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Posted by: Gordon on 3/31/2015

Irma Wallace testifies with state Sen. Andy Manar
Irma Wallace, Rail Task Force member and board member of Faith Coalition for the Common Good and co-chair of Gamaliel's national jobs campaign, testified with state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Springfield, in support of a legislative resolution calling on the Federal Contract Compliance Programs office to update its data on access to federal project jobs for women and people of color. March was packed with action for Faith Coalition.

Train tracks have always divided Springfield’s neighborhoods. Now that history is influencing whether African Americans will be among those working to modernize rail crossings in Illinois’ capital.

It’s also influencing the national debate on modernizing regulations that govern access for women and people of color to transit infrastructure jobs across the country.

In 2013, the city won a federal grant to begin to relocate Union Pacific freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains from Third Street to the Norfolk Southern line’s 10th Street tracks. The area is the heart of Springfield’s historic African-American community.

Faith Coalition for the Common Good drafted a community benefits agreement which was signed by the city, the county, IDOT, and several state legislators, to insure jobs on the project go to area residents who have seen few opportunities to access positions in construction. The group is also working to make sure families whose homes overlap the construction zone receive a fair price to relocate.

As Faith Coalition leaders quickly learned, signing the agreement was just a first step. In March, they stepped up efforts to hold local government accountable by asking Springfield state Senator Andy Manar to create a commission to oversee the construction project. At the same time, the group also asked Manar to introduce a resolution calling on the federal government to update its regulations governing the number of women and people of color working on federal infrastructure projects.

Both the commission and the resolution are working their way through the Illinois Legislature.

Meanwhile, as construction on the overpass got under way late last year, diggers unearthed homes that were burned during the Springfield race riot of 1908. This event was the impetus for the creation of the NAACP. The Federal Railroad Administration, which is funding the reconstruction project, is currently considering how to proceed, and has included Faith Coalition leaders in the decision-making process.

Much of this happened in the past month – as did the group’s first fundraiser of the year, a breakfast that raised some $10,000, their best ever.  Irma Wallace, a board member for the organization and national co-chair of Gamaliel’s jobs coalition said it was a busy month: “To me all of it was exciting but I think one of the high points and successes was for state Sen. Andy Manar to work with us on increasing minority hiring goals for the federal government.

Posted by: Gordon on 3/22/2015

The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget introduced Tuesday, March 17-- "A Raise for America" --offers the kind of vision we need to insure a better future for our youth (like MOSES' Crossing Boundaries, Building Bridges, or CB3, youth leadership team above) by improving transportation and infrastructure and supporting and providing resources for learning for all children.

Statement from Ana Garcia-Ashley:

Earlier this week The New York Times quoted U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA 7), member of the House Budget Committee, as saying: “A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are.”

I couldn’t agree more with Rep. Woodall on that sentiment. Unfortunately, when it comes to the values in our national budget, it's evident he and I couldn't agree less.

Rep. Woodall was among the majority members in the House Budget Committee who released on Tuesday, “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America.” But the better choice came Wednesday, as the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) released its budget proposal aptly titled, “The People’s Budget: A Raise for America.” These two budgets reflect not just competing values but contrasting systems of morality.
 
The House Majority budget preserves -- or makes worse -- the status quo of trickle-down economic policy that is working only for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

  • For the majority of Americans, the public education system—the great equalizer—is failing them and their children because of deep budget cuts, regressive funding measures, and punitive policies intended to dismantle schools rather than rebuild them.
  • Crumbling public infrastructure, like transportation, limits access to opportunity for people of color, women, and the working poor.
  • Slashes to Medicaid, SNAP, and the earned income tax credit prevent hard-working Americans from rising to the middle class and result in an increasing number of children living in poverty.
The CPC People’s Budget begins with a clear understanding that a healthy, vital economy is built from the center out—and that center is real people and their lived experience.  The People’s Budget calls for the following:

  • an acceleration of economic and employment growth, moving us toward full employment by creating 4.7 million jobs in 2015 and 3.8 million more in the next two years;
  • investments totaling nearly $1.5 trillion over the next three years to repair and to expand our crumbling infrastructure so that it meets the demands of a 21st century society;
  • expansion of tax credits for middle class workers and the working poor;
  • strengthening of the social safety net, including healthcare and emergency unemployment benefits;
  • increased funding for education (including universal pre-K), training, employment, and social services; and
  • a reduction in the deficit in the medium term, in part through a more just tax system that requires corporations and the wealthiest to pay their fair share.
The CPC budget puts people first. It values the common good and love for neighbor above ideology and corporate greed.

My money—and if I can choose, my taxes—are on the “People’s Budget: A Raise for America.”
Posted by: Gordon on 3/4/2015
Miss River Bridge Deckwork
It's all about access: local hire will mean more residents of our communities will get work on the transit and transportation projects that take place in our communities. (Photo by Missouri Department of Transportation of Mississippi River Bridge construction)

Gamaliel and Transportation Equity Network leaders said they were delighted Wednesday after a briefing on the new federal Transportation Department regulation authorizing "local hire" -- utilization of local residents on locally sponsored projects.

"This makes it easier for states and cities to hire local residents for transportation projects in their communities," said David Walls, co-chair of Gamaliel's national jobs campaign and leader of North Bay Organizing Project in Sonoma County, California. "It fits right in with our work to increase access to jobs for people in our communities so that we can fix our ailing infrastructure, get people back to work, and try to make sure those good-paying jobs go to people who historically may not have had access to them."

Women, people of color, veterans and low-income people will all gain greater access to jobs on federal highway and transit construction projects as a result of this provision. Those projects include roads, bridges, light-rail, buses, street cars and bus-rapid transit will be affected -- a significant portion of some $52.5 billion in the annual federal budget.

This could mean the residents of the communities where those projects are being built who currently lack access to those jobs could get a share of some of the millions of jobs available on those projects. It also remedies a prohibition against local hire that has been in place for 40 years.

While technically the new regulation is only in proposal form at this time, the rule calls for a pilot project under which local hiring programs can start right away. (The Notice of Proposed Rule Making, NPRM, regulation text is available at http://bit.ly/localhirenprm) The local hire pilot projects are available immediately by application through U.S. DOT regional offices. The NPRM allows folks on the ground to provide comment on the viability and importance of local hire to communities across the country.

Advocates say they will be reaching out to local transportation authorities, metropolitan planning organizations and other appropriate bodies to develop and submit applications in the coming weeks. Groups like MOSES in Detroit, which advocated to create the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority recently, will work to make sure area residents can access these jobs.

"A lot of investment is going into Detroit but not a lot of people are paying attention to hiring people in Detroit--it seems like the folks who want to invest here are missing a huge part of the solution--employment," says one jobs campaign leader. "This new local hire regulation can make a huge contribution toward solving the employment piece."

Alongside local hire, Gamaliel and its campaign arm the Transportation Equity Network have been advocating to update and enforce minority and women’s hiring goals set by the U.S. Department of Labor, increase equal opportunities through apprenticeship programs, and enforce HUD low-income hiring regulations. They are planning to visit Washington to meet with elected and other officials to discuss this and an increase in transportation and infrastructure investments next month.

Next steps

Here are a few next steps we can take now:

1. Submit comment on the NPRM by April 6

You can do that online, by mail, or in person. You can post or upload comments online here. Or you can comment: 

By mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.2
Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is (202) 366-9329.  

Note that if you are not posting online you must include the following at the beginning of your comments: 
Agency name:  Department of Transportation
Docket number:  [Docket DOT-OST-2015-0013] or the Regulatory Identification Number:  RIN 2105-AE38
 
2. Submit stories about local hire success, impact, or need in your community to Cynthia Jarrold 

We will use these stories on our website and as part of the comments we submit. 

3.  Schedule a meeting with your local MPO and/or transit agency to identify possible projects that can be used for the DOT pilot program 

You may also want to meet with regional FTA and/or FHWA (depending on the kind of project) staff to learn more about application process and how you can organize around it.

If you have questions or stories to offer, please contact Cynthia Jarrold, Federal Policy Coordinator, Gamaliel/TEN at (913) 219-3198 or cjarrold@gamaliel.org.

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