Advertisement
 
Monday, December 22, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
Advertisement

How cities can get out of their financial bind

Saturday, February 25, 2012 - Updated: 12:30 AM

By GAR ALPEROVITZ

McClatchy-Tribune

Cities are financially strapped today, but many are adopting innovative strategies that offer much promise.

From Lowell, Mass., to Berkeley, Calif., cities have discovered they can make better use of the millions of municipal dollars that temporarily sit in bank accounts. They do this by choosing where to place deposits based on banks' willingness to relend those dollars to meet local community development goals. This stimulates local economic development without placing new burdens on taxpayers.

Direct city ownership of land and businesses is another successful approach. Republican and Democratic mayors alike are involved in efforts ranging from land development to Internet and Wi-Fi services. In many cities, profits from municipally owned electric utilities also help finance other services and thus reduce the tax burden.

In Los Angeles, for example, the Department of Power and Water contributes about $190 million per year to the city's revenues. Still other cities have created new businesses to promote local economic development.

Hundreds of municipalities, for instance, generate revenues through landfill gas recovery, turning the greenhouse gas methane (a byproduct of waste storage) into energy. Others have established programs to make equity investments in local firms and share in their success. San Diego has invested $2.5 million in an "emerging technology" fund targeting small businesses in low-income communities.

Cities can harness other public assets to nurture the local economy. The ability of city governments to use the municipality's purchasing power to keep business dollars circulating locally is vastly underappreciated.

Utilized wisely, city purchases can provide a revenue-neutral way of supporting the development of community-anchored businesses: directing city contracts to firms structured in ways that keep jobs in the city.

In Cleveland, the purchasing power of the city's existing "anchors" -- not only hospitals and universities, but also local government itself -- is providing a long-term market for a network of green worker cooperatives built in some of Cleveland's poorest neighborhoods. This initiative not only builds the tax base; it also reduces the demand for city social services.

In an age of increasing fiscal crisis, we need comprehensive city-level economic planning. Strategies such as these may offer the only way out of the bind.

Rather than impose austerity, cut back on city services, and pit taxpayers against public employees, enlightened city managers can utilize these strategies to strengthen and unify their communities -- not weaken and divide them.

GAR ALPEROVITZ is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and the co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

     

Comments made about this article - 0 Total

Comment on this article

Advertisement
The Recorder Sports Schedule

 

The Recorder Newscast

Most Popular

    Area high school sports calendar
    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Amsterdam Police help Schenectady find homicide suspect
    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    URGENT New York panel picks 3 upstate resort casinos
    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    Port Jackson Media changes ownership
    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Robert A. Savoie Jr.
    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    New tax: Vehicle use tax approved
    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    The Outlet Pass: AHS, B-P set to meet
    Monday, December 15, 2014

    Amsterdam bounces back from S-G defeat with impressive win over Broadalbin-Perth
    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    B-P senior portrait is given the green light
    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Second nature: St. Mary's staff conducts ebola drill
    Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advertisement

Copyright © Port Jackson Media

Privacy Policies: The Recorder

Contact Us

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook