Category Archives: Cities & Towns

Boomtown, Flood Town

Source: Neena Satija for The Texas Tribune and Reveal; Kiah Collier for The Texas Tribune; and Al Shaw for ProPublica, December 7, 2016

Climate change will bring more frequent and fierce rainstorms to cities like Houston. But unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone. ….

Evaluation of a Minimum Wage Increase in Minneapolis and Hennepin/Ramsey County

Source: University of Minnesota, The Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Technical Report, September 2016

The Roy Wilkins Center replicated the techniques used in prevalent economic literature to simulate the relative impact of a local minimum wage increase in the city of Minneapolis and in Hennepin/Ramsey County. These simulated minimum wage changes are at the $12 and $15 per hour levels. The research team finds the following:
– The industries with the largest number of persons likely to be affected by the change in minimum wage are food service, retail, non-hospital health, and administrative support ….

Minimum wage earners in Minneapolis often
o Have at least some college education
o Are not currently in school
o Work at least 35 hours per week
o Are over age 25

Firms that currently pay the $9.50 minimum wage in Minneapolis often
o Are eligible to pay the current lower minimum wage of $7.75 as a small business
o Will increase prices of food by less than 5% to cover labor costs of a $12/$15 minimum wage
o Face lower employee turnover after an increase in the minimum wage

Current literature on the minimum wage suggests
o Increases in average employee monthly earnings vary by industry
o Average employee monthly earnings in the Minneapolis metropolitan area are more sensitive to the minimum wage than the country as a whole
o Most estimates of the change in workforce participation find no statistically significant change after a minimum wage increase

Households with minimum wage earners in Minneapolis
o Are currently less likely than the general public to meet their food needs
o Are likely to spend $27 more a week to meet their food needs after the proposed increase in the
minimum wage
o Would face food insecurity 4-7% less often under the proposed policy

Immigrant workers earning the minimum wage in Minneapolis
o Are slightly more responsive to an increase in the minimum wage than the general population
o Are especially more responsive to an increase in the minimum wage if they are recent immigrants in a low skill job

Nonwhite employees are more likely to be affected by an increase in the minimum wage than white workers, when controlling for the number of workers in each group
o Minority Owned Business Enterprises are, however, likely to face smaller changes in payroll costs after a change in the minimum wage, as fewer minority owned enterprises qualify to pay their workers a reduced minimum wage

Firms within industries with relatively few minimum wage workers are not very likely to see a large change in their operating costs as a result of the proposed minimum wage

Firms within industries with relatively many minimum wage workers may see an increase in their operating costs, however, if employee earnings increase by a smaller rate than we simulate, the change in labor cost would be smaller as well…..

The 2016 State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages

Source: Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, 2016

From the press release:
Since the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s cities and villages have maintained critical services despite no significant increases in local or state revenue. But challenging times are just around the corner for local road systems, and Wisconsin’s smallest communities are still waiting for the economy to recover fully, according to a new report sponsored by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

The inaugural edition of “The State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages” is a combination of data analysis and local government survey information prepared for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). ….

….The report’s key findings include:
• Wisconsin’s local governments have been great stewards of limited tax dollars. From 2011 to 2014, total revenues to cities and villages grew just 2.1%, which when adjusted for inflation represented a real decline in funding. Additionally, cities and villages absorbed a 12.8% cut in state support. This contrasts with state revenues, which grew by more than 8% during the same period.
• Cities and villages managed by focusing on public safety. Despite flat revenues, police and fire response times were unchanged. There were reductions in snow plowing response time; street maintenance was flat; and other non-life-safety city services were cut. Yet local leaders reported high levels of citizen satisfaction with municipal services.
• Maintenance of local roads remains a long-term challenge. While 68% of city and village streets ranked “good,” “very good,” or “excellent,” this percentage has been declining since 2009 while the percentage of “fair,” and “poor or worse,” has been increasing.
• Delaying street maintenance projects raises costs exponentially. While basic street resurfacing costs $606,000 per mile, the cost quadruples if the work is deferred and streets need to be reconstructed.
• Municipal borrowing is a growing concern. The report found that local debt service payments have skyrocketed. Municipal budgets now allocate $1 of every $5 to paying off loans for work done in the past. Debt service hovered around 15% between 1986 and 2000. Paying off old debts reduces money available to undertake current street projects and other municipal needs….

Blue Cities, Red States

Source: Abby Rapoport, American Prospect, August 22, 2016

As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated. ….

…..“PREEMPTION” LAWS ARE not new, nor are they necessarily about undoing local legislation. But with some notable exceptions, past preemption laws have generally enforced what can be called “minimum preemption”: They force localities to do something where they might otherwise have done little or nothing. As it’s often said, they set a “floor” for regulation. For instance, the federal government has been setting minimum standards of environmental protection for years, preempting the states from allowing lower environmental standards. Similarly, states often set a floor for various local regulations, whether regarding pollution, trade licensing, gun ownership, or other matters.

Most current preemption laws, by contrast, are what one might call “maximum preemption.” These laws aren’t about setting minimums; instead, they prohibit local regulation. States have prevented localities from creating paid sick leave requirements for businesses, or raising the minimum wage. Many who oppose these measures blame their proliferation on the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has drafted “model” preemption bills for state lawmakers to use. “Pretty much anything you can think of that matters to the American family is under assault by local preemption,” says Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights preemption laws around the country……

Arts Stability and Growth Amid Redevelopment in U.S. Shrinking Cities’ Downtowns: A Case Study

Source: Joanna P. Ganning, Economic Development Quarterly, Vol. 30 no. 3, August 2016

From the abstract:
While the relationship between arts businesses and redevelopment has been studied extensively in world-class cities, it remains understudied in weaker market cities. With tight municipal budgets, shrinking cities cannot afford to not understand both the benefits of the arts for downtown redevelopment and the impact of redevelopment on the arts. Using block-level data for a U.S. shrinking city’s downtown (St. Louis), this study finds that the arts have neither anchored redevelopment nor been driven out of the downtown by redevelopment. The latter finding signals an opportunity for shrinking cities to harness the benefits of the arts in downtown redevelopment.

D.C.’s White Donor Class: Outsized Influence in a Diverse City

Source: Sean McElwee, Dēmos, June 2016

Key Findings:
– The donor class doesn’t represent the diversity of Washington D.C.’s population. While 37 percent of D.C.’s population is white, 62 percent of mayoral donors and 67 percent of City Council donors are white.
– The rich are disproportionately represented in the donor class. Only a quarter of D.C.’s adult population makes more than $100,000, but 59 percent of council donors and 61 percent of mayoral donors do.
– The pool of donors who make small donations is more representative than the pool of those who make large donations. Women make up about half of those giving less than $50 to mayoral and council races, but only 31 percent of those giving more than $1,000. People of color make up 47 percent of mayoral donors giving less than $25, but 31 percent of those giving more than $1,000.
– The small donor pool contains more income diversity as well. Those making $100,000 or more comprise 44 percent of donors giving $25 or less to mayoral candidates, but 72 percent of those giving $1,000 or more.
– Mayoral candidates relied heavily on big donors, raising less than 7 percent of their total funds from donors giving less than $100, and 67 percent from donors giving more than $1,000.
– A system of public financing would increase the diversity of D.C.’s donor class, leading to more responsive policymaking.