The Bottom LineThe Bottom Line

Economics in Brief: A Public Bank May Come to Silicon Valley

And in other economics stories this week, Washington State has repealed a ban on affirmative action, and a new report analyzes Detroit’s middle class.

(Photo by Thomas Hawk / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Santa Clara County May Form Public Bank

Santa Clara County’s board of supervisors voted unanimously to study how they might create a county-owned public bank, San Jose Spotlight reports. The move follows one by San Jose, the county seat and largest city, whose council members have also signed on, at least tentatively, to the idea.

Why the hesitation? Because publicly owned banks aren’t yet legal in California. Assembly Bill 857, which would allow cities and counties within the state to operate banks for the first time in history, is still making its way through the legislative process. In San Jose, councilmembers argued that the city should be “proactive … and strongly consider how this bill could benefit the 10th-largest city in America.”

AB 857 is endorsed by 100 organizations across California, according to the California Public Banking Alliance, which pushed for the legislation.

Washington State Repeals Affirmative Action Ban

On Sunday night, Washington’s state legislature voted to overturn a 20-year-old law that essentially banned affirmative action, the Seattle Times reports. On Monday morning, a group that opposed the repeal had already filed a referendum seeking to overturn the repeal.

Dizzy yet? I-1000 repeals Initiative 200, which Washington state voters approved 20 years ago and which blocked the government from giving preferential treatment to people on the basis of sex, ethnicity, color, race, or national origin. The law banned preferential treatment in hiring, college admissions and public contracting, among others. Activists collected 400,000 signatures — more than any previous initiative to go to the legislature — to get I-1000 on the ballot. But lawmakers chose to vote, rather than send the initiative to the people.

But less than a day after the vote, supporters of Initiative 200 filed a referendum hoping to overturn I-1000. They’ll need to collect 129,811 signatures by July 27 to be able to put the question to voters.

New Report Lays Out Roadmap for Detroit’s Middle Class

A recent report from “think-and-do tank” Detroit Future City puts its lens squarely on the city’s middle class. Why? Because, as Detroit Future City executive director Anika Goss writes, “middle-class households can determine tax base, education-spending, and the stability of its neighborhoods.”

But Detroit has the lowest share of middle-class households of the 50 largest cities in the country, and its share of middle-class households is significantly lower than the region’s share, indicating that many middle-class households have moved to the suburbs.

Detroit needs 33,800 more middle-class households to have the same share of middle-class households as the region does, the report says.

Of the middle-class households in the city, 80 percent are black, a percentage that almost exactly aligns with the city’s demographics, where 82 percent of residents are black. In other cities, the share of black middle-class households relative to population isn’t as equal, the report said.

Attracting more middle-class residents back to the city won’t be easy. In a focus group. Detroit Future City asked people what was keeping them from living in Detroit. The answers were “unanimously” high taxes and car insurance, and poorly performing schools. Resolving these barriers “must be our top priority,” the group said.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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