Latest report: How cities can help communities to build wealth and drive equity

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Our Series on Public Water focuses on how to maintain and service public water utilities, with resources for mayors and utility leaders

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Publications

Our policy research is informed by our commitment to policies that promote equity, sustainability, and efficient democratic government. We aim to produce high-quality information for mayors and city staff. Our work is intended to be implementable with a focus on concrete recommendations. View full list of publications here.

Recent Reports

  • The U.S. is among the most unequal societies in the world. To address these inequalities, city leaders, including mayors, should play a critical role in community wealth building. This brief profiles three cities, Nashville, Detroit, and Lafayette, LA, on the unique ways that leaders in these cities are building community wealth and their local democratic systems. City leaders, including mayors, are this brief’s intended audience. However, as highlighted in each example, this work requires multiple actors, including community organizers and developers. This brief is useful to anyone committed to equitable economic development in their community.

  • Aging water infrastructure systems, climate change, and the general rising cost of urban living mean that access to clean and affordable water is becoming a greater challenge. Cities and water utilities are increasingly faced with a major financial dilemma: increase rates to update infrastructure and price out ratepayers, or keep rates static at the expense of aging and failing infrastructure. At the fulcrum of this choice sits those most vulnerable to increases in rates: low-to-moderate income households, which are disproportionately made up of women and/or people of color.

  • From climate change to outdated infrastructure to lack of federal support, city leaders face more pressure than ever to provide affordable and safe water to residents. Mayors and city leaders need the resources to plan for and improve and maintain public water systems. This report outlines concrete actions a city can take to keep control of its water systems and provides a background to understanding the complexity of public water systems and their current challenges. The solutions for managing robust public systems include topics such as: integrating management approaches for water with other goals; engaging the public in conversations about this valuable resource; promoting affordability of water services; among many more.

  • Access to safe and affordable drinking water is a human right, and it is the duty of the water utility to ensure that this right is protected and upheld. Understanding the different ways water intersects with your city is critical. Basic Water Utility Management provides local leaders with a foundation for understanding their local water systems, including: understanding what a successful water system looks like; getting up to speed on government compliance; identifying infrastructure and maintenance needs; and engaging with community members around water resources.

  • Even as the scale of needed investment grows, utilities can develop rate structures, impact fees, and new products or services that generate needed revenue fairly. This report is a primer on getting started with financing water systems, including: assessing where the largest costs are incurred and where borrowing is most extensive; understanding your city’s specific water utility structure and financial status; building a relationship with your water utility manager/CEO(s); and reaching out to and growing relationships with community leaders across a range of neighborhoods and interests, and asking questions about needs and water affordability.

View full list of publications here.