Posts by Author: Rachel Kaufman

Equity Makes Bike-Sharing Work, and Other Bike-Share Guidelines for Cities

(Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

Liza Farr is an associate project manager with the Bistate Development Agency, St. Louis’s transit agency. Farr says that the agency did a bike-share feasibility study back in 2014, and had been thinking about bike-share since, but had not managed to implement a docked system.

“When dockless came onto the scene, we were prepared with our goals and vision, so we worked with the city to make sure their regulations were reflective of [our agency’s] engagement process,” Farr says.

The result is a dockless program that Farr says has “gone incredibly well.” Ridership is, “great and really comparable with other cities like us,” and the social equity program is resulting in people of all demographics using the bikes, “which we really wanted to see.”

Even NIMBYs are happy.

“I presented to about 25 neighborhood groups,” Farr says, “and I kept waiting for someone to yell at me and say they didn’t want the bikes around. And it never happened.”

Farr eventually helped write the new bike-share policy guidelines from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, or NACTO. The guidelines, Farr says, are especially important for smaller cities like St. Louis.

Eighteen months ago, everybody in the urban planning world knew how to define “bike-share.” Bikes were parked at a docking station, and users pay for them by the hour (usually), returning a bike to a dock when they were done. Then dockless bike-share, already established in China, burst onto the U.S. scene. Shortly after came dockless e-scooters. Golf-cart-like “transit pods” may be next.

“I think there’s a tendency for cities to think, ‘Oh, it’ll be fine, and I’ll let anything go,’ and this document allows for [the idea that] it’s really easy to just put in these core things,” Farr says.

Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of strategy at NACTO, says many municipalities were caught by surprise when the brightly colored bikes, e-bikes, and scooters began appearing on city streets. And as Next City has reported, cities have responded in varying ways — from embracing the new options to fully banning them, or just coming up with stringent rules on how they can be parked.

The guidelines, with the rather long title of “Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation,” lay out what the organization believes are best practices for managing cities’ public right-of-way while also enhancing mobility for scooter and bike fans.

The document was created with input from 60 cities and is split into three parts. The first part is a list of recommended rules that NACTO believes “cities need to be on the same page about,” Fillin-Yeh explains. “It would behoove everybody to be coordinated on these.” These recommendations include the idea that bike-share (and other vehicle) operators do need to operate with permits, that cities can fine operators for abandoned vehicles or vehicles left outside of proper operating zones, and that operators must share data on trip usage with cities, for example. The document also recommends that cities mandate basic safety standards for vehicles, such as front and back lights and max speeds for electric assist vehicles.

The second part is “stuff that is really important, but how [cities approach the issues] can be different from city to city,” Fillin-Yeh says. Essentially, cities need to think about things such as how vehicles can be parked as well as whether and how to implement an equity program. “Those are things cities have to think about, but how they choose to do it can be different from place to place,” Fillin-Yeh says.

The final component of the guide is a guide to the current “state of practice” in the U.S. - essentially a list of what all cities with dockless vehicles are doing.

Over the last 18 months of dockless vehicles, Fillin-Yeh says, “cities are becoming more proactive, each city learning from the next. I think there’ve been a bunch of cities trying to think critically and carefully about how they make sure the public good stays at the fore.”

Readers of the guidelines can see a number of different approaches to regulating the dockless chaos. Some cities are capping the number of vehicles that each operator can deploy, with the option to increase fleet size if ridership warrants it. Others, such as Los Angeles, require a minimum fleet size. Some cities require bikes to be rebalanced daily into certain zones (often census tracts). And so on and so forth.

“I think there’s a lot of smart thinking going on that’s advancing this conversation,” Fillin-Yeh adds. She holds up St. Louis as an example, which linked fleet expansion to companies’ ability to meet equity goals.

The companies, Fillin-Yeh adds, appreciate the suggestions too. “The companies want a level playing field. There’s this very Wild West-ish, first-mover advantage,” says Fillin-Yeh. “[But if] there’s a playing field that makes it so they can worry about their product instead of worrying about their competition, I think they would appreciate that.”

With that said, just recently Ofo, the world’s largest dockless bike-share company, announced it was retreating from most U.S. markets, though it said it would stay in “viable” markets.

NACTO plans to convene cities again this fall to learn how the suggested regulations and best practices are working on the ground.

 

Bike Activists and Firefighters Clash in Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

Baltimore City Council is investigating allegations that fire department employees and officials are bullying and intimidating bike activists, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Bike advocates had sued the city to prevent the city’s transportation department from removing a bike lane in Canton that residents argued posed a safety risk because it narrowed the street such that emergency vehicles could not navigate it. (The lane also removed parking spots.) Then, those advocates alleged, the fight got ugly.

A Baltimore firefighter was charged with assaulting a city employee at a meeting about bike lanes, the Sun said. Then a cyclist said a fire department employee cut her off with his truck and screamed, “I still hate you!” And Liz Cornish, director of the bicycling advocacy group Bikemore, said that the fire department sent vehicles to intimidate her while the department was filming a video about how protected bike lanes harm firefighting efforts.

Fire chief Niles R. Ford told the Sun that the fire department had taken action against some employees but could not comment, yet denied that the trucks were meant to intimidate Cornish. Despite having been in meetings with Cornish on multiple occasions to discuss bike lanes, “Quite frankly, most of us would not know who she is if she walked up and talked to us,” Ford said. “The goal was not to intimidate.”

The city is frustrated by delays to developments and new bike lanes that it says are caused by a fire code issue requiring minimum street widths. After the Canton bike lane lawsuit, which both parties agreed to settle, Baltimore Fishbowl reported the fire department began to “exercise a veto over projects.” A number of projects are now stalled due to what the fire department says are code issues, the city council says.

The rules mandating 20- and 26-foot clearances for fire access are “impractical and oftentimes factually impossible to create in an urban built environment,” Joshua Greenfield, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland Building Industry Association, told Fishbowl.

Last month, fed up by the delays, the council told the fire department to make “demonstrable progress” on the projects that have been delayed by the fire code, or the council will remove required street clearances from the code.

In response, the fire department made a nine-minute video showing the problems with narrow street clearances; it was during the filming of that video that Cornish said vehicles were sent to her street to intimidate her.

Councilman Ryan Dorsey had other problems with the video, Fishbowl reported, saying the department intentionally used one of the largest trucks in its fleet and chose to park it in the middle of the road rather than in a nearby alley. He called the video a “phenomenal waste of employee time and resources.”

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the fire department video showed the opposite point of what the department intended.

“The video shows clearly the fire department can get to the fires on these streets,” Young told the Sun. “It clearly showed me that they can respond to fires despite the fact these development projects are being held up. I’m glad I saw the video because it showed me those trucks can get to those fires.”

Council members also questioned the fire department’s seeming antipathy toward bike lanes but not parking lanes. “You should be more of an advocate about parking being removed,” City Councilman Leon Pinkett told the fire chief, according to the Sun. Ford said that the issue is that the city is “tak[ing] something that meets code, and turn around and make it not meet code.”

Council members said they don’t actually want to pass Dorsey’s bill, which would substitute more flexible guidelines for the firm street widths currently in place unless they can’t work out a compromise with the fire department.

“I’m committed to finding a way not to pass that bill,” Council Member Eric Costello told the Sun. “But we do need to see demonstrable progress on some development projects and cycle track projects.”

 

New York City Trialing Dockless Bike-Share

The popular 5.5-mile boardwalk in the Rockaways, Queens, will soon see its first dockless bikes. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Dockless and electric bike-share have finally come to New York City.

The New York Times reports that the city will pilot three tests of dockless bike-share, two in Staten Island and the Bronx, boroughs which have not been served by the city’s docked bike-share system, Citi Bike. The third will be in Queens.

The pilot includes the usual suspects in the bike-share world: Lime, Ofo, Pace, and Jump, the electric pedal-assist bike-share system which is owned by Uber. Each pilot will allow 200 bikes, in the Rockaways in Queens, near Fordham University in the Bronx, and on the North Shore of Staten Island. If the trials are successful, the bikes could expand across the city, the Times reports.

Jump founder Ryan Rzepecki told the Times that he had always dreamed of bringing Jump to New York.

“It’s really dockless plus electric-assist — those two things really open up the market by making it extremely user-friendly and easy to ride,” he added.

New York transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg didn’t say what metrics for success the city would be looking for in the trials, but presumably, they will be hoping that the cycles are used and not parked in a way that enrages neighbors.

In other cities, bad behavior from users has resulted in bikes being parked blocking sidewalks and rights-of-way. Pranksters have left bikes in trees and dumped them in lakes. In the District of Columbia, where dockless bike-share operators have been participating in a pilot since September 2017, the city’s bike program specialist told the Washington Post that some operators have lost half of their fleet to theft. (The bike companies themselves dispute this number.)

The Rockaways pilot begins in mid-July, according to NY1, and features only standard bikes from Pace and Lime; the Bronx pilot will begin in mid to late July, featuring Jump and Ofo bikes, and Staten Island’s pilot starts around the same time with Jump and Lime bikes.

A fourth dockless pilot, that was to be run by Citi Bike’s parent company Motivate, was delayed because of concerns from the community about summer crowds and construction, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Just earlier this week, when it was announced that Lyft had acquired Motivate, the ride-sharing company said that it was planning to innovate in the areas of dockless and electric bicycles. Now, it seems that Motivate is experimenting with dockless bikes in both New York and Minneapolis, where Motivate operates the service Nice Ride.

The Brooklyn Eagle notes that the pilot will run until September, and until then, the Department of Transportation is seeking feedback from New Yorkers.

 

Los Angeles May Force Its Banks to Disclose Unethical Sales Practices

(Photo by Jon Sullivan)

The Los Angeles City Council has amended its Responsible Banking Ordinance to crack down on banks with predatory lending practices, according to a release from the advocacy group Committee for Better Banks.

If signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the first-in-the-nation rules would require banks that do business with the city to disclose its sales goals and other potentially predatory behaviors.

The move would likely “freeze out” Wells Fargo, the Los Angeles Times reported in December. Wells Fargo is the primary bank for the city, and held an average daily balance of $94.5 million for the city during the last fiscal year, the Times said. Wells Fargo admitted it had opened 3.5 million customer accounts without permission between 2011 and 2016, and was ordered to pay $185 million in fines and penalties, including $50 million to the city of Los Angeles, MyNewsLA said.

“Together this council must take a stand against corporate greed, unfair business practices and a pervasive atmosphere that has poisoned the trust of Angelenos as well as millions of Americans across this great country,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said at the time.

The amendments also would require banks doing business with the city to disclose their Community Reinvestment Act score, a federal metric that tracks how well banks are doing meeting the credit needs of the communities where it does business. It would also require banks to notify the city of any pending enforcement actions against it, and certify that whistleblower protection policies are in place.

“This rule sends a clear message that we will not stand for business as usual when it comes to predatory bank practices that target our most vulnerable families,” said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who supported the rule, in a statement. “If banks want to do business with Los Angeles, they will have to prove that they are ethical, responsible, and committed to respecting our residents.”

Councilman Paul Koretz, who co-sponsored the motion, told MyNewsLA that the ordinance was a start. “While I’m still a bit disappointed that we haven’t been able to draw a brighter red line between the good actors and the bad actors for the purpose of this city’s banking business, I think… these amendments provide us with tools that are likely to weed out the industry’s worst offenders,” he told the site. He had originally sought to ban banks that had sales goals, but city staff said the rule would be too difficult to enforce and could eliminate all potential bidders.

 

Architects Ask: Where Are the Spaces for Teen Girls?

The fountains at Somerset House, London. Photo by Maureen Barlin/Flickr.

Teenage girls don’t get much respect. We mock their favorite music and their books; when have you heard anyone say anything nice about One Direction or Twilight? We don’t take their opinions seriously. And, say many architects, we push them out of public spaces by intentionally or accidentally designing spaces that don’t welcome them.

At the London Festival of Architecture, a monthlong event that wrapped last week, the Swedish architecture firm White Arkitekter staged an event to help festivalgoers “experience the city from a girl’s perspective” through theater.

Architectural Digest describes the performance: Two teenage actresses “wander through spaces that clearly weren’t made for them.” Originally staged in Stockholm three years ago, the White Arkitekter brought a version to London partly because its second office is in London, but also because the project “speaks to the crisis of public space in this city,” Architectural Digest wrote. Many of London’s “public spaces” are actually privately owned public spaces managed by corporations.

White Arkitekter’s staging in Stockholm started by convening girls from the youth council in Skarpnäck, a neighborhood in Sweden’s capital. The firm asked the girls to create scale models to represent a public space for girls. “The place chosen was a location that the girls knew very well, yet very seldom used,” the firm writes. The girls came up with places with “strong character concerning colour and form, places for sitting together face to face, protected from weather and wind, to see without necessary be seen, a sense of intimacy without being constrictive; and most of all, to be able to leave an imprint on their city.”

It’s not just London and Stockholm that have spaces not designed for women, of course. White Arkitekter estimates that 80 percent of public space in cities is used by men, and that girls feel 10 times less secure in these public spaces than men. Cities are closing public toilets; many are struggling to prevent sexual harassment and catcalling in public spaces, poor-quality sidewalks are hazards for moms with strollers, and poor lighting makes women afraid to go outside at night. Even running buses frequently, and on schedule, can help women navigate public spaces; the Inter-American Development Bank has found that the less congested the transportation or the closer it hews to its schedule, the less likely it is that a woman will be a victim of a crime.

Of course, many stars of urban planning — or at least the ones that get the attention — are male, as Next City reported last year. That could be why, as Architectural Digest said, “the topic of how [public] spaces exclude women, or how they can so quickly give way to a life-or-death situation for women who do use them, is rarely addressed in today’s urban planning process.”

“Places for Girls” is one step toward changing that.

 

Lyft Buys Bike-Share Company Motivate, Operator of Citi Bikes and More

In its acquisition of bike-share operator Motivate, Lyft will now manage Citi Bikes. (Credit: Amy Sussman/AP Images for Citi)

Lyft has purchased the bike-sharing company Motivate, which operates Citi Bike in New York and many other bike-share systems nationwide, the New York Times reports.

It follows the news this spring that Uber had purchased Jump, the dockless electric bike-sharing startup, for around $200 million.

Motivate accounts for 80 percent of bike-share trips in the U.S., Lyft says. It operates not just New York’s Citi Bike but also Ford’s GoBike in San Francisco, Capital Bikeshare in D.C., Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis and systems in Chicago, Boston, Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, The Verge reports. These systems are traditional docked bikes, as opposed to the recent wave of dockless bicycles popping up in cities all over the country.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although The Verge says that the price was rumored to be around $250 million.

Lyft is taking over Motivate’s “technology, corporate functions and city contracts,” CNET reports. Its bike maintenance and servicing operations will remain a stand-alone business, possibly because they are unionized, a source told CNET.

It is unclear how or if Lyft will integrate Motivate’s bike-share systems into its app, but looking to Uber could provide some clues. Uber allows riders to reserve a bike directly within the Uber app. Many Motivate systems don’t require an app for picking up a bike, though the app speeds up the process.

The acquisition, Lyft said in a blog post, “demonstrates Lyft’s commitment to a more sustainable world as part of our Green Cities Initiative” and comes soon after the company announced that all of its rides would be carbon neutral through the purchase of carbon credits. “We will invest to establish bike offerings in our major markets and pursue growth and innovation in the markets where Motivate currently operates.”

“We are particularly excited to work with cities on delivering innovation, including providing dockless and pedal-assist electric bikes to riders around the country, and Lyft will put resources behind the work that the Motivate team has begun,” the company added.

Motivate has 800 employees. It was not clear at press time how many will be moving to Lyft, how many are staying with the bike-maintenance arm of the company and whether anyone will lose their jobs.

The New York Times notes that while the bike-share market is not yet huge, it could eventually cut into the ride-share market if it continues to grow. “Offering alternatives to car rides allows Uber and Lyft to keep people using their services when taking a car makes little sense, particularly for short trips,” says the Times.

 

Denver Weighs Ban on Source-of-Income Discrimination

Denver City Hall. (Credit: Alex Ho/Flickr)

The city of Denver is weighing legislation that would ban landlords from discriminating against tenants who pay their rent using Section 8 vouchers, known as source-of-income discrimination, reports Denverite.

Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech introduced a bill last week that would require landlords to accept all forms of payment, including vouchers. Owner-occupied duplexes and single family homes would be exempted.

“This policy is about someone who can afford an apartment…but, ‘I’m turned away because of how I’m paying,’” Kniech said at a city meeting last week, according to Denverite. “This is about stopping discrimination.”

A dozen states and about five dozen municipalities, including Washington, D.C., have already banned source-of-income discrimination, but elsewhere, it’s still legal to reject someone who is paying with a housing voucher. This is most acutely felt in so-called opportunity areas, with access to jobs, good schools and transportation.

Currently, Denver landlords have little obligation to accept vouchers, reports Denverite — and it’s likely that the city’s tight housing market and low vacancy rates have made them less incentivized to do so. About 10 percent of Denver’s 6,900 voucher holders say they’ve experienced source-of-income discrimination, according to Denverite.

Kniech’s bill would impose penalties on landlords found to have been discriminating, anywhere from an order to end discriminatory practices and make the unit in question (or a similar unit) available, to a fine up to $5,000 and/or an order to pay possible damages, such as the cost of a hotel stay.

Landlords say that accepting Section 8 tenants brings with it additional legal hurdles and requirements, like yearly inspections and having to keep the unit open while the voucher is processed. Landlords also expressed concern about recovering their costs if a tenant damages the property. Kniech says she’s studying the idea of including insurance through the voucher programs to cover landlords’ losses, as some other programs do.

Boulder legislators are weighing a similar measure, the Daily Camera reports. Jeremy Durham, executive director of Boulder Housing Partners (BHP), tells the Camera that all of BHP’s Section 8 tenants “have faced this barrier at one point or another during their search.”

In the statehouse, Rep. Leslie Herod, who represents Denver, and Sen. Rhonda Fields, who represents Arapahoe County, introduced a bill to prohibit source-of-income discrimination statewide; that bill died in committee. Luke Miller, a government affairs manager for the Colorado Apartment Association, told the Daily Camera that “We opposed (the measure) right out of the gate. Refusing to lease based on someone’s income is honorable in its intent, but we all know the problems of Section 8.”

Denver’s bill returns to committee on July 18. It will need a full City Council vote to pass.

 

Dockless Scooters and Bike-Shares Launch in New Cities, Spark Conflict in Others

Dockless bikes in D.C. (Photo by Joe Flood/Flickr)

Dockless scooters and bike-share systems are having a mixed week, with scooters launching in multiple new markets but companies poised to pull out of others, citing unnecessary regulations that cause hassles for riders.

In Indianapolis, the City-County Council’s public works committee is scheduled to vote Thursday night on regulations that would cover permitting and fee structures for operators, accountability and “where they’re allowed to park these things,” council vice president Zach Adamson told the Indianapolis Business Journal. If the regulations pass, they must also pass the full council.

Adamson also told the IBJ that the new regulations won’t change current laws that prohibit scooters from being ridden on sidewalks.

The proposed regs are a compromise; council president Vop Osili had initially proposed banning all dockless vehicles, but now says he is willing to try a “pilot phase to see how these roll.”

Elsewhere in the Midwest, dockless scooters have landed in Milwaukee, with Bird dropping off about 60 scooters in one neighborhood, Urban Milwaukee reports. The outlet also reports that Lime is in discussions with the city to launch.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, a months-long debate about dockless bike-share programs — which turned controversial as residents complained about the tens of thousands of bicycles, neighborhoods banned the bikes outright and businesses started calling them “road kill” — came to an end Wednesday as the city council approved an ordinance regulating the bikes and paving the way for electric scooters. CBS News reports that firms will now have to pay the city $21 per vehicle per year. The ordinance also states that a bike cannot sit in a residential neighborhood for more than two days without being moved, and cannot be parked on sidewalks narrower than eight feet.

Dallas residents had phoned in 3,200 complaints about the bikes since they landed in the city last September, CBS says.

And finally, in Chicago, dockless bike-share companies are warning that the city’s “lock-to” requirement will cause them to pull out of the city, the Chicago Tribune reported. Under regulations adopted in April, as Next City reported earlier this year, all bikes in an operator’s fleet must be able to be locked to something, rather than using the wheel-lock system favored by operators like ofo and Lime.

Calling it an “unnecessary hassle” for riders, the companies are asking the city to eliminate that requirement entirely, the Tribune said. Gabriel Scheer, director of strategic development for Lime, told the Tribune that Lime isn’t going to modify its bikes to comply with the rule. Besides, in the neighborhood where the bikes are being piloted, there aren’t enough bike racks to go around, he said.

No other city has a lock-to requirement, they say, although Massachusetts-based Zagster, which operates a dockless bike-share system called Pace, welcomes the rule, as its bikes come with built-in locks. “We really think locking to something is a policy that should be pushed forward by cities,” Dave Reed, Chicago market manager for Zagster, told the Tribune in May.

If the requirement isn’t lifted, both ofo and Lime could leave Chicago as soon as Sunday.

“We really don’t want to leave Chicago,” Scheer said. “Our goal is to work with the city to see how we can all be happy with the situation.”

 

Philly Housing Program to Help Reunify Families with Kids in Foster Care

For parents whose children have been placed in foster care, lack of stable housing is a major factor in preventing families from being reunited — the main cause, in fact, 40 percent of the time in Philadelphia, reports WHYY, and a third of the time nationally.

So Philly’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) have partnered in the launch of Rapid Re-Housing for Reunification, a program that helps parents get into affordable housing faster, in hopes that it will help reunite them with their children.

The program requires that families find their own housing and pay 30% of their income toward rent, the city said in a press release; rapid re-housing will subsidize the rest of their rent for a year. It’s aimed at people who would be reunified with their children in the next six months if not for their housing instability. WHYY reports that parents don’t need to be homeless to qualify, but could also be couch-surfing or living in a substandard rental.

The program is the first of its kind in the nation, although rapid re-housing programs in general have become popular in the last decade, WHYY reports. Philadelphia runs its own rapid re-housing programs for other populations, with the help of a number of providers, including Congreso de Latinos Unidos, which is also partnering with DHS and OHS on the new program.

“It is exciting to see DHS apply this model to child welfare,” OHS director Liz Hersh said in a statement. “We know from experience that rapid rehousing is the first step to getting people off of the street and in this case bringing families back together where they belong.”

Rapid re-housing for people experiencing homelessness has proven to be effective. It’s a “housing first” model, meaning that people aren’t screened out of the program based on criteria such as income, criminal history, medical history, and employment. Federal funding for rapid re-housing programs nationwide helped several hundred thousand people in the first three years of the program, Next City reported in 2012. Philly’s press release on the new program says that overall, one year after exiting the rapid re-housing program, 70 percent of families were in stable housing, without a subsidy, implying that housing stability has a quantifiable effect on helping families get back on their feet.

The Philly family reunification program expects to serve 30 families in the first year of the pilot; since it started at the end of May, ten families have already been identified, WHYY says. The program is funded for three years with $350,000 from the Barra Foundation.

 

Massachusetts to Launch First Statewide Cannabis Industry Training Program

Credit: Wikimedia

In 2016, Massachusetts voters spoke and said, “We want pot.” That year, the state legalized recreational marijuana, though it took some time to work through the law’s implementation.

Now, in just a few days, retail shops will legally be allowed to sell tested, labeled marijuana to adults. The official start date is July 1.

The state wants to level the playing field for marijuana entrepreneurs, the Boston Globe reports. So the Cannabis Control Commission, the state agency in charge of implementing the marijuana laws, has launched what it’s calling an equity program, to help people from minority and low-income neighborhoods start or work in marijuana-related businesses.

The program is meant to help undo some of the harms inflicted under the so-called “war on drugs,” giving priority to “economic empowerment” applicants who live in neighborhoods with high rates of drug-related arrests, who have prior arrests or convictions for possessing or selling marijuana when it was illegal, or are the family members of people with convictions.

Trainings could be as basic as general job skills, or as complex as legal and financial advice for entrepreneurs. There are, in fact, four tracks, reports The Republican. The first is for owners and entrepreneurs, another for management and executive-level careers, a third for entry-level jobs and returning citizens, and a final track for people who have existing skills that are transferrable to the cannabis industry, such as law, accounting, and even plumbers and electricians.

“We want this industry to be really diverse, so we’re taking a holistic view of it and trying to create a pipeline of talent on multiple levels,” Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title told the Globe.

Tax compliance for marijuana entrepreneurs will be a big issue, the Globe notes; since the drug is still illegal at the federal level, entrepreneurs can’t write off business expenses like other companies can.

Today, legal cannabis business owners are 81 percent white, The Republican reports. Some 5.7 percent are Latino and 4.3 percent are black.

The program is the first statewide in the nation, but other municipalities have tried such programs before. The city of Oakland launched a program in which half of all legal pot permits would be reserved for low-income Oakland residents with drug convictions who lived in neighborhoods with historically high rates of drug-related arrests. Nearly immediately, the startup Hood Incubator, which caters to cannabis entrepreneurs of color, chose to pilot its first location in Oakland. The incubator now trains entrepreneurs or enters them into an apprenticeship program, pairing them with existing companies, according to Fast Company.

The Massachusetts program is funded with $300,000 in its first year; its budget in future years will be up to the state legislature. Training will begin later this year.

 



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