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Katya Spear | May 12, 2020
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, High Road

Pandemic Insights for Local Government Leaders
Apolitical: The global learning platform for government

Joel Rogers | May 04, 2020
Category: COWS, High Road

How About Productive Democracy for a Change,” Social Policy 50:1 (Spring 2020):19-25.  

Colin Gordon, Hannah Halbert and Laura Dresser | Apr 20, 2020
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy
Across the Midwest, residential and occupational segregation put African Americans and Hispanics in the region more at risk. And across the Midwest, public policies—by design and by neglect—do little to address or alleviate that risk. Full post here.
Transporation for America | Mar 01, 2020
Category: COWS, High Road, Transportation
This report examines changes in population, lane-miles of freeways, and congestion in the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S. between 1993 (the earliest year with a complete dataset) and 2017. It also looks at other related changes in those cities like vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) and driving commute travel times.
SSTI | Mar 01, 2020
Category: COWS, High Road, Transportation
Accessibility metrics hold great promise as a means to inform transportation decision-making. Not only do these metrics address the purpose of the transportation system directly – linking travelers to destinations – but they are also infinitely scalable, so they can provide insights at a very granular level. As such, they may be especially useful in evaluating decisions around active transportation facilities, which can be difficult to address in conventional modeling. This white paper investigates a particular issue within active transportation: prioritizing pedestrian improvements to meet ADA standards.
Ceri Jenkins | Jan 01, 2020
Category: COWS, High Road

City leaders, including mayors, play a critical role in community wealth building and are this brief’s intended audience. However, this work requires multiple actors, including community organizers and developers. This brief is useful to anyone committed to equitable economic development in their community but is intended primarily for city leaders. This report was made possible by generous funding from the Surdna Foundation.

Laura Dresser | Oct 09, 2019
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, High Road, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Read the full "Race in the Heartland" report here.


In the 20th Century, people from around the world came to Wisconsin and the Midwest, seeking opportunity in the industrial boom. Manufacturing and unions helped create good jobs for many black workers, but discrimination and segregation limited that sharply. When industrial jobs declined, black Midwesterners suffered the most. Over the last 40 years, opportunity and outcomes for black residents in Wisconsin have fallen below national averages. As a result, black Wisconsinites face stubborn barriers and road blocks that many white people don’t even know are there. Racial disparity in Wisconsin is not inevitable, but closing the gap will require a broad focus and multifaceted approach.


'Wisconsin's Extreme Racial Disparity' provides a Wisconsin-focused summary to 'Race in the Heartland', which shows the persistence of racial disparities in the Midwest and what can be done about them.

Wisconsin has the regrettable distinction of ranking among the worst states in the nation for racial inequality. Disparities among black and white residents of our state – spanning poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, and incarceration – have been documented consistently for more than a decade. Although activists and policymakers have increasingly focused on addressing these issues, they remain pressing.

'Race in the Heartland' and 'Wisconsin's Extreme Racial Disparity' provide a careful historical context and a broadly informed policy framework that are critical to winning greater racial equity throughout this region. 

Laura Dresser & Joel Rogers | Aug 30, 2019
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Each year on Labor Day, COWS draws a picture of how working people in Wisconsin are faring. The long report, The State of Working Wisconsin, is released biannually on even-numbered years and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, like 2019, we provide a more abbreviated and focused report, called The State of Working Wisconsin: Facts & Figures.


On some of the most well-known economic indicators, there is good news for Wisconsin workers. The unemployment rate in the state has been consistently low. The economy is steadily adding jobs. These are important measures for working people’s lives. When jobs are more available not only is it easier to secure a job, it is also easier to get the hours of work you want, to be able to ask for time-off you need, and to make ends meet. This Labor Day, with the memory of the Great Recession of 2007 now fading from memory, workers across Wisconsin have this good news to celebrate.


Even so, many working families in the state feel stressed and stretched. In this report, then, we provide information on few key long-term trends that are contributing to the stress even in the context of low unemployment. Looking across the last forty years, the challenges working people face are clear. Wage growth has been anemic. Income inequality is reaching new highs. Unions, which have been so critical to supporting workers in this state, are in serious decline. Additionally, state policy, which could be helping to close gaps, is actually exacerbating these trends. From tax changes that reward our highest income families to rejection of health insurance to cover our families in need, policy continues to pave the low-road for our state.


View previous years' 'State of Working Wisconsin' reports here.

Satya Rhodes-Conway, James Irwin, & Matthew Braunginn | Feb 27, 2019
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, Energy: Energy Efficiency, State & Local Policy, Energy

Local leaders are careful stewards of their communities’ resources, and plan with caution to avoid future catastrophe. Climate change poses a tremendous risk to communities and the investments that their retirees and others will rely on in the future. There is a growing toolbox of measures cities can take to combat climate change. One of these tools, divestment from fossil fuels, is ethical, viable, and a moral imperative.


Fortunately there is also a significant and growing array of reinvestment opportunities, from traditional market funds to targeted community investments. Some of these require more diligence and financial sophistication than others. In all cases, it is possible to construct an investment structure that mitigates financial and carbon risk while investing in projects that offer market returns and fight climate change. Successful divest/invest strategies are a matter of political will. As the saying goes, political will is a renewable resource in and of itself.


First steps a city should take:

  • Determine if you have funds that should be divested and work to reduce your carbon risk. Reinvest the capital moved from fossil fuel stocks – consider a Green Bank or Revolving Loan Fund
  • Identify what opportunities there are to attract “fossil free” investments to sustainable projects in your city via green bonds or other mechanisms
  • Ensure that any jobs created through this process are quality jobs
David Abel and Katya Spear | Feb 04, 2019
Category: COWS, Energy: Energy Efficiency, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin, Energy

From the report by David Abel and Katya Spear.

Wisconsin has a current energy spending deficit of $14.4 billion ($14.4 billion in expenditures leaves the state annually). With no substantial in-state fossil fuel resources, reliance on fossil fuels is hurting the Wisconsin economy. Transitioning to in-state energy resources would bring dollars and jobs back to the state of Wisconsin and provide a win-win-win strategy for economic growth, social well-being, and environmental protection. Full report here.

Prepared for Nick Nichols, Sustainability Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, La Crosse County, Wisconsin.