Debriefer: September 10, 2014

Banks show prejudice; living wage ordinance to hit ballot



“Racial disparities exist” is the troubling conclusion of a just-released housing study that Fair Housing of Marin took part in, with the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Their findings? Banks and property preservation companies don’t keep up their foreclosed properties in black and Latino communities—and in these parts, that means Vallejo.

The report, released last week, details racial disparities in the maintenance of houses owned by banks after the financial crash. The study spanned 30 metro regions in the country and found that they don’t cut the grass or secure the windows or doors or remove the trash in black or Latino neighborhoods the way they do in the white ones.

The Marin County group studied shuttered and foreclosed homes in Vallejo and Richmond, and found a mess. “Neighbors are alternately furious and discouraged about the poor maintenance,” said Fair Housing of Marin executive director Caroline Peattie in a statement. “They found it peculiar that the same bank that foreclosed on the home next door was now dragging property values down on the entire block because the bank was not maintaining the property.”—Tom Gogola


A coalition of labor, faith, environmental and other Sonoma County community groups presented a “living wage” ordinance at a Monday press conference that it plans to deliver to the county board of supervisors this fall. The groups also presented economic analysis of the wage hike.

Led by North Bay Jobs with Justice, the proposed ordinance calls for boosting the pay of all workers employed by the county, county contractors and private employers receiving public funds to $15 an hour. If adopted, the ordinance would cover about 5,000 low-wage workers in the county.

“This has been coming for some time now,” says Marty Bennett, co-chair of North Bay Jobs With Justice. “We feel there are three votes on the board of supervisors, but we hope to get everyone.”

Three cities in the county—Petaluma, Sebastopol and Sonoma—have already adopted similar ordinances and, according to a study conducted by Political Economy Research Institute economist Jeannette Wicks-Lim, the increased wage would have a significant impact on the lives on county workers but a minimal one on county coffers and local businesses.

“The living wage ordinance will impose a relatively modest cost increase for covered businesses, typically in the range 0.2 percent to 4.5 percent of their total revenue, depending on their industry,” says the fiscal impact report. “Costs transmitted to the county will be smaller still, equal to less than 0.03 percent of the county’s total budget of $1.4 billion or 0.1 percent of
the county’s general fund of $390 million for (fiscal year) 2014–15.”

The state’s current minimum wage is $9 an hour. At that rate, a full-time worker earns $18,720 annually. According to Wicks-Lim’s analysis, this leaves a gap of nearly $50,000 between what the worker earns and the $66,800 that the average three-person family living in Sonoma County would need to cover its basic expenses. Increasing the hourly wage to $15 would come close to closing that gap, the report says.

Nationally, 140 cities and
counties have implemented similar living wage ordinances.
—Stett Holbrook



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