Jobs & Community Enterprise
The Green Party believes there is plenty of work to do that can close the gap between the richest and the poorest in our society, and that can enrich our communities in ecologically sustainable ways. We must develop these opportunities by working to build a new economy in which workers and consumers exercise democratic control (and ownership) over economic decisions. Everyone who wants to work must be entitled to a stable job at a living wage.
To build this new economy the Green Party puts forth a bold vision of community based economics for Syracuse and Onondaga County. We propose to redesign our economic system and the structure of work to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy that will lead to a broader income distribution and restrict the size and concentrated power of corporations without compromising efficiency or technological innovation.
Unemployment in Syracuse has hovered around 10% since the summer of 2009. It has been estimated that in the city’s poorer neighborhoods and among people of color and youth, this rate is as high as 50%. This lack of employment leads people to engage in illegal enterprises, such as the manufacture and sale of Schedule 1 drugs and prostitution in order to generate income to support themselves and their families, leading to mass incarceration of young men of color. While inner city residents languish without jobs, neighborhood business districts no longer provide essential retail and social opportunities.
We offer both short and long term solutions to address these issues by creating employment opportunities at living wages for Syracuse residents and homegrown, locally-owned businesses, including worker-owned cooperatives and stock corporations where voting shares are restricted to city residents (like the Green Bay Packers model) to assure that private enterprises that receive public support remain in Syracuse employing its residents. In the short term, Syracuse needs a Community Hiring Hall and expanded Living Wage Law to bring living wage employment opportunities to residents by enforcing the equal employment opportunity ordinance. Public job banks should be established so that people who cannot find decent work in the private sector can take a quality publicly funded job. These public jobs would be the core of a democratically organized system of rewarding and ecologically sustainable work that fulfills community-defined needs and promotes ecologically sound development.
Longer term solutions we propose include large scale development of locally owned businesses, including worker cooperatives and city resident-owned enterprises, through the creation of a Municipal Development Bank; public ownership of utilities and public control of public access to the city’s cable franchise; and a community full employment program.
The Green Party supports reforms that give communities more control over their own local economies. We support decentralization, and call for a community-based economics whose aim is local prosperity and self-sufficiency. We support local production, local manufacturing, local sales, local recycling wherever and whenever possible. We encourage face-to-face relationships with local business owners and shopkeepers. Successful local Green communities nurture people of all ages, generate good jobs and housing, and provide public services; thereby creating cities and towns that educate everyone, encourage recreation, and preserve natural and cultural resources. Green communities build local governments that protect people from environmental hazards and crime; and motivating citizens to participate in making decisions.
Jobs & Community Enterprise
4-1. Update & Enforce the Equal Employment Opportunity Program: The Green Party believes that the quickest way to get living wage jobs to city residents is to insure they are getting their fair share of jobs created by public spending with City of Syracuse contractors. The Equal Employment Opportunity Program authorized in City of Syracuse Ordinance 302 in 1973 is not being enforced. The ordinance authorizing the Equal Employment Opportunity Program should be updated to incorporate hiring goals for minorities and city residents that correspond to the demographics of Syracuse today. The staffing of the Division of Contract Compliance and Minority Affairs in the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development should be increased so it can monitor and enforce the Equal Employment Opportunity Program. The Syracuse/Onondaga Human Rights Commission should be re-established to monitor and help enforce the City of Syracuse’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program and other anti-discrimination policies in the city and county.
4-2. Enforce & Expand Living Wage Laws: The Green Party supports the enforcement and expansion of living wage laws to ensure that full time workers are paid enough to make their families economically self-sufficient. The Syracuse Living Wage Ordinance requires covered workers to be paid an hourly wage of at least $12.19 with health coverage and $14.40 without health coverage in 2012. This ordinance should be expanded so that it covers all workers of the City of Syracuse and its contractors, including employers receiving economic development benefits who are now not covered. The Green Party also calls for Onondaga County to pass a comparable expanded living wage law.
4-3. Establish Community Hiring Halls: The Green Party calls for amending the Living Wage Ordinance to require that the City of Syracuse and its contractors adhere to a first source hiring agreement that requires they first seek qualified new employees at city certified Community Hiring Halls. The Community Hiring Halls should be operated by community-based nonprofits and a city agency that gives hiring priority to qualified city residents for jobs created through city departments, city contracting, and publicly subsidized economic development projects if they are not meeting minority and city resident employment goals. Community Hiring Halls would serve as the principal form of affirmative action to meet the numerical goals and timetables of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program.
4-4. Create a Community Full Employment Program The Green Party believes the right to a job at a living wage should be a constitutionally enforceable right. The city should partner with its state and federal legislators to work to create programs of direct public employment to provide good jobs to every working age person willing and able to work who cannot find private employment. Pending the enactment of such programs at the state and federal level, the city should enact a Community Full Employment Program. A federal program would be the most cost effective, because the savings from safety net expenditures of unemployment insurance and various forms of federal public assistance for income, food, housing, health care, heating, and the like would largely offset the cost of employing people to meet community needs. But the city can enact a demonstration program, using what funding is available, to use revenue producing public enterprise, as well as public service jobs, to employ unused resources (labor, physical plant) to satisfy unmet needs (child care, youth recreation, snow removal, smaller school class sizes, replacement of imported consumer goods that can be made locally, recycling and reprocessing waste into raw materials, housing rehabilitation, energy conservation, city parks restoration, and so on). Like the Depression era Works Progress Administration, where cities and counties designed public works and public service projects that were 90 percent funded by the federal government, the city can plan such projects and begin to employ the unemployed to the extent local resources permit and to the extent state and federal funding can be obtained.
4-5. Create a Municipal Development Bank The Green Party believes that in the long term Syracuse needs a more proactive approach to job creation and business development through the creation of a municipal development bank with an entrepreneurial planning department to create community enterprises where the ownership structure anchors the business to the community and its net income (profit) remains in the community. While the bank's planning department would assist conventional proprietorships, partnerships, and corporate enterprises, it would prioritize community enterprises like worker and consumer cooperatives, municipal public enterprises, and stock corporations where share voting rights can only be exercised by residents (like the Green Bay Packers).
4-6. Prioritize Economic Development Incentives for Community Enterprises: The Green Party recognizes that creating a Municipal Development Bank will take time to develop and have an impact. In the short term The Green Party supports promoting the development of community enterprises through existing economic development resources like the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO). The Green Party believes that if the taxpayers pay for it, the public should own it. Development subsidies should be transformed into public investments in both municipal public enterprises and private enterprises anchored to the community, such as cooperatives and community stock-held corporations. The Green Party also supports the following reforms to the City of Syracuse's economic development programs:
4-6a. Provide SEDCO Loans for Non-Profits & Cooperatives: We believe that the City of Syracuse’s policy that prevents SEDCO loans to non-profits and cooperatives should be changed to make SEDCO loans to non-profits and cooperatives an important development tool.
4-6b. Create a Cooperative Incubator: We support the creation of a business start-up incubator to assist workers of new cooperatives to plan, finance, and start the business. When the workers are capable of managing the business on their own, they would purchase it out of business revenues and loans, with the money recycling to the incubator to finance further new cooperatives. This incubator would become the entrepreneurial planning department at a Municipal Development Bank.
4-6c. Educate on the Development of Cooperatives: We believe education on the development of cooperatives should be provided by a cooperative business incubator or municipal bank and the business curriculum at Onondaga Community College and other area colleges.
4-6d. Establish Cooperative Zones: We call for transforming the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County Economic Development Zones into Cooperative Zones where the economic subsidies and other benefits are prioritized for cooperatives or other community-owned businesses.
4-6e. Legalize Municipal Deposits in Credit Unions: We support changing New York State law to permit local government funds to be deposited in credit unions as well as the Municipal Bank once it is established.
4-7. Reform Industrial Development Agencies: The Green Party believes that public investment has an important role in shaping the kind of local economy we want to have, but the existing process must be more democratic and more conditioned on meeting explicit development goals. We call for reform of the Syracuse and Onondaga County Industrial Development Agencies (IDA). The city and county IDA’s have become conduits of corporate welfare grants, loans, tax exemptions, bonding, credits, and similar mechanisms that have often wasted taxpayer money on failed businesses and granted benefits to politically connected businesses that did not need or deserve them. Hence, we also call for the following reforms of the city and county IDA’s.
4-7a. Guarantee Labor & Community Representation on IDA Board: We believe, as an immediate reform, that the IDA boards should be comprised one-third each of representatives from business, labor, and the community.
4-7b. Invest Public Funds in Economic Democracy: We believe that first preference in awarding public subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives should go to cooperatives and community enterprises that are owned by workers or community institutions anchored to our community.
4-7c. Establish Performance Goals: We believe that the receipt of public subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives should be contingent upon Community Benefit Agreements with enforceable performance goals like:
A minimum number of jobs retained & created;
Compliance with labor, civil rights, & environmental laws;
Neutrality in union organizing drives;
A 2-year early warning of intention to move or close;
Worker or community right of first refusal to buy if the firm or plant is to be sold;
Health coverage for all employees;
Surety to reimburse the public treasury if the company fails to meet performance goals.
4-8. Establish Community Owned Utilities: In addition to developing a Municipal Development Bank (see also sec. 4-5), the Green Party calls for the development of three additional community owned enterprises to provide essential public infrastructure and services as public utilities operating at cost, not for profit.
4-8a. Create a Public Power Utility: The Green Party supports the municipalization of National Grid's electric and gas utility in Syracuse. Based on the record of more than 2000 public power systems in the United States, including more than 50 in New York State, public power provides electricity and gas at lower cost than investor-owned utilities (IOUs) because they operate at cost rather than for profit for shareholders. In addition, under New York State law, public power companies, unlike IOUs, have the right to generate as well as distribute power, thus enabling a municipal power company to build clean, carbon-free, renewable sources of electricity and heat for Syracuse. We favor a public power system run by an independent public authority with a board elected by the people, rather than a department of city government, as a more democratic structure and an entity able to secure financing without affecting the city's constitutional debt limit.
4-8b. Develop a Nonprofit Community Media Organization: The Greens call for the pending renewal of the cable franchise agreement with Time Warner to include the use of funding from franchise fees for a community controlled nonprofit organization to provide programming, staffing, and training for interested community members in all forms of community media, including cable channels devoted to Public Access, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) programming, as well as radio, web-based media, and other media. This non-profit organization will be governed by a board elected by members who will pay an affordable membership fee and participate in the organizations' programs. This non-profit community television organization will enable staff and hundreds of volunteers to produce and cablecast Public Access, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) programming and other community media at a Community Media Center and satellite facilities in the neighborhoods. The organization will be Syracuse’s local C-SPAN to broadcast local government meetings, including Common Council, County Legislature, school board, and other public agencies, as well as public hearings, news conferences, candidate forums, and the like. It will work with local schools, colleges, and universities to broadcast educational programs. It will support residents in the production of their own programs for public access channels and other media. Time Warner and its corporate predecessors have utterly failed to provide responsive and adequate PEG programming and other public access media. It is time for Syracuse to join the more than 1800 communities in the US that provide PEG programming and Community Media Centers for themselves with funding from cable franchise fees.
4-8c. Establish Community Broadband: In addition to a non-profit cable access organization funded by Time-Warner franchise fees, the Green Party calls for Syracuse to join 54 fiber, and 79 cable, community owned broadband networks in the U.S. that are providing lower cost, faster broadband (internet, cable TV, phone) than the oligopoly of big corporate telecoms now provides in the United States. Dozens of countries have now surpassed the U.S., which was the world leader in broadband in 1990s. Now broadband systems in countries like South Korea, Japan, and France provide the “triple play” of internet, cable TV, and phone at four times the speed for about a third the price we get from Time Warner. Verizon just stopped laying fiber optic networks in the city after cherry picking the more affluent neighborhoods. Syracuse's second rate broadband system makes our city less attractive for businesses and for anybody that wants to be well-connected to the new digital economy and world of cultural and public affairs. Community Broadband could be set up as a separate community-owned utility company, or as part of a public power company as many other communities have done. It would not take over Time Warner's franchise. It would compete with Time Warner for customers.
4-9. Promote Regional Self-Reliance & Local Production for Local Use: The Greens believe that, to the extent possible, the CNY region should substitute local products for imports and local ownership for absentee ownership to gain control of its economic destiny. In the short term local governments should support “Buy Local” initiatives. In the long term economic development efforts by local governments should aim to increase self-reliance through production of an increasingly greater portion of goods and services by locally-owned firms and development of a local currency circulating in the CNY region to purchase local goods and services as well as the development of a Municipal Bank (see sec.4-4) and member-owned credit unions. Greater self-reliance on locally-owned and produced goods and services not only makes good economic sense, but it also makes good ecological sense by reducing the use of energy and pollution resulting from transportation of goods from outside the region.