Friday, October 26, 2007
You Go Chester!
Jon Stewart, I've been a fan of yours for a long time, too!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Bishop Tutu is visiting the Burgh this week. I really love him. He spent a year on my college campus and we got used to seeing him so much, we used to yell and wave at him across the yard. Imagine seeing this archbishop emeritus in a black starter jacket. He's a wonderful man with a wonderful spirit. He'll be visiting Mumia Abu Jamal in prison, lecturing at Pitt, doing service at Calvary Church in Shadyside. Peep the article for details.
"Man Jailed for Yelling at Dog"
KDKA-TV covered this story that happened last week and it's ridiculous. After being startled by a police dog and then yelling at the dog, he was arrested. The judge was wise and this man was released but he was kept from his job and had to have this experience.What does a brother have to do to get some rights and be treated like a real citizen around here----be a dog?
"East Liberty Home Invader Shot, Killed"
See? This is why you can't go busting up in peoples' houses, violating privacy and whatnot. The story from the other side seems shady too but, still . . .
Detectives said Mr. Davis and Mr. Gibson barged into the apartment, and that Mr. Davis pointed his gun at the occupants, ordering them to lie on the floor.
He and Mr. Gibson walked one victim to the rear of the apartment at gunpoint, then returned to the living room and approached the others who were hiding in the kitchen.
When Mr. Davis pointed a gun at one of them, police said, the man shot him in the head with a shotgun.
Mr. Davis could not be identified for many hours after the killing, but the medical examiner's office eventually determined his identity from fingerprints.
Monday, October 22, 2007
May you live and rest in harmony and peace, Dr. Pausch. You touched my life and I never got a chance to know you.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
*And, for the record, when I say One Hill leadership, I am always excluding Bomani Howze, whom I believe is the only honest person with integrity on the Executive Committee.
I explained in an earlier post that I could not believe it when I heard Mark Fatla explain the contract they signed with Don Barden's Majestic Star Casino, which stated that there would be "no negative impact" from the casino industry being on the Northside and that Barden would pay for any negative impact proven to be caused by his casino.
Bruce Barron, President of "No Dice" wrote a rather stellar Op-Ed, that I must respond to, piece-by-piece. Barron writes:
Our nation's increasing propensity to pretend the dark side of gambling doesn't exist was on dramatic display at the North Side's New Hazlett Theater the other night.
The one-act play was billed as a North Side Leadership Conference forum on the social and economic impacts of the casino Don Barden plans to build some day soon between the Carnegie Science Center and the West End Bridge. The performance -- at least the scripted part of it -- was selective, to say the least. Of 36 slides in the conference's PowerPoint outline, 11 started with the word "Jobs!" and none mentioned problem gambling or its social consequences.
Wow, they must all take their cues from the same playbook. This is painfully familiar to what "Pittsburgh First" (the Pittsburgh Penguins, Isle of Capri Casino, Nationwide Realty and 'the community' - Tonya Payne's people, an organization which I chose to call "Hill District Last") kept dangling in front of the Hill District community on a near-constant basis. And they always come with semi-flashy powerpoints or DVD's.
Since Mr. Barden has offered the conference $1 million a year in "community benefits" donations -- or about one-tenth of what North Side residents can be expected to gamble away at the casino -- it seemed likely that this rosy view of gambling was a tacit part of the agreement. But the question period became surprisingly candid.For the record, while it is extremely important to recognize that the demand for proper reinvestment is nothing new, it is only fair to Pittsburgh UNITED and the entire Community Benefits Agreement Movement that Mark Falta stop pretending as if this is a CBA. I think he has co-opted this language for convenience-purposes and to slight PU / Northside United; but there is supposed to be a distinct process and partnership with what we now call a "CBA" and it's more than a bit disingenuous on his part to refer to the NSLC agreement in this manner.
Executive Director Mark Fatla noted that, when the conference sought input from the 14 neighborhood organizations that comprise its constituency, the message was clear and consistent: The neighborhood groups didn't want a casino in their community and they didn't want the conference to endorse Mr. Barden's proposal no matter what he offered.
Well, that was smart. It's certainly nothing personal to Don Barden, who appears to be a stellar businessman with a lot of integrity and character (despite his chosen field of work), in the same way that it wasn't personal towards the Isle of Capri Casino company.
Unable to dangle the endorsement carrot, the conference nevertheless negotiated a monetary agreement with Mr. Barden and offered friendly testimony on its dealings with him to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
This is far more than what Pittsburgh First (Hill District Last) was offering. But, I won't begrudge the Northside Leadership Conference for seeking reinvestment because the Northside did not pass Act 71 and allow gaming into the State. Like many cities, we have all had to deal with this, particularly in light of our city's then-pending bankruptcy and the state's poor financial status.
But when it sought a contribution to offset increased public safety and addiction counseling costs, said conference board Chair Joe Lawrence, Mr. Barden's response was cool: "I already pay for those things at the tax office."
I have to say that, in many ways, Barden is correct. Pennsylvania has the highest level of taxes against the casino industry and it is up to the people (especially those who don't own property but will suffer from the negative effects of gambling) to petition their government to set aside funds to address the negative impact. It is not just the responsibility of the casino industry because people have free choice. Northside United must create a CBA with the City and County around these issues, in particular.
According to Mr. Fatla, the conference asked what it should do about these negative impacts on its community and Mr. Barden denied that his casinos cause any negative impacts.
I'm not so sure what would be so special about Don Barden's Majestic Star that there would be no negative impact. I just don't believe this because the casino industry, overall, negatively impacts the environment.
So the conference added to the agreement a paragraph stating that it could pursue compensation from the casino for any documentable negative impacts its presence should cause.
That paragraph might just prove historic should the conference's current lovefest with Mr. Barden ever turn sour, because many analysts foresee a day when the casino industry becomes as vulnerable to civil lawsuits as the tobacco industry. (So far only a few lawsuits worldwide by addicted gamblers have succeeded in court, but one activist state attorney general could change all that.)
I guess someone should have mentioned to the NSLC that it is very hard to prove that a casino caused direct harm to someone or a situation.
Barron is right about this. More and more people are suffering and the casino industry does not have many (or enough) regulations upon it. I do believe it will go the way of the tobacco industry and we'll see a ton of "truth" commercials in about ten years. Until that time, the nationwide honeymoon phase will continue; and I am unwilling to blame Don Barden for this national and international obsession. Human beings enjoy being self-destructive, don't we?
It thus behooves the conference to obtain solid baseline data on existing levels of problem gambling on the North Side, because gambling addiction typically doubles in the immediate vicinity of a new casino. With the social cost of each addicted gambler estimated at about $13,000, that's a $5 million- to $10 million-a-year tab the conference might be able to stick to Mr. Barden.
So true. But before and during that time, this is also very much the responsibility of the City and the State.
Ironically, had the conference taken its cue from the neighborhood groups and opposed Mr. Barden's proposal rather than cozying up to him, it might not have a casino to deal with at all.
I'm not sure about that, Bruce. The people in Philadelphia (CasinoFree Philly) are still fighting a very tough battle that is quite honorable but is still ongoing; and they have actual paid organizers and staff members at their disposal. If this same battle would have taken this long in Pittsburgh, the Isle of Capri's temporary casino on the Melody Lot site would have been opened for close to six months now. The fact of the matter is that for some reason, people are thoroughly enjoying giving their hard-earned money away. So, what do you do?
Instead, it laid down passively while vociferous Hill District opposition to Isle of Capri helped to make Mr. Barden's Majestic Star a winner.
As the organizer of such "vociferous Hill District opposition" (otherwise known as the Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill Campaign), I will effectively take my bow with the entire community of folks here and across the nation who assisted us. However, I must remind everyone that the Hill's win is the City's win because the "Pittsburgh First" plan was the only one to place its Casino right within the street grid of our neighborhood and in our front yard. I am now pushing a request to make sure there is no casino in anyone's residential community from this point forward.
And let's be honest here: 99.9% of Pittsburgh never believed that Don Barden, an African American, had half of a chance to win the Category 2 slots license for the City of Pittsburgh. So, while Northsiders should have been more proactive, it was plain ole shortsightedness, lack of proper leadership, apathy and a healthy serving of racism that is the source of what is happening now.
Now the conference is dutifully holding casino job fairs to present Mr. Barden with a ready-made work force.
While enjoying its honeymoon with the casino, the conference has been fighting a rearguard action against a competing community organization seeking a place at the bargaining table. Twice the other night the conference forum moderator pleaded for civil discourse, asking speakers to "be a model for our children."
The raw emotions expressed at the "casino design" meeting are honest expressions of disgust, disenfranchisement and anger. I do hope, however, that Pittsburgh UNITED is not unfairly manipulating or exploiting the mostly Black, working-class and/or working-poor persons so upset at this point in time. For example, is it the most advantageous, at this point in time, to create a totally adversarial relationship with either Barden or the NSLC?
And on the flip side, one must wonder . . . how many Black people were in the room when this deal with the Northside Leadership Conference was made? And if there were any, how many of them represented the Black, working-class and/or working-poor from the Northside?
We must ask . . .
While Barron concludes:
Perhaps, at a time when gambling -- especially youth gambling -- is America's fastest-growing addiction, the conference should consider what message it sends to our children by overlooking gambling's well-documented social impacts and by portraying casinos as an honorable partner to be patronized.
Mmph. Strong words. Bruce Barron is president of No Dice, a Pittsburgh-area organization that opposes the expansion of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania (firstname.lastname@example.org). And he's right that adolescent gambling is America's hidden epidemic.
America's gambling explosion and the passing of Act 71 has put us all in a very awkward position. I am not willing to lay this entire burden upon the shoulders of Don Barden; and, at the same time, it's very important for all of us to understand the negative impact of the casino industry, as well as the responsibilities of the City and State.
What I did in "Dr. Goddess Goes to Jail" was to introduce a character named "Betty" who, after being tossed in jail for observing civil disobedience (a criminal act I created in my play), shared a poem that moved her cellmates as well as the multitudes of folks in the audience who came to see our ensemble production. The poem was called "Confessions of a Slots Queen" and I'll share more on that later. It is, however, one of the most popular pieces in the entire production.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
1. The City of Pittsburgh (and many of its neighborhoods, particularly the Black and poor) is at a pivotal point in its history. We can all either sink or swim as a city and there are no guarantees.
2. While the City of Pittsburgh has been voted "the most livable city" (yet again), the fact of the matter is the City of Pittsburgh is actually "one of the worst cities to live in" for African Americans. According to the research of Dr. Ralph Bangs and Dr. John Wallace of the Center for the Study of Race and Social Problems at the University of Pittsburgh, African Americans living here are some of the most disadvantaged in the entire nation.
Yes, yes, it seems hard to believe but this is obvious to anyone who has traveled outside of this City and encounters other African Americans who are, let's say, a bit lighter on their feet, to say the least.
3. The Community Benefits Agreement Movement is a most worthy and just cause when, if implemented correctly, can change the quality of peoples' lives in a very real and tangible way, not just with "good jobs" but certainly inclusive of them. It has worked very well in Los Angeles, Detroit and New Haven with wondrous results.
So, what is the problem?
It's not working so well here in this City.
5. Pittsburgh UNITED is an acronym for "Unions and Neighborhoods Invested in Transforming Economic Development. Pittsburgh UNITED, whose funding structure was outlined as follows:
Pittsburgh UNITED was borne out of a three-year, $500,000 grant jointly funded by local foundations (Falk Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, POISE, and the Women and Girls Foundation), with a match from the
Ford Foundation (Violet Law, Pittsburgh City Paper)
6. Pittsburgh UNITED funds the One Hill CBA Coalition (the first project) and Northside United (the second project), the both of which are guinea pigs to see if this can work in our City.
7. One Hill's slogan is "One Hill, Many Voices" but many of us feel that our voices are not being heard within One Hill and will never be heard within the organization. We feel that One Hill is in need of radical reform.
8. Many of us also feel that Pittsburgh UNITED is not doing what it is supposed to be doing and is also in need of radical reform.
9. As radical reformists (and I am certainly one of them), we get lied upon, called names, silenced within the organization and also cast out (literally, we were kicked out of One Hill just last week).
10. Many people do not know that One Hill was formed against a large portion of Hill District leadership and representation. It was also done using the resources of Pittsburgh UNITED.
The question is why?
The short answer is that folks are trying to get away with the least amount of reinvestment and the rest of us are demanding more reinvestment, greater vision and greater leadership.
In addition, while we have been trying to explain why, it's important to understand the history and understand the issues. Ironically enough, the Hill District's divisions have been exacerbated and now the Northside's divisions have also been exacerbated. If Pittsburgh UNITED is at the center of these controversies, is this what the foundation community asked for when it funded this group? And is Pittsburgh UNITED helping our city become Pittsburgh DIVIDED?
Listen to this podcast. I actually don't agree with Fred Honsberger but just listen first.
So much to cover in so little time.
You should start here, with another blogger's report, to get a sense of what's been happening.
Is it old quarrels, as Bill Toland surmised in his article (which included many errors but we give him points for trying and deduct some for not doing more followup before going to press, although the impending public meeting at the Arena provided more pressure than he probably wanted).
And if it is old quarrels, should they be put in proper, present-day context, as this same blogger from above has done? Indeed, he says that it is largely Tonya Payne fomenting this divison. And many of us must agree.
All roads will eventually lead back to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are only doing what corporations are known to do; but this would not work without the cooperation of certain selfish entities involved. In this scenario, all side roads lead back to Tonya Payne, who is supposed to be OUR representative, not the Pens'. She connected with Carl Redwood and possibly some others to enact her divisive plan.
I was with the group of representative persons who stood up on January 28, 2007, to tell the City, County and the Pens that there would be no signing of leases and just moving forward without us at the table. We were concerned about this give away of public lands, the public subsidy, no representation at the table (from elected officials or otherwise), the Don Barden factor (unless someone else had a $350 million dollar plan to spur development?), the non-responsiveness of the Pens during the gaming application fiasco (just months prior) and our need for a master plan, to not repeat the mistakes of the past and to usher our community into the 21st century with power and promise.
Our lives, literally, depend upon it.
What unfolded was "One Hill", Pittsburgh UNITED's role in One Hill and the manner in which we were treated by both groups.
So, here is some mandatory reading for you to understand. Most of these are the most recent articles in descending order. Please let me know if you have any questions:
Over the Hill: A history lesson for those who would rather forget (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
Split Decisions: Hill District advocates may be divided but they won't be conquered (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
Give Up the Ghost (of Sala Udin): Hill District activists are quite capable of thinking for themselves, thank you very much (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
One Hill or One Hot Mess? (Christian Morrow, New Pittsburgh Courier) - This article caused a huge uproar in One Hill and they blame me for this, even though I was the last one contacted and interviewed or whom even knew about the article.
Write on: No Half-Stepping in One Hill (LTE, New Pittsburgh Courier, My response to clarify my position and put my quote in context)
Write on: Implied Corruption Must be Addressed (LTE, New Pittsburgh Courier, Carl Redwood's response to the above, which actually reinforces my original claim)
Teeing Off: Rough questions on the Mayor's Golfing Excursions (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
Minority Report: Pittsburgh ignores the plight of its black citizens at its own peril (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
A Wider Arena: You're not the only victim of government negligence, Mario (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)
These articles do not cover all of the intricate problems and issues within One Hill and Pittsburgh United because we were really trying not to embarrass anyone. But, at this point, we have been left with little choice in the matter.
We cannot wait and we cannot afford to lose this battle because it is much bigger than us, much bigger than any one person, organization or even CBA.
We live, work and play here; and it is ultimately our responsibility. Our silence would be complicity and we are not complicit. We stand firm, vocal and proud, calling for radical reform before it's too late.
Support the Whole Hill. Support the cause.
Our discussion was riveting and I’m very pleased with the participation, the folks who came from the Hill (including One Hill members) and even from other neighborhoods, members of Pittsburgh United and the students, faculty and administrators who were in attendance. I was truly pleased by the amount and makeup of the audience, especially given our date changes and the many conflicting events occurring throughout the city.
Certainly, One Hill leadership and that of Pittsburgh United were missed on the panel, as it was never intended to be without these two organizations in formal representation; but many thanks to our panelists:
David Richardson, Center for Family Excellence, Hill District
Good Reverend Doctor James McLemore, Bethel AME Church, the oldest church in the Hill, displaced from the Lower Hill in the '50's
Marimba Milliones, Chair, Hill Community Development Corporation
Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, Department of Africana Studies, Chair, Historic Hill Initiative
and our moderator,
Erv Dyer, Senior Editor, Pitt News, formerly served 16 years with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
for adding such a great level of diversity in perspective and approach, with regard to social services, faith-based institutions, development agencies and, certainly, the role of the press. My work was to provide an historical and political analysis of how we arrived at this point in the City and in our neighborhood. We then all answered questions posed by our moderator and then opened it up to Q & A from the audience.
Special thanks, also, to Dr. Ralph Bangs and Dr. John Wallace, of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Race and Social Problems for providing the kind of statistical analysis of “the state of Black Pittsburgh” so desperately needed for the City and important to include on this panel.
We were all able to provide perspective and insight into the Hill District and the CBA process, within a free, open, safe and secure space, to the extent that we all learned something and are now even more committed to the goal of securing a CBA and ushering the Hill District community swiftly and powerfully into the 21st century.
While others were and are intent to believe that the discussion and analysis were meant to be a One Hill / Pittsburgh United bash fest, everyone proved otherwise and we remain firmly committed to the idea and implementation of the series. The Chair of our department was exceptionally pleased with the discussion and found it entirely necessary, as did everyone else.
We lost some of our panelists with our date change but we will sweep them up again.
In the future, One Hill and Pittsburgh United will be invited again, in their formal capacity and we hope they each take advantage of the opportunity to teach and to learn.
I'll take your questions now.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
A Critical Analysis Discussion and Debate on the CBA Process, Neighborhood Self-Determination and the "One Hill" Controversy
Here is a flyer for the event. Due to the Mayoral Debate, we moved to Wednesday! Please spread the word and post it to your blogs.
The problem with the surprise over the yelling and screaming on the Northside is that there is an obvious need for some people to be heard and they are not being heard.
Paul A. Ellis, Esq., Negotiator / Legal Advisor, One Hill CBA Coalition---pressured to not participate by One Hill members (it's okay, bro)
Goodman’s book, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America’s Gambling Explosion (Simon & Schuster, 1995), is a study of the economic and social impacts of gambling policy in America that grew out of his work as director of the U.S. Gambling Study, a two-year research project funded by the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute.
In his book, Goodman writes that many cities are turning to legal gambling with the hope that it will pump money into their economies. But the reality, he says, is that big-spending tourists don’t flock to these casinos, little new money comes into the region, and what local money is spent is diverted from area restaurants, movie theaters, and shops.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh will present a panel filled with varied and opposing perspectives on the Community Benefits Agreement process in the State of Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on the One Hill Controversy (contentious issues surrounding the One Hill CBA process in the Hill District community and across the City of Pittsburgh).
WHO: Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh
WHAT: A Critical Analysis of the CBA process in Pittsburgh, PA
WHERE: Frick Fine Arts Building, Campus of the University of Pittsburgh
WHEN: Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 6:30pm (seating begins at 6pm)
Topics to explore:
The role of the press (are they just reporting? dividing? conquering?)
The role of the foundation / funding community (who is paying for this and why?)
The role of the faith-based institutions (how important are the ministers and churches, really?)
The role of the labor movement, in general, and Pittsburgh United, in particular
The role of community groups and their fight for resources and self-determination
You should anticipate open discussion and debate from varied and opposing perspectives, grounded in scholarship and reflection, the first of a series.
- November (1)
- September (3)
- August (2)
- June (1)
- May (2)
- April (4)
- March (5)
- February (2)
- January (14)
- December (5)
- November (1)
- Love You, Chester Gregory!
- Brother, Brother, Brother
- The Last Lecture
- Why Many Northside United's Points Are Valid
- So, What is the Problem with CBAs, the Neighborhoo...
- Thank You to Attendees of Critical Analysis Panel
- A Critical Analysis Discussion and Debate on the C...
- A Critical Analysis of the Community Benefits Agre...
- September (2)
The Bomb Bloggers
- Dr. Goddess Facebook Fan Page
- All Hip Hop
- Awesomely Luvvie
- A Black Girl's Guide to Weight Loss
- Black in Cairo
- The Black Snob
- Brother Jesse
- Institute of the Black World
- Jack and Jill Politics
- Jasiri X
- Jean Grae's Blog
- Media Assassin
- Media Strut
- The Negro Intellect
- Netroots Nation
- Random Rhyme & Reason
- Raw Dawg Buffalo
- Rolling Out Magazine
- This Week in Blackness
- The Urban Politico
- Very Smart Brothas
- What About Our Daughters?
- Young, Black and Fabulous