JOBS

JOBS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Jobs and Infrastructure domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with job creation and employment, unemployment insurance and job retraining, and policies that support investments in infrastructure. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the US Congress, the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Transportation, and state policies that respond to policies at the Federal level. Our Principal Analyst is Vaibhav Kumar who can be reached at vaibhav@usresistnews.org.

Latest Jobs Posts

 

The Effort To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas

Brief #123 – Elections & Politics Policy Brief
by: Abigail Hunt

The political circus around Washington D.C. continues to bring new acts to the stage. Recently, House Republicans charged Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for his alleged mishandling of the border crisis.

read more

A Guide to Third (3rd) Party Candidates

Brief #122 – Elections & Politics Policy Brief
by: Courtney Denning

Independent and third party politicians have a long history of impactful campaigns even though they rarely win. Because of the controversiality of both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners in the 2024 presidential elections, many voters are looking towards a third option.

read more

Police Reform in Two Cities: Baltimore and Minneapolis

Brief #155 – Social Justice Policy Brief
by Inijah Quadri

In the United States, the path to police reform has been a complex and diverse journey, significantly influenced by local contexts and challenges. By examining the police reform efforts in two cities—Baltimore and Minneapolis—we can gain insights into the differences in approach and outcomes in these cities.

read more

A Primer on Our Housing Crisis

Brief #59 – Economic Policy Brief
by Devyne Byrd

Although the United States is a global economic force, its economic prosperity has not extended to those citizens who are suffering from a dire housing crisis. As wages have not risen to align with these issues, many Americans have been priced out of both the homebuying and rental process, leading to mass evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness.

read more

A Hard Road for a Young Palestinian Mother

Brief #118 – Foreign Policy Brief
by : Aziza Taslaq

In the heart of Bethlehem, where echoes of history resonate through the cobblestone streets, lived Salma, a 33-year-old mother devoted to her young daughter. Salma’s life, once painted with the hues of contentment, took a dark turn on April 17th, 2023 – a date etched in her family’s memory as Prisoner’s Day.

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The Effort To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas

The Effort To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas

The Effort To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #123 | By: Abigail Hunt | February 19, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.bloomberg.com
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The political circus around Washington D.C. continues to bring new acts to the stage. Recently, House Republicans charged Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for his alleged mishandling of the border crisis.

Appointed to the position of Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security in 2021, 62-year-old Cuban national Mayorkas was previously Deputy Secretary of the same department from 2013-2016.  From 2009-2013, Mayorkas was Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and prior to that, had a decades-long career in private law and law enforcement. His background in law enforcement, politics, and law, as well as his experience negotiating cyber security agreements, means that Mayorkas has the knowledge and experience to be well aware of whether or not he is breaking any laws. It is no shock to learn his trajectory began with employment as a federal prosecutor in California, as police, prosecutors, and politicians are birds of feather who flock together.

After this year, the most memorable thing about Mayorkas may be that he is one of only two Cabinet secretaries ever impeached. The last time it happened was in 1876. The reason for the outrage – Mayorkas is accused of failing to enforce immigration policies. Not enough migrants are being detained, Republicans complain.  Republicans excoriate Mayorkas for a humanitarian parole program which they believe bypasses necessary security review requirements. Democrats are offended on Mayorkas’ behalf, dismissing the charges as a political stunt. The House voted in favor of impeachment 214 to 213.

There was no such discord in Congress in 1876 – William Belknap, War Secretary under President Ulysses S. Grant, was charged with blatant corruption, including kickback deals which netted Belknap more than $20,000 (a pretty penny in that day and age). Politicians on both sides generally believed that was a bad move (at least when expressing their public opinion on the matter). On March 2nd, Belknap resigned in tears, attempting to “dodge the bullet,” but he was impeached anyway by a tenacious House later the same day. The Senate ultimately acquitted him through its failure to secure a 2/3rds vote for removal.

The New York Times reports that Senate Democrats plan a swift dismissal of Mayorkas’ charges. Although the House voted for impeachment, they have yet to formally present articles of impeachment to the Senate; House managers should do so in, as they would say in 1876, a fortnight. The same Constitutional impeachment clause that allows for the removal of the President if found guilty of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” would allow for the removal of Mayorkas as Secretary.

If Senate Democrats dismiss the charges against Mayorkas without trial or serious consideration, it is likely to stoke the fire of Republican fury through what they view to be a miscarriage of justice. In the unlikely event he is removed from his position, who would take his place in line as the next scapegoat to blame for the border fiasco?  In a matter of weeks, we should know, or at least have a good indication of, which way the wind blows for Mayorkas. The last Secretary got away with money that would today be at least three-quarters of a million dollars.  Mayorkas giving leniency to desperate Central and South American migrants who’ve just trekked thousands of miles, some with children and elderly, to request asylum at an openly hostile border seems less than mild by comparison. If only Mayorkas had stolen government funds to spend on private parties and lavish gifts rather than provide humanitarian aid to migrants in need, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Engagement Resources

Remember to get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

An Analysis of the Presidential Immunity Ruling By The Appeals Court

An Analysis of the Presidential Immunity Ruling By The Appeals Court

An Analysis of the Presidential Immunity Ruling By The Appeals Court

Civil Rights Policy Brief #219 | By: Rodney A. Maggay | February 16, 2024

Featured Photo taken from: www.newjerseymonitor.com

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Policy Summary: On February 6, 2024, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its ruling in the case United States of America v. Donald J. Trump. The opinion was issued as a per curiam opinion which signals that the three judges are unified behind the decision with no separate concurring or dissenting opinions discussing an alternative reading of the case.

The opinion from the court as an appeal from a trial proceeding in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia before Judge Tonya Chutkan. After the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack completed its investigation, it referred the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution. On August 1, 2023, a federal grand jury approved an indictment of four criminal charges against Mr. Trump relating to his interference in the case. As the case proceeded, Mr. Trump’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case because they believed that the former President had immunity from prosecution. Judge Tonya Chutkan rejected the motion and the former President, and his team filed an interlocutory appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a ruling on their presidential immunity claim. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: This ruling is significant because it forcefully pushes back on the contentions made by the former President about his actions inciting the Jan. 6 riot and declares that no President is above the law.

Former President Trump made three significant contentions as to why he should enjoy presidential immunity from prosecution, and each was dismissed by the appeals court. First, he claimed that without presidential immunity that subsequent presidents would be hesitant to perform their duties as president for fear of possibly facing charges after they leave office. Second, he also claims that immunity should apply to him because he was performing “official duties.” And lastly, he claimed that he could not be prosecuted because he must first have been impeached and convicted by the Senate.

Former President Trump’s first claim was easily dismissed by the court which did not find it credible that a President (or any of his advisors) would temper their remarks for fear of a lawsuit after the end of a president’s term. Additionally, the court cited historical examples where Presidents understood that presidential immunity did not extend to a former President after leaving office. President Gerald Ford granted a pardon to former President Richard Nixon for crimes connected to Watergate which implied that President Nixon could have faced criminal charges. And President Clinton accepted a fine and a temporary loss of his law license in exchange for no filing of criminal charges against him for actions he took while in office connected to the Monica Lewinsky affair. These incidents provide a historical basis that presidents do not enjoy immunity after leaving office and that presidents are not necessarily cowed, or “chilled,” in performing their duties. Presidents can be held accountable for their actions in office.

As to the claim by President Trump that he should have presidential immunity because he was performing “official duties” on Jan. 6th., the appeals court rejected this theory, too. This claim by Mr. Trump is one of the most extreme contentions made as much of the evidence on that day – videos on Jan. 6th, statements, and actions – shows a President trying to undermine the structures and procedures of our republican form of government. The President, under the Constitution, has no role in the counting and certifying of a nation – wide election and so it is difficult to conceive that Mr. Trump was performing “official duties” that day. Congress had their constitutionally designated role and yet Mr. Trump tried to intimidate Members of Congress into not certifying an election because he did not agree with the result. It is inconceivable that Mr. Trump would have presidential immunity when his actions were so clearly outside the bounds – and likely illegal – of what an ordinary President would have done.

Finally, Mr. Trump’s final contention appeared to be a Hail Mary attempt to throw any argument out there and see if it would stick. Mr. Trump was impeached (the second impeachment of his term) for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. However, he was not convicted. The Senate voted 57 – 43 to convict which was short of the 67 (two thirds of the Senate chamber) votes required for a conviction. However, a reading of the text of the Impeachment Judgment Clause shows why Mr. Trump was never going to prevail with this argument. The Clause provides:

“[j]udgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

The Constitution itself declares that an indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment are all still available. For Mr. Trump to say that he needs to be convicted in an impeachment trial first twists the language of the clause into something that likely was not intended. If a person can be subject to the criminal process after a conviction, then surely a person can be subject to criminal proceedings if he is not convicted. The appeals court rightfully rejected Trump’s claim under this constitutional clause.

Now that the presidential immunity issue for Mr. Trump has been rejected and settled, trial on his federal election interference case is set to continue before Judge Chutkan. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

  • PBS – news video from news site explaining implications of ruling.
  • Protect Democracy – non – profit group’s webpage giving background on the presidential immunity doctrine.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact rodwood@email.com.

Remember to get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

A Guide to Third (3rd) Party Candidates

A Guide to Third (3rd) Party Candidates

A Guide to Third (3rd) Party Candidates

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #122 | By: Courtney Denning | February 16, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.bet.com
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Duverger’s Law states that political systems which only elect one leader will only have two main parties. This is the case in the United States, where most voters pick between the Democratic or Republican candidates for single seats, whether they be in Congress, the Presidency, or local positions.

Despite this prominent dichotomy, independent and third party politicians have a long history of impactful campaigns even though they rarely win. Many people attribute independent Ross Perot with Bush’s loss in 1992. Then in 2000, Ralph Nader ran as a Green Party candidate, likely taking votes away from Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, a popular environmentalist.

Because of the controversiality of both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners in the 2024 presidential elections, many voters are looking towards a third option.

Analysis:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr originally announced his run for the presidency as part of the Democratic primary, but withdrew and registered as an independent candidate in October of 2023. His campaign slogan capitalizes his position as a third party choice, saying “Declare Your Independence.”

Currently, the only way to have your name appear on the ballot is to be tied to a political party, and independent candidates must be written in by voters. Kennedy is currently working to create his own political party, “We the People,” in order to more easily get on ballots across the country.

Chase Oliver is a member of the Libertarian Party who is running for president. In 2022, he ran for Senate in Georgia against Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker, garnering enough votes to require a run-off election.

Like Kennedy, Oliver is advocating for structural changes to the voting process that would allow third party candidates to be more viable, strongly backing Ranked Choice Voting.

Jill Stein, of the Green Party, played an important role in the 2016 election and is running for president once again. Some supporters of Hillary Clinton believe that Stein is the reason Trump won the presidency, splitting the progressive vote.

Stein has described her campaign as offering “a choice for the people outside the failed two-party system.”

Cornel West is running for president independently of any political party. He describes the current political system as a “corporate duopoly” and has a spreadsheet on his campaign website detailing his path to getting his name on the ballot.

West feels that we are currently in a “moral bankruptcy” as a nation. His campaign centers around the poor and working classes, claiming that they can only be truly helped from outside of the two party system.

Because of our current political system, it is unlikely that any of these candidates will get the votes needed to become president. However, they each represent a growing dissatisfaction with the two-party system and rising efforts to change it. Like past elections, a large push towards one of these candidates has the potential to change which of the major parties’ candidates ultimately win.

Engagement Resources:

Want to learn more about the 2024 Election Candidates? Visit usrenewnews.org/2024election for more info and articles. Remember to get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

Ceasefire Resolutions Roil Local and National Politics

Ceasefire Resolutions Roil Local and National Politics

Ceasefire Resolutions Roil Local and National Politics

Foreign Policy Brief #120 | By: Mindy Spatt| February 08, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.kqed.org

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Advocates for a Ceasefire in Gaza in the US are taking their demands to local legislative bodies and facing fierce pushback even in liberal enclaves like San Francisco.  While the impact of these resolutions on the war is questionable, there’s no question that they will have an impact on upcoming elections and some politician’s political futures in local, state and national races, all the way up to the presidency.

Analysis

Even in a city with as rich a history of activism as San Francisco, the numbers that turned out at City Hall to either support or oppose a resolution calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza were unusual.  The few hundred seats in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers quickly filled up, and the line of people who wanted to speak during public comment stretched all around the Hall’s massive rotunda.  The vast majority of them were in favor of Supervisor Dean Preston’s Ceasefire resolution, but opponents of the measure also spoke passionately.  Early in the debate some Supervisors questioned whether the matter was appropriate for their consideration or was too far afield for city government, but it quickly became clear that for many residents of San Francisco including Zionists, Jews, Palestinian-Americans and Health Care workers, the conflict was deeply personal and having an enormous impact on their families, friends and colleagues.

Before the final vote on a revised resolution offered by Board President Aaron Peskin that won passage 8-3, Supervisors on both sides of the debate noted that the thousands  of calls, emails and visits from constituents about the issue were unprecedented.  But the vote wasn’t the end of the debate by a long shot.  Mayor London Breed publicly condemned the resolution, perhaps because opponents were pressuring her to attempt a veto, which she didn’t do.  The issue appears to be dividing the gay community especially. The Castro District is represented by one of the supervisors that opposed the resolution and by a state Senator, Scott Weiner, who criticized a mass Ceasefire demonstration at the state capitol earlier in the month.  Both of them are gay and traditionally supported by the gay community, but they risk losing that support as many in the LGBTQ community are speaking out against the war and expressing solidarity with Palestinians.  Two recent marches in the Castro District sponsored by activist groups Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) and Gay Shame attracted thousands of people.

The controversy has moved to the City’s influential and left leaning Harvey Milk Club, which recently rescinded its endorsement of President Biden for the primary only, a move criticized by Senator Weiner.  But across the country Biden’s unwillingness to call for a Ceasefire, stop the flow of arms to Israel or demand an end to the mass casualties and destruction is alienating young people, people of color and progressives, all important voting blocks for Biden.

Even Vice President Kamala Harris, back home in the Bay for a an event in San Jose highlighting to administration’s efforts to protect abortion rights, drew Ceasefire protestors.  President Biden has been met by protestors on the campaign trail as well, including in South Carolina during a speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and in Michigan, a swing state with a large Arab American community

As more cities join the call for a Ceasefire and decisions by the World Court and a Federal District Court in Oakland agree that what is taking place in Gaza is genocide, the political pressure on Biden is increasing.  That may have been what prompted him to issue an executive order on February 1 sanctioning 4 West Bank settlers, which is unlikely to placate any Ceasefire advocates.

Engagement Resources:

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism.

How Conservatives Are Trying To Block Voters From Voting On Abortion Rights

How Conservatives Are Trying To Block Voters From Voting On Abortion Rights

How Conservatives Are Trying To Block Voters From Voting On Abortion Rights

Civil Rights Policy Brief #218 | By: Rodney A. Maggay | February 08, 2024

Featured Photo taken from: www.theguardian.com

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Policy Summary: The term referendum generally refers to any state ballot measure that has been placed on the ballot for voters in the jurisdiction to vote on and decide. While there are six common forms of referendums (legislatively referred constitutional amendment, legislatively referred state statute, initiated state statute, initiated constitutional amendment, the veto referendum and the recall) the general principle is that each form permits voters to approve or disapprove of a state constitutional amendment or state statute, sometimes bypassing the need to go through elected representatives and state legislatures. Each state has its own rules for the referendum process (some states do not have all of the six generally accepted forms) but if approved by the voters, the ballot measure has the force of law of a constitutional amendment or state statute passed by traditional means (passage by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor or voted for approval if the governor vetoed the bill).

After the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal right to an abortion, seven states held statewide votes regarding abortion rights. In all seven states (California, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont), ballot measures supported by anti – abortion advocates lost. Both red and blue states had ballot measures that sought to expand protections for abortion rights, which in some cases enshrined the right to an abortion into the state constitution and in others defeated measures that sought to curtail abortion rights.

In light of these victories for pro – abortion activists, a number of GOP led state legislatures are now aiming to change the rules for referendums in their state in order to make it harder for ballot measures to qualify to be placed on the state ballot. And some states are even going so far as to change the threshold for a ballot measure to be approved in their state. Just this month in Mississippi, the state House chamber approved a proposal that would ban any abortion related ballot measure on the statewide ballot. In Missouri, a bill was recently introduced that would make initiatives more difficult to be approved by voters in the state – win five of the eight congressional districts plus a statewide majority across the state. In Ohio last year, Ohio Republicans put forth a plan to raise the approval of a ballot measure to 60% from a simple majority in order to make abortion initiatives more difficult to pass but this measure was defeated. And GOP officials in Florida and Nevada have gone to court to try and prevent abortion initiatives from appearing on the statewide ballot but the courts in these states found that the initiatives qualified to appear on the ballot. In 2024, twelve states will decide abortion access initiatives/referendums, which would range from a proposed state constitutional amendment protecting abortion as a fundamental right to allowing abortions under state law.

Policy Analysis: The referendum, initiative and ballot measure process were developed nearly a century ago as a way to give citizens and voters a much more direct way to participate in the political process. Initiatives permitted citizens to put proposed state statutes and constitutional amendments on the ballot if they acquired a minimum number of signatures. This allowed citizens to bypass state legislatures where representatives might be unwilling to sponsor the proposed bill or where passage in the state legislature or by two chambers might be difficult. Referendums were similar but differed in one important respect – referendums allowed voters to approve or repeal a state statute. Currently, twenty – four states have an initiative and/or referendum process.

But these tools of direct democracy participation are being manipulated in an ugly way in the current and ongoing battle for abortion rights and abortion access. The spirit of the referendum and initiative process was to give a voice to the citizens of the state and allow them to express what they wanted without having to wait for a representative to act for them. Voters could express their true will on important issues and approve or disapprove of statutes. More importantly, they could insert important state laws into the state code or state constitutional amendments into the state constitution. As long as the voting populace voted on the measure, there would be a sense that at least a majority of the residents wanted it the way they voted on.

But when seven states across both red and blue states began approving of expanded state and constitutional protections following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it appears GOP officials became concerned. In order to protect their ability to ban abortions in their states, GOP officials didn’t resort to reasoned arguments to support their position. They instead resorted to changing the rules of referendums and initiatives. These changes in the state rules would allow GOP officials to simply ignore that there might be a majority in their state who approve of expanded abortion protections. Knowing that increased abortion access is a popularly supported position, as evidenced by the victories in the seven states that have had referendums on the issue so far, GOP officials tried to raise the threshold for approval, like they tried in Ohio but which was ultimately defeated. Mississippi’s effort was not even subtle as they are trying to ban all abortion related initiatives from being placed on any Mississippi ballot at all. Some states, seeing as how some initiatives have already qualified to be on the ballot, are resorting to lawsuits to stop implementation, with vague arguments that the ballot measures are confusing or even misleading. And, it has gotten so bad that some anti – abortion groups have crafted campaigns to knock on doors and plead with people to not sign any petition that puts abortion on the ballot in 2024.

What this demonstrates is that many GOP officials do not want to respect the will of the populace. If a majority of voters in states approve of increased abortion access, and this seems likely based on how the support of abortion access played out in the seven states that have had it on the ballot so far, then it seems downright dirty that GOP officials are looking for ways to circumvent the referendum process in order to prevent voters from having their say. If GOP officials have to change the rules, raise the minimum threshold for approval of an initiative or try to outright ban abortion based initiatives from being placed on the statewide ballot, then it seems clear that certain GOP officials are no longer being responsive to their constituents or fellow citizens. These suppressive measures should be re – considered and state officials should allow the referendum process to play out without interference from their dirty tactics. If voters decide to approve increased abortion protections, then at least voters will have been given their say and the electorate will have been able to decide the issue of abortion, without undue influence from GOP legislators, for their state. LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact rodwood@email.com.

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you.

Bridging Borders: Tala’s Journey

Bridging Borders: Tala’s Journey

Bridging Borders: Tala’s Journey

Foreign Policy Brief #119 | By: Aziza Taslaq | February 07, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.leftvoice.org

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In a world often divided by political strife and cultural differences, stories of individuals transcending boundaries to work together offer a glimmer of hope for a more harmonious future. Tala, a young woman from Nablus in the West Bank, embodies such a narrative. Her journey navigating employment with an Israeli company amidst personal and geopolitical challenges sheds light on the power of collaboration and resilience.

Like many fresh graduates, Tala embarked on her career journey with enthusiasm, initially finding work with local companies. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic brought unforeseen obstacles, leading to unemployment. Undeterred, Tala seized an opportunity advertised on a job website, propelling her into a unique professional sphere – working as a sales representative for an Israeli company facilitated by a Palestinian intermediary.

Initially apprehensive about working with Israelis due to cultural unfamiliarity, Tala soon found common ground with her colleagues, realizing they were simply individuals with whom she could collaborate effectively. Over time, she not only adapted to her new environment but thrived, earning a promotion to shift manager for the Arab team through her dedication and hard work.

As she delved deeper into her role, Tala found herself bridging cultural gaps, facilitating communication and cooperation between Arab and Israeli colleagues. Engaging in regular meetings and discussions, she not only contributed to the company’s success but also fostered meaningful relationships built on mutual respect and understanding.

Despite the daunting prospect of losing her job due to departmental closures in Feb 2023, Tala found herself unexpectedly saved from the chopping block. The training manager, recognizing her potential and remembering their previous interactions during her training sessions, personally intervened to ensure her retention. Grateful for the opportunity, Tala seamlessly transitioned into his team, where their professional relationship blossomed into a genuine friendship. Daily meetings became a platform not only for discussing tasks but also for sharing daily talks about weekends, food, and culture, fostering a sense of camaraderie that transcended national divides. Tala credits her manager with not only imparting invaluable skills but also for creating a supportive and inclusive work environment that enabled her to thrive.

However, adversity struck with the outbreak of war, disrupting lives and altering Tala’s professional trajectory. Her manager was called to serve in the Israeli Army, leaving her feeling unsettled and disappointed. Despite the challenges, their friendship endured, a testament to the resilience of human connections amidst conflict.

Tragedy struck again when Tala faced job insecurity as the company underwent restructuring, leading to her eventual departure at the end of 2023. Yet, fate intervened once more when her former manager reached out in January 2024, offering her a chance to rejoin the team. While legal constraints prevented an immediate reunion, their conversation reaffirmed the enduring bond forged through shared experiences and mutual respect.

Tala’s journey serves as a poignant reminder of the potential for cooperation and understanding even in the most divisive of circumstances. Through her resilience and willingness to embrace diversity, she not only navigated the complexities of working in a cross-cultural environment but also forged meaningful connections that transcended borders.

As the world grapples with ongoing conflicts and divisions, stories like Tala’s offer a beacon of hope, illustrating the transformative power of empathy, collaboration, and human connection. In a landscape often overshadowed by discord, her tale stands as a testament to the enduring capacity for unity and understanding amidst diversity.

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism.

Police Reform in Two Cities: Baltimore and Minneapolis

Police Reform in Two Cities: Baltimore and Minneapolis

Police Reform in Two Cities: Baltimore and Minneapolis

Social Justice Policy Brief #155 | By: Inijah Quadri | February 06, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.cnn.com

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In the United States, the path to police reform has been a complex and diverse journey, significantly influenced by local contexts and challenges. By examining the police reform efforts in two cities—Baltimore and Minneapolis—we can gain insights into the differences in approach and outcomes in these cities.

Baltimore: A Model of Comprehensive Reform

In Baltimore, following the death of Freddie Gray and the resulting civil unrest in 2015, the city entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2017. This agreement mandated a series of reforms aimed at addressing the use of excessive force, racial profiling, and overall accountability within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).

The BPD has since implemented significant changes, including overhauling its transport vehicles for detainee safety, improving data collection and auditing practices, and updating policies for detainee searches. These reforms have led to a noticeable reduction in detainee injuries and an overall enhancement in the accountability of officers. The department has also seen a reduction in the use of serious force and improvements in responses to behavioral health crises. Entry requirements for joining the force now emphasize values such as integrity, respect, and commitment to community-oriented policing. The training for recruits and serving officers includes an increased focus on de-escalation, crisis intervention, and bias-free policing​​.

Minneapolis: Challenges and Progress in Reform

Contrastingly, Minneapolis’s path to police reform has been marked by challenges. The killing of George Floyd brought international attention to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), leading to calls for drastic reform. After Floyd’s death, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducted a two-year investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, revealing a pattern of racial discrimination, racist language, and excessive force. Significant steps have been made, including the appointment of a Commissioner of Community Safety and a police chief experienced in implementing consent decrees. Proposed reforms include limiting the use of tasers, mandatory documentation for stops, and the prohibition of certain traffic stops. The city also plans to improve its field training program and create a publicly searchable database of use-of-force incidents​​.

Comparative Outcomes and Crime Rates

In terms of outcomes, Baltimore’s efforts appear to have made more significant strides in reforming its police practices compared to Minneapolis. However, both cities continue to face challenges in fully realizing the goals of their respective reform initiatives.

According to a report by the Baltimore Police, reform efforts have resulted in a 16% decrease in violent crime since 2018. The report also notes that the city has seen a reduction in the number of police-involved shootings and civilian complaints. Even murder rates, while still high in comparison to other cities, are dropping when compared to past years in Baltimore. However, some reports also acknowledge that the city still faces challenges, including a strained relationship between the police and the community and a lack of resources and support for the reform process.

In Minneapolis, while significant steps are being taken toward police reform, the city continues to face several challenges as most of these changes are still in their infancy. Even given  the allocation of $16 million for police reform in the 2024 budget, including the hiring of new police oversight workers,  there are ongoing issues that need to be addressed. One of the main problems is the high crime rate, particularly violent crimes. The city has struggled with instances of aggravated assaults and homicides, which remain high compared to its decade-on-decade records. These issues highlight the ongoing need for effective policing strategies that also respect community relations and civil rights.

While these cities are by no means perfect, other US cities can embark on effective police reform by focusing on a few key strategies. Embracing external oversight through consent decrees can provide the necessary accountability. Reforming core police policies, particularly around the use of force and community interaction, is essential. Additionally, fostering deeper community engagement ensures that reforms are responsive to local needs. Finally, investing in robust training and support for officers can help inculcate a culture of respectful, community-oriented policing. These steps, rooted in transparency and continuous evaluation, offer a blueprint for meaningful and sustainable police reform.

Engagement Resources

  • Campaign Zero (campaignzero.org): Provides data-driven policy solutions to end police violence in America.
  • National Police Accountability Project (nlg-npap.org): Dedicated to ending law enforcement abuse through litigation and public education.
  • ACLU Policing (aclu.org): Advocates for a fair and effective law enforcement system.
  • Center for Policing Equity (policingequity.org): Produces analyses identifying and reducing the causes of racial disparities in policing.
  • Law Enforcement Action Partnership (lawenforcementactionpartnership.org): Advocates for effective and just law enforcement policies.
  • For a comprehensive look at how states are expanding their role in regulating law enforcement use of force and other reforms, see the National Conference of State Legislatures report: Law Enforcement Legislation | Significant Trends 2022

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A Primer on Our Housing Crisis

A Primer on Our Housing Crisis

A Primer on Our Housing Crisis

Economic Policy Brief #59 | By: Devyne Byrd| February 06, 2024

Feature Photo taken from: www.inthesetimes.com

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Although the United States is a global economic force, its economic prosperity has not extended to those citizens who are suffering from a dire housing crisis.  The housing crisis has been exacerbated by insufficient housing supply, soaring prices and interest rates, stringent financing, and the continuing impact of COVID-19. As wages have not risen to align with these issues, many Americans have been priced out of both the homebuying and rental process, leading to mass evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness.

Extremely low-income families are at the greatest risk with more than 7 million affordable homes missing from the market according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Their Out of Reach report for 2023 emphasizes the gap between the cost of two-bedroom rentals and the wages of Americans in the same area, with sixty percent of all workers earning an hourly wage that is insufficient. Urban and metropolitan areas face the largest rents, with gentrification increasing the prices and competition for homes. This leads to low earners devoting a significant portion of their income to rent, above the 30 percent guideline that HUD suggests. With rent prices continuing to rise, this cost burden becomes more unattainable for the average renter.

Analysis

Ramping up affordable housing options is the first step to alleviating the growing housing crisis. The primary ways to increase affordable housing options are through rent control, increased public housing construction, and government subsidies. These steps would allow low-income families access to housing within their means and prevent homelessness and financial instability. Additionally, enacting policies that prevent short-term rentals would put millions of units back on the market. These units would then be available to tenants in the communities and lower prices in the market.

A cohesive effort of  federal, state, and local governments is needed to ensure the viability of policies enacted to alleviate the crisis. This would encompass federal funding that the state uses to implement affordable housing projects and tenant protections and provide legal support against constitutional challenges. By increasing funding for a larger housing supply, local governments could avoid more litigious forms of action such as ordinances on property restrictions. For example, in 2016 Austin, Texas passed an ordinance to ban short-term rentals that weren’t owner-occupied, citing limiting housing availability for locals and displacement of families as the justification. In a city known for high housing costs and rapid gentrification, this was a move lauded by many as proactively seeking to protect its population. However, the ordinance was struck down by a federal judge in August of 2023 who found it in violation of the dormant commerce clause. The dormant commerce clause is the legal doctrine that states cannot pass laws or regulations that burden interstate commerce. In this case, the city would be limiting out-of-state owners’s ability to make money off of their property even if they did not reside in the city.  To circumvent future setbacks such as these, federal and state funding is necessary to give local authorities the means to alleviate the housing crisis and directly provide for low-income residents instead of using restrictions that run the risk of being challenged for constitutionality.

California has had success with implementing legislation that increases housing developments and protects low-income tenants.  In 2019 the California Senate passed the Housing Act of 2019 which temporarily suspended local restrictions so that housing development could be increased. They also passed ordinances easing zoning and density measures so that affordable housing could be built in more places and high-density housing projects could quickly be started. Although housing remains a significant issue throughout the state, the successful litigation has assisted with ramping up housing supply and alleviating the pressure on low-income citizens.

As Americans continue to struggle to find safe and stable housing, government intervention is necessary to protect low-income residents’ viability. With the inflationary market and economic hardships, the country is facing, the government has a duty to enact policies that support its most vulnerable populations and ensure housing.

Engagement Resources

  • Out of Reach Report – Research by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that shows the gap between wages and housing affordability on a state-by-state level.
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – An article on proposed solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including rental assistance and the housing supply.

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism.

A Hard Road for a Young Palestinian Mother

A Hard Road for a Young Palestinian Mother

A Hard Road for a Young Palestinian Mother

Foreign Policy Brief #118 | By: Aziza Taslaq | February 02, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.stopthewall.org

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In the heart of Bethlehem, where echoes of history resonate through the cobblestone streets, lived Salma, a 33-year-old mother devoted to her young daughter, Sara. Salma’s life, once painted with the hues of contentment, took a dark turn on April 17th, 2023 – a date etched in her family’s memory as Prisoner’s Day.

Salma, a proficient sales representative, found fulfillment working remotely for an Israeli company. Her warmth endeared her to colleagues, and she reveled in meeting monthly targets. However, enticed by a promising opportunity with a local Palestinian company, she decided to embrace the prospect of contributing to her homeland.

On that fateful day, as Salma navigated the Gosh Atsion checkpoint between Bethlehem and Hebron, tragedy struck. Israeli soldiers, without warning, fired upon her, leading to her immediate arrest. The news reached her father, Ismael, who, unaware of the severity of her injuries, grappled with the shocking revelation.

Ismael, in anguish, shared the grim truth – Salma had been shot in the belly, the bullet piercing her backbone, rendering her paralyzed. Held in Shaary Tsedek hospital, she underwent a surgery stripping her of a kidney and enduring a 50% liver resection. The subsequent transfer to Al-Ramlah prison, known for housing critical medical cases, intensified the nightmare.

Incarcerated for a month, Salma faced a series of charges, including the absurd allegations of possessing a knife and attempting stabbing. Ismael, along with Salma’s mother and young daughter, was denied the basic right to visit or communicate with her during this harrowing period.

Sara, blissfully unaware of her mother’s plight, believed her to be in the hospital, grappling with an illness. Little did she know about the grim reality that had befallen her mother.

Salma’s time in prison was marked by indignity, a lack of privacy, and a struggle against her newfound disability. Her father, haunted by fear, spoke of the challenges his favorite daughter now faced – a life confined to a wheelchair, dependent on others for even the simplest daily tasks.

The Occupation Court’s relentless pursuit of charges only deepened the wounds, casting a shadow over Salma’s already fraught existence. The emotional turmoil inflicted upon her family, unable to provide comfort or support, added to the tragedy.

However, amidst the darkness emerged a glimmer of hope. The Prisoner Exchange Deal between Hamas and Israel, sealed on October 7th, 2023, brought a twist in Salma’s fate. Her name, a part of the negotiated exchange, led to her liberation on November 24th, 2023.

Salma’s release, while a moment of triumph, underscored the fragility of life in a conflict-ridden region. The tale of this Palestinian mother, her resilience, and the silent suffering of countless others echo the broader narrative of a people caught in the crossfire of geopolitical struggles.

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism.

Trump and the E. Jean Carroll Case

Trump and the E. Jean Carroll Case

Trump and the E. Jean Carroll Case

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #121 | By: Arvind Salem | February 01, 2024
Photo taken from: www.nbcnews.com
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On January 26, 2024, a New York jury ruled that Trump was responsible for paying journalist Elizabeth Jean Carroll (usually referred to as E. Jean Carroll) $83.3 million in damages: a huge legal setback for Trump as he faces a total 91 state and federal charges.

This case is an extension of a previous case centered around allegations that in 1996 Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City. Trump entirely dismissed the accusations and attacked Carroll’s character, which she alleges caused her damages to her career and constituted defamation. The jury ruled that Trump didn’t rape Carroll, but he was liable for sexual assault and awarded her $5 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages for the defamation.

This new case centers around further comments Trump made post-presidency and continued damage that those comments have inflicted on E. Jean Carroll. Given that this is the second time this issue has been litigated, and Trump was found to be responsible, Trump was given much harsher punitive damages: out of the $83.3 million in total payment, $18.3 million was for compensatory damages, the largest part being $11 million for damages to her reputation, and $65 million in punitive damages, which she claimed she needed to stop Trump from continuing to defame her. Trump has already stated that he would appeal both decisions: meaning that Carroll will not see the nearly $90 million total for a long time, until all appeals are exhausted.

Policy Analysis:

This case was allowed to proceed despite the statute of limitations already expiring, due to a New York state law passed in 2022 called The Adult Survivors Act that gave all sexual abuse victims a year to file civil lawsuits, even if the statute of limitations had run out. Under this law, Carroll sued Trump. However, since this law only allows for civil suits, Carroll could only sue for the defamation  a civil violation) and not the assault ( a criminal offense). Additionally, this case was previously blocked by the Trump justice department, with Bill Barr, the attorney general, arguing that Trump made his statements as part of his official capacity as president. In 2023, the Biden Justice Department lifted the restriction and allowed the case to move forward.

This trial took the verdict of the other trial as fact, so this case was predicated on the fact that Trump did assault Carroll, and the only question was the extent of the damages especially regarding Trump’s later statements. This trial also tested Trump’s courtroom presence, which will likely be important in his later, higher-stakes trials. In this regard, Trump did not make a good impression on the judge, by audibly commenting during Carroll’s testimony such that opposing counsel and the jury could hear, which resulted in him getting admonished. He also, in one last act of defiance, stormed out during closing arguments, leaving his lawyer alone to deliver the argument.

Engagement Resources:

  • Joe Biden for President: Readers who have reservations about voting for Trump in 2024 because of this case should explore this website to see if Joe Biden is an alternative that they would support.
  • DCCC: Readers who are inclined to support the Democratic party after hearing about this case may wish to explore this site to donate to Democratic Congressional Campaigns in 2024.

Get the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter, and please consider contributing to Keeping Democracy Alive by donating today! We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism.

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