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After years of exposing the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—the nation’s largest, secretive corporate spin machine and right-wing policy incubator–Matthew Charles Cardinale, the Editor of Atlanta Progressive News, became so fed up, he decided to form a progressive, grassroots, transparent alternative: SMART ALEC.
Since 1973, ALEC’s elite task forces of right-wing lawmakers and corporate lobbyists have existed to carefully craft model bills to impose a one-size-fits-all agenda on the states.
Their long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations, and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful accountable. Ever wonder where the surge to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws, and more comes from? ALEC is the culprit: it has extended its tentacles to everything from education to housing to health policy. Their corporate board and billionaire benefactors (including Tea Party funders Charles and David Koch) are comprised of dozens of corporations who invest millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation to be made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with absolutely no regard for the public interest.
Now headquartered in Portland, Oregon, SMART ALEC offers a completely different agenda – a transparent, grassroots approach to public policy; and it will refocus attention on the battle to loosen the grip of corporate America and renew democracy at the state and local levels.
SMART ALEC stands for State and Municipal Action for Results Today / Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration.
SMART ALEC’s first model ordinance is Affordable Housing Impact Statements. This model ordinance was drafted by Cardinale, one of SMART ALEC’s founding members, in 2014, as a law school paper for Gonzaga University.
The Model Ordinance for Affordable Housing Impact Statements offers a unique method for cities and counties to keep track of the impact of lawmakers’ public policy decisions on the affordable housing stock in their jurisdiction. It provides a Scorecard to track estimated changes in terms of numbers of units added and/or subtracted across various income brackets, and comes with a model administrative implementation memo.
SMART ALEC’s policy focus is on affordable housing and environmental policy, and, particularly, on empowering low-income, homeless, and marginalized people to make a meaningful difference in shaping, and advocating for, policy solutions.
Affordable Housing Impact Statements were adopted by the City of Atlanta in November 2015, and are currently under consideration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Albany, New York.
New Orleans, Louisiana
SMART ALEC is working with elected officials and stakeholders across the country as they consider adopted Affordable Housing Impact Statements. They are developing equitable policy solutions for local replication, and empowering marginalized communities to make a meaningful difference in the democratic process.
SMART ALEC hopes to supplement the work of the State Information Exchange (SIX), which primarily focuses on promoting progressive labor-related legislation at the state level. SMART ALEC will focus on affordable housing and the environment, and uniquely focus on municipal and county government.
Currently, SMART ALEC has a Go Fund Me page to raise $100,000 to support the organization’s initial goal, which is to help get Affordable Housing Impact Statements adopted in ten U.S. cities and counties by 2018.
Go Fund Me:
A Progressive, Policy-Oriented Board of Directors
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, SMART ALEC’s founding Board members include Cardinale; Dr. Dwanda Farmer, one of the nation’s few PhDs in Community Development; Barbara Payne, the former Executive Director of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation; and Christian Seppa, a web designer and progressive activist.
Matthew Charles Cardinale – CEO and Board President
Matthew Charles Cardinale, 34, unique history makes him an important role model for fellow activists. He has some twenty years of advocacy experience, with a specialty in affordable housing policy. His interest in housing advocacy goes back to his experience as a homeless teenager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from 1995 to 1998, obtaining his first HUD-subsidized apartment at the age of sixteen.
Cardinale is the founder and CEO of Atlanta Progressive News, an online, independent news service, founded in 2005. In its eleventh year of publication, APN has published approximately 2,500 original news articles and blog posts to date. Cardinale has an MPA from the University of New Orleans (2007), an MA in Sociology from U.C. Irvine (2005), and is currently in his third year of law school at Gonzaga University.
In 2012, at the age of thirty, he won a pro se lawsuit that had come before the Supreme Court of Georgia, Cardinale v. City of Atlanta, in which the Court struck down a secret vote taken by the City Council of Atlanta.
He has written several ordinances and resolutions that are currently law in the City of Atlanta, including Affordable Housing Impact Statements.