January 30, 2018

National Network of Local Lawmakers Issues Response to President Trump’s First State of the Union Address

Trump is taking us backward. In our cities, we are making real progress.

In response to President Trump’s first State of the Union address, Local Progress issued the following statement:

Tonight, President Trump gave his first State of the Union address, and, in the space of more than an hour, he could not point to a single achievement that had moved America forward over the past year. Indeed, during the past 12 months, President Trump has taken us backward, reversing years of progress on raising standards for working Americans, racial justice, and climate change, while terrorizing immigrants and communities of color.

If we want to find a vision for progress in America, it is surely not in the White House. Instead, we must look to our cities, towns, and counties. It is local leaders who are moving us toward a future in which all Americans can thrive.  

Our cities have continued to advance a far-reaching vision of shared economic prosperity, building on efforts to raise the minimum wage and ensure fair working conditions for all Americans. In the past year, Local Progress leaders have stretched the bounds of what was once thought possible for working families:

  • Passing fair workweek standards in New York City and introducing similar ordinances in Chicago and Los Angeles.
  • Winning a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis
  • Passing a progressive income tax on the very wealthy in Seattle
  • Creating a first-of-its-kind law allowing New York City fast food workers to deduct contributions from their paychecks in order to collectively organize

The Trump administration and a Republican Congress, by contrast, have done little more than pass a tax scam to steer millions to the wealthy and corporations, while gutting labor regulations that protect American workers from exploitation and harm.

On immigration, while Trump presented harsh and restrictive policies under the guise of bipartisan collaboration, Local Progress members have been leading the way forward. They have fought and, in many cases, successfully halted Trump’s deportation and demonization agenda:

  • In Texas, city leaders across the state largely defeated a Trump-inspired law to punish sanctuary cities; and in California, they inspired a movement to win sanctuary status for the whole state.
  • Local Progress members in Santa Clara County and Seattle spearheaded lawsuits to block Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities.
  • In Oakland and Berkeley, Local Progress members divested their cities from companies that build Trump’s border wall.
  • Cities and counties across the country, from Columbus, Ohio to Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas, funded legal defense programs to provide representation for residents facing deportation.

While Trump focuses on limiting immigration and tearing apart families, Local Progress members are showing what a welcoming and compassionate immigration system could look like.

Local Progress members are also busy making headway on a central challenge of our time – dismantling the enduring, systemic legacy of white supremacy – by enshrining equity and racial justice as a basic tenet of their cities, in both budgets and policy initiatives:

  • Charlottesville, Virginia passed a budget equity package to invest in public housing and education.
  • As the Department of Justice retreats from its commitment to real oversight for local police departments, cities have passed groundbreaking police reforms including a law requiring officers for identifying themselves during stops in Albany, New York and comprehensive police oversight in Seattle, Washington.
  • Cities are leading on criminal justice reform. This year New Orleans, Louisiana and Santa Clara County, California successfully are working to reduce the number of people in prisons by reforming bail policies. Durham, North Carolina deprioritized marijuana offenses, thereby decreasing the number of marijuana-related arrests.
  • Multiple cities, including Philadelphia and Cincinnati, moved to divest pension funds from private prison companies.

President Trump offered no plan to reform our criminal justice system. Instead, he proclaimed a new war on drugs and his Department of Justice has recommended policies that would take us back to a brutal law-and-order era that imprisoned millions of Americans while disinvesting from communities of color.

Finally, President Trump forecast one area where his administration would make progress in the coming year: infrastructure. His plan, though, appears to be little more than a scheme to sell off our infrastructure to his Wall Street friends, to shift more of the cost burden to already resource-strapped states and cities, and to roll back critical environmental safeguards. Here again, we humbly suggest the administration look to cities, where visionary leaders are fighting for bold and direct investments into our public transit systems, schools, roads, energy systems, and affordable housing. The last thing our communities need is to have their critical resources privatized to subsidize wealthy for-profit investors. If the President wants a real plan to modernize our infrastructure and put millions of people to work in high-paying jobs, he can start by committing to a real federal investment for the initiatives already underway in our municipalities.

We are now more than a year into the tenure of Donald Trump in the White House. It is more than enough time to know that his vision of our country is one of greed and hate, that we will not find any progress being made in this White House. Look to cities for where we are making progress in America. Look to our members in towns and counties who are making real change. Look to Local Progress.

Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.