query: community benefit agreements

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Tue Jan 23 22:20:52 CST 2007


[ed:  Richard continues the discussion.]

From: Richard Layman <rlaymandc at yahoo.com>

I have a problem with the thread because I find fault with this 
"neo-liberal" argument.   As I discussed in the point about Foglesong's 
_Planning the Capitalist City_, CBAs are a way to balance the profits of 
property owners with the exceptions granted due to the request being at 
variance with local land use regulations.  Explain to me what this has 
to do with "neo-liberalism" or even Prahalad's arguments about how to 
market products to the extremely poor.
  
  E.g., we are dealing with a matter of where the developer is seeking 
zoning changes yielding benefits of 100,000 additional square feet, 
conservatively estimated at being worth $25,000,000, and they've offered 
amenities of less than $20,000 in return.
  
  The reality is that developers want as much benefit as possible for as 
little as possible.  That's the nature of business.  And that is 
discussed as part of Molotch's "Growth Machine" argument about the 
organization of local political and economic elites and the agenda which 
dominates their activities.
  
  Generally, the "social" side, be it represented by citizens or CDCs, 
is underresourced in terms of knowledge, skill, and representation.  
Plus, the significant imbalance in terms of resources means that 
citizens/CDCs are susceptible to extra-normal suasion.  You can call 
this bribes, corruption, "green love" or whatever.
  
  In DC, most CDCs skate that fine line of impropriety.  DC never passed 
ethics requirements comparable to HUD's own requirements for HUD 
personnel.  It's too bad.  So "our" CDCs end up directing projects and 
revenue streams to for-profit subsidiaries, and CDC staffers create for 
profit businesses that they own outside of the CDC, that wins contracts 
to manage CDC-owned projects.
  
  The last entities that I would ever expect to look out for my 
interests as a citizen of the District of Columbia would be CDCs.
  
  You talk about CDCs not having the capacity to monitor and enforce 
CBAs.  Govts. don't usually do it either (see again, Molotch).  
  
  http://www.thecommondenominator.com/081202_news4.html  (as well as 
chapter 4, about the land use agenda during the Barry years in the book 
_Dream City_ by Jaffe and Sherwood.)
  
  Even when pointed out to the City Government that the agreement 
referenced in the article above had been breached, they did nothing.
  
  I have argued elsewhere that the "Office of People's Counsel" 
structure used to represent the citizens' interest in utility matters 
should be extended to land use matters (among others). 
  
  Richard Layman
  Citizens Planning Coalition
  DC

colist at comm-org.wisc.edu wrote:
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> [ed: Bill continues the discussion.]
>
> From: "Ward, William" <wward at health.usf.edu>
>
>
> Jacob/Sarah,
>
> What I would suggest is that CBAs/CDCs consider developing a for 
> profit wing and utilize strategies developed by Younis and highlighted 
> by Prahalad http://www.pearsoned.com/pr_2004/111104.htm. I say that as 
> a left wing tree hugger. The Right Wingers have discovered 
> privatization of social programs as a way of getting their fingers 
> into another huge pie. USAID sets aside money each year for for profits.
>
> Yours, Bill Ward
> Tampa FL
>
>
> colist at comm-org.wisc.edu wrote:
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>> [ed:  Jacob replies to the group on the neo-liberal aspect of CBAs.]
>>
>> From: Jacob and Sarah Lesniewski <jshm at uchicago.edu>
>>
>> Folks:
>> Thanks so much for the varied responses, both directly to my
>> inbox and those on the listserve.  I haven't been able to
>> respond because I'm stuck in outsourcing purgatory with Dell
>> tech support.
>> I think the question of "are CBAs neo-liberal" is asking
>> whether the implementation, and necessarily the movement for
>> them, will devovle into the market based, supply side,
>> micropolitics model of CDCs and other neo-liberal community
>> development efforts.  The concerns that crop up in
>> implementation are:
>> 1. Enforcement vs. Program Implemenation: How do
>> organizations, in light of the fact that many CBAs lack
>> legal enforcement mechanisms, hold developers accountable,
>> and at the same time manage the various programatic aspects
>> of the "benefits."  The literature on CDCs suggests that it
>> is rare for one organization to be able to combine real
>> grassroots organizing with programatic content, especially
>> in the light of:
>> 2. Potential for co-optation through partnership.  What will
>> the relationship between implementing agencies and benefit
>> providing developers, etc?  The nonprofit management
>> literature is chock-full of the negative consequences for
>> advocacy of subcontracting and private-public partnerships. What will 
>> protect CBAs from this problem.
>> 3. Finally, to what extent do CBAs allow government
>> agencies, developers, and the general public to continue to
>> believe the myth that urban redevelopment/poverty reduction
>> = physical redevelopment?  Also, to what extent are CBAs
>> predicated on a specific, rather unique moment in American
>> urban history (at least for some cities) of unprecendented
>> urban revitalization and growth?
>>
>> Those are what we're concerned with, and at the heart, they
>> are implementation questions.  I know alot of CBA invovled
>> organizations talk about CBAs as tactic and not strategy,
>> but there is a real tendency for tactics to become strategy
>> by default (I think the civil rights movement is an example
>> of this).
>>
>> Anyhow, sorry for the long, belated answer.  You guys rule
>>
>> Jacob Lesniewski
>> A.M Candidate
>> University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration
>> 773-667-0162
>> jshm at uchicago.edu
>>
>>
>> colist at comm-org.wisc.edu wrote:
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>>> [ed:  thanks to John for continuing the discussion.]
>>>
>>> From: Joatlas at aol.com
>>>
>>> I am writing a detailed account of Acorn's CBA in Brooklyn. You can 
>>> read my early analysis in Shelterforce, the Battle of Brooklyn. 
>>> Also, re: Barton. Was there ever a time when public-private 
>>> partnerships or CBA were not the result ,at least partly ,from some 
>>> struggle?
>>>
>>>
>>> John Atlas
>>>
>>> President
>>> National Housing Institute/Shelterforce Magazine
>>> Nhi.org
>>> 74 Clinton Ave.
>>> Montclair,NJ 07042
>>> 973-746-6239
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> colist at comm-org.wisc.edu wrote:
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>>>> [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:
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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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