Never Mind What You've Heard:
Here's the REAL 'Regional Approach'
It all started in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled same sex couples the freedom to marry. That action put pressure on Massachusetts progressives who fought to legalize same sex marriage there in 2003. After that, the political pressure grew exponentially; Connecticut forced same sex marriage laws in 2008, followed by Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire in 2009. Then it was just a matter of time until the pressure became too great on law makers in the remaining states and the US Supreme Court finally legalized marriage equity for all last week, properly reflecting the views of the majority of Americans. It wouldn't have worked any other way.
|...led us here in 2015.|
|Political pressure in 1993 |
Under pressure from the neighbors, Emeryville City Hall, representing the resident's interests, raises the minimum wage here on Thursday after coordinated business interests failed to stop it.
Two opposing governing visions were brought to the fore; those who agree with the City Council to increase the minimum wage by democratic unilateral Emeryville action versus those who lost; they who argued democracy in this case is unjust and instead Emeryville should let our neighbors directly dictate how we fashion our town, what they called a 'regional approach'.The idea that we should voluntarily foreclose on our right to make our town the way we see fit and instead defer totally to Oakland and Berkeley was always going to be a tough sell but Rob Arias, the editor of Emeryville's right wing opinion blog the E'Ville Eye positioned himself as the point man in the debate and to his credit, he was relentless and forceful in representing his side of the argument.
This relinquishing of our own agency in our town's governance was encapsulated by Mr Arias in his 'regional approach' meme. Emeryville should not act unilaterally he said, regardless of what the residents might want. Rather we should wait until our neighbors are ready to move. And then we should all move simultaneously in lockstep. Mr Arias never addressed an obvious problem inherent in this argument; what about the boundary between Berkeley and say the city of Albany to its north? Or Oakland and San Leandro to its south? If Berkeley raises its minimum wage, so must Albany and then of course also the city of El Cerrito further north and so on and so on. Berkeley would be locked out of raising its minimum wage if Albany didn't raise theirs. It's a classic tautology: the entire region would be seized up, all waiting for everyone else to move, regional policy in the public interest held hostage to a single recalcitrant municipality. This sophomoric view doesn't take this simple deconstruction into account; it's inherently contradictory. There's always going to be a boundary where one place has higher wages than its neighbor, rendering the whole argument specious.
Ignoring this existential boundary problem for Mr Arias' regional approach argument, Emeryville's businesses would flee the town for Oakland or Berkeley instead of paying their employees higher wages here we were told. It's the same argument from 2005 when people taking Rob's position at the time told us the hotel industry was going to flee our town wholesale in the wake of the minimum wage increase for hotel workers brought by Emeryville's Measure C. This time (like the last time), Mr Arias told us we should take this premise at face value and no evidence was given to support it. Rob asked us to trust him. Not mentioned during this was the fact that Mr Arias is running a business (as he himself refers to his blog) and many of the businesses who's interests he was championing in the debate are in fact his clients.
Nevertheless, Mr Arias thumbed his nose at numerous academic studies countering his simplistic regional approach claim and he instead postulated this simple idea that the fungibility of service sector businesses would drive consumers to other towns with lower business costs and therefore lower prices (later when his side appeared to be collapsing, he demanded City Hall conduct a new study, an unexplained refutation of his earlier professed prohibition against studies).
The REAL Regional Approach
The City of Emeryville, with its unilateral adoption of the new higher minimum wage, IS engaging in a regional approach to raising wages, regardless of the countering hyperbole emanating from the E'Ville Eye. It's the REAL regional approach. Emeryville's raising of the minimum wage will pressure our neighbors to raise theirs. That's how it works. That's been shown in countless peer reviewed academic studies Mr Arias finds so distasteful.
|Adeline Street Through Emeryville in 2005|
Four car lanes, no bikes.
This is just how Oakland looked until last week.
|Adeline Street in Emeryville 2008 (same view)|
We unilaterally added bike lanes without
waiting for Oakland.
Emeryville can feel proud of it's progressive minimum wage ordinance that takes effect on Thursday even in the knowledge it's status as the region's highest minimum wage will likely be short lived. Because political pressure will force other city's hands to further raise their minimum wages....that's the way it works after all.