query: community benefit agreements

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Thu Jan 11 17:22:26 CST 2007

[ed:  thanks to Stephen for replying to Jacob's query.]

From: "Barton, Stephen" <SBarton at ci.berkeley.ca.us>

I would have to reply with the question, what do you mean by "neoliberal". 

If you look at it broadly, European social democracy is a community 
benefits agreement at the national level, in which a democratic 
government, strongly influenced by labor or socialist parties, ensures 
that a capitalist, market economy supports a social safety net, a major 
public sector, and operates within a regulatory framework that provides 
significant protections to workers and the public. Local agreements can 
be steps in this direction, or they can be inadequate patronage deals 
that lead nowhere but sustain the existing systematic imbalance of 
forces in the U.S.  Thirty years ago the buzz word was "public-private 
partnerships", which sometimes meant just a fig leaf over subsidy for 
business but sometimes meant getting important community benefits in 
return. With rise of the hard right wing of the Republican Party to 
political power such benefits became an unnecessary compromise and the 
"Public-Private partnership" phrase fell into disfavor.  It seems to me 
that the community benefits agreements are often situations where 
community organizations are fighting to get benefits that in a previous 
balance of political forces was considered a normal and reasonable 
compromise by business interests. I suspect the meaning of a community 
benefit changes when the community has to fight for it, and build the 
political power to win the benefit as opposed to being "given" it to buy 
support from an existing power base.  Note by analogy the situation of 
unions in the 1930s struggling to establish their power base compared to 
the complacency of the 1960s. So I agree with the comment that community 
benefits are not inherently anything, and knowing the detailed context 
is essential.

Stephen Barton, Ph.D. AICP
Housing Director
City of Berkeley
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley, CA 94704

Tel: 510-981-5401
Fax: 510-981-5450
E-mail: sbarton at ci.berkeley.ca.us

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
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> [ed:  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Jacob's 
> question.  We have had some discussion about CBAs on the list in the 
> past, and I always it useful to return to good discussions.]
> From: Jacob and Sarah Lesniewski <jshm at uchicago.edu>
> I'm a grad student at University of Chicago, and I'm working
> on a lit review for a professor of mine, seeking to answer
> the question "are community benefit agreements neo-liberal."
> I'm having some challenge finding critiques of community
> benefit agreements as well as trying to gain a historical
> perspective of why this tactic or strategy has emerged.  Any
> help or direction would be fantastic.
> Peace
> Jacob Lesniewski
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