. Bass has insisted the program will entail outreach workers going to encampments to talk to individuals about housing options and support services they’re eligible for, and that people won’t be forced or coerced into moving.
NEW YORK CITY – NYC Nurses’ Strike Imminent
Over 10,000 nurses across 5 NYC hospitals in the private sector have announced that they will strike if a contract agreement is not reached by January 9. Nurses have been engaged in a yearlong fight with hospitals to improve staffing ratios.
PHILADELPHIA — City Unveils Plan for Opioid Settlement Dollars
Last Thursday, Mayor Jim Kenney joined city and community officials to unveil the city’s plan to spend its $20 million apportionment of opioid settlement funding from several national pharmaceutical distribution companies. The plan includes investment in citywide substance use treatment programs, overdose response initiatives, and revitalization of Kensington — one of Philadelphia’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.
Real Estate Development
CHICAGO — Chicago Real Estate Stuck in a Holding Pattern Heading Into 2023
Redfin and Zillow, two online real estate marketplaces, both expect existing-home prices to hold up better in Chicago than in most major cities, largely because they didn’t rise as drastically here, so there’s less air to be let out of them. As prices dropped elsewhere around the country, they only flattened in the Chicago area, at least for now.
LOS ANGELES — Southern California Home Prices Fall for a Sixth Straight Month
Southern California home prices fell for a sixth-straight month in November, wiping out most of the price gains achieved during the first half of the year. The median price of a Southern California home – or the price at the midpoint of all sales — dropped to $690,000 in November, up a mere $10,000 from year-ago prices, according to new numbers from real estate data firm CoreLogic released Wednesday. Last month’s median price was down $70,000, or 9%, from the all-time high of $760,000 reached in April and May.
PHILADELPHIA — Development Projects Coming to Philadelphia in 2023
From the construction of new parks and museums to apartments and affordable housing to the highly anticipated 76ers Place, the world of real estate development will be booming in 2023. Billy Penn has compiled a list of development projects to keep an eye on this year.
RICHMOND — Richmond Reveals Bidders for City Center Redevelopment Contract
The City of Richmond revealed via press release the names of five firms that are bidding for a contract to redevelop the City Center neighborhood, which encompasses the Richmond Coliseum and the 6th Street Marketplace, both of which are currently vacant. The project is expected to help economically revitalize the heart of the city.
SAN DIEGO — Home Prices Expected to “Continue Their Slide Down” in San Diego, Rest of Nation
San Diego metro continued to see price declines in October, but the pace of decreasing prices slowed compared to other cities. San Diego home prices were down 0.7 percent from September to October, said the S&P Case-Shiller Indices released this week. That was a change from the previous month that saw San Diego prices drop 2.1 percent — tied for the fourth-biggest drop in the 20-city index. It was the sixth-most in October.
SEATTLE – Seattle Home Prices are Falling More Than the Rest of the United States
According to new data analyzing September to October 2022 home prices, Seattle is one of the fastest cooling housing markets in the United States.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Development Projects Coming to D.C. in 2023
Several new real estate developments are coming to the Washington, D.C. area, including the first buildings of the new Amazon’s HQ2 campus, the conversion of an office building to apartment units in Kalorama, and the newest development on the Capitol Waterfront.
Taxes & Spending
CHICAGO — Sparing Residents From Tax Hikes Months Before Election, Chicago’s 2023 Budget Takes Effect
Chicagoans can ring in the new year without worrying they will have to cough up more cash in 2023 to cover the cost of a city-imposed property tax hike to keep up with the soaring rate of inflation, or any new fees. The reprieve comes as residents prepare to make their picks for mayor and City Council. With less than two months until Election Day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot touts the $16.4 billion spending plan she crafted as a “stability budget” for a city enjoying a faster than expected recovery from the depth of the economic catastrophe triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
DETROIT — Whitmer Signs Bills That Allow Huntington Place Expansion to Move Forward
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed legislation that will allow a plan to expand the Huntington Place convention center in downtown Detroit to move forward. Whitmer signed Senate Bills 1222 and 1223, which amended different acts related to convention facilities. Specifically, SB 1222 allows for additional bond issuances and capital expenditures associated with Huntington Place so the facility may be expanded to accommodate more convention business and development in the area.
LOS ANGELES — Howard Jarvis Group, Apartment Owners Sue to Block LA’s New Housing Tax
A coalition of real estate and anti-tax groups is seeking to prevent the city of Los Angeles from implementing a recently passed tax on the sales of properties over $5 million. The proceeds of Measure ULA, which passed with nearly 58% of the vote in the November election, would go toward a range of efforts to prevent people from becoming homeless. In addition, tens of millions of dollars would go to the construction of new housing and tenant defense.
Transportation & Mobility
CHICAGO — Nearly $200 Million Earmarked for CTA, Metra to Make Transit Stations More Accessible
A provision in a new bipartisan infrastructure bill, championed by Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, will allocate nearly $200 million in funding for Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority to make stations more accessible for individuals with disabilities. The All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) Act will ultimately direct $185 million in funding to the CTA and Metra to build ramps, install elevators, and to make other improvements to ensure that bus and rail systems are more usable for individuals with disabilities, according to a press release.
NEW YORK CITY – Uber Workers Strike Outside Manhattan Headquarters
Several Uber workers went on strike outside of Uber’s Manhattan headquarters for the second time in the last month. NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission were scheduled to give rideshare and taxi drivers a raise last month, but a lawsuit from Uber caused a temporary block on the wage increase.
RICHMOND — GRTC Extends Fare-Free Program Through June 2024
The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) has announced that it will be extending the fare-free program through at least June 2024. The program is part of an ongoing impact study made possible by an $8 million grant from the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and has resulted in a 15% increase in ridership since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego Airport Still Feeling Effects of Temporary Fuel Shortage Caused by Pipeline Leak
A fuel supply shortage stemming from a pipeline leak continued to affect some flights at San Diego International Airport on January 3, forcing at least one carrier to make a stop in Los Angeles to refuel. The fuel issue, caused by a leak in a key pipeline east of Los Angeles, was expected to be resolved by the evening of January 3, with normal fuel supplies resuming January 4, said a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan, which operates the pipeline.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Transportation Projects Coming to D.C. in 2023
From various Metro line extensions to protected bike lanes to revamps of stretches of I-95, transportation will be undergoing extensive transformations throughout Washington, D.C. in 2023.