Urban Core Mayors Focus on Public Policy and Community Development
By Arnold Weinfeld
The Urban Core Mayors, a group of 13 mayors from cities across Michigan, have been focusing their efforts on public policy issues as well as local development.
The process of expungement, whereby certain criminal records become non-public while remaining visible to law enforcement, is undergoing review by the state legislature. For supporters of reforming the current process, such as the Urban Core Mayors, the matter is a critical step toward putting individuals on a track for better employment, higher wages, and becoming contributing members of society.
The current proposal would increase the number of felonies and misdemeanors that can be set aside and create a process to deal with marijuana convictions that would now be legal under the law, reducing the misdemeanor waiting period, and making some traffic offenses eligible for expungement. Among the issues being sorted, the revisions would allow for automatic expungement of up to two felonies and four misdemeanors after a certain number of years—if none of the crimes were assaultive—and shorten the eligibility timeline for expungement of misdemeanor offenses from five years to three years.
To attract capital to areas of the country that need it most, Opportunity Zones were enacted as a new concept in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The program is designed to incentivize patient capital investments in low-income communities nationwide that have been cut off from capital and experienced a lack of business growth. There are three types of tax incentives that relate to the treatment of capital gains, and each incentive is connected to the longevity of an investor’s stake in a qualified Opportunity Fund that provides the most upside to those who hold their investment for 10 years or more.
In Michigan, 288 census tracts have been identified as Opportunity Zones. The average poverty rate is 32.1 percent, the average median family income is in the 60.3% percentile, and the average unemployment rate is 16.6%.
Accelerator for America is working to provide support to local communities for initiatives that connect people with existing jobs and create new opportunities, community by community. The Urban Core Mayors recently heard from Accelerator for America about their work to help cities organize assets for social and economic impact, coalesce stakeholders, and market their opportunity zones. The group has worked with Lansing specifically on a strategy to promote that city’s opportunity zones prospectus. The key of course will be how and if Opportunity Zones work to create broad based equitable community wealth.