PG Sittenfeld’s Urban Policy Agenda
"To give up on our cities and those who live in them would be to give up on America. But the task goes far beyond beautification and new downtown construction… Ending the explosions that periodically rock our cities won’t be possible if we continue to ignore what is fast becoming a permanent underclass of citizens who have no hope, no stake in the system, and no way out."
- PG Sittenfeld
In May of 2015, PG told Ohioans that he saw "a future in which great American cities like Baltimore and Cleveland no longer endure endless cycles of violence, joblessness and hopelessness—and where those who live in urban communities get the skills and the training they need to go to work instead of jail."
PG knows that rebuilding our cities will require a number of specific actions and policies. That is why, on June 27, 2015, PG gave a major speech at the East End Neighborhood House in Cleveland unveiling his "Urban Policy Agenda" and rolling out a series of reforms aimed at healing our ailing cities.
The details of PG's proposals can be found below. You can also read the full speech.
Ending Mass Incarceration
The fact that America has less than 5% of the world’s population—but 25% of the world’s total prison population—is both shocking and disgraceful. Over-incarceration does little to reduce crime. But it does a lot to destroy families, burden taxpayers, and increase joblessness. Right now, 1 out of every 28 children has a parent in prison. Taxpayers spend about $80 billion a year to keep them there. And roughly 60% of the 600,000 people who are released from prison each year face long-term unemployment.
PG believes we must rethink arbitrary, mandatory minimum sentencing, especially for low-level, non-violent offenses that are more effectively—and more cheaply—handled through probation and diversion programs.
We also need to stop using our prisons as mental health facilities, and put more resources into treating psychological illness.
Finally, PG believes the time has come to revise and reform outdated state and federal marijuana laws that harshly penalize personal possession and make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Improving Police-Community Relations and Better Gun Safety
Common sense gun reform is long overdue and absolutely necessary to make our cities safer—which is why PG has made a series of proposals to curb gun violence. But the problem goes far beyond guns.
You can see it in the frayed and broken bonds of trust that too often no longer exist between law enforcement officers and the people they serve—especially in communities of color.
While there is never an acceptable excuse for rioting, looting or other criminal conduct, PG believes those in urban communities are more likely to respect the law if they believe the law respects those in urban communities.
Among other things, we need smarter policing that measures success not just by the number of arrests, but by the number of crimes that are prevented in the first place. We also need better hiring, training and accountability for police officers—and far more transparency in their interactions with the public. Body cameras, for example, should be available for all police departments in America.
As a City Councilman, PG is proud of the enormous strides his city has made in police-community relations over the past 15 years. In the past year, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch came to Cincinnati to say that what we’ve done there should serve as a model for the rest of the country—and in the Senate, PG will work with his colleagues to export the “Cincinnati Model” to every city that is willing to give it a try.
Jobs and Economic Opportunity
Much of the frustration that has recently boiled over in our inner cities is a direct result of massive unemployment—and the fact that many of the jobs that do exist don’t pay enough to live on. The Great Recession may be over in the nation as a whole—but it’s alive and well in urban America. Minority unemployment is two or even three times higher than the national average—and among African-American youth, it stands at over 30%.
Today, income and wealth inequality is worse than at any time since the Gilded Age. It’s hard to believe, but while the top 1% own a full 40% of the nation’s total wealth, the bottom 40% of our population owns just 0.3%.
In the Senate, PG will fight the problem of poverty with both short-term and long-term solutions. No American who is willing to work full-time in the richest country on earth should be forced to live in poverty, which is why PG will work to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 immediately, and to $15 per hour over the next few years.
When employees are required to work more than 40 hours per week, PG will fight to make their employers pay them time and a half wages—and PG will seek more generous child care assistance for parents who want to work but can’t afford the sky-high costs of quality day care.
PG will also fight for the right of full-time workers to earn a set number of paid sick days each year. Right now, America is the only major industrialized country that does not require employers to provide paid sick days. And because no parent should ever have to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of a sick child, PG will work to make sure children and spouses are covered by paid sick days as well.
It is also no secret that America has a major infrastructure problem. Fixing the problem will be costly—most experts say billions of dollars—but that’s no excuse for putting off making these necessary repairs. Health and safety aside, no nation can hope to compete in a 21st century economy with a 20th century infrastructure.
Part of the money we need could come from reforming corporate taxes and repatriating the billions of dollars American companies are currently holding overseas. And if more dollars are needed, there is no better time for the federal government to borrow than right now—when interest rates are at historic lows and so many people—in our inner cities and elsewhere—desperately need a job. By fixing our infrastructure and simultaneously putting millions of people back to work, we can accomplish two goals at once—and in the Senate, PG intends to make this one of his missions.
Improving Urban Schools and Making College Affordable
Economic opportunity is inseparable from education.
In Cincinnati, PG is proud of the innovative steps that have been taken to improve urban schools.
Virtually all of Cincinnati's schools are new. But instead of using them only during the school day—and then shooing the kids out of the building and into the streets—PG has helped turn them into bustling, round-the-clock community centers.
Co-located health and dental facilities, adult education programs, and enhanced cultural and recreational opportunities have removed barriers to student learning, boosted academic achievement, and sparked broader neighborhood revitalization.
The success has been so great that other city leaders from across the country have come to Cincinnati to see what has been done and to adopt the model—and that includes New York City and Philadelphia.
When it comes to higher education, the first priority should be making college and post-high school technical training more affordable. The crushing burden of student loan debt—which now exceeds total credit card debt for the first time in history—is a national disgrace.
That is why PG made his “Everyone Deserves A Shot” initiative—which would save the average college student over $12,000 in interest payments—the first major policy proposal of his campaign.