Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Barack the Vote

See, what people need to understand is that we need fresh blood in the White House, Obama has a long history of grassroots organizing, leadership and service and Michelle Obama will be the best first lady ever!

I took a blind voter's poll solely based on the issues I believe in and, as it turns out, Barack Obama and John Edwards are my top two candidates. I am also more than mindful that Barack announced his candidacy and began his campaign in 'post-Katrina' and 'Hurricane Bush' New Orleans.

Merry Christmas and Barack the Vote!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Ice Age on Video

Extreme Cruelty Part II

So, here are a number of videos well worth your watching that illuminate what I've written in my previous post entitled, "The Ice Age". Watch the videos in order and you'll be well-educated.

Save Public Housing in New Orleans

This led to the protest we heard about but here is mostly raw footage:

New Orleans City Council Shuts Down Public Housing Debate

Two of them you see in the above video then appear in an interview with Amy Goodman:

Tasered Citizens Debate on Democracy Now

Tasered Citizens Debate on Democracy Now Part 2

What is the cause of all this, you ask? Well, I discovered a villain we can put our finger on. Apparently, from the first video, we see California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, touring the public housing and being astounded at how well those structures held up. She later introduces a bill that sweeps past the House and is blocked by one man in the Senate:

"The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act guarantees the redevelopment of the New Orleans public housing projects into mixed income communities and the return of thousands of working class families to the city, supporters say.

Despite overwhelming support, the bill was killed in committee by Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie."

This rep is deeply concerned about the cycle of poverty but apparently not too concerned about his party's cyclical penchant for hypocrisy. You see, he ran on a pro-marriage, pro-family ticket, all self-righteous and stuff and, well, you know what happened. His name was found on a madam's phone line for solicitation of sexual services from a prostitute. <> And from the Louisiana Speaks Newsletter:

"The biggest obstacle is Sen. David Vitter," said James Perry, president of the Louisiana Housing Alliance, a coalition of nonprofit groups that has been lobbying for passage of the measure. "He sees the bill as a win for Sen. [Mary] Landrieu should it be passed, and he doesn't want to allow her that win . . . . But political experts say the senatorial flap is not unexpected, given Louisiana's rough-and-tumble politics and Vitter and Landrieu's chilly relationship. Landrieu is up for re-election next year and has emerged as the GOP's top target among incumbent senators, in part because of the state's rightward shift in recent elections."

Ah. So Pittsburgh is not the only City where politicians toy with the quality of Black peoples' lives for their own political benefit.

"Asked whether he was trying to deny Landrieu the ability to take home victory in a re-election year, Vitter responded, "My motivation is we shouldn't rebuild the same housing that was there. We're trying to express clearly what our reservations are."

No one was asking to rebuild but to renovate what was still standing and livable while there is still a tremendous housing shortage and a crisis.

When asked about his specific objections, [Vitter's] aides point to an opinion piece last month in the New Orleans Times-Picayune in which he laid out general opposition, saying it would halt a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plan to raze four housing complexes.

Uh, yeah, because there's a housing shortage following government neglect (not listening to the Army Corp of Engineers), a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) and more government neglect (Hurricane Bush after the levees broke).

Even Barack Obama weighed in, by writing a letter to George Bush asking to stop the demolition. We're all supportive of public housing reform and mixed income housing but, as logic would dictate:

"No public housing should be demolished until HUD can point to an equivalent number of replacement units in the near vicinity," Obama said.

But, irony of all ironies, racism and classism comes with a price---the working poor can't find any place to live affordably, so the working poor can't work properly. Therefore, the middle and upperclass residents and tourists in New Orleans have no one to serve them. Ahhh, justice!:

"The shortage of affordable workforce housing really is straining our economic recovery," said Barbara Johnson, chief operating officer for Greater New Orleans Inc. "It's a combination of housing and worker shortage. One is related to the other. You have employers that are not able to fill contracts, work orders, take on new contracts."

All of a sudden, razing public housing has a double edged sword, eh? The whole idea of the lazy, good-for-nothing, crime-ridden population that actually made up what we call 'the working poor' are shown their worth via their absence:

"When you go to the hospital, who's going to take care of you? When you go to the dry cleaners, who's going to greet you?" said Jan Robert, executive director of the St. Tammany Healthcare Alliance, who has struggled with labor shortages. "All we talk about is entry-level workers -- where we get them, where we find them and how we find them housing."

So, it appears that what public housing advocates should do is sue the City and State and, in between time, engage in continuous Days of Absence.

Thank you, Ted Shine!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Ice Age

I'll never forget the day I heard esteemed Black scholar, Cornel West, refer to this era as "the ice age" because, he said, America was in an era of indifference. Indeed.

Extreme Cruelty
Yesterday, in New Orleans, protesters tried to stop the city council from voting for demolition of four large project complexes that presently have 4500 livable units. Instead, they are opting for the tax credit profiteering of the HUD office and are replacing the communities with 'mixed income housing' to the tune of 744 units. No plan for temporary housing, no plan for allowing people who lived there to come back (it's called "the right of return"). Let's take a moment and think on this for a moment . . .

Yes, the police used pepperspray against the people trying to pile into City Council chambers but, hey, they had to, right? But why should City Council be comfortable only having to look out at the 300 available seats? They should feel the dis-ease of overcrowding, if nothing more than to understand the unimaginably dismissive posture they've adopted. It can all be summed up in this quote:

HUD wants to demolish the buildings, most of them damaged by Hurricane Katrina, so developers can take advantage of tax credits and build new mixed-income neighborhoods.

The council's approval of the demolition is required under the city's charter.

HUD says the redevelopment, in the works before Katrina hit, will mark an end to the city's failed public housing experiment that lumped the poor into crime-ridden complexes and marooned them outside the life of the rest of the city.

Aw, HUD. Who knew the federal government cared so much about public housing? Yep, now is the perfect time to talk about its failed experiment (as if any of us would disagree). Hours later, the demolition was unanimously approved, whereas before there were council members hedging, their conscience tearing at their souls.

I guess seeing people protest and violence break out was enough to want them all gone, eh? See pictures of the demolition as citizens are protesting. It really can't get anymore cruel than shrinking housing at the time when it's so desperately needed and so scarce. All they asked is for temporary housing until there can be 1:1 placement. And to be able to come home.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we here in Pittsburgh's Historic Hill District cannot let a rich, white, corporation with a billionaire owner, host itself in our neighborhood, take up all of our parking spots and not give much of anything back in terms of proper reinvestment to a poor, Black, working-class community. Even if you don't believe, we believe. We have a dream and, yes, it does take money.

We won't repeat the defeat from 50 years ago, when "Hurricane Civic Arena" displaced thousands of residents and never replaced the housing the way they said they would---and then engaged in benign neglect after residents got mad at the broken promises and engaged in riots during the 1960's. It's cause and effect, folks.

And I could not be more proud of the people of New Orleans for protesting, even passionately so. Indeed, it shows me that global warming is a real and welcomed effort.

Extreme, Visionary Kindness
"He Had a Dream" But at least this is real. When I entered graduate school, we read a book on teaching with a statement I've never forgotten---"students will float to the mark you set". To tell a group of third graders that they will be going to college is phenomenal and wonderful because the prison industrial complex is determined by third grade reading scores. Yes. So, either you will believe and assist in these kids' education---or many of them will be going to prison. Plain and simple. I'm not surprised this column is from Marc Fisher from The Washington Post. I'm thinking maybe the PG posted it because it involves the word "Promise", as in "Pittsburgh Promise". We'll see.

In the meantime, at least the University of Pittsburgh brought back the "Upward Bound" program, which helps high school students prepare for college. With an initial grant from the U.S. Department of Education of approximately $485,000 for its first year, it will serve 112 students who will be the first in their generation to attend college. If the program meets their objectives, it will be funded for an additional three years. Good. It actually works.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Fistful of Dollars

Lots of news on the Hill and CBA talk this week. And since my blog is reflective of my column in the Pittsburgh City Paper, here is the latest:

A Fistful of Dollars:
If the Pittsburgh Penguins want to play, someone has to pay

"I always enjoyed it when Clint Eastwood squinted, flicked his cigarette and faced his enemy down with a cold, hard stare. Well, here in the Hill District we’re at that point with the city, the county and the Pittsburgh Penguins."

You should definitely read my column with another main article in the CP (History Repeating? by Chris Young) in which you will find such gems as:

“We’re not asking for a handout,” [Eugene] Taylor said, wearing a One Hill sticker on his chest. “Just a fair share.”


“We’re going to be ready to sign it on our side,” the mayor said. But, he added, “I’m not saying it’s a requirement for [planning-commission] approval.”

"The mayor did, however, say that there are “many disagreements” between sides."


“He is virtually saying he’s not supporting a CBA,” Milliones said. “You can’t not support funding to the community and still support the CBA. It’s a contradiction.

“A CBA is a request for financial support.”


“It’s past time for talks,” [One Hill CBA Chair Carl] Redwood said. “It’s time for action.”

Uhh, yeah!

Then, there's the New Pittsburgh Courier article by Cynthia Levy entitled, "Mayor, Penguins say 'no' to 'cash payments' to the Hill" and has such gems as:

“When you start talking about payments made in the future, questions begin to arise like who will get the money and who will disburse the money. What we are in favor of is targeted initiatives and finding financial support for challenges,” [Former Pittsburgh Gaming Task Force Co-Chair---who endorsed the Isle of Capri, temporarily resigned Hill House Board member and Senior Consultant to the Penguins, Ron] Porter said."

All, please see what was gained in Los Angeles (the kick-start for Community Benefits Agreements) when the Staples Center arena was being 'hosted' in a poor Black and Latino neighborhood. Nothing wrong with so-called initiatives but absolutely everything we have asked for is legitimate and the programs and initiatives we need sponsored costs money. Period. I really hate that rich, white corporations always find a Black person to be the frontman for their selfishness, greed or otherwise callous affairs. One year ago, "Pittsburgh First" found Rev. James Simms to be one of the few preachers with the sole distinction of promoting a gambling facility.

"Since terms that required the Penguins to engage in a community benefits agreement with Hill residents were never added to the leasing agreement (despite resident requests) the Penguins are only under a “good faith” agreement, according to Councilwoman Tonya Payne.

Yeah, it wasn't added because you didn't support that move and you voted against it, Tonya Payne, even though we asked you not to, so that we would not have to negotiate "in good faith" with a rich, white corporation and a billionaire owner. Thanks, alot!

“On June 4, 2007, a letter was distributed stating they would in good faith work toward a CBA,” Payne said. It was not given out until after the lease signing.

Right. Which is why you are now touting "good faith" Tonya Payne. God, you are disgusting and an embarrassment. What did we do to deserve you as our representative? Please find some way to do the right thing with the little time you have left to be in office.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mayor Ravenstahl vs. Volunteer Historic Hill Citizenry

I missed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's "Neighborhood Meeting" in the Hill District on Wednesday, December 12, 2007. But I am appalled at what I am seeing and hearing. Your thoughts before I go any further?

Transcript, Part I:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: Thank you, I’ll respond to the CBA stuff first.

I support the Hill District Masterplan, that I know that has been discussed, made that commitment sometime ago. I certainly support the resource center. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the city and county agreed to set up a resource center in the Hill District, staff it, to provide opportunities for individuals that come in, uh, to look and, uh, find job opportunities. I support that in the Community Benefits Agreement.

Support the concept of the grocery store in the Hill District

Support in working with, s’cuse me, the YMCA on providing a multipurpose center, uh, in this community. I know we’re talking about the block of Centre Avenue in the Hill District and we’ll do whatever I can to support getting the funding from the state to do that.

Uh, support the SEA and the Penguins, uh, meeting regularly with the community to talk about the construction schedule, the staging, etc., uh, all the opportunities for the, uh, members of the Hill District.

Uh, I do not support cash payments to any organization or individual, uh, in the Hill District. I want to be clear with that. I do not support, for example, Marimba, a cash payment to you to do the Masterplan.

Marimba Milliones [from the background]: I didn’t ask for that, Mayor Ravenstahl…

Mayor: I do support investment in programs and initiatives in, uh, our community and I think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity, uh, to do that. So, that’s where I stand on the Community Benefits Agreement. In terms of timeframe, uh, I think we can, very realistically, uh, do so, before that, between now and, uh, when it, when the Masterplan goes to the Planning Commission.

I think we’re ready to, uh, put this all in writing. Again, we’re not going to agree on everything but, uh, I can guarantee you that, we’ll, uh, at least have a presentation to you all, uh, before that goes before the Masterplan approval process.

And so, that’s where I’m at on the Community Benefits Agreement and I talked to the County Executive today about that and I think those are great opportunities for the Hill District.

[The Mayor continues for another minute or so, talking about the Pittsburgh Promise and increasing the student population before reopening schools. Then he concludes and the open commenting period begins].

[Ms. Milliones stands and begins asking her question and the exchange between the Mayor and the residents begin, with a distinct discussion on cash v. funding]

We refer you to the dictionary for the denotation and ask you to think about the connotation, especially in a working class, poor, Black neighborhood full of volunteers trying to make their community better:

cash –noun

1. money in the form of coins or banknotes, esp. that issued by a government.

2. money or an equivalent, as a check, paid at the time of making a purchase.

[no one asked him for cash]

funding - noun

1. financial resources provided to make some project possible; "the foundation provided support for the experiment"

2. the act of financing

Thank you, Chris Ivey.