In Response to Trump Budget, A Lenten Appeal for America's Communities

It’s that time of year again. For Catholics, March is Lent, a time of commitment to sacrifice and good deeds. It’s also when we get the annual Lenten Appeal request to tithe in support of the Church’s ability to serve as God’s emissary on earth and help those most in need. In Washington DC, March is budget season. The time of year when the Administration unveils its spending priorities for the coming year and when Congress demonstrates where it will invest the trillions of dollars provided by American taxpayers. This year, the disconnect between God’s priorities and Republican priorities could not be more clear, unless we focus only on the word sacrifice.

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Actions to Address Inequality Are All Around Us

Addressing social inequalities is a thread through the consulting that MZ Strategies engages in with public agencies, non-profits and philanthropic organizations.  Yet recent experiences with environmental justice in South Phoenix and educational disparities in Richmond, VA remind me how very far we have to come in restoring equitable outcomes, especially in the face of multi-generational poverty and structural racism.

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STiRRing things up in transportation … for the worse

My take on the House of Representatives transportation authorization bill: The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRR)  is not good for the environment, does not genuinely address safety and maintenance needs, is not good for social equity, does not adequately fund our transportation system and is not great for the economy. I’ll just say it …. I’d rather have yet another continuing resolution of the current bill than go down the STRR path for the next 6 years. America needs and deserves better. Congress needs to keep stirring until they get it right. 

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Transit as an Affordable Housing Tool? The Feds Think So!

Transit can be a powerful catalyst. Transit advocates like to argue about the positive economic development impacts that a new rail line can have on adjacent property. Community advocates argue against transit as a gentrification tool. In reality, both may be right and the latest "Annual New Starts Recommendations" issued in February by the Federal Transit Administration at USDOT asks communities wanting federal funding for their transit project to consider these trade-offs. Public funds are simply too scarce to not ensure that we are getting multiple benefits and maximum efficiency from every dollar invested. The latest MZ Strategies policy brief, Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing Through the Federal Transit Capital Investment Program, offers examples of how some communities are threading this needle.
 

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It’s Budget Time Again in Washington

Transportation highlights from the FY2015 budget released today by the Obama Administration seek to put reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program on the political radar before we run out of money this summer. Will Congress kick the can until after the mid-term elections? The President's Budget Proposal provide fodder and ideas about ways to pay for it through tax reform that may motivate advocates and the Hill to act in the coming months, or at least elevate the national debate.

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Looking Back and Looking Ahead on 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

In reflecting on notable achievements from 2013, I am struck by three separate federal actions that received little fanfare but are important to the War on Poverty’s arsenal. Each respond to one of the most profound lessons we have learned over the past 50 years -- the causes of poverty are often inter-related and cannot be successfully addressed by only focusing on housing, or education, or employment. Rather, integrated approaches are needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For USDOT it's Transportation for Communities

Two recent announcements by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) may have long-term impact on community development practitioners. In August, the Federal Transit Administration issued final guidance for its Capital Investment Program which funds New Starts and Small Starts transit projects (think subways, streetcars, light rail and bus rapid transit). And last week Secretary Foxx announced the latest round of TIGER grant recipients in 37 states (think big money for big transportation projects). With both of these announcements, USDOT signaled its recognition that these kind of large infrastructure investments can profoundly influence the way communities develop and markets respond.  

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Navigating the Regional Transportation Funding Maze

I’ve spent a fair amount of my “summer vacation” examining how metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) use their planning and programming tools to support livable communities. This is a question that a growing number of regions are interested in learning to help them make better investments with scarce public resources. While still far too opaque, best practices are emerging. MZ Strategies, LLC is involved with several efforts to help spread the word.

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