Break Down Those Barriers

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Photo: Lyda Hill (left) chats with CPPP Board Chair Veletta Forsythe Lill (middle) and CPPP CEO Ann Beeson (right).

Last week I joined a packed crowd attending the launch of the Dallas Economic Opportunity Assessment. CPPP researched and wrote the comprehensive study of my native Dallas for the Communities Foundation of Texas, who commissioned the research and hosted the successful launch.

CPPP Chief Operating Officer Frances Deviney walked us through the key findings and implications, highlighting some of the racial and ethnic disparities in the Dallas area. Among other findings, the data shows that people of color have to earn one degree higher than their White peers to make the same income. On a more positive note, every racial-ethnic community has seen significant declines in the uninsured rate, though gaps still exist.

As the data and research sink in, CPPP is excited for the next phase of our collective work toward improving economic opportunity and reducing poverty in the Dallas region. We were so pleased to hear Dallas leaders Mayor Mike Rawlings and Judge Clay Jenkins describe how these data will help advance real policy solutions in both the city and county of Dallas. CPPP shared several policy recommendations for consideration, including:

  • Engage in a comprehensive racial and ethnic equity outcome assessment of local policies and practices, and conduct racial and ethnic impact analyses of existing policies.
  • Review city fees and expenses that may be stripping wealth from low-income neighborhoods.
  • Analyze city and county budget expenditures to ensure sufficient resources for poverty alleviation.
  • Create a public-private-philanthropic partnership to expand access to English language acquisition and literacy.
  • Provide incentives for businesses to raise wages beyond the minimum wage.
  • Support paid sick leave to protect public health and prevent workers from having to choose between caring for a sick family member and losing wages.
  • Provide incentives for small, minority-owned, and immigrant-owned businesses to locate and hire in low-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Increase access to health insurance for underserved families by raising awareness of affordable public and private coverage options and supporting outreach and enrollment organizations.

Read our full set of policy recommendation here.

Despite the challenging findings, I was inspired by the community members’ and leaders’ commitment to moving forward.

“Look in the mirror and think about what you’re going to do about it,” Judge Jenkins said, talking about business owners and executives who pay White workers more than employees of color.

Judge Jenkins’ advice is true for plenty of issues we’re tackling together, from underfunded public schools to federal attacks on food and health care for hard-working Texans.

As the wildflowers bloom and optimism is in the air, I hope you will join us and get even more engaged in the fight for a Texas where – across races, ethnicities, genders and ZIP codes – everyone is healthy, well-educated and financially secure.

A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

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