Cozen Cities – March 10, 2023
March 10, 2023
March 10, 2023
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.
Concessions workers at the United Center staged a one-day walkout Sunday that affected food and beverage service during the afternoon’s Chicago Bulls game.
Freelance workers in Los Angeles are set to receive more protections with the Los Angeles City Council’s adoption on Friday, February 24, of an ordinance intended to protect the industry. The ordinance requires that any contract of $600 or more between employers and freelance workers must be in writing, with a date by which the freelancer must be paid. If the contract does not include a date or if there is no written contract, employers must pay freelancers within 30 days after the work is completed.
Almost three years ago, the city of San Diego cut off access to its broad network of Smart Streetlights — more than 3,000 devices perched atop light poles that could collect images and other data, some of which the Police Department used to solve criminal cases. On March 1, the San Diego Police Department said it wants access to 500 of those devices to be restored — and they want to add another crime-solving tool to the network: automated license plate readers.
Unlike the rest of the nation , the Chicago area has failed to recover all the jobs lost in the pandemic – with the exception of Chicago’s 25 largest employers, which have collectively exceeded their pre-COVID headcount levels. As of December 2022, the area had 3.81 million employees (compared to 3.83 million in February 2020), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chicago’s top 25 employers accounted for nearly 12% of those workers.
For the 10th straight year, the Chicago region recorded the most business relocations and expansions among large metro areas in the U.S., Site Selection magazine said.
The head of the Port of Los Angeles said he remains confident West Coast port employers and dock workers will get closer to a contract agreement over the next few months as stalled negotiations continue to pressure cargo flow. West Coast dockworkers have been operating without a contract since last summer, and uncertainty over negotiations has pushed shippers to shift cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports. In January, the Port of Los Angeles processed 726,014 TEUs, a 16% YoY decrease.
Starbucks employee Austin Locke has been reinstated to his position at a Long Island City location after being fired in July 2022 following a vote to unionize. The company will need to pay $21,000 in backpay and penalties for violating NYC’s Fair Workweek Law.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership aided local employers in connecting more than 1,800 local residents to jobs that offered living wages averaging $22.79 an hour. More than 11,000 people were served by the organization in 2022, including 9,444 job seekers who received training or placement in internships or career opportunities.
As thousands of tech layoffs in Silicon Valley made headlines in recent weeks, many opportunities for software developers and engineers have opened up on the East Coast, with Washington, D.C., showing the potential to become a new epicenter of sorts.
Lori Lightfoot, the first Black woman and the first openly gay person ever to serve as mayor of Chicago, became a one-term mayor on Tuesday. With nearly 99% of the precincts reporting, Lightfoot, who guided Chicago through the pandemic, finished third in Tuesday’s election with 17.06% of the vote – behind former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson. Vallas, who won 33.77% of the vote and Johnson, who wound up with 20.29%, will compete in a runoff election April 4.
In a Chicago aldermanic election marked by a dozen aldermen calling it quits, incumbent City Council members who ran for re-election had an overwhelmingly good night on February 28. Unofficial results had only one incumbent losing, while the other 31 other incumbents had over 50% of the votes cast in their races. Poised to win these races outright, these incumbents will avoid the April runoff elections.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said last week’s reelection loss of his Chicago counterpart is a “warning sign for the country” and that fellow Democrats ignore the issue of crime at the party’s peril.
Detroit City Council on February 28 approved Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposal to spend $156.5 million in surplus funds on immediate projects across the city, including sidewalk replacements, park renovations, dangerous tree removals, unsalvageable building demolitions and transit improvements. Council members on February 28 also approved pay raises for Detroit’s mayor, city council members and city clerk.
Federal prosecutors opened Raymond Chan’s fraud and bribery trial on February 21 by detailing the former Los Angeles deputy mayor’s alleged involvement in a years-long “pay-to-play” real estate scheme, while Chan’s attorney delivered an inflammatory opening that drew at least 11 sustained objections and a skeptical admonishment from the judge. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Har told the California federal jury deciding Chan’s fate that the former Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety general manager-turned-deputy mayor and his cronies had a common goal: “Get money, keep power and avoid the feds.”
Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney officially kicked off Philadelphia’s 2023 budget season by giving his final budget address to City Council. His $6.1 billion proposed budget includes new measures to tackle the city’s gun-violence epidemic and address economic inequality, among other priorities.
In the wake of Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s official announcement of his retirement, four current district council members are eagerly throwing their names into the ring for the chance to succeed their colleague in the politically powerful leadership position.
Richmond will not elect its next mayor until 2024, but at least two people — former Richmond City Council president Michelle Mosby and ShiftMed Vice President of People Operations Garrett Sawyer — have already filed paperwork to prepare for potential mayoral runs in order to succeed term-limited Mayor Levar Stoney.
Seattle has become the first U.S. city to explicitly ban caste-based discrimination. Caste now falls under the list of protected statuses in existing anti-discrimination legislation.
In an effort to address the city’s racial wealth gaps — which is reportedly the nation’s largest — Councilmember At-Large Kenyan McDuffie re-introduced a 2020 bill calling for the payment of reparations for the descendants of enslaved African Americans. Nine other council members have signed on.
Last week, a proposed amendment to the Baltimore city charter that would prevent the transfer of control over the Baltimore City Police Department to the city government was rejected by a coalition of police reform advocates. Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland without total control of its own police department due to existing language in the city charter.
To handle Chicago’s roughly 175 behavioral health-related 911 calls each day, the city relies almost entirely on the police — an approach that can lead to jail detentions, unnecessary hospitalizations and violent police confrontations. A pilot program under Mayor Lori Lightfoot aims to curb the police role. The program, Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement, is setting up mobile teams that include paramedics, mental-health clinicians and, in some cases, police officers trained in crisis response. The teams aim to de-escalate crises and connect people to the care they need.
At the request of Mayor Karen Bass, so that contracts for goods and services can be accepted immediately, the Los Angeles City Council voted on February 28, to waive its usual competitive bidding process when it comes to hiring vendors to tackle L.A.’s homelessness crisis. The council suspended competitive bidding and authorized the city administrative officer and city departments to act immediately to procure “construction contracts, service provider contracts, supplies, and equipment for homelessness facilities,” according to its resolution.
In an effort to increase the efficiency of the Richmond Police Department’s response to crime, City Council has approved $750,000 in grant funding for the creation of a real-time crime center, which will serve as a sort of “air traffic control for officers in the field,” according to Mayor Levar Stoney.
After previously deciding to gradually reduce the number of police officers in the city’s public and charter schools, D.C. City Council is reportedly considering keeping them there, citing a recent increase in crime and incidents of violence.
Boston City Council held a hearing examining Mayor Wu’s controversial rent control proposal, which would tie yearly rent increases to inflation and cap hikes at a rate of 6% plus the Consumer Price Index. The proposal has been contentious for both progressives, who argue there are not enough tenant protections, and the business community, who fear it will hurt landlords of small properties.
Many condominiums in downtown Chicago neighborhoods have performed poorly as investments, selling recently at prices well below what their sellers paid for them years ago.
While there’s a certain amount of gloominess in the raw data concerning metro Detroit’s housing market, local executives say they are witnessing the emergence of plenty of hot markets at a variety of price points.
January is typically a slow month for home sales in San Diego — but never this slow. There were 1,682 home sales in January, CoreLogic reported February 28, the lowest ever recorded dating back to 1988. The slowest month prior to January 2023 was 1,742 sales in February 1995, when much of the nation’s housing market was going through a steady period of a decline after a run-up in prices in the late 1980s.
The city of Chicago is investing in the nation’s two major mortgage-backers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to generate hundreds of new home loans in the city’s Black and Brown neighborhoods where lending has been neglected in the past. “We’re investing taxpayers’ dollars in taxpayers,” said city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. In recent months, she has directed $7 million of a planned $25 million of city money to a fund that invests in the mortgage-backers, with a stipulation that the money be used for loans on single-family homes on the city’s South and West sides.
Mayor Mike Duggan on March 3 presented a $2.6 billion budget for the city’s upcoming fiscal year and a four-year financial plan for the City Council’s approval. Duggan touted his 10th balanced budget as mayor, calling it “historic.” The upcoming fiscal year, 2023-24, starts on July 1. Of the total budget, $1.3 billion is for the general fund, with 54% allocated for city employee wages and benefits, 16% toward debt payment and pre-bankruptcy pension costs and 30% to support city services. General fund money comes from income tax, state revenue sharing, wagering tax, property tax and utility users tax.
The Los Angeles City Council voted on February 21 to explore ways to implement Measure ULA, which passed in November and seeks an additional tax on property sales that exceed $5 million in Los Angeles. Currently facing litigation, the tax is expected to generate between $600 million and $1.1 billion annually. A majority of the revenue would go toward affordable housing and tenant assistance programs, backers said.
A proposed parcel tax that would upgrade parks and libraries in San Diego suffered a major setback recently when the registrar of voters determined supporters had not gathered enough valid signatures for the 2024 ballot. Supporters, who raised and spent roughly $1 million on their signature-gathering campaign last year, said they have not decided whether to make a second run at gathering enough valid signatures to get the measure on next year’s ballot.
The Massachusetts inspector general Jeffrey Shapiro expressed “extreme concern” about a Boston school district bus contractor, and urged the district to tighten oversight and hold the contractor accountable.
O’Hare International Airport will be getting $50 million in grant money from the federal government for upgrades at Terminal 3, including an expanded passenger corridor, approximately 10,000 square feet of new concessions and amenity spaces, renovated restrooms and improvements to the terminal’s baggage facilities.
The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) is now using a new app for mobile ticketing from Token Transit. Payment with the current app, Passport, will be phased out after February 28. While riders can still buy 24-hour and 4-hour passes on either the Dart app or Token Transit, 31-day and 7-day passes can only be purchased via Token Transport. Any previously purchased, unused passes in a rider’s Passport wallet will be transferred to Token Transit by March 1.
The Los Angeles City Council voted March 1 to extend the LAPD’s contract to patrol Metro’s buses and trains, setting off a fresh debate over rising crime on the region’s transit system and the push to find alternatives to police. In a 10-2 vote, the council retroactively approved a six-month contract extension for security services at Metro, also known as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Last week, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) announced that it would be spending $17 million on 10 fuel-cell electric transit buses to its fleet. The buses are part of SEPTA’s efforts to work toward the goal of a zero-emissions fleet.
Construction of the long-planned railroad crossing at Park Boulevard, which would let motorists cross over the tracks along Harbor Drive near Petco Park in downtown San Diego, could start in August. Permits have been secured and city consultant Civic San Diego will solicit bids for work on the $27 million project in May, Christina Bibler, who is the director of the city’s economic development department, told the Union-Tribune.
Late last year, D.C. City Council passed legislation that promised to bring free public transit to the masses. Now, the city’s chief financial officer has removed funding for the widely popular fare-free bus program, citing a lack of available revenue to sustain it.
Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, an affiliate of the international law firm Cozen O’Connor, is a bipartisan government relations practice representing clients before the federal government and in cities and states throughout the country. With offices in Washington D.C., Richmond, Albany, New York City, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Chicago, and Santa Monica, the firm’s public strategies professionals offer a full complement of government affairs services, including legislative and executive branch advocacy, policy analysis, assistance with government procurement and funding programs, and crisis management. Its client base spans multiple industries, including healthcare, transportation, hospitality, education, construction, energy, real estate, entertainment, financial services, and insurance.
Established in 1970, Cozen O’Connor has over 775 attorneys who help clients manage risk and make better business decisions. The firm counsels clients on their most sophisticated legal matters in all areas of the law, including litigation, corporate, and regulatory law. Representing a broad array of leading global corporations and middle-market companies, Cozen O’Connor serves its clients’ needs through 31 offices across two continents.
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