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The Year in Building Local Power – Episode 8 of the Building Local Power Podcast

| Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | No Comments | Updated on Dec 29, 2016 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/the-year-in-building-local-power-episode-8-of-the-building-local-power-podcast/

Welcome to episode eight of the Building Local Power podcast. For full transcript of the podcast click here.

In this episode, Chris Mitchell, the director of our Community Broadband Networks initiative, interviews a roundtable of ILSR staff members. Participants are: Olivia LaVecchia of the Community-Scaled Economies initiative, Karlee Weinmann of the Energy Democracy initiative, and Nick Stumo-Langer, ILSR’s Communication Manager.

The group discusses elements of our economy and society where local power is either being attacked or strengthened. Listen in for discussion of corporate concentration (from Olivia), electric utility monopolies (from Karlee), and citizen-sponsored initiatives (from Nick) – each of these discussions talk about how citizens have an opportunity to increase their communities’ power in our political system.

“One [statistic] that I think is really telling is that four companies control 85% of the beef market…in the United States,” says Olivia LaVecchia, citing Elizabeth Warren’s speech on rising corporate concentration.

Play

Here are the links to the bi-weekly roundup of what material we’re interested in reading and watching:

From Olivia

Venezuela, A Failing State by William Finnegan, The New Yorker

From Karlee

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear, and Why by Sady Doyle

From Nick

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong

Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football by Bill Simmons & Malcolm Gladwell, The Ringer

From Chris

Monopoly Power and the Decline of Small Business by Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

If you missed the first episodes of our podcast you can find those conversations with Olivia LaVecchia here, Neil Seldman here, John Farrell here, David Morris here, Lisa Gonzalez here, Stacy Mitchell here, and Linda Bilsens here. Also to see all of our episodes make sure to bookmark our Building Local Power Podcast Homepage. View the full transcript of the podcast, below.

Full Transcript of Podcast:

Chris Mitchell: Let’s start off with a statistic. Olivia, give us a statistic.
Olivia LaVecchia: One that I think is really telling is that four companies control nearly 85% of the US beef market.
Chris Mitchell: Wow, in the United States?
Olivia LaVecchia: In the United States.
Chris Mitchell: Where did you get that statistic?
Olivia LaVecchia: I got it from a speech that Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren gave at the end of June about corporate concentration. It was really more incisive and to definite then any I’ve heard from a contemporary politician and one that I think has become and is something of a battle cry for a resurgent antitrust movement.
Chris Mitchell: It got a lot of attention and that’s why we’re going to start talking about that first thing here in our year roundup Building Local Power podcasts. We had Olivia kicking it off there. You heard her voice with the community scaled economy. She’s been a veteran of past podcasts from Building Local Power our series.

I’m Chris Mitchell, I do broadband type stuff for the institute. We also have Karlee with our energy initiative.

Karlee Weinmann: Hello Chris.
Chris Mitchell: Nick, who does a lot of communications work for us.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Hi, good to be here Chris.
Chris Mitchell: All right, so now you know everyone’s voice. We can go back to Senator Warren. I thought that speech was really interesting and powerful. To me it was a sign that 2016 was a year in which more concern was building about the roll of monopoly. We think we saw it in the election, where Bernie Sanders certainly spoke out against monopoly. We saw it in which Donald Trump would occasionally tweet against corporate power, although nothing in his presidential elect sort of status suggests he’s going to do anything about it. Anyway, that’s something that I had thought. Let me just throw it open to anyone else that wants to comment on her speech.
Olivia LaVecchia: Something we talk about a lot here at ILSR, is how corporate power is at the root of so many of the issues that we’re working on. In our independent business program where I work. We talk about how having a strong middle class of entrepreneurs and proprietors gets undercut, when you have Amazon waging predatory pricing wars on businesses it sees as competitors. In the energy program, how it’s harder for people to recapture more of their energy dollar, when you have an investor owned utility monopoly defining the rules.

I think it can be hard to connect the dots between the colossal companies and the issues that we all see in our lives and communities. Elizabeth Warren in this speech does that really well. There’s a particular chunk in the middle that I wanted to read. She says, “Left unchecked, concentration will destroy innovation. Left unchecked, concentration will destroy more small companies and startups. Left unchecked, concentration will suck the last of vestiges of economic security out of the middle class. Left unchecked concentration will pervert our democracy into one more raked game. But the good news is, this isn’t the first time America has faced this threat. We have been here before and we know the way out.” Then she goes back and talks about the first antitrust movement and the laws that that produced that are still on the books. There’s something really hopeful about that.

Chris Mitchell: You said the first antitrust movement. I just imagine Jesus wandering back into the Temple on the donkey. The first antitrust movement of the last 100 years maybe, but of course this is something that goes way back.
Olivia LaVecchia: Yes.
Nick Stumo-Langer: We can proverbially flip tables.
Chris Mitchell: Right, exactly. I think there might need to be some table flipping.
Nick Stumo-Langer: I think a lot of the things that Olivia is talking about too, I can be a little spokesman for our waste initiative too. You look at waste management incorporated and destroying innovation is something you mentioned. There’s no incentive for them to change their model. You see a lot of recycling rates go down, when Waste Management wins contracts in local communities and as well as huge cities too. A lot of the work that we’ve done in the past year at least, one of our co-founders Neal Seldman, he wrote a response to the Waste Management CEO basically saying, “There’s no incentive for us as a company, for out stakeholders to do recycling.” He points out, that means you are writing off a number of economic development issues and a number of jobs that can be had in those communities, that just aren’t the purview of that corporation. It’s really telling that there’s that kind of divide and that stratification.
Olivia LaVecchia: I think, Nick what you’re talking about, very closely aligns with what we see in the monopolistic electric utility landscape in this country right now.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Mitchell: Which is what we’re going to be turning to in a minute. I want to make sure we don’t just move on too quickly. But, that’s going to be our second topic, which is I think fascinating, which is a monopoly that seems to be being torn down. On Senator Warren I guess, I’m just curious Olivia, if we have a final thought on this. Do you have a sense of what you might think we’ll see in 2017 on monopoly power?
Olivia LaVecchia: I think right now, there’s so much that seems so uncertain. I think in the aftermath of this speech from Senator Warren, it really did become a more central thread in the campaign. Just the next month in July, antitrust was included in the democratic platform, for the first time in almost three decades. In October Hillary Clinton gave an economic policy speech in Ohio, that was vigorous in her approach toward antitrust as well. It certainly is something that we’ve started to see from the right too. So-
Chris Mitchell: I was just going to ask you. Isn’t Sherrod Brown rather anti-monopoly? I’m just curious because, one of the things we’ve seen with anti-monopoly movements is that they tend to be both right and left, right. It’s not one party, it’s kind of half of each party working together.
Olivia LaVecchia: Right, absolutely. I know Utah Senator Mike Lee has talked more about the need for antitrust oversight. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley has talked about concentration in the food industry. I do think that it’s a bipartisan issue and that it is something to watch in 2017.
Chris Mitchell: It doesn’t seem to be equally bipartisan though. I mean this is something where I do think we need much more organization among the Republican side against monopoly and that’s … I may not be as aware of it, but I think it’s easier to think of people on the left that are more anti-monopoly right now than people on the right.
Nick Stumo-Langer: A large part of it could be having those conversations across the aisle, even though that sounds a little cliché. Getting people like Senator Warren, Senator Brown, Senator Grassley, getting them to talk to each other about these types of things, find the common ground. You only need 51 votes to pass something in the Senate and the House is a much different story with the situation, but it seems like there is a real opportunity to work across the aisle with these things.
Chris Mitchell: Let’s move on to … Karlee you brought in the subject of something that I think is really interesting, which is the undermining of the historic monopoly status of the grid basically.
Karlee Weinmann: Right. I think what’s happening is that more people are becoming more aware of the economic benefits of a more diverse power system. That means distributed generation like rooftop solar. That means renewable generation, that is maybe better for our environment long term, but also just makes economic sense. That’s drawing in sort of a broader range of stakeholders, who are really interested in seeing something different from our utilities and from our communities.
Chris Mitchell: You say it makes economic sense. I think standard claim is that we can’t afford rooftop solar, that it’s too expensive. What do you mean?
Karlee Weinmann: Right. There are utilities that are quite intransigent when it comes to this issue, that are advocating for policies and implementing policies that make it tougher for individual households, business, their customers to pursue that as an alternative. But the fact is, the cost of materials is going way down and that drives the upside up, for people who are interested in pursuing distributed generation. Where the road block primarily exists right now is with these utilities that are sort of with white knuckles holding on to the power that they have historically had and digging in their heels, when it comes to reconfiguring their business model in a way that makes more sense, moving forward, given the changes that are happening quickly in our market place.
Chris Mitchell: One of the things that … I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s something that I think about all the time and I think is almost always disregarded by people which is time, right? That’s the thing is that we look at, how much did it cost to build solar today, versus how much does it cost to build a coal plant today?
Karlee Weinmann: Right.
Chris Mitchell: These are things that are going to be operating for 50, 75 years. The question is, what will it cost to operate it over the lifetime? Right? One of the things I think that our colleague John Farrell talks about a lot is just that, when you look at it the way, well it might be more expensive for the first five years or 10 years. It might not be, but it might be. But over the next 50 years coal is going to be insanely expensive, because it’s destroying the atmosphere.
Karlee Weinmann: Absolutely, and we have to consider other externalities, like increased regulation and health concerns and things like that that are also going to affect the cost effectiveness and just the generally effectiveness of traditional power sources like coal.
Chris Mitchell: What happened in 2016 that you’d really like to focus on, in this discussion?
Karlee Weinmann: Well, I think one thing that is important to note in 2016, and I’m sure will continue into the new year, is that utilities are continuing to be very steadfast in hanging on to their outdated business models, which have enriched them over the last hundred years.
Chris Mitchell: This, sorry, I just want to interrupt you for a second. This is true, not just of the investor owned utilities, the big ones, but also some of the munis and some of the co-ops, right? I mean there’s actually kind of a mix I think across utilities where we can’t say all the munis are good guys and all of the IOUs are bad guys, right? There’s kind of mix of people who get it and people who don’t get it.
Karlee Weinmann: There’s a definite spectrum, but I think what we can say is that across the board there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Chris Mitchell: Okay.
Karlee Weinmann: One example that I think illustrates utilities’ unwillingness to accommodate changing market dynamics happened in Florida. They really doubled down on their efforts to undermine the value of rooftop solar. In other states there have been numerous cases, more than I can count, of utilities imposing greater fees for rooftop solar. Just trying to sort of skew that cost calculus in a way that makes it not financially feasible for people to do, but in Florida a utility backed coalition sunk millions and millions of dollars into a campaign to restrict access to the benefits of rooftop solar through a constitutional amendment. This is sort of the biggest of the big when it comes to these campaigns to really undermine progress in this regard.
Chris Mitchell: And really aggravating. This is something Nick and I have talked about in the past I think. There’s times you amend your constitution, and there’s times you don’t! Right? This is not a good … just even ignoring the policy and the stupidity of trying to restrict rooftop solar, you don’t put it in the constitution, right?
Karlee Weinmann: Right, and get a load of this. They dubiously referred to this amendment as the “Rights of Electricity Customers Regarding Solar Energy Choice.” Which a consultant that had been working with the utility coalition backing this amendment admitted was political jujitsu. That’s what he called it, and the tape was leaked and I think the media carried that very far. I think that had a lot to do with voters ultimately striking down this amendment in November. It’s a very scary thought that these very cash rich organization can come together and push something as destructive as this.
Chris Mitchell: One of the things I just want to make sure that we talk about a little bit is that I think, 10 years ago if you look back, I think it was the libertarians and people on the right that were really pushing to deregulate the electric system. If you had told me then that ILSR would be a strong proponent of getting rid of the monopoly, of effectively deregulating, to some extent. Although, we still want good rules in place, but the scope of those rules is changing significantly. I would have been very surprised. If we could just talk very briefly, why is it smart to disrupt the utility model to build local power?
Karlee Weinmann: I think because, well fundamentally as we all know and as we talk about often here, competition is good. As distributed generation, due to the falling costs of materials, and due to other incentives and policies is put in closer reach for more people, there is a real opportunity to reshape the space to better serve communities and generate benefits that just simply didn’t exist before. I think that is the key to remember here, and also utilities are proving, as they showed in Florida, again and again that they cannot be trust to accommodate this new value potential that we’re seeing across the country when it comes to energy. I think it’s important for us to be vigilant and to really recognize what’s going on and who’s in control here.
Nick Stumo-Langer: There’s been a lot of evidence about microgrids as supporting community safety, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy a lot of New England communities have looked into implementing microgrids. A lot of them maybe have run into barriers because of the electric utility and being able to reformat what they’re doing isn’t in the electric utility’s interest, so that’s another big opportunity.
Olivia LaVecchia: I also want to underline what Karlee said about competition and how across our initiatives at ILSR it’s something that we talk about. There was a part of this same speech from Elizabeth Warren where she said, you know, she’s not approaching this issue because she’s anti-business. She’s approaching this issue because she really cares about markets. Her background is in contract law, and what markets need to work is open access and competition.
Chris Mitchell:  Right, I think that’s important because as we talk about competition it’s important that it’s not about just letting whatever happens happen. It’s about the role of policy in terms of making sure competition can thrive, right? And that you don’t have a single firm that’s able to disrupt everything. I think that’s different because we use the same term that some on the more right side, the libertarian right will use, but when they say, “competition” they don’t really mean making sure there’s a certain number of firms. They mean whatever happens, happens, and if one monopoly forms, well then magically it will be  cast down.

I think that is true, no monopoly will live forever, but it’s like the classic line from Keynes, which is that in the long run we’re all dead. I don’t want to be stuck with a monopoly knowing that maybe my kids won’t be stuck with that monopoly. We want to find ways of having a real choice in the market. Also, where there may not be a possibility of a choice, in broadband access, where we’re finding it’s really hard to have the private sector solve this problem alone, then we need to be more creative. Anyway, Nick, you have some stuff related to citizen’s voting as well that you wanted to talk about today?

Nick Stumo-Langer: Yeah, definitely. I think this cuts across a lot of our initiatives. You’re looking at the energy initiative, our broadband initiative, there are lots of examples of local communities and states, citizen groups, all these different organizations basically looking at Washington and saying, “They’re not making policy that is actually affecting our community in a positive way, so we’re going to take it into our own hands.” Maybe I’ll just start with what happened on election night for a number of states in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, you saw an increase of the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Then in Washington and increase to $13.50 for the statewide level. You also saw in Arizona and Washington sick leave measures were enacted to ensure that workers had mandated sick time.

It’s a good example of citizens looking and seeing their state governments, whether that’s in places like Arizona, where there’s been a lot of difficulties in the state legislature and fights for certain measures, or you’re look at national policy that’s just not there, it doesn’t exist. Citizens are saying, “We want this. We want these types of measures.” And just putting that on the table.

Chris Mitchell: I just want to point out, with the sick leave, this is one of those discussions that I find interesting and I actually care a lot about. Because it gets back to what we just talked about, whether the market’s working or not. If you’re a local restaurant, and you decide that you’re going to give your employees sick time, your customers aren’t going to know about that, right? The markets don’t work so well, in terms of spreading information, that people are going to be like, “I’m going to go eat at that restaurant because I know that their workers are going to be healthy, and I’m not going to get ill from them, because they’re coming into work while they’re ill, because they can’t possibly miss a paycheck.” Right?So you have a city that says, “Well, we’re going to require that everyone offers sick time.” I think that can be a smart approach. Then you have the Chambers of Commerce which tend to be dominated by the largest firms that have the worst wages, and the worst benefits, fighting back against that. I think the thing that we want to focus on is where cities want to have these sorts of requirements, we should encourage them to be able to make those rules, and also recognize that it’s actually good. Because then a local business that wants to act in a responsible manner will basically not be penalized. I think that’s important because that’s what’s important for minimum wage, and other things, is that you have local businesses that want to do the right thing, then they are not penalized relative to their rivals in the market who may not want to do the right thing.
Nick Stumo-Langer: And that’s an important point to make. I think what we see with a lot of these initiatives, and I’ll get into some of the energy things as well. You see this as fundamentally in the invisible parts of how our system works. These aren’t saying, “We are going to form a committee to do this.” This is saying, “We want to mandate sick leave pay. We want to increase a minimum wage.” You’re right, the patrons of restaurant won’t see that. If you look at Colorado where there’s been a number of initiatives enacted to limit fracking and limit siting of natural gas plants, that’s not something that a lot of communities are saying, “We’re going to go out and do this ourselves. We want to limit the ability and we want to be able to control our local economy in a new way.”
Chris Mitchell: I actually, this is one of the things that we’ll all see, something we’re all paying attention to, is that we’re going to increasingly see states, especially Republican states, really limiting local authority to do these sorts of things. I don’t know, Karlee, Olivia if you’ve seen some of that, or if you have any expectations of where we’re going to see these local initiatives running into state legislatures that are going to try and say, “No. Cities do not have the right to do that.”
Karlee Weinmann: I think that’s going to continue to be a dynamic that plays out across the economy. I think we can expect to see that happening in energy. I think we can expect to see that happening with small businesses, and I think we can expect to see that happening with the workers’ rights issues that Nick was outlining. I think this is going to be a dynamic that is maybe even thrust into a brighter spotlight, given the political climate that we’re in right now.
Nick Stumo-Langer: I do also think it’s important to note that as states and local municipalities increasingly become the battleground for these types of fights, you’re going to see more money from the entrenched interests. You’re going to see more of the top folks in the Chambers of Commerce fighting against these proposals or Florida Power and Light fighting against the right of citizens to have an adequate value for rooftop solar. It’s very scary to see that type of influence being exerted, but it’s better I think now that we’re seeing some of that, in the daylight.
Chris Mitchell: Well, and Nick you and I are both fans of the comics. I’m kind of the lame fan of comics, in that I mostly watch the TV and movies, rather than reading the comic books, but one of the things we know is that when one side of any fight gets more powerful, the other side has to step up. That’s what I think we’re going to see, is more of this organizing. I think Trump being in power will actually accelerate the anti-monopoly movement because there’s nothing like organizing against a common enemy. What we’re seeing in the Trump administration is advocate after advocate of more consolidated power. Even though Trump may well, in some idiosyncratic ways, oppose them, and fight against them. But right now it’s looking very bad, and I think it’s going to result in a lot more organizing against consolidated power.

I brought an issue that I’ll just raise very quickly, and that’s the issue of the FCC basically laying in over previous years, saying that local cities should have the right to be able to build their own networks. In 2016 the FCC lost it’s court fight with the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit determined that the FCC did not have the power to overrule state legislatures. Which is a bittersweet decision in that we don’t want to see preemption, however, this was an issue that would have restored local authority, so it was sad. I think it’s just a sign of what’s to come. We don’t have to talk about it at all, I just wanted to raise it quickly.

But in the interest of time, I wanted to move on to reading suggestions. We have, hopefully, people are going to have some days off, some time to spend with their family, and that sort of thing over the next week or two. Any reading suggestions? Let’s start with you, Olivia.

Olivia LaVecchia: Something I read recently that has really stayed on my mind, was a piece in the issue of The New Yorker that came out right after the election. It was called Venezuela: A Failing State by William Finnegan. Most of what I know about what’s happening in Venezuela right now comes from this article, and I haven’t had a chance to read more widely. So, with that caveat, that I’m getting a lot from one source, but it was particularly in that moment of the immediate aftermath of the election here, I found it really vital, to look more deeply at what does a state look like when its political parties start prosecuting leaders of the other. When its free press breaks down. It has continued to stay on my mind in the weeks since.
Chris Mitchell:  I just have to say, Venezuela has long been a hot mess, particularly for the American left, because there’s a lot of things that Venezuela has historically done, and Chavez did that we may look at and think, “Well, that’s good for poor people.” But the authoritarian tendencies, a lot of the things that we’ve seen coming out of there, and even people I’ve met from there, who are people that were on the left there who have fled persecution. I think it’s horrifying, and I really get frustrated with people who have a knee jerk, defense of Venezuela. Because I think Venezuela is state that no one really wants to defend, and you can maybe learn some lessons from, but I haven’t seen that article. I’ll have to check it out.What other things are we going to be encouraging people to read?
Karlee Weinmann: I recently picked up a book, Chris, called Trainwreck by an author named Sady Doyle. It’s sort of a very smart, very sadly relevant these days, cultural criticism of how-
Chris Mitchell: Wait, wait, I know, Amy Schumer, LeBron James, they made a move out of it. It’s terrific, I loved it!
Karlee Weinmann: Totally different, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Sady Doyle examines with a critical eye how we treat powerful women in our society and how we demonize them in many, many cases. I found it to be a really helpful exercise in just critically thinking about things that we accept as normal, and accept as just everyday, pedestrian conversations and thoughts. I think that embracing that mentality about more things that just occur around us every day is going to be very helpful as we take on the fights and identify levers we have moving forward in the way that you talked about.
Chris Mitchell: I have to add a comment to everyone’s thought, it’s just something that I’m … I’m unable to keep my mouth shut. I think, and this is something that I’ve talked with everyone about, I think one of things in 2016 that I really recognized was more and more who we think of as being fully human and who is not.
Karlee Weinmann: Absolutely.
Chris Mitchell: We’re seeing this right now with the University of Minnesota, the football program and this woman in this sexual assault. The details were unclear, but it’s clear that a lot of people did not see her as fully human. It’s clear that a lot of people did not see President Obama as fully American. I really encourage people to try and look around and think, “Who do I think of as being fully human, and who do I think of as being fully American?” And that sort of thing. I think it’s important. And Nick, what do you recommend people read?
Nick Stumo-Langer: I have two things. One that’s relevant, and one that may not be relevant for some folks. The first book that I’m in the middle of right now is called The Brethren by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. It’s about the beginning of Chief Justice Warren Berger’s time on the Supreme Court. It is an absolutely fascinating, that may underlie that I’m a huge nerd. It’s a fascinating look at the Supreme Court during a time where Nixon was getting impeached. It was the Watergate era, but they’ve had a fundamental change in a lot of the jurisprudence. While that might not sound interesting to folks, there’s a lot of really great things and character studies of the different justices and the cases that they’re taking on. It’s definitely a good read.

My second thing is something on TheRinger.com which is Bill Simmons’ site, called Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football. It’s a very long piece talking about the big problems with the NFL ratings, the big problems with the NFL’s structure and gets to a lot of the heart of an argument about why the NFL is not necessarily the best institution to model yourself after if you’re looking at successful sport franchises and successful ways to do business. It’s a good look and it’s a very intelligent conversation back and forth.

Karlee Weinmann:  The Brethren is great. Maybe I’m a huge nerd also, but I think it’s great.
Nick Stumo-Langer:  Nerd solidarity.
Chris Mitchell: I mean, it’s not hard to call yourself a nerd in 2016. I feel like this is one of the things, where, at this point even jocks are like, “I’m kind of nerdy too!”
Karlee Weinmann: Yeah.
Nick Stumo-Langer: This is the best time to be a nerd, that’s great. I really was born at the right time.
Chris Mitchell: As you know, I’m jockish, and I’m intrigued because I feel like the NFL seems like it’s the most powerful league, and I’m guess that some people think the writing’s on the wall. Whether it’s from the brain injuries, or just the declining ratings now and whatnot. I’ll be curious to see what happens next, but St. Paul is subsidizing a soccer stadium a few blocks from my home, so I’ll be focusing on soccer starting in 2018, I think. Maybe paying a little less attention to football, especially as I’m raising my son I’d love to see him play soccer. I played soccer, more than football, and as I’ve been saying for a year football’s just too authoritarian. I don’t want him to be in that mindset of the authoritarian. I feel like whereas soccer players tend to be less authoritarian I think.
Nick Stumo-Langer: I’ll also say the NBA is rising right now. The NBA’s rising right now, and something that’s really interesting that I haven’t seen, so I’ll put a call out, is I want a comparative piece. A very long piece, because I’ll read it, comparing the NFL and the NBA’s structure and how they distribute power. Because I think that’s a very important way to look at it.
Chris Mitchell: Talking about market power and that sort of thing, what’s interesting to me is that these leagues have strong protections for workers. If you look at mixed martial arts, they have no union and the amount of money that goes into mixed martial arts that goes back to the fighters, who actually create all of the value, is very little. For people who might be listening to this, and they may not be into sports, I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff. I take just about everything that I do in my life comes from growing up playing team sports. I don’t want to just tack this on as something that’s sort of like we’re geeky and interested in sports, but I think it’s important.

Karlee, you look like you’ve-

Karlee Weinmann: I was just going to say I think it’s important for everyone to consider the labor economy of college athletics also.
Chris Mitchell: Right. Right. I don’t want to trivialize slavery, but it is really horrible what, I think, how little the people who produce all the value in college sports get. And that, what we call non-revenue sports are facing elimination. Talking about gymnastics, men’s wrestling, all kinds of sports that don’t generate a lot of money are being cut in programs across the nation as we try to give more money to football and basketball. Which are sports that I love, frankly, but nonetheless, our universities should not just be generating money out of the most popular sports. There should be a place where kids can go and do gymnastics at a high level, and the University of Minnesota’s a wonderful place for that. I hope it continues for a very long time.

My recommendation is just an article that our college Stacy Mitchell had written for a book on antitrusts from the Antitrust Institute. The article is Monopoly, Power and the Decline of Small Business. We’ll have a link to it, along with all these other articles and suggestions in the notes for the podcast. I think it’s really important that we not just talk about monopoly power in terms of the threat it has to raise our prices down the line, and that sort of thing. I thought Stacey’s article was a really good example of just 15 or 20 pages on exactly what the threat is to democracy. What the threat is to innovation and that sort of thing. Highly recommend it. It’s gotten really great reviews from people all over the place when it came out. Cory Doctorow did a big blurb on it. Really recommend people take a minute to read that.

Nick Stumo-Langer: You get extra brownie points for mentioning an article that one of our colleagues wrote. You’re making us all look bad.
Karlee Weinmann: Yeah, you didn’t tell us that was the rule, Chris.
Nick Stumo-Langer: My article is something Chris Mitchell wrote.
Chris Mitchell: Yeah, unfortunately it’d be hard to do that. I did not do much writing in 2016. Something in 2017 I am to fix. Thank you, thank you everyone for joining and listening. We hope you have a wonderful New Year, and we’ll be back with some Building Local Power discussions in 2017.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Thanks.
Karlee Weinmann: Thanks Chris.
Lisa Gonzalez: That was Olivia LaVecchia from the Community Scaled Economy Initiative. Karlee Weinmann from the Energy Democracy Initiative. Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, and Nick Stumo-Langerer, the ILSR Communications Manager here at ILSR. They were revisiting some of this year’s events and what that may mean for 2017, and local communities. This was episode number eight of the Building Local Power podcast.

As the year comes to a close we hope you will consider our work at ILSR in your year end giving. There are few places where you can experts like Olivia, Karlee, Chris and Nick discuss the importance of local policy and find resources to use in your own community. ILSR has been doing it for more than 40 years, but we need your participation. Please visit ilsr.org and click on the donate button. Any amount will help.

We encourage you to subscribe to this podcast, and all of our other podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research by also subscribing to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org. Thanks to Disfunction L. The song is Funk Interlude. I’m Lisa Gonzalez from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Thanks again for listening to the Building Local Power podcast. Have a peaceful holiday season, and we’ll see you again in 2017.

 

Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.