As we reach the finish line of 2020, many of us do so with a sense of relief and cautious optimism about what 2021 might bring. At the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, 2020 was certainly not an easy year, but it was one marked by considerable change and a whole lot of progress. Below are a handful of the highlights of 2020.
For those long familiar with RSF, perhaps the biggest change of 2020 happened in June, when the Foundation moved out of Manhattan for the first time since its founding in 1925. The transition was bitter sweet, of course, but our new office in Princeton, NJ is located right next to the Princeton University campus. Leaving midtown allowed us to put even more resources toward fulfilling our mission.
The face of RSF also changed significantly this year, as we had the immense good fortune to welcome two new staffers to our ranks. Roxanna Choe became our Librarian and Archivist, and is currently spearheading efforts to create a small public library, featuring the thousands of Georgist titles we’ve collected over the decades. In recent weeks, we’ve added Stephanie Barrios-Cullins to the team as our Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, a new position for the Foundation that’s focused largely on the efforts of our Center for Property Tax Reform. And behind the scenes, RSF forged a partnership with Monica and Rick Stoneking, who’ve worked tirelessly to amplify and polish our outreach efforts, with the results on full display to the thousands of people who visit our new website each week, read our newsletter each month, and interact with the Georgist content we share on social media.
RSF also focused heavily on new programming throughout 2020. After digitizing every title possible and making them available for free on our website, we closed our online bookstore. We made grants in support of academic research focused on the legality of economic surplus distribution, the effects of corporate ownership of single family housing, and a national effort to get “ghost buildings” onto the property tax roles in Italy. Through the Center for Property Tax Reform, our joint effort with the Center for the Study of Economics, we built the Tax Shift Explorer. Initially built to explore Philadelphia, the Explorer is the first-ever web-based GIS to allow users to explore the real world effects of adopting LVT in cities across the US. And to support the dozens of conversations we’re having with elected officials and candidates for office in New York City, we built the NYC Vacant Land Map, which lets anyone, anywhere explore the roughly 28,000 vacant and blighted parcels in the city and gain a better understanding of what the creation of a 5th property tax class would do to fill municipal coffers and revitalize the community.
So what does 2021 hold? On a global scale, hopefully an end to the pandemic and a period of healing from the economic and social upheavals of 2020. And at the local level, RSF will continue with what’s been working – our outreach, our research, our direct support to communities. And we’ll continue to add new initiatives…perhaps a scholarship or two, some new mapping tools, a handful of virtual events, new publications, or even a digital archive. As always, the New Year is full of possibilities!
In closing, I would like to extend a well-deserved thank you tp the following: Thank you to my Board of Directors, whose guidance, wisdom, and support were instrumental in navigating this challenging year. Thank you to the RSF staff, whose dedication, creativity, and just plain hard work were the driving forces behind everything we accomplished in 2020. Thank you to the donors who’ve given so generously in support of RSF’s mission and work. Thank you to the guest authors and other contributors who’ve provided such wonderful and insightful content for our blog, website, and newsletter. And thank you to everyone who has read, shared, and talked about the ideas of Henry George in 2020 – there truly could be no RSF without you. As we close out 2020, we do so with immense gratitude for your continuing commitment to these critically important ideals.