Monday, May 19, 2008

East of Liberty II: The Fear of Us, Bakery Square

Today is May 19, Brother Malcolm X's birthday. If that means something to you, great. If not, perhaps it should but I'm not forcing it on you.

Let's talk about the power of art, caring and sharing. The first time I saw Chris Ivey's "East of Liberty: Part One", I cried. I then showed it here on the Hill and some folks came out but not enough. Now, "East of Liberty: Part Two" is out and I've not seen it yet because I had schedule conflicts with each screening. I'll probably cry again when I see this new chapter because I'm sensitive. I realize this might be hard for some to believe, especially if you've only seen my angry or righteous indignation side; but the truth of the matter is that most artists are extremely sensitive at all times and when you see injustice and inhumanity so close and personal, it causes a very human reaction--empathy, sorrow, despair, rage.

So, imagine my glee when Chris Ivey, the Documentarian / Hyperboymedia put an excerpt called "Bakery Square" on YouTube for us all to watch.

I have some great advice for the folks in East Liberty / the East End if they are seeking a Community Benefits Agreement or any type of proper reinvestment. You know where to find me.

Thank you, Chris, and let me know your thoughts, folks.

Happy Birthday, Brother Malcolm. I'm so sorry we don't appreciate you enough but my elders didn't even when you were alive, so I'm not surprised.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The One Hill CBA

So, this Saturday, the One Hill CBA Coalition is going to vote on Saturday to pass the tentative CBA Agreement "up or down". Despite reports that Chair, Carl Redwood, is quoted as saying that "the majority" of the members must vote in order for it to pass, the reality (confirmed last Monday and the Monday prior) is that only twenty (20) of the 98 supposed members of One Hill need to vote in order to meet "quorum" and only a majority (as opposed to the consensus touted by Tom Hoffman at the beginning of this situation) is required to pass.

So, at bare minimum, only eleven (11) people need to vote "yes" in order to pass the One Hill CBA. It's so sad, it's amusing, especially considering that the negotiation team is nine (9) persons and the strategy team is a total of twelve (12) persons, which includes the negotiation team. So, quite frankly, the strategy team can vote the entire CBA "up" with very little effort (or approval) from the community.

Unfortunately, I'm not confident that many of the organizational representatives or their members really know what's in the CBA and what they're voting for. There were over 50 persons in attendance two weeks ago; but there was so much confusion over what was actually in the CBA (including the most recent inclusion of the value / reinvestment amount of the 28-acre site) that some of the members asked for another week to ask questions, get answers, etc. And, unfortunately, it seems the next meeting (this past Monday) was not advertised because approximately 15 persons (total) showed up. Evan Frazier was well-meaning in attempting to answer the questions posed but he did not know many of the answers and it was clear that any revisions offered from the week prior either weren't considered or just weren't taken seriously---and certainly not included.

Carl Redwood announced that the CBA will not be changed at all this week and that members needed to vote the present CBA up or down. I later found out after the meeting that the CBA is still being worked upon every single day and that the Pens have even attempted to provide a further clause. This sort of back-and-forth between the lawyers was presented as the reason for which the detailed CBA was not passed out three (3) weeks ago.

It's pretty amazing how this is all going down.

In its present form, I would not vote for the CBA and here's why:

1. The last-minute inclusion of the 28-acre site WITHOUT proper reinvestment is a sham, plain and simple. Sure, there is job inclusion and work on the Masterplan but the Pens are trying to get away with not providing ONE DIME of reinvestment based on the 28-acre site.

2. The Neighborhood Partnership Program that is proposed offers $500,00 per year for six years with a POSSIBILITY to renew for another six years, which is not enough.

The problem? The Pens aren't paying one dime into this fund either. They are going to help "in good faith" find corporate partners. Gimme a break. (For the record, the NPP was suggested by Jake Wheatley as a START 1.5 years ago).

3. The Pens spent a year and a half telling everyone within an eye or ear's reach that the Arena is not built with public subsidy, therefore they should not have to provide reinvestment relative to the CBA. Now, they have allowed for language regarding the 28-acre site but with little to no PROPER reinvestment (i.e. not one dime based on the huge amount of public subsidy and profit to come from this site). For those who might have forgotten the gargantuan amount of public subsidy the Pens received, click here. This is unacceptable.

4. The City and the County robbed the Hill District community of Don Barden's $350 million dollars of spurred development in the Lower Hill with a focus upon sweeping that development up through the Centre Ave. corridor and above Crawford Street. They chose to give it to the Pens but are not forcing them to provide PROPER reinvestment for the arena and the 28-acre site.

5. The BEST part of the CBA has the LEAST amount of proper investment --- the One Hill First Source Hiring Center (patterned after the Milwaukee Big Step Program), which is set to be funded at $90,000 per year for two (2) years, subject to the availability of funds and with the hope that the Falk and Heinz Foundations will supplement this gap. But this is not their responsibility, the funding should come from the PENS.

The Hill Faith and Justice Alliance has been repeatedly maligned in this process because we insist on much more and, you know, a novel idea that---we live, work and play here.

And now for the amazing One Hill double standard:

1. In April 2007, the Hill Faith and Justice alliance demanded, among other things, $10 million dollars in reinvestment funds for development.

Now, One Hill's negotiating for $3 million dollars in reinvestment funds for development with the possibility of $3 million more if the NPP program is renewed for another six years. Add the $1 million for the grocery store and we're at $7 million total.

We were considered elitist, extortionists, greedy, crazy, the whole nine.

2. We were kicked out of One Hill, supposedly, for negotiating separately for the CBA when we are the ones who secured a commitment for the CBA to begin with. The truth is, we were kicked out because of the agreement between three entities because we were considered too radical and demanding too much---supposedly without the community. This was entirely untrue, it was all about control but at the end of the day, preventing the history from ever being known to One Hill members, as a whole, in addition to relentless attacks from various parties inside of the organization only served to maintain the division, no matter how many times we reached out. Carl's response: "just join One Hill", which is hilarious.

Hypocritical much?

I could go on but I'll have to get into it later. Just thinking about this makes me sleepy and I have set new limits of what I can tolerate for myself.

All that I ask at this point is that Ron Porter not be allowed to return to the Hill House Association Board to help advise or otherwise manage monies flowing through the Hill House Association after he "temporarily resigned" from the Board to take a Senior Consultant position with the Pittsburgh Penguins to negotiate a substandard CBA and talk smack on the community the entire time.

Shady much?

See ya.