Tag Archives: Boston

Nonprofit Confusion and BatchGeo

With Ken Reardon, Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Planning and Community Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ukgSjCZnM0

Boston    Running around Boston the last several days I’ve met great professors and students at Boston University School of Social Work, the Heller School at Brandeis, and the Planning Department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.  It’s fascinating to hear what people are thinking when they begin asking questions after I tell them about ACORN, our history, our work around the world, and our current projects in the United States and abroad.

There are some surprises.  I still think of the election and the events of 2008 as evergreen in the political consciousness of generations given the seminal experience of seeing Barack Obama elected.  Undergraduate classes and some masters programs are composed largely of young people who did not vote in 2008, once you think about it.  In several classes I asked who had ever watched Fox News, knew who Glenn Beck might have been, recognized Andrew Brietbart, and the hands are few and far between.  The sting on ACORN by James O’Keefe?  Huh?  And, really, why should they know.  They are busy with their own lives and weren’t caught in the maelstrom of those times, even though they still feel like yesterday to me.

When it gets to nuts and bolts, talking about ACORN and my book, also named Nuts & Bolts:  The ACORN Fundamentals of Organizing, students of all kinds have been most fascinated at hearing the heresy that ACORN was not a tax exempt, 501c3 organization as classified by the Internal Revenue Source.  Notes are taken carefully when I rant about the transfer of responsibility from foundations, churches, and donors from policing their own grants to protect their wealth, by offloading the fiscal responsibility on their organizational grantees by convincing them to become tax exempt and curtail their activity in politics and advocacy.  They are shocked to find that the so-called expenditure limits by tax exempt organizations have never been established clearly by the IRS in hearings or regulations, but are just presumed by lawyers and others and passed on wholesale to active organizations, thereby changing their mission and practice.  They get an understanding that being nonprofit is more than enough and gives them flexibility and force.  I leave feeling like the excessive space I devoted in a chapter called, “Structure Matters,” was well spent, rather than distracting.

The other small takeaway that has resonated when I talk about the ACORN Home Savers Campaign is the growing membership in the BatchGeo fan club I’m organizing  When I explain the time saved that used to go into map work and 3×5 cards for literally hours before doing home visits in neighborhoods versus the pleasure of seeing lists downloaded into BatchGeo, a free app on your smartphone, that then shows a flashing blue dot, indicating your car, and the distance to the next house on your list, notes are taken and thanks are given.

Students like the stories, are inspired by the documentary, are curious about the philosophy and campaigns, but they are hungry for real skills and tools they can use that might make them successful or at least prevent mistakes.   And, I’m happy to see that nuts and bolts still matter!


First Source Hiring Agreements Are Coming Back

New Orleans  The Baltimore City Council joined other cities in passing an ordinance requiring that on city contracts of $300,000 or more 50% or more of the workers needed to be hired from the ranks of city residents.  Baltimore wanted to tackle statistical unemployment of almost 10% and unemployment in many of its lower income neighborhoods that is double and triple that number.  Hear!  Hear!

Baltimore is following the same path as Boston in 1985 and San Francisco in 2011.  Why haven’t cities everywhere taken these same steps?   Part of the problem likes in the specious argument trumpeted by of all people the Baltimore City Attorney that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause holding that states cannot discriminate against the citizens of other states and only favor their own citizens.

First, some background here.  “First source” agreements have been common pieces of sound public policy for decades all of the country and in the first line of demands of community organizations back to the late 1960’s at least.  “First source” was exactly what you would think, meaning an employer receiving public monies would first seek workers from the community before going on to others.  This is not to say that no other workers from elsewhere could ever be hired, but it is to say that a preference would be given to people from the community and that everything being equal, they would be hired first.  Such agreements were unquestionably legal.

The Golden State Cab case in Los Angeles held that a City Council could not dictate the contracting or a specific company in a bid, but nothing has ever said that cities or states do not have the power to use their money in their own public policy interests.  If hiring preferences were illegal, how could any city justify residency requirements for public workers, police, and fire?  How could public universities throughout the country defend one level of tuition for state residents and another for out-of-state residents under the Privileges and Immunities Clause?  Simple:  there is no discrimination involved.  Residents from elsewhere can move into a city or state and after establishing the residency requirements be afforded the same benefits.

It goes without saying that as an organizer I’ve been practicing law without a license for more than 45 years now, but there is no way that the Baltimore City Council and city councils throughout the country could not successfully craft ordinances that fit the requirements of the constitution while also giving their own residents preference for public or publicly funded jobs.  The same demands for “first source” and residentially preferential hiring should be heard in city halls everywhere!

First Source Audio Blog