How to Build Community Wealth. Is Trump Cornered? & More on Romero-Regional Coalition

Today we examine what the Manafort/Cohen felonies mean, how NM cities can build community wealth without investing in corporations with no interest in your community…and more info on the LANL Regional Coalition saga.

Regional Coalition Inappropriate Use of Funds Radio Coverage. On KSFR 101.1 FM at 8:30am this Saturday Retake Our Democracy’s entire radio show will focus on the findings from the NM State Audit and the Adams + Crow independent investigation. I will also appear on the Richard Eeds show on Wednesday at 4pm for a full hour. where we will discus both the Regional Coalition expenditure issue and some of the immediate opportunities that might be possible for NM cities to build local wealth and address income and wealth inequity. You can find Richard’s show at KTRC 1260 AM or 103.7 FM. There will also be more coverage of the Regional Coalition in this blog on Monday.

Two TEWA Women’s United Events: Española Healing Foods Oasis this Saturday, August 25 — please come for one or both of them!

Aug 25, 9 am – 12 noon
A’GIN YOUTH FAMILY GARDENING MORNING
Join A’Gin Youth and special guest artist Bel Falleiros (resident artist at the Santa Fe Art Institute) as we work together to install our clay irrigation vessels and create a spiral garden! All ages, friends, and family members are welcome. This is a free community event. Bring a sun hat, sturdy shoes, and a bottle of water — we’ll have a big jug of water on hand so you can re-fill and keep yourself hydrated.
Aug 25, 1 – 4 pm
POLLINATOR PLANT WORKSHOP
Pollinators – like butterflies, birds, bees and bumblebees – need the pollen and nectar from native plants in order to thrive and continue playing an essential role in our eco system. But most urban areas and developments offer little habitat for pollinators.  Come join us for this afternoon workshop to learn about plants that support pollinators in the Española Healing Foods Oasis. This is a free community event — all are welcome! Bring a sun hat, sturdy shoes, and a bottle of water — we’ll have a big jug of water on hand so you can re-fill and keep yourself hydrated.

Trump and GOP Leadership Cornered, But…..

Tuesday was a remarkable day, with various news outlets reporting in various words that this was the darkest day in Trump’s administration or even the darkest day for the GOP since Watergate. Vox did an excellent job of summarizing what could ensue from the one-two punch of Manafort’s being found guilty of eight felonies and Cohen pleading guilty to seven more felonies.  While both figures could face years in prison, by far the most ominous event yesterday was Cohen’s admission that not only did he attempt to interfere with the 2016 election by engineering payments to suppress charges of Trump infidelity but that he did so at the direction of an “unnamed candidate.” It doesn’t take much insight to identify that candidate.

But a fascinating aspect to the Cohen case, unearthed by Vox, was that it is very uncertain as to whether the Federal Attorney could use Cohen’s testimony to indict a sitting president. In normal circumstances this would result in Congress  authorizing a new Special Counsel investigation or expansion of Mueller’s investigation. But these are not normal times and it is uncertain as to whether the GOP dominated Congress will authorize either of these courses or circle the wagons.

As a result, a key mid-term election topic will be whether or not GOP candidates are willing to look the other way or stand up for our democracy and push for an investigation. Or will the GOP try to create a mandate: vote for the GOP or the President who wants to make America great again could be in jeopardy. We who can’t believe we elected Trump in the first place are repeatedly incredulous that huge swathes of America can somehow accept Trump and his assaults on our sense of justice.

To us, it seems certain that Tuesday just made the Democrats job of taking the House much easier and may have put the Senate in play, as well. But, Trump and his henchman have been able to overcome one offensive policy (tax plan, budget, child separation, tariff) and yet his base turn out chanting “Jail her.” However that unfolds, one thing is certain:  It should be interesting.  Click here for a very good Vox report on this issue.

Community Development in Service of People, Not Corporations Our Only Path to Equity & Justice

“What would happen if economic developers, city managers, mayors, and other caretakers of local economies thought differently? How might local economies be different, if these city economic development leaders discarded the complex algorithms they use in deal making, if they stopped focusing on abstract inputs and outputs, and instead focused on people and community?”

The above question was posed  by Shawn Escoffery of the Surdna Foundation in the Preface of a publication from the Democracy Collaborative:  Cities Building Community Wealth, a wonderful 75-page handbook that not only identifies the questions city administrators and elected officials should be asking but illustrates what is possible if they ask the right questions and insist upon equity and social justice becoming the driver of public investment and development. Page after page is full of specific examples of how putting people, equity and justice in front of profit, corporate growth can build community wealth and keep it there.

But what is community wealth building?  “A systems approach to inclusive, community-based economic development, based on local and broad-based ownership….Globalization works well for capital, which can move across borders with a computer keystroke. But the real economy of jobs and families and the land always lives someplace real. The real economy is place-based. And a real place is more than a free market of footloose players, where firms are like objects that can be moved anywhere. Cities and towns are places that people care passionately about, where working collaboratively for the common good instinctively makes sense.”

What happens when developers make the wrong assumptions and assume that luring the big corporation from afar can jump start a local economy?  After providing tax incentives to lure a Borders Book into her town, putting the neighborhood bookstore across the street out of business, Kimberly Lanning of Local First Arizona asked: “How are they taking my tax revenue as a small, local business and giving it to big box stores to put me out of business, and calling that growth?” she asked. “Why do they get to count all the jobs created, without subtracting all the jobs destroyed?” The report goes on to cite a George Washington University study that found that after six years, firms receiving subsidies produced fewer jobs than those local businesses generated without subsidies. What’s more, if you invest in local business all of the sales generated by that business, both profit and wages stay in the community, creating a multiplier effect as those wages and profit are spent in town.

There is another problem with investing public dollars to lure corporations to locate in your community and that gets back to the concept of “place” and a sense of community. You will not find “loyalty community” among the driving forces for major corporations. They may use it in branding, but seldom in practice, where profit is always guiding decisions and loyalty to community makes no sense if more profit can be made in St. Louis than in Santa Fe.

For example, in 2013, Boeing was threatening to cut to its workforce in Washington if it didn’t receive massive subsidies. Washington relented, awarding Boeing $8.7 billion in subsidies. Washington’s reward? The ink was barely dry on the agreement when Boeing cut over 12,000 Washington jobs, over 15% of its Washington workforce.

Only recently Boeing was again seeking more subsidies from a city in Washington, threatening to leave if it didn’t receive subsidies it demanded, despite posting huge profits and having record back-orders ensuring continued thriving profit. The article outlined how a fundamental problem with negotiating with large corporations is that they have zero loyalty and that in our capitalist system they can play one state or city against the other seeking the biggest package to locate their enterprise. The article pointed to how over a dozen other states were luring Boeing with tempting offers, effectively pitting one community against the other to the benefit of Boeing and its shareholders. I’ve spent hours (literally) trying to find this article, but have failed. $10 to the person who finds it.

But that article withstanding, time and time again we see organizations like Amazon, Facebook and Google float the idea of moving some of its operations and then sitting back to examine the best offers. But these mega corporations have no loyalty to “place” or to your community. And when your community pulls together the movers and shakers and they cobble together the best offer possible to lure that corporation to condescend to move to your community, that is just the opening salvo to negotiations. Once there, the demands will begin again, seeking even more concessions to keep the operations there, or not to cut back. This is not how you build community.

The Democracy Collaborative publication provides numerous alternatives that build sustainable community wealth. We must find ways to free ourselves from the beast of capitalism. That system has no investment in you or your community.  To capitalism humans, community and the earth itself are only a means to an end: shareholder profit. Imagine a different system, imagine one that is solely focused on building community wealth.

We can’t wait to get home to start the conversation about how we can do this in Santa Fe and other NM cities. Click here to get the full Democracy Collaborative report.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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