"In development work, there is no such thing as a cookie cutter,” says Trinette Britt-Reid, a consultant at Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation in Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side. Garfield Park is an older urban community within the Chicago Empowerment Zone, an area torn by riots in the 1960s and weakened by decades of declining population, abandoned properties, poverty, crime, and drugs.
For more than 20 years, Bethel has executed a variety of community development projects in this neighborhood—affordable housing, commercial industrial development, employment services—and also brought in health and human services, including daycare. Since the mid-1990s, acting with several partners in the public and private sectors, Bethel has taken a transit-oriented development approach, building on an unexpected neighborhood asset: an elevated train stop (or “the El,” as Chicagoans call their venerable rail transit system). Bethel wants to make the El station an anchor for area revitalization efforts.
The local hiring language in SAFETEA-LU was championed jointly by the Transportation Equity Network, the Gamaliel Foundation, Representatives Millender-McDonald and Costello, and Senators Bond and Obama. The new law directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to let communities create their own agreements around local and minority hiring. This allows communities to create local jobs by directly accessing the $286 billion SAFETEA-LU funds. Benefits of Local Hiring Agreements:
Local communities have more control over how their tax money is spent.
Residents around highway and transit projects get access to the living wage jobs that these massive projects create.
Welfare, jail, and other poverty-related costs to the community are reduced because more residents have living wage jobs.
Job benefits are more equitably distributed throughout the region, rather than being concentrated in a few high-growth suburban corridors.
The unemployed, underemployed, and people of color are given the opportunity to move into construction careers.
Community groups can pass their own local hiring ordinances on highway and transit money at the city council, county council, or state legislative levels. They should identify their best partners and create a strategy that moves toward a regional agreement.
In August 2005, the combined efforts of hundreds of community-based, grassroots advocacy and organizing groups succeeded in advancing a broad-based agenda for transportation reform in national legislation. Most media outlets viewed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act–A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) through the lens of specific highway or transit projects, or chose to criticize the bill’s spending excess. When the dust cleared, advocates for transportation equity had more to work with than anyone could have imagined only two years ago.
The Bay Area Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative “Don’t Sit Idle” campaign launched with awareness events in six communities. Starting at 3 a.m., residents of San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, and San Leandro distributed anti-idling fliers to truck and bus drivers as well as local residents. While a law limiting diesel truck idling to five minutes has been in place for a year, it is sporadically enforced and a loophole allows truckers to idle their vehicles overnight.