7 Steps to Municipal Resilience & Recovery

What can municipal governments (counties, cities and towns), still suffering from all the pain and disruption that COVID has brought to their communities and economies, do now to hasten their recovery and build resilience for the future, while also addressing past inequity? Here are seven essential steps to take, all proven, with real-world examples and implementation examples for each, that complement each other and can be done simultaneously.

All municipal governments have the power to start on them right now. So why not start today?

 

1: Make Recovery Everyone's Business

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Create an inclusive task force of public & nongovernmental leaders to create a home-grown recovery strategy

Implementation Resources

City of Chicago, Report of the Chicago Recovery Task Force

Crain’s Chicago Business, Scott Bernstein, The Recovery of Our Region Requires Collective Intent

 

Create a focused team to support especially threatened sectors such as the service industry & the arts

Contract with community- based, civic & local research centers (independent/university/news media) to provide early warnings of threats

Resources

Asset Based Community Development Institute, Guidebooks and Case Studies to Identifying and Mobilizing Community Assets

Create a performance dashboard to track & monitor health & economic status, & signal both accomplishments & needed additional

Create & use local government technical assistance & programs at regional agencies & in emerging state & multi-state initiatives

Secure direct support from your regional agencies & states for emerging priorities

Resources

Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Livable Centers Initiative

Streetsblog, Using Highway $ for Complete Streets

2: Advance Equity & Opportunity for All

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Apply a racial equity lens in comprehensive plans, with strong indicators & accountability

Implementation Resources

City of Seattle, Racial and Social Justice Initiative

Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government

Utilize tools that help establish delivery strategies to promote health, equity, poverty reduction, & economic inclusion.

Implementation Resources

Center for Neighborhood Technology, Urban Opportunity Agenda (poverty reduction strategy and benefits calculator) & City Presentations

Explore piloting a Universal Basic Income program

Implementation Resources

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income

Eliminate or reduce municipal fines & fees that inequitably impact low-income residents

Implementation Resources

National League of Cities, Why Cities Should Find Equitable Ways to Impose and Collect Fines and Fees

Urban Libraries Council, How Eliminating Library Fees Advances Racial Equity

St. Louis Office of Financial Empowerment (children’s saving accounts funded through parking fines)

Understand the eviction problem in your city & implement key steps to prevent eviction

Implementation Resources

Mayors Innovation Project, The Housing Crisis: What Cities Can Do

National League of Cities, Using Data to Understand Your Local Eviction Crisis

Grand Rapids, MI, Eviction Prevention.

Create new avenues for public engagement & resident participation in city governance

Implementation Resources

GovTech for Localized Surveys & Citizen Engagement, Polco

Innovations in Citizen Participation, Modernizing Democracy

3: Unleash Your Local Economy

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Support “buy local” & “invest local” with procurement practices & incentives, especially in historically underserved communities

Support “informal” approaches to otherwise expensive development & services

Lead & partner in the supply of essential goods & services

Procuring through Partnering (e.g. keep the community in Community Policing)

Implementation Resources

US Dept. of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Service, Community Policing Defined

Community Based Alternatives to Policing in California

Create & support a cadre of small builder-developers

Implementation Resources

Incremental Development Alliance, Helping locals strengthen their neighborhoods through small-scale real estate projects; Evanston Developers Cooperative: Built by and For Evanston

 

Lower procurement barriers to partnerships that promise increased efficiency and/or broader opportunity

Implementation Resources

Mayors Innovation Project, Contracting

Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Contracting for Equity

Meeting of the Minds, Five Takeaways from Procurement Innovation in Glasgow

Governing, Bringing Innovation to Procurement, Innovative Procurement in Philadelphia and Barcelona

 

Lower barriers to consolidated, joint, or cooperative purchasing & procurement

Implementation Resources

Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning, Partnerships for Sharing Services

Lake County Illinois, Joint and Cooperative Purchasing

Northwest Municipal Conference, Suburban Purchasing Cooperative

American Public Power Association, National Directory of Public Power Joint Action Agencies

 

Affirmatively support your town’s small businesses, prioritizing women & BIPOC businesses

Support & advance employee ownership

Implementation Resources

Democracy Collaborative, Expanding Democratic Ownership

Imagined Economy Project, Cities Developing Worker Coops: Efforts in Ten Cities

City of Rochester NY, OWN Rochester

4: Zone for Equitable and Sustainable Neighborhoods

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Reduce or remove parking and lot size minimums

Adopt common sense, “lean” zoning codes

Implementation Resources

Placemakers, Lean Code Tool (provides model slimmed down zoning codes)

Congress for a New Urbanism, Project for Code Reform (organizes state and national assistances for smaller cities and towns’ efforts to expedite improved zoning codes, including major elements for main streets, housing, green infrastructure for stormwater management and parking; sample manual and code provisions for Vermont towns at www.cnu.org/vermont)

Enabling Better Places: A Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods, Stormwater, pp. 51-52

 

Expedite building and zoning permitting

Support outdoor dining and develop outdoor design guidelines

Support and create outdoor shopping, learning, and places of worship

Implementation Resources

Happy City and Canadian Urban Institute’s Rapid Placemaking to Bring Back Main Street: A Pandemic Recovery Toolkit for Local Communities

 

Create open streets and non-vehicle priority areas

Implementation Resources

U.S. National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery

Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ COVID-19 Street Rebalancing Guide

Open Street Plans Database of Cities with Open Streets (383 cities as of October 30, 2020)

 

Support tradeoff of parking spaces for parklets

Implementation Resources

Done through sponsored competition, and/or better procurement, and/or guidance (NACTO, AARP, NAR, Tulsa). Case examples: Athens-Clarke County GA, Chicago IL, San Francisco CA, Washington DC

 

Allow and support in-home businesses

Implementation Resources

Project for Lean Urbanism, Leaning Toward Live-Work Units

 

Allow & support Accessory Commercial Units (ACUs)

Implementation Resources

Fast Company, Put Tiny Businesses Back into Neighborhoods

 

Allow & support Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Implementation Resources

American Planning Association, Accessory Dwelling Units (includes guides, case studies, model ordinances)

AARP, The ABCs of ADUs

Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Granny Flat Academy (links to presentation and training materials)

Eliminate or soften legacy rules on permissible number of unrelated persons living in a single home or apartment

Develop & support use of a tiny home code

Implementation Resources

Building Safety Journal, The International Residential Code Has a Big Vision for Tiny Homes

 

Develop & support rent-to-own initiatives

5: Speed Up & Broaden Delivery of Essential Services While Saving Money

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Provide a lifeline package of broadband services

Lower barriers to providing “shared package” consolidation and alternative supply chain services

Support micro-mobility for better connections and first-last mile accessibility, and bundle one-stop payment for combined on-demand and transit services

Implementation Resources

Shared Use Mobility Center, New Urban Mobility Alliance, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Communities, Micromobility Policy Atlas (Provides case studies and policies from 100 cities)

 

Expand transit frequency & hours of service, calibrate routes to demand

Offer one-stop packages (appropriate rates + advice + financing + contractors) for basic energy & water services including conservation, clean energy and community-scale solutions

Transition public service provision from cash to touchless transactions, transition in-person permit applications to online services

Implementation Resources

Global Newswire, Big Growth in Contactless from Pandemic

5: Speed Up & Broaden Delivery of Essential Services While Saving Money

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Provide a lifeline package of broadband services

Lower barriers to providing “shared package” consolidation and alternative supply chain services

Support micro-mobility for better connections and first-last mile accessibility, and bundle one-stop payment for combined on-demand and transit services

Implementation Resources

Shared Use Mobility Center, New Urban Mobility Alliance, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Communities, Micromobility Policy Atlas (Provides case studies and policies from 100 cities)

 

Expand transit frequency & hours of service, calibrate routes to demand

Offer one-stop packages (appropriate rates + advice + financing + contractors) for basic energy & water services including conservation, clean energy and community-scale solutions

Transition public service provision from cash to touchless transactions, transition in-person permit applications to online services

Implementation Resources

Global Newswire, Big Growth in Contactless from Pandemic

6: Leave No Dollar Behind

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Provide or support assistance with tax filing & counseling that focuses on cost reduction

Implementation Resources

National League of Cities, Earned Income Tax Credit in Your City

 

Create “forbearance partnerships” with lenders & creditors to restructure home & business debt worsened by COVID-induced economic crisis

Implementation Resources

State of Michigan, Michigan Forbearance Partnership

 

Create & use locally-responsible banking ordinances targeting city banking with lenders who “greenline” or meet public policy targets

Implementation Resources

National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Summary of Local Responsible Banking Ordinances

 

Get your state to use their own depository authority to support your town’s initiatives, including linked deposit investment programs & mortgage forbearance

Implementation Resources

Illinois Treasurer, Community Development Linked Deposits;  WXYZ, Michigan Mortgage Forbearance Partnership; Housing Wire, Explaining Mortgage Forbearance

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to include short-term recovery assistance in current & pending Community Reinvestment Act agreements, or in actions by public employee & other pension funds

Implementation Resources

Illinois Treasurer, Access To Capital

 

Work with “essential” sectors to take advantage of emergency & recovery resources (e.g. flexible funding provision in CARES for health recovery, flexible funding in FAST Act for transportation dollars, use of regional capital dollars by Metropolitan Planning Organizations, stormwater agencies, utilities & Publicly Owned Treatment Works)

7: Build a Readiness Culture

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Audit and map local fiscal strengths and weaknesses, and modify revenue and development strategies based on shared agreement of where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you propose to get there

Explore proven low-cost, fast, and high-impact strategies for innovation

Implementation Resources

GovLabPHL,  The Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative

Bloomberg Cities, The Future of City Innovation

Moves the Needle, Hayward, CA Case Study on Lean Innovation

 

Use your and your State’s “emergency declaration” powers to get things done

Prioritize “fix it first” policies and leverage medium term opportunities around economic recovery, health and climate protection, and anticipate new policies that reward readiness

Adopt a lean municipal ethic and use flexible approaches to prioritize pandemic needs

Use smaller popular projects (e.g. rain gardens and tree planting) to build support to scale green infrastructure

Implementation Resources

Louisville, KY Green Heart Project, Accelerated Tree Canopy Replacement & Health Impacts