Today’s post focuses on the utter failure of the federal government to address the urgent needs of our local communities, whether in relation to our personal safety and protection from gun violence, the consequences of climate change, or the greed of corporate America. We’ll explore how our efforts to create change can best occur at the local and state levels and how you can play an important role in advancing these local efforts. We need to do more than vote, march, and sign petitions.
Before we begin, one small request. We recently attended a meeting of the Alliance for local Economic Prosperity (AFLEP). They realized that to successfully engage and educate enough legislators and other stakeholders to pass a State Public Bank into law, they need funds to hire staff and develop compelling educational materials customized to respond to different audiences. Three AFLEP donors have pooled their resources to be able to match dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000 in donations, a pretty strong indicator of AFLEP leadership’s commitment to Public Banking. So please go to the AFLEP website and make as generous a contribution as you can. For the first $1,000 in donations from Retake folks, we will match your donation, then it will be matched again by AFLEP leadership. So your $100 donation will become $400 and your $250 donation will become a $1,000 donation. We announced this match program in last Monday’s post that outlines the vast potential of a public bank and we are still a tad short of reaching Retake’s $1,000 match limit. So, a donation from you can still be double-matched.
After you’ve made your donation, send us an email at RetakeResponse@gmail.com to tell us how much you contributed, so we can match that donation. Thank you in advance for your generosity. Now let’s shift focus to examine local resilience strategies.
Think Globally, Act Locally
On May 20, we published a post focused on the Democracy Collaborative’s handbook, Cities Building Community Wealth,” Stockholm+50 Report Describes Path from Impending Disaster: 100% Renewables and Local Community Resilience.” That post weaves together themes from the handbook and the Stockholm+50 report, published to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary of the first UN Climate Conference convened in Stockholm in 1972.
Together, today’s blog and the May 20 one will shed light on how states and local communities can create social, economic, and climate resilience even in the face of federal indifference.
Our ruminations on the Stockholm report illustrate just how badly we are served by our federal government and the governments of our international community. While climate and economic policy is most often developed at the national and international levels, the impacts of those policies are experienced at the local level. As a result of international impotence and unwillingness to grapple with the economic and environmental crises facing us, we experience their indifference locally. In this context, we have no choice but to turn to our state and local governments, where we have some level of power and influence, and with them begin to knit together resilient and sustainable local communities.
But if we are to pass legislation at the state level or implement city-county initiatives, we need to expand the number of elected officials at the state and local levels who will be responsive to the policies and programs for which we advocate.
While elections have always been important, in the current national and international climate of lethargy and impotence, state and local elections are critical. Decisions and actions taken by elected officials can lead us to waste time and resources on false solutions like hydrogen hubs or support efforts to advance real solutions that will help us prepare for the economic and environmental consequences that an impatient Mother Nature is already sending our way. Since we don’t have time or resources to squander, our coming election is critical. While there are only two days before the polls close, it is still not too late to provide critical support to good Democratic candidates who, if elected, could cast deciding votes on initiatives we will be advancing. Our 2022 endorsement page has updated info on what you can do—in many cases from your couch—to support these candidates. And phone banking in the very last days of any election is critical to any candidates’ get-out-the-vote effort.
In 2023, the longer 60-day legislative session will offer sufficient time to consider an array of transformative initiatives: Health Security, Public Bank, Public Power, Guaranteed Basic Income, and meaningful gun violence prevention legislation, to name but five bills that will pass or fail in 2023. This is a session that will be filled with opportunities.
But the session will also include threats, as no doubt the GOP will advance legislation to restore the state’s regresssive law banning all abortion. We were only able to repeal that ban two sessions ago. But as important as that repeal is, all you have to do is watch any of the Ronchetti or Dow commercials to see just how terrifying the GOP agenda could be if they were able to construct a conservative coalition comprised of GOP and conservative Dems. Do you want our National Guard moved to the border? Do you want the abortion ban to be restored? Do you want the child tax credits that lifted hundreds of thousands of New Mexican children out of poverty rescinded? That and more is what is at stake.
We will need every progressive vote we can garner to get good bills through. And there are nefarious, dark forces seeking to undermine many good Democratic incumbents. Last week, Retake published a post written by Roxanne, “The Long and Winding Trail of Campaign Funding in NM: We Follow the Money.” It outlined clearly how out-of-state, corporate and GOP funds are flooding the campaign coffers of conservative challengers who are running against some of our most valued and trusted Democratic representatives.
It’s often difficult to get at the truth about candidates’ records, especially in contentious races when the claims and accusations are flying, with many of the negative hit ads and mailers being replete with misinformation that can cause even the most astute voter to be confused as to who to trust. Retake has created Election Central, where you can find our 2022 Endorsements for all statewide elections; state Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General, Governor, and endorsements in over a dozen legislative primaries.
Each endorsement includes information about how you can learn more about our endorsed candidates and how you can support their campaigns. On June 1, we updated the Endorsements page to include a brief description of how you can magnify your impact on the race and we strongly encourage you to do so. But I want to share two of those strategies right here.
- Sharing our Endorsements page on social media by posting a link on your Facebook page with a short reference encouraging your FB friends to use our endorsements to inform their ballot decisions; and even better and more impactful;
- Share our Endorsements page in a personal email to New Mexican voters who are among your largest circle of friends and family. You can greatly magnify your impact by sharing a link to these recommendations with a short personal note, pointing to one or more of the races about which you care most. In campaigns replete with misinformation, a recommendation from a trusted friend can be most impactful, especially as they are making plans to vote. I have received emails from folks telling me of how much their friends have appreciated receiving our endorsements. You are making voting easier for your friends, while also boosting the likelihood they are not misled into voting for candidates who will oppose our priorities.
Many of those candidates we are endorsing are facing formidable opponents who are using dark GOP-corporate funding to mount negative media campaigns that, if successful, could eliminate the potential for passing important progressive legislation and could open the door for a GOP-conservative Dem. coalition, restoring the abortion ban and reversing an array of positive legislation passed in the last two or three sessions. It’s not too late to have an impact, and legislative races are often decided by 10 or 20 votes, a small enough margin for your actions today and Monday to be the difference. Let’s do it!
Primary Elections Matter
As a result of huge election successes in 2016, 2018, and 2020 primary elections, Retake and our allies have fundamentally altered the political make up of the Roundhouse. In this context, the legislature has passed some hugely important legislation in the last three sessions:
- Decriminalizing abortion, after years of failed efforts;
- Legalizing recreational cannabis;
- Capping predatory loans at 36%;
- Providing free college education for all New Mexicans;
- Advancing the Health Security Act;
- Passing a historic child tax credit that lifted thousands of New Mexican children out of poverty;
- Putting a permanent increase in early childhood education on the ballot in November;
- Legalizing end-of-life options for those suffering with crippling, terminal illness.
Every one of those bills can be reversed if a conservative coalition is created in the 2022 election. And so it is incumbent upon all of us to remain engaged in this election. Even though there are but two days remaining, as noted above there are impactful things you can do. So please, do all you can to support good Democrats in key races. Now is not the time to kick back and await the returns.
Bringing Ideas & Policies to Government, Rather Than Just Reacting
Retake wants to begin bringing proven strategies to the legislature and local government, rather than simply reacting to what is developed by politicians. As part of this work, we are using the Democracy Collaborative handbook on how cities build wealth and resilience to identify and research local strategies that can help cities and counties build local resilience and to strengthen their capacity to adapt to whatever economic and environmental challenges Mother Nature continues to hurl our way.
You can learn more about these strategies and how you can help with the research and with outreach to legislators, local elected officials, and stakeholders by joining our next Zoom Huddle, on Weds., June 8, from 6-7:30pm. Click here to find information on our Huddles and to register. Huddle information should be at or near the top of the page.
I want to be perfectly honest with you, Retake is doing an enormous amount of groundwork, researching and summarizing initiatives and policies of immense potential, but we need you to turn those ideas into actual programs benefitting New Mexicans and New Mexico.
Retake is different from other advocacy organizations like Voices for Children, Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity, Planned Parenthood, and others with whom you are familiar. They have paid research staff and staff lobbyists. We have you. We are all volunteers. And one of our mantras is that democracy is a participatory sport. Retake tries to make it easier for you to be educated and engaged, but our success depends on you getting in the trenches, helping with research, becoming educated yourselves, and engaging your elected officials, educating them on the benefits of key policies that could become local initiatives or bills before the legislature. We need you to extend the impact of our work.
To maximize the impact of our work, we need to you to embrace roles as community lobbyists and voter activists. We touch on how you can do this in relation to the election above and on our Endorsements page, but our June 8 Huddle will be a kind of organizing meeting where together we will plot strategy and identify roles you can play to advance the resilience strategies previewed below. Click here to register to participate in our Huddle.
Local Community Resilience Strategies for NM
As noted above, Retake has been researching and writing about the Democracy Collaborative and its handbook, “Cities Building Community Wealth.” I’m going to return to that theme today. By the time you finish this post, my hope is you are curious enough to want to join our June 8 Huddle to find out more. Let’s start with a quote from the handbook..
Building community wealth is an umbrella term for economic development activities aimed at inclusive prosperity. A key focus is community, which connotes both a geographic place, and a sense of connectedness. It signifies something profoundly different from an economy indifferent to people and place.
A second pivotal term is wealth. Who owns wealth, who controls it, who benefits from it—these issues are core to every economy. When wealth is rooted in community, held locally and inclusively, the foundation of a truly democratic economy is laid. It is an economy that, in its normal functioning, tends to benefit all community members. Building this kind of economy is what economic development in a democracy is naturally about.The Democracy Collaborative: “Cities Building Community Wealth”
The intent stressed throughout the Democracy Collaborative handbook is that we need to become very intentional in our policy and advocacy and strive to free ourselves from an “indifferent economy.” And to do so means maintaining local resources within the community. The handbook offers dozens of model projects that have vastly increased local wealth and resilience in communities across the U.S. Today we focus on two strategies, but we provide a link to the handbook at the end of this post and hope that many of you will explore it, looking for other strategies that might be responsive to your community’s needs and resources. From the handbook:
“Community wealth building begins with loyalty to geographic place. If globalization is the hallmark of today’s mainstream economy, relocalization is the hallmark of the alternative. Globalization works well for capital, which can move across borders with a computer keystroke.”The Democracy Collaborative: “Cities Building Community Wealth”
It may require little for a mega corporation to shut down a manufacturing plant or a Target store. But while this may benefit shareholders and senior management, the real economy of jobs and families and the land always lives someplace real, not on Wall Street or some distant corporate headquarters. 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. Local communities are where building a new economy naturally begins.
What happens when your economy is place-based, publicly owned and democratically managed? One example cited in the handbook: Seattle’s publicly owned market, the Pike Place Market, is home to over 200 small business, 250 artisans, and 80 farmers. Serving the community is the aim of this market, an aim that is made possible by its municipal ownership structure.
From the Democracy Collaborative:
“Community wealth building promotes local, broadbased ownership as the foundation of a thriving, resilient local economy. Ownership of assets is the foundation of every economy, for it determines who has control and who receives the lion’s share of benefits. In the words of Justin Huenemann, executive director of the Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation, a focus is needed on “the democratization of ownership.” The goal is to create an economy where wealth is broadly held and locally rooted over the long term, so income recirculates locally, creating stable prosperity.”The Democracy Collaborative: “Cities Building Community Wealth”
Let’s amplify on the concept of recirculating income and capital. When Home Depot opens a store in Your Town, NM, there will be a ribbon cutting and much hurrah. After all, they have pledged to hire locally and pay a living wage. But even a reasonably conscientious corporation like Home Depot will export its profits to their headquarters and shareholders, and decisions about who to hire, what to pay, and if and when to close down will be all about corporate profit and shareholder return, not community benefit. So, what are the alternatives?
The Democracy Collaborative offers a number of community development strategies that can build community wealth and retain and recirculate local income and capital. We will review just a couple of them for now, but the hand book covers far more.
The first strategy is to engage what Democracy Collaborative calls your community “anchors” — hospitals, school districts, police and fire departments, city government, etc. Most every NM city or town has anchor institutions that could be engaged. Each of these institutions hire workers and procure services and supplies. Generally, purchasing local is not their first priority and so they may contract for services from an out-of-town or out-of-state business and purchase their supplies online from out-of-state producers. Democracy Collaborative recommends convening these anchors and educating them about the benefit to them and the community of local procurement policies.
From Democracy Collaborative:
“The procurement, hiring, and investment practices of anchor institutions represent a potentially enormous source of economic development support, which cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Baltimore, and New Orleans are beginning to tap. For instance, when anchor procurement supports locally owned businesses, cities enjoy a powerful multiplier effect, keeping money circulating locally. Over the past decade, more than two dozen studies have shown that local businesses generate two to four times the multiplier benefit, compared to non-locally owned firms. As author Michael Shuman observes, that means that every dollar shifted to a locally owned business generates more income, more jobs, higher local tax revenues, and greater charitable contributions.”The Democracy Collaborative: “Cities Building Community Wealth”
Another Democracy Collaborative wealth-building strategy is to facilitate the development of worker-owned cooperatives. Worker-owned cooperatives offer an alternative to sole proprietor or corporate-owned businesses. They are owned and managed by the workers, with the profit recirculating among coop members. Thus, no funds or resources leak out of the community. They also tend to result in significantly higher wages and better working conditions for the workers.
One example is Prospera an Oakland-based incubator supporting Latina entrepreneurship and cooperative development. Prospera helped local housecleaners come together to form a cooperative. Before forming the cooperative, housecleaners earned $24,000 a year working long hours. After forming the cooperative, their hours decreased, while their average income rose to just shy of $41K. That is a huge difference in quality of life and financial security for those workers.
With the Prospera housecleaning cooperative, the result keeps capital recirculating in the community while providing secure living wages to local workers.
Imagine such a cooperative in Santa Fe or Albuquerque. Imagine if all the housekeeping work done in our hospitality industry were conducted through a worker-owned cooperative. This can be done if you can convene stakeholders and explain the mutual benefits.
It can happen. Another example is in Cleveland, where the community’s several hospitals collaborated to stop contracting with an out-of-state entity for laundry services and helped establish a local worker-owned cooperative to perform the work.
And there is a huge opportunity for building a broad base of worker-owned cooperatives, as across the nation and throughout NM, baby-boomers who launched businesses decades ago are preparing to retire. One example of how converting these businesses to cooperatives can happen is dear to me.
Contrary to popular belief, the best pizza on earth is made at Zachary’s in Oakland. Whenever we wanted pizza, the only question was deep dish or thin crust, not where we’d get it. It is the first place my sons and I go whenever we return for a visit. Literally.
The owners were planning to retire and, rather than entrusting their life’s work to the highest bidder, they entrusted it to those who knew and loved the business best: the workers. They entered into an agreement through which, over a period of a few years, the employees bought Zachary’s. As a result, the pizza profit goes to the workers who spend it locally instead of to some absentee investor reaping the profit.
This kind of transaction could be replicated in other NM contexts whenever a sole proprietor owner wants to retire. But local communities must be intentional about how that can happen. Ideally, an incubator like the one in Madison, Wisconsin (below) or Oakland (Prospera) could be developed, providing technical assistance and other assistance to help workers form cooperatives and to help owners to facilitate transitioning to a cooperative as they near retirement.
The NM state legislature could do what Wisconsin did at the University of Wisconsin and fund the creation of an incubator to foster the development of worker-owned cooperatives. When Roxanne and I were in Madison in 2018, we chatted briefly with the Mayor at the grand opening of a newly formed worker-owned performing arts/circus cooperative. The community pride in creating this cooperative was obvious at the grand opening. It wasn’t just a circus, it was their circus, made possible by the legislature creating the incubator in which the circus developed and supported the city creation of a revolving loan fund available to Madison worker-owned cooperatives graduating from the incubator.
The lesson here is public policy must be intentionally focused on building community wealth, not just generating profit and tax revenue. And the important nuance to be understood is that most any business coming to a community will create jobs and generate tax revenue, but with policy supporting formation of cooperatives or creating local anchor procurement policies, you will still generate jobs and tax revenue, while also building a democratic economy. In the instance of worker-owned cooperatives, it is highly unlikely that those businesses will suddenly pick up and leave. The workers who own the business live in the community and have a commitment to keeping the business where they live.
As noted above, the handbook outlines literally dozens of policies and programs covering local food systems, energy, transportation, and affordable housing.
If you would like to learn more about these ideas and how we can bring them to NM, please click the link to our previous post: Stockholm+50 Report Describes Path from Impending Disaster: 100% Renewables and Local Community Resilience. It offers more on community wealth building and a link to the DC handbook. Or better yet, just use the link below to access the full handbook.
After scouring more of what we’ve written and perhaps sampled from the Democracy Collaborative’s handbook, link below, please sign up for the Huddle, June 8, 6pm-7:30pm, when we will strategize together. We will touch on the results of the primary election, but the majority of the meeting will focus on how to initiate state and local stakeholder conversations focused on creating more resilient and democratic communities throughout NM. We will:
- Discuss any other initiatives from the handbook, suggested by Huddle participants and Retake;
- Describe how to assemble a local collection of stakeholders and elected officials who would need to be at the table to foster an initiative;
- Discuss potential state legislation to develop over the next months — legislation that could foster the development of strategies like worker-owned cooperatives;
- Discuss how best to mine the full 90-page handbook, as there are dozens of programs, policies, and strategies outlined — an excellent starting point for any local coalition of stakeholders, anchors, and elected officials.
While the handbook doesn’t include step-by-step guidelines for implementing every initiative, it offers enough information to whet interest and identify the kinds of agreements and resources needed. Plus there is contact info for practitioners who have implemented these strategies.
Roxanne and I can continue to digest and summarize opportunities from the handbook, although this will go more quickly with support from others. But engaging local stakeholders in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Taos, Farmington, Espanola, Gallup and other communities requires local folks opening doors and cultivating interest. And to do this, you do not need to be an expert. Once a community and an initiative is identified, I can compile a project summary and a sequence of required steps for you to share with your stakeholders.
But as of today, we have precious few of you signed up for the Huddle, an important first step in advancing this work. See full handbook below.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne