Sunday, March 30, 2008

Of the People, By the People, For the People...

"Yeah you know how we do, we do it for the people." - Common

As many of you know, I recently left my position at Pittsburgh UNITED to become the League of Young Voters national political/field director. While I look forward to working with young activists, organizers and advocates for progressive issues all over the country, I am still fully committed to the goal of establishing Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) here in Pittsburgh. In fact, I am convinced that CBAs will be a key tool in the transformation of Pittsburgh from a rustbelt milltown in decline, to a vibrant and diverse city that is competitive in the 21st century economy.

For far too long, development has focused solely on how to attract it. In order maximize the dollars we invest in development, we must consider issues such as development standards, social impacts and community benefits. Unfortunately, some have argued that these considerations are an impediment to much-needed economic growth. I argue that CBAs are in fact pro-development, pro-business and pro-community, through encouraging the redevelopment of urban areas and the creation of multiuse, equitable and sustainable growth areas.

The truth is, across the country development standards and community benefits have proven to be good for business. If we do not include them in the development process here, research shows that inequality is likely to grow. Regional inequity not only damages the quality of life of residents, it also hinders economic growth. CBAs ensure that development is equitable and raises the quality of life of all residents -- not just for developers. To quote a recent New York Times op-ed piece by economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, the best way to remedy economic downturns in weak market cities such as Pittsburgh is "to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans."

Almost a year and a half ago, I was introduced to the concept of CBAs and have been true believer ever since. CBAs assemble powerful coalitions by building bridges between the community groups, people of faith, environmental advocates and organized labor. I am convinced that these coalitions are the foundation of a broad progressive movement that can transform our communities, cities, country and eventually the world.

I ask you join me in showing your support for the residents of the Hill District and citizens across this region who are concerned about how development is done in our region by signing this petition. Community benefits agreements are the only way to ensure that the entire region reaps the benefits of these huge investments. We can no longer trade growth and development for standards and benefits. This is not an either/or proposition; it is a both/and proposition, and the future of our region's economy is hanging in the balance.

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