Friday, October 16, 2009

GCCW press release picked up by and Washington Times

President Obama: We will rebuild this region -

Obama makes first presidential New Orleans visit -

Release: Interfaith Leaders urge President Obama: Make Poverty, Climate and Coastal Restoration Priorities in Gulf Coast Communities


SOURCE: Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign
CONTACT: Mary Fontenot - ACT (504) 495-5338
David Gauthe - BISCO (985) 438-2148

Over 50 Christian, Jewish, Muslim Leaders Urge President Obama:
Make Poverty and Environment Priorities with Civic Works Jobs for Gulf Coast Communities

New Orleans, LA, October 15, 2009 –
As President Barack Obama arrives in New Orleans for this first visit since his historic election, over 50 leading religious officials and faith-based organizations are urging the President for robust long-term hurricane recovery policy to tackle poverty, coastal erosion and climate change. The signers include Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, National Council of Churches; Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America; Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Bishop Charles E. Blake, Church of God in Christ; Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, The Episcopal Church; Dr. Joel C. Hunter; Nancy Ratzan, National Council of Jewish Women; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners; and Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, Christian Church.

The letter explains, “Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees were breached, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, climate change and coastal land loss have created a moral crisis across the region that demands a powerful response from people of faith and our elected officials.” Organized by Louisiana-based interfaith groups All Congregations Together (ACT) and Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), the letter urges President Obama to look to a bipartisan bill, HR 2269, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, as a model for resident-led recovery policy to “ensure just and sustainable recovery for all Gulf Coast communities”. HR 2269 would create 100,000 green jobs for hurricane survivors rebuilding affordable housing and infrastructure, restoring wetlands and promoting energy efficiency and climate change resiliency.

The letter was written in coordination with “Fighting Poverty with Faith” (, an interfaith week of action October 14th-21st, 2009 focused on urging elected officials to make poverty-reduction a key goal in the nation’s transition to a new green economy.

ACT and BISCO are co-founders of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign (, a nonpartisan partnership of community, faith, environmental, student, and human rights organizations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi and their national allies advocating for federal legislation based on HR 2269 the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We applaud your decision to travel to New Orleans to witness the state of recovery of the Gulf Coast. We also welcome the emphasis of this Administration on solving the bureaucratic struggles which hamper hurricane recovery funding from reaching the ground. Still, we are hopeful that after hearing from local leaders and hurricane survivors during your trip, you can return to Washington with a renewed understanding of the significant gaps that remain towards fulfilling the federal government’s promises of rebuilding stronger, safer and more equitable Gulf Coast communities. Four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck and the levees were breached, the slow pace of recovery, persistent poverty, climate change and coastal land loss have created a moral crisis across the region that demands a powerful response from people of faith and our elected officials.

Our national response to these natural and man-made disasters has yet to protect the well-being of the Gulf Coast’s most vulnerable people and places through long-term recovery policies which restore the environment, rebuild lives and respect human rights.

As communities of faith, we are grounded in a shared tradition of justice and compassion and we are called upon to hold ourselves and our nation accountable to the moral standard of this tradition. As we look across America’s Gulf Coast, we see:

Ø Thousands living in toxic FEMA trailers as they struggle to rebuild their homes;
Ø Tens of thousands of displaced survivors unable to return home with dignity and safety;
Ø Homelessness and rental housing costs rising while affordable housing projects grind to a halt with the crash of financial markets;
Ø Insufficient access to health care facilities, particularly in the areas of mental health where needs for these facilities and services have grown substantially for survivors; and
Ø Many more unable to access proper training and living wage work to pay for life’s necessities and find pathways out of poverty.

At the same time, Gulf Coast communities see deadlier storms, rising sea levels from climate change, and a majority of our nation’s coastal erosion occurring each year along the Gulf of Mexico, further threatening the future of our communities.

This means that four years after our nation’s largest disaster the survivors of these storms remain vulnerable; leaving a spiritual wound open across the region, one felt in God’s creation and every community across this country. We must act now to target the challenges facing our most vulnerable communities; rebuilding more resilient and equitable neighborhoods, restoring God’s creation and empowering our brothers and sisters to overcome the devastation and lift themselves from poverty.

While you visit New Orleans, faith communities across the country are engaging in an interfaith week of action “Fighting Poverty with Faith,” October 14th-21st, 2009, in order to urge our elected officials to make poverty-reduction a key goal of the transition to a new green economy. Surely, no part of the country presents a greater need and opportunity for environmental restoration and economic revitalization than America’s Gulf Coast.

Members of diverse faith communions have already responded generously to these disasters, volunteering thousands of hours to rebuild lives across Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and giving millions in charitable donations. Faith groups have formed powerful new partnerships with local community leaders, non-profits and other denominations, to lead some of the most successful efforts in the recovery.

We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how profound, cannot provide everything needed for a just recovery. Gulf Coast families deserve a federal government that recognizes their human rights and needs by partnering with them to rebuild and sustain their communities.

Billions in Congressionally appropriated funds remain un-obligated or unspent and could potentially be used to address unmet recovery needs in a pilot project for promoting innovative partnerships with local governments, faith-based and community organizations. A framework for accomplishing these goals already exists and continues to be embraced by a growing bi-partisan coalition of grassroots and elected leaders across the Gulf Coast. We urge your Administration and leaders in both parties of Congress to support policy based on the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269) to:

Ø Provide targeted training and hiring of residents and hurricane survivors for jobs;
Ø Rebuild affordable housing and vital community infrastructure;
Ø Restore natural flood protection, including barrier islands and wetlands;
Ø Promote energy efficiency and resiliency to future disasters and climate change;
Ø Make contracting and subcontracting opportunities accessible to local businesses; and
Ø Work with community and faith-based non-profits and local governments to plan and implement recovery projects to target the needs and ensure the rights of vulnerable populations, especially women, residents with disabilities, low income, minority, and immigrant communities.

We look forward to working with your Administration to ensure just and sustainable recovery for all Gulf Coast communities.


Mary Fontenot
Executive Director, All Congregations Together (ACT) of New Orleans

Sharon Gauthe
Executive Director, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)

Rabbi Steve Gutow
Executive Director, The Jewish Council of Public Affairs

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
National Director, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America

The Most Rev. Charles E. Blake
Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Charlie Clements
President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)

Ruth Flowers
Legislative Director, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President; and
Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, Executive Vice President and CEO
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt
Co-Chair Special Commission on the Just Re-building of the Gulf Coast

National Council of Churches

Dr. Joel C. Hunter *
Senior Pastor, Northland – A Church Distributed

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Shelley Lindauer
Executive Director
Women of Reform Judaism

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Co-Chair Special Commission on the Just Re-building of the Gulf Coast

National Council of Churches

Sr. Gayle Lwanga, RGS
National Coordinator, National Advocacy Center

Sisters of the Good Sheppard

Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski
Program Coordinator, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary, The Church of the Brethren

Nancy Ratzan
President, National Council of Jewish Women

Dr. Meg Riley
Director, Washington Office, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dr. H. Eric Schockman
President, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Dr. Ronald J. Sider
President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Dr. Ann E. Smith
President, Gamaliel Foundation

Rev. Jim Wallis
CEO and President, Sojourners

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Jim Winkler
General Secretary, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Bishop John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III
Executive Director, National Ministries
American Baptist Churches USA

Rabbi Shawn Zevit
Director of Outreach and Tikkun Olam, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray

Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi

Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

Rt. Rev. William W. Hutchinson
Bishop, Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church

Rt. Rev. Morgan Ward
Bishop, Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church

Roberta Avila
Executive Director, STEPS Coalition

Dianne Aid
Episcopal Network for Economic Justice

Dr. Abed Ayoub
CEO, Islamic Relief USA

Quo Vadis G. Breaux
Executive Director, Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal
New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Center

Rev. Carol Burnett
Director, Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative
Director, Moore Community House

Rev. Al Carter
Chairman, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)

Rev. Alan Coe
Minister for Disaster Recovery, S.C. Conference, United Church of Christ

Rev. Tyronne Edwards
Founder/Executive Director, Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, Inc. Phoenix, LA

Dr. Alice Graham
Executive Director, Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force

Sharon Hanshaw
Executive Director, Coastal Women for Change

Dr. Frederick Haynes, III
Senior Pastor
Friendship West Baptist Church

Rev. Jacob Jang
General Secretary, Korean Presbyterian Church in America

David C. Jehnsen
Founder, The Institute for Human Rights and Responsibilities

Dr. Matthew V. Johnson
National Director, Every Church a Peace Church

Trinh Le
Community Empowerment Coordinator, Hope Community Development Agency (Hope CDA)

Glenda Perryman
Executive Director, Immaculate Heart Community Development Corp., Inc.

Marcia Peterson
Director, Desire Street Ministries/CDC 58:12 Inc.

Rev. Gilbert Scie
Pastor, Greater Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church of New Orleans

Rev. Cory Sparks
Chair, Commission on Stewardship of the Environment,
Louisiana Interchurch Conference

Bill Stallworth
City Councilmember of Ward 2 Biloxi, Mississippi

Sister Mary Turgi
Director, Holy Cross International Justice Office

Rev. Jim VanderWeele
Senior Pastor, Community Church Unitarian Universalist of New Orleans

* Organization listed for purpose of identification


Friday, October 09, 2009

Assemblymember Beall calls Public Works to Solve Unemployment Crisis

Dear Friends,

Unemployment is hitting record levels in California, costing working families not only their income but their health coverage. We must get people back to work. One way is to get started fast on important public works projects that can generate hundreds of thousands of jobs - repairing our fragile levees and building the high-speed rail project. These bond-approved projects represent our state's own stimulus plan. Read more...

If you have a question or an issue with a state agency or department or need assistance, please contact my office by visiting my Assembly website.

Best regards,

Jim Beall, Jr.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dr. Myers-Lipton's lecture at the Dean's Symposium, "Poverty: Problems and Solutions," San José State University, October 6, 2010

How to Solve the Unemployment Crisis and End Poverty
Dean Hegstrom, distinguished colleagues, students.

It is an honor to speak at this symposium, and to address one of the pressing social issues facing our nation, which is our extremely high rate of poverty, and how it is possible to end this scourge.

Without much notice, our already high rate poverty has been inching up to record levels at the rate of 1 million people each year for the past decade, so today, we now have 39.8 million people living in poverty. What this means to our families is that 19% of our children are growing up in poverty, which to me, and I hope you, is a moral outrage.

In addition to this increase in poverty, inequality has also increased to record levels, as the gap between rich and poor has increased.

And more recently, unemployment has increased to 15.1 million people. There are more people unemployed today than during the Great Depression. Clearly, America is in crisis.

We don’t have time today to discuss the reasons for this poverty and inequality crisis….suffice it to say that it has a great deal to do with:
  • globalization and the outsourcing of jobs;
  • a dual economy that produces both high-end jobs, as well as low-end jobs;
  • a conservative philosophy that has dominated U.S. politics for the past 30 years, with its goal of keeping minimum wage low and limiting social programs;
  • and a relentless attack on labor unions.
Now, we are living in a unique time, as the nation recently suffered through Hurricane Katrina, one of the great disasters of our history—killing 1,874 people—the majority of which were over 65, destroying 250,000 homes and 320 million trees. In addition to the destruction that Hurricane Katrina brought, it exposed to nation and world our poverty crisis.

For a brief moment in time, all the world had a chance to see that the USA was not paved in gold, but rather, it showed how America is in fact the leader in industrialized world when it comes to poverty rates.

Yet, poverty has NOT just plagued this generation, but rather has been a defining issue, from the founding right up to today. Unquestionably, we pay a price for our high rate of poverty, as it damages the individual and the larger society.

Our poverty has led to:
  • high rates of infant mortality, crime, violence, divorce, and lead poisoning,
  • it has also led to lower test scores in school and lower life expectancy.
So what to do about reducing, or even ending poverty?? I would like to highlight two of the ideas that have been the most successful in our nation’s history. Both of them are based in work. The first idea creates living wage jobs, while the 2nd idea makes sure that work is rewarded.

The first recommendation to reduce poverty is public works. During the New Deal, the USA reduced poverty for millions during the Great Depression by providing them with jobs. The New Deal public works of the CWA, PWA, WPA, and CCC—this alphabet soup of programs--injected $336 billion in 2008 dollars into the economy, hired over 10 million people, and in combination with other New Deal initiatives cut unemployment from almost 24% in 1933 to 10% by 1940.

This 13.6% decrease was the single greatest drop in the unemployment rate in U.S. history. In addition, reducing unemployment and poverty, New Deal public works built or repaired over:
  • 2,500 hospitals
  • 9,000 parks
  • 43,000 schools
  • 125,000 bridges
  • almost 1 million miles of highways & roads,
  • they stocked 1 billion fish
  • and planted 3 billion trees.
Public workers literally built the infrastructure that we still utilize.

Today, with our unemployment and poverty rates at record levels, public works can once again help to solve our social problems. Here at San José State University, I have been working with my students for the past 3 years on this idea of public works.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, my students and I proposed a modern-day civic works projects for the Gulf Coast. We renamed public works “civic works,” since the body politic didn’t seem to be working for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Today, 35 Congress members and over 250 regional and national organizations are advocating for the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269), HR 2269 would create 100,000 green and living-wage jobs and training opportunities for Gulf Coast residents and displaced citizens to rebuild public infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and restore the wetlands.

In addition to creating living wage jobs, Civic Works is a powerful tool for poverty reduction as it:
  • 1st: Allows for citizen participation in Local Advisory Boards so that regular people are involved in the decisions about what gets built in their community
  • 2nd: Supports equitable economic development (first source hiring, 20% apprenticeable jobs, and the protection of people of color, women, and immigrants)
  • 3rd: Provides job training and hiring of local contractors and non-profits for long-term development
  • 4th: Focuses on environmentally sustainable, green construction jobs, and expands public works to include child and elderly care, teaching, and public health projects
  • 5th: Provides a dynamic, hybrid model of federal oversight and local control
Importantly, we see the GCCW Act as a model for the rest of the nation about how to reduce poverty and rebuild infrastructure by using a bottom-up model of community development. Plans are already in the works for a California Civic Works Act based on HR 2269.

The 2nd idea I want to recommend to decrease poverty are income transfer payments in the form of Earned Income Tax Credits. Income transfers were used successfully during the War on Poverty, as they played a major role in decreasing poverty from 36 million or 19% of the total population in 1964 to 24 million people or 12% in 1969.

This 7% cut in poverty, which came as a result of income transfers through Social Security and welfare, was one of the greatest decreases in poverty in the history of the nation. More recently, President Clinton expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, so it now provides $36 billon a year to low-wage workers, and it reduces poverty by 5 million people a year.

To make work pay, I would advocate that the EITC would be expanded again, but instead of the average payment being $1,050, I recommend that it is targeted at the middle class, so it truly lifts people out of poverty. The idea is that if you work, you should not make a poverty wage, but rather a living wage, and the government would in essence provide a tax rebate to reward work.

You might ask, where would we get the money for Civic Works and the Earned Income Tax Credit? I would argue that if we, the American tax payer, can bail out banks and mega-firms to the tune of $2 trillion dollars, we can surely spend much less to end poverty in America.

For me, reducing, and someday ending poverty, is not just a sociological exercise, but it is a moral imperative! It is immoral to have 40 million people in poverty in the richest country in the world…and it is immoral that the US has 1 in 5 children living in poverty.

It must be stopped, and Civic Works and the Earned Income Tax Credit targeted at the middle class can help to end this scourge of poverty.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Alabama Hurricane Katrina Survivors Go to Washington

Fifty-five (55) hurricane survivors and advocates from Louisiana to Alabama braved a nearly 40 hour round-trip bus ride to lobby 2 days for The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, HR 2269 which would create 100,000 prevailing wage jobs for the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina to rebuild their devastated maritime/seaport communities, and coastal wetlands environment.

Click here to read the whole article.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Congressional Tri-Caucus Sponsors Briefing on HR 2269

Four Years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
Human Rights and Green Jobs for America's Gulf Coast
Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269):
Stronger, More Sustainable and More Equitable Communities
A Congressional Briefing Sponsored by
The Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign

In conjunction with the
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus,
Congressional Black Caucus, and
Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Tuesday, September 22nd 2009
(Refreshments will be served starting at 11:30a)
Cannon Caucus Room, 345 CHOB

Four years after our nation's largest disaster, Gulf Coast communities, especially residents with disabilities, poor, elderly, minority and immigrant communities, continue to struggle. The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (HR 2269) builds on the success of innovative resident-led community and faith-based non-profits to rebuild lives and neighborhoods. The Act would create 100,000 green, living wage jobs rebuilding infrastructure and affordable housing, restoring natural flood protection, and promoting energy efficiency. This legislation would allow the federal government to directly partner with municipal officials, non-profits and community agencies to tackle the biggest remaining recovery challenges and ensure hurricane survivors' right to return with dignity and safety and participate in the recovery of their communities. It is supported by over 240 local and national community, faith, environmental, and human rights organizations. Over 100 diverse survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will travel to DC September 22-23 to attend this briefing and discuss the legislation with Congressional staff.
Vicky Cintra, Organizing Coordinator, Gulf Coast Office, Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance
David Gauthe, Program Director, BISCO - Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing
(Thibodaux, LA)
Trinh Le, Community Empowerment Coordinator, Hope Community Development Agency (Biloxi, MS)
Shakoor Alujawani, Organizer, Louisiana Episcopal Community Services (New Orleans, LA)
Moderator: Stephen Bradberry, 2005 RFK Human Rights Award Winner and Nat. Campaign Coordinator, ACORN
Co-Sponsoring Organizations:
RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights - Oxfam America - ACORN - Alabama Arise
All Congregations Together - Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America - BISCO - Boat People SOS
Gulf Coast Civic Works Project - - Hope CDA - Louisiana Episcopal Community Services
LA Interchurch Conference, Council on Environmental Stewardship
Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance - MS Coast Interfaith Disaster Taskforce
MS Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities - NAACP - National Alliance of Vietnamese American Service Agencies
National Council of La Raza - Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
South Bay Communities Alliance - STEPS Coalition
Turkey Creek Community Initiative - Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness Ministries -U.S. Human Rights Network