Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Making a third world Silicon Valley? Local government and labor regulation on Guadalajara, Mexico

Since late 80s, when Mexico started its transition to an outward development model, the city of Guadalajara stated the project of becoming a “new Silicon Valley” by attracting large electronic multinational companies and setting up programs to develop local producers of high tech components and software. In addition to tax waivers, subsidized land and services, urban infrastructure and credit programs, the local government confronted two central tasks: a) the discursive construction of the labor force as the “ideal” (right level of skills, flexible and disciplined); b) how to facilitate companies’ access to different pools of labor force: from professional engineers to low-skill assembling workers. The paper explores the local government’s attempts to solve these issues between 1995 and 2000, and what were the contradictions and unintended consequences of its strategy.
It speaks to the general question of what are the specific characteristics of the “silicon valley dream” in third world cities, by pointing out [schematically] what commonalities this case has with other high tech projects in LDCs (e.g. Bangalore, India and South Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), and what it says about the “transference” of the labor market model that Silicon Valley implies.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Amy Skonieczny
Contested Urban Futures
Paper Abstract
(Everything is tentative!)

The Battle Is Seattle: anti-globalization, the city and the re-scaling of urban space

Many approaches to analyzing the anti-globalization movement take the city as the empty place-holder, the 'stage' on which massive demonstrations against financial institutions such as the WTO, World Bank and IMF take place (Heyman, 2003). Indeed, the protests themselves are often organized by a date (time) such as J18, N30, A16 that connects activism to a place (space) such as London, Seattle, Washington, D.C. chosen by the financial institutions as a meeting site thus lending credence to both media and academic accounts that privilege time over space and give the impression of a rapidly spreading, cyber-connected, place-less movement that operates on a supranational, global scale. In these accounts, the city itself is overlooked as significant in contextually embedding the anti-globalization demonstrations and thus the subnational scale and its interaction with global political space is ignored. In my paper, I address this oversight by examining the anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle (and a bit in Geneva and London) from the perspective of the city in order to examine how the 'movement' rescales space by scrambling distinctions between place, space and scale. I argue that investigating the rescaled space of the city as an 'event' (Escobar, 2001) and not an empty place-holder for roving anti-globalization activism allows the possibility of seeing the demonstrations as expressions of political agency, as opening urban political space and as articulating what constitutes a 'livable city'. By focusing on the city, the inter-urban connectivity of the anti-globalization demonstrations comes into view as both contextually embedding and rendering translatable a common concern with the loss of public control over economic processes on both a global and local scale.
(Here's Max's abstract.)

The transformation of Chicago?s Navy Pier and its ?Public? Space: Neoliberalism of Local Despots? ( additional title suggestions are very welcome!)

While scholarly and populist critics of neoliberalism have addressed many policy aspects associated with this widespread phenomenon across the globe, precious little attention has been paid to public (and quasi-public) spaces within Chicago. Several works have spoken more broadly to conditions in New York (i.e. Jerold Kayden?s Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience) and various theoreticians have spoken to this contestation over various spaces and places more generally (i.e David Harvey?s Spaces of Hope, Condition of Postmodernity, etc.) Drawing on several of these theoretical and site-specific works, I intend to perform a limited study on Chicago?s Navy Pier. Utilizing long form interviews, newspapers, (some) onsite field work, and their local histories (and recent transformations), it is hoped that studying these two places, in conjunction with some of the aforementioned theoretical constructs, will help assist in assuaging whether the ongoing contestations and transformations of these spaces is indicative of neoliberalism and its attendant policy prerogatives or merely of localized control and provincialism.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Abstract

There are thousands of undocumented children (“illegal aliens”) in Minnesota but federal law requires that they be charged prohibitively high out-of-state tuition for public universities. The Access to Higher Education Coalition of Minnesota is a highly networked, strategic and very empowering movement fighting in the Twin Cities for in-state tuition for undocumented students. In the increasingly neoliberal world and Twin Cities, this movement is resisting the neoliberal trend to reduce all public, social goods (like higher education) into nothing more than a fiscal balance sheet of their costs and benefits. While the strategies the movement employs are largely adapted from ones successfully used in other states and also recommended by national public policy organizations, the activists I studied gained their motivation and vision directly from their first-hand experience of local undocumented students. However, the bulk of the arguments that they make use the logic of neoliberalism. Activists appeal to the loss that the economy of Minnesota accrues when undocumented students are barred from training for professional fields. They also argue that undocumented students deserve publicly subsidized higher education because of the taxes their parents pay and the boost to the economy their labor provides. This is representative of the expansion of the “thought virus” of neoliberalism, and its use by progressives has troubling implications.
Nancy Johnson
Contested Urban Futures
March 24, 2003

Abstract:

The Emergence of CERCLA and the Innocent Landowner Defense in the United States and the Diffusion of Neoliberal Perspectives of Environmental Risk

This paper examines the policy history of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and how the concept known as the “innocent landowner” and the associated practice of “due diligence” site assessments emerged in the United States and how the concept of the innocent landowner has been transferred from a national to an international scale. More specifically, it examines the implications of this transference. The paper draws on concepts from Actor Network Theory to examine how actors such as law firms, corporate risk managers, insurance companies, and environmental consultants as well as actants such as standards created by the American Society of Testing and Manufacturing (ASTM) and the Bureau of National Affairs lend legitimacy to the practice of due diligence assessments. It also draws on Bruno Latour’s “Science in Action” to gain an understanding of how the practice of due diligence has been normalized and come to be universally accepted as standard practice.


No sex for oil: the arts and networks for political action (a totally tentative title)
Richard Dowdell

This paper examines the Lysistrata Project, a single day, global series of readings of Aristophanes? Lysistrata. Aristophanes? work tells the story of how women protested the Peloponnesian War. The project used internet communications to coordinate over 1,000 readings as a response to the ?silence? of dissent against the US government?s aggressive military posture toward Iraq. The Lysistrata Project points to the role of arts and artists in urban politics and society. The case also highlights the power of advanced communications technology to enable rapid organization and response to political issues, and it suggests the potential for non-hierarchical networks to enable effective responses to dominant political discourses and ideologies.

Todd's Trout Lake paper:

"We are your 'Friends': mediating Creative Class subjects with the 21st century (neoliberal?) city."

From Frasier to Suddenly Susan, Will and Grace to Sex in the City, and Friends to Mad About You, this paper looks at the cultural networks (rather than the political/policy networks largely examined in the course) through which ideas and notions of the 21st century city are both imagined and lived. Based on several writings from the course, this paper assumes that currents of neoliberalism not only travel through aforementioned political and economic lines, but also create - and are disseminated through - cultural strands. This paper aims to dissect one cultural facet, or 'subject', of the 21st century neoliberal city - Richard Florida's 'Creative Class'. A partial critique, this paper then looks at how this cultural embodiment of the contemporary city is both mediated and promulgated in popular media's representation of this socio-economic group in current situational comedies, assuming that this format not only functions as a valuable cultural barometer, but also has the capacity to operate as a cultural rudder.
(Similarly, here's Brenda Parker's abstract)

Sex and the City

In this class, we have viewed neoliberalism primarily from a political-economy framework, focusing on its tendentious political and capitalist practices. In my presentation, I muse about neoliberalism as a hegemony of different sorts. Shifting to a feminist lens, I shed light on the gendered origins, constitution, and impact of neoliberalism. This perspective adds to our understanding in three ways:

(1) It makes apparent the hybrid hegemonies involved in neoliberalization processes;
(2) It illuminates the fissures and contradictions of neoliberalism in relation to gender; and
(3) It speaks to the resistance opportunities available through a feminist framework
(This is Mike Fleenor's abstract, which I'm posting for him due to technical difficulties)

The Pension Fund Economy, Contesting ?Equity?, and Urban Investment Networks:
Workers? Control of Capital and the Heartland Labor Capital Network

Abstract: The pension fund economy has many contradictions, the most fundamental being that whereas Workers have considerable claims on pension funds, Workers do not have control of these funds. Corporate pension obligations, both social and labor, have been sacrificed for the sake of a pension funded economic system detrimental to Worker and community needs. Neoliberal pension funds policies have enabled firms to use Workers? pension funds as corporate assets while Workers? assume all investment risks. Pensions, both as defined benefit and defined contribution, are sources of geographically diffuse Capital flows originating from workers? back pockets and which become concentrated in financial institutions. Pension fund investing reveals strong ?home-bias?; that is, some 90% plus of US pension investments stay within the US. Pension funds, on the whole, are not part of the global economy or certain interconnections characteristic of globalization. They remain as ?home assets?. Workers can use this home-bias and home-asset to their advantage via urban network strategies in order to invest in labor friendly, small to medium size firms, improved urban infrastructure, education, housing, and anti-poverty programs. The Heartland Labor Capital Network, founded by the Steel Valley Authority in Pittsburgh PA ?has been exploring and promoting practical, jobs-oriented investment strategies, building on labor?s capital, since 1996.? In 1999, the HLCN established the Heartland Fund using the Solidarity Fund of Quebec as its model. The Fund is an attempt ?fill a growing investment capital gap that is preventing small and medium-sized businesses from expanding.? Cities involved in the proposed Heartland Fund Regional Network are Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Seattle, Cleveland, Chicago, Bay Area, Boston and New York. Workers must take advantage of the ?home-bias? flow of pension funds and turn it into community-asset investments.
This paper investigates the configuration of public education policy networks as a means of extending current understandings of neoliberal governance. Unlike other components of the welfare state, education provision and administration has traditionally been highly localized in the U.S. This creates a unique starting point for the process of neoliberalization, which frequently involves the decentralization of state functions. In fact, the spread of neoliberal ideologies and practices in public education have been accompanied by the growth of a national-scale policy network. While confirming some theories of neoliberal governance (e.g. the role of business elites), the presence of this network raises other questions about the scale of the neoliberal state, the origins and transmission of neoliberal ideas, and the agency exercised by urban authorities. My work will provide a broad outline of this national network, the nature of information it produces (and who consumes it) and its connections to centers of power and innovation. A focus on two distinct members of this national policy network?the Council of the Great City Schools (a membership organization representing large urban school districts) and the New American Schools Initiative (a business-led group)?provides examples of this network and its dynamics.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

(Working title): Imagining Agency and Inadvertence: Neoliberalism and Urban Justice in the Fiction of Jim Crace and Don DeLillo
Tom Hove

This project will focus on two recent novels, Jim Crace's Arcadia and Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis, and their portrayals of activist struggles for justice in urban settings. I plan to discuss what the narrative techniques of these fictional works can bring to social science discussions of neoliberalism. To do this, I'll apply something like Iris Marion Young's technique of reconstructing the attitudes and assumptions that inform the social actors in these novels. I focus on these novels because they explicitly foreground many of the themes that have run through the discussions of neoliberalism that we've read for this course--e.g., market forces and logics colonizing preexisting lifeworlds, the ideology of razing the old and starting from scratch, the environmentally destructive effects of overclass obsessions with privacy, the criminalization of the poor, and above all the difficulty of conceiving effective forms of agency. Although many of these themes in social science discussions of neoliberalism run parallel with cultural discussions of postmodernism, I won't try to reiterate yet another tedious discussion of what postmodernism is. Instead, though, I'll try to show how the so-called postmodern techniques of these narratives--particularly their deployments of multiple, equally valid but conflicting, perspectives--can help feed social-scientific attempts to take normative account of the ethical and political conflicts neoliberal trends have generated. (But alas, I won't be up at Kemp Station.)
Moira Mcdonald -- No Title Yet

Abstract:

I am examining the history of the effort to expand Highway 55 between downtown Minneapolis and the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport. The effort to expand and reroute the highway began in the late 1950s and progress very slowly evolving from a 4-lane road, to an 8-10 lane highway, before a 4-lane compromise was reached between the Department of Transportation, the Parks and Recreation Board and the surrounding community in the early 1980s. After years of delays, in the mid-1990s, MN DOT finalized regulatory requirements and began to move forward. However, in the interim, the social and environmental consequences of the project, the reroute was to result in the loss of several homes in a lower-income community, cut into a state park, and disturb sacred sites for the Mendota Mdewakanton (a band of Dakota people who lack Federal recognition), triggered concern. In 1996, a coalition of homeowners, indigenous rights activists, and environmentalists developed to try to stop the re-route. The high-profile protests and the subsequent occupation of the "Minnehaha Free State," an encampment on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, drew attention to social, cultural and environmental costs of infrastructure development and to the power dynamics created and perpetuated by urban infrastructure. Examining the portrayal of the role of Highway 55 in supporting downtown Minneapolis from the early1960s through the mid-1990s, I seek to look first at who wins and who looses in the construction of the road. Further, I will frame these shifts in the context of urban entrepreneuralism to try to examine the ways that neo-liberalism might manifest itself in something so concrete as urban infrastructure.
Faith vs. Neoliberalism? Religion-Labor Networks and Practices of the Self
(title is very tentative)
Kristin Sziarto

Abstract:
This paper considers how religion-labor alliances challenge neoliberal ideology, in particular neoliberalism's "entrepreneurial self." Since the mid-1990s religion-labor alliances have sprung up across the U.S. in tandem with the resurgence of the labor movement. One impetus for the emergence of religion-labor alliances is the work of the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (NICWJ). Based in Chicago, NICWJ formed in 1996, and has since grown into a network of 37 local interfaith committees in various cities. This segment of my research considers how NICWJ and a few local interfaith committees construct (1) subjectivities of workers and employers that oppose the notion of the worker as 'self-employed' or entrepreneurial that is implicit in neoliberal ideology, and (2) subjectivities of activists as people who must act publicly (in defense of workers) to substantiate their religious faith. These subjectivities are neither neoliberal nor neoconservative; I consider whether they (and the notions of justice to which the interfaith groups link these subjectivities) might be seen as liberal or communitarian.
(Working title) Environmental justice from a distance: Advocacy networking in the Twin Cities for the northern Manitoba Cree
Ryan Holifield

Abstract:
In 1998, members of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) in northern Manitoba demonstrated outside the offices of the Northern States Power Company (now Xcel Energy) in Minneapolis. Their protest against the company, which buys cheap energy from a hydroelectric project that has devastated the ecosystems of several Cree communities, attracted the attention of environmental and social justice activists in the Twin Cities. This case study examines the transnational advocacy network that has since emerged to support the PCN in their struggle. In addition to describing the emergence, operation, and effectiveness of the network, the study asks whether and how the network’s focus on a particular place has contributed to broader progressive resistance to colonial and neoliberal projects. It argues that it has done so – not so much by producing a more “broadly political” consciousness among individual activists, but instead by forcing them to make strategic decisions to broaden the scope and scale of network activities.
Title: Community Reading Programs in the U.S.

An excerpt from what I am planning to say seemed to make the most sense for my project.

...I’m somewhat hesitant about the main idea that I want to put on the table because as far as I know it has not come up in this course and is a large topic in its own right. But, I’ve found it particularly salient as I’ve tried to think through the issues of interest to us.

I’ve come to see community reading programs as fostering civil society. The definition I’ve been using of civil society is that it is “an independent domain of free social life where neither governments nor private markets are sovereign. It is a realm we create for ourselves through associated common action in families, clans, churches and communities”.

I am thinking of the term “civil society” particularly as it applies to contemporary life in the U.S.

I like the above definition, but don’t want to imply that civil society is entirely outside of the state or the market. Rather, for me at least, there is a real value in strengthening social ties in every-day contexts that are neither mainly political nor mainly commercial.

It seems to me that a way of resisting the particular combination of the state and the market that I’ve learned to call neoliberalism is to strengthen those areas of life that fall outside its sphere. This is not to say that there aren’t a good number of legal, political, and economic changes that I would like to see. But, I feel that fostering civil society through programming, working with other groups in the community, and making community information available represents a mode of resistance to neoliberalism that libraries can do consistently and well...
(Abstract) Laila Davis: (no title yet)

In recent years, a number of new organizations have sprung up extolling the principles of New Urbanism. Many of these organizations use the internet as their primary mode of disseminating information. In this paper, I discuss how these organizations market New Urbanism and to whom. There are several different markets for New Urbanist projects: firms (such as architects, planners, and developers), cities, individual home-buyers, and philanthropic organizations. I show how the discourse used in advertising the New Urbanist ethos to developers differs from that used to attract individual home-buyers and philanthropic organizations. The language used to target firms is primarily economic, while a discourse focused on environmentalism and community building is presented to the other groups. This study compares these discourses and investigates whether their disparities indicate irreconcilable tensions in New Urbanism or whether they are only facets of a unifying philosophy which brings together different social forces.
Dawn Biehler

Title: Land and Risk in a Neoliberal Environment: Brownfields, Communities, and Urban Redevelopment

How has neoliberal governance redistributed the risks of environmental contamination in cities? In this paper I will use the case of brownfields to examine how neoliberal ideology has manifested itself in American environmental policy, focusing on practice and rhetoric surrounding risk. Brownfields policy, which grows out of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, dictates strict liability for the clean-up of contaminated land among any parties that become involved with the use of that land. The law further defines a low threshold - relative to that required through most of our legal culture - for proving that a risk to human health is substantial. Since CERCLA became law, however, governance at a variety of levels has helped shift the risks of living with contaminated land from investors (risks of liability for clean-up) to communities (risks to health), as well as among scales. Many argue that mitigation of risk for investors is necessary to ensure redevelopment of urban areas. Despite the existence of vacant land in deindustrializing cities prior to CERCLA's passage, actors ranging from urban planners to banks to environmentalists have blamed brownfields regulations for contributing to urban blight. In addition to cementing in place a particular geography of risk, recent implementation of brownfields policy also has implications for a neoliberal geography of knowledge that valorizes expertise and alienates community members.
CUF Abstract, Larry Wright
I haven't come up with a title yet.

This paper explores a neoliberal project’s impact on the community mobilization efforts of a new social movement. It describes how restructuring of the development process in Minneapolis during the 1990s shaped the Twin Cities Free Net’s efforts to institutionalize communicative action. Two expressions of this shaping process are discussed. The first shows how the rhetoric of restructuring influenced the Free Net’s mobilization strategies. The paper argues that due to the apparent affinity between the project’s rhetorical use of “community” and the Free Net’s own use of the concept, the latter misidentified the former as a political opportunity. In addition, the Free Net identified the city’s neighborhood organizations as the ideal vehicles through which to construct horizontal, city-wide networks of association based on mutual understanding. However, another effect of restructuring the development process was to amplify a tendency towards parochialism among the city’s neighborhoods, organizing them into goal-oriented vertical networks. The implications of both outcomes are discussed in reference to the decline of the Free Net.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Here is my abstract for my paper, see you all next weekend--Maureen
Current Public Housing Policy in Chicago:
Twentieth Century Urban Renewal Revisited or Neoliberalism Embodied?

There has been much debate about the existence of neoliberalism, or the “rolling back” (Peck & Tickell) of government and welfare services. To clearly understand the “neo” in this line of thinking, this paper looks to history to examine the actual changes that have occurred in state housing policy over the decades. In the mid-twentieth century, political and activist forces in Chicago were determined to tear down slum dwellings to provide homes for the poorer working classes in the inner city and demanded federal subsidies to do so citing that private run housing for the poor was unsuccessful. Currently, the Chicago Housing Authority is using federal subsidies to initiate its Plan for Transformation, the local manifestation of HUD’s HOPE VI program. HOPE VI is a federally mandated housing program that seeks to demolish and rehabilitate public housing into mixed income neighborhoods at the possible cost of displacing thousands of very low-income residents. Like the urban renewal projects and slum clearance of the past, replacement housing was and is to be for the working class, not the poorest of the poor. In both cases, the federal government appears to be involved in housing provision and similarities in discourse surrounding attitudes about the poor, and . However, the liberal policies of post New Deal housing required the government to play a crucial role, whereas current policies encourage private developers to eventually take over the role of government, a true embodiment of the privatization of welfare services in a neoliberal era.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Here is a news story that all of us will find interesting.
It can be found at http://www.washtimes.com/upi-breaking/20030204-054252-8070r.htm

I am psting the first para of the story here.
Think tanks run policy competitions
By Christian Bourge
UPI Think Tanks Correspondent


WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Several regional think tanks driven by free-market ideology are running public competitions that solicit policy ideas, in an effort to have a direct impact upon policymaking at the state and local levels

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Subject: Living Wage Ordinance in Santa Fe

Well, it looks like there will be a legal challenge to the Santa Fe ordinance. Some of the reasons are listed in the article below, text copied from Lexis Nexis.

Copyright 2003 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal

March 9, 2003 Sunday

SECTION: JOURNAL NORTH; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1252 words

HEADLINE: Living Wage Law Leading to Lawsuit

BYLINE: John T. Huddy Journal Staff Writer

BODY:
City Offered Free Representation

And so it begins.

On Monday, Santa Fe business owners, the Chamber of Commerce and the pro-business New Mexicans for Free Enterprise will join together to sue the city of Santa Fe in a battle over a living wage law passed Feb. 27.

Their 27-page complaint, obtained by the Journal last week, will present a laundry list of legal arguments against City Councilor Matthew Ortiz's bill, contending it infringes on various state, federal and local laws and assorted constitutional provisions.

Several local businesses and owners have signed on to the complaint, including Pink Adobe Restaurant owner Joe Hoback, the Pinon Grill at the Hilton of Santa Fe, the Pranzo restaurant, Peppers Food and Beverage Co. and Coyote Cafe proprietor Mark C. Miller.

The Santa Fe Lodger's Association, representing hotels and motels, has said it will also join the suit.

The complaint asks the court for a preliminary injunction to stop Santa Fe's minimum wage measure from becoming law at its January 2004 implementation date, a permanent injunction barring the law from ever becoming effective and a judicial declaration that the city's wage law is "unconstitutional and impermissible."

The reasoning

The complaint prepared for filing maintains that the living wage law, which calls for phasing in a $10.50 city minimum wage by 2008, should be struck down because:

* It violates a state constitutional ban on cities enacting laws "governing civil relationships, except as incident to the exercise of an independent municipal power." This provision means the city can't govern "the employer-employee relationship," the suit says.

* "The Minimum Wage Ordinance is nothing more than a licensing requirement as it mandates that any person seeking to operate a business in Santa Fe pay an excessive and unreasonable minimum wage in order to receive a business license." The wage requirement "bears no reasonable relation" to the regulation of business, the suit says.

* The ordinance violates state equal protection guarantees "by creating arbitrary and capricious classes" among businesses. The suit notes that the city minimum wage would not apply to businesses with fewer than 25 employees, those with collective bargaining agreements, nonprofits with city contracts or state or federal government agencies.

* The ordinance requires "persons of reasonable intelligence to guess at its meaning" when it comes to converting the value of health benefits and child care into an employee's hourly wage rate for purposes of reaching the required minimum wages.

* By forcing employers to pay "arbitrary and exorbitant" wages, the city "has taken the private property of Santa Fe businesses for public use."

* The state's own minimum wage law pre-empts the city's ordinance. The city ordinance also conflicts with the state minimum wage law by not exempting certain classes of workers, such as seasonal employees, from the minimum wage.

* Because the ordinance calls for including the value of employee health care and child care benefits toward meeting the minimum wage, employees will receive "different wages based on their medical condition" in violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

* The ordinance violates the New Mexico Antitrust Act "by fixing labor costs for businesses" in Santa Fe instead of "allowing competitive market forces to dictate their business practices."

* Parts of the ordinance applying to tipped employees are unconstitutionally vague.

* The ordinance is arbitrary and capricious because, although its stated purpose is to help low-income employees, the ordinance "will actually result in higher unemployment, higher prices, decreases in benefits offered to employees, an increase in the demand for highly skilled and highly educated workers, and a migration of businesses from Santa Fe."

Free representation

Ortiz's measure, approved by the council in a 7-1 vote, calls for the implementation of an initial city minimum wage of $8.50 an hour starting in January.

Santa Fe City Attorney Bruce Thompson, in a legal analysis for the City Council a few days before the council's vote, gave the living wage ordinance a 50-50 chance of withstanding a court challenge. But his opinion came before a number of amendments were added to the law before passage.

Supporters of Santa Fe's law contend that because Santa Fe is a "home rule" municipality, it can exercise its own independent powers to impose a city minimum wage.

Paul Sonn of New York University's Brennan Center for Justice said the center, which has defended the legality of living wage laws across the country, will help represent the city pro bono in a lawsuit.

In a press release issued this week, Sonn defends Santa Fe's measure, saying it conforms to both the state and federal constitutions.

"We don't believe there's any substance to this legal challenge," the press release from Sonn reads. "Cities enjoy considerable authority under New Mexico law to regulate businesses in their communities to safeguard the public welfare."

Santa Fe has had a range of "similar business regulations on the books for years," his release says.

City Councilor David Pfeffer, the lone dissenter when the council passed the living wage measure about 2 a.m. Feb. 27, remains steadfastly opposed to it.

"The enforcement provisions are frightening," Pfeffer said this week.

He used the section under "Prohibitions against Retaliation and Circumvention" as an example.

That section makes it unlawful for any employer to "take any action against an individual in retaliation for the exercise of or communication of information regarding rights under this ordinance."

"So does that mean if I'm an employer and have to lay off some people because I can't afford to retain them under this law, that I can be sued for retaliation?" Pfeffer questioned. "I don't see how that can be enforced. I think that would be bedlam for the community and local employers.

"Having the city manager as the judge, jury and executioner of this ordinance, to me, is opening up an enormous can of worms," Pfeffer said.

Enforcement

Living wage supporters say City Manager Jim Romero will probably not ask to see every business's financial statements to make sure it is complying with the law.

"We are not going to go out and demand people's records," said City Councilor Karen Heldmeyer, a living wage supporter, adding that the council's intent was to enforce the measure on a complaint-based system.

Heldmeyer defended the ordinance's legality.

"Who knows what the courts will do? But I don't think it's federal constitutionality will be found to be illegal," she said.

City Councilor Patti Bushee, who voted in support of the measure after several amendments were added, said that although certain sections could be challenged, overall the measure seems to be legal.

"My sense from what I have read thus far indicates we have the ability to enact a living wage ordinance," she said. "If anything, we've established the basic premise of having the city go into the private sector with a living wage."

More than 90 cities and counties have passed minimum wage laws, but they apply only to city employees and businesses with city contracts.

The cities of Santa Monica and New Orleans tried to pass private-sector minimum wage laws, but failed. Santa Monica's was defeated in a referendum vote, and New Orleans' was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

LOAD-DATE: March 11, 2003