Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gulf Coast Civic Works on KFBK Newstalk 1530

Today, these two short interviews were on KFBK Newstalk 1530, which is the number 1 news radio station in Sacramento.

First interview [click here]
Second interview [click here]

best, scott
Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D.
Associate Professor,
Sociology Department
Community Change Concentration
San José State University
(510) 508-5382


At 1:21 PM , Blogger Dr. Marty Rowland said...

October 7, 2007

Subject: From Jena to New Orleans – responses to injustice and a call to action
From: Marty Rowland, C3 – Hands Off Iberville, housing advocate

On September 20, 2007, the world held a spotlight on Jena, Louisiana and the crimes of that town’s criminal justice system were laid out for all to see. We saw a clear case of racism against African American youth, with all the trappings of taunts, symbols of hate, fights, and unequal justice. The source of outrage so clear, even Fox News gave the Jena 6 story straight coverage. Everybody was on board. However, in New Orleans the post-Katrina injustice of the systematic cleansing of African American youth and their parents from their homes at the City’s public housing projects has not been such a clear cut case of racism, as the perpetrators of the injustice include other African Americans, not the least of whom include the Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, and US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) employee and sole Housing Authority of New Orleans Board member C. Donald Babers. Each of these powerful African Americans have teamed up with politically-tainted, Caucasian Senator David Vitter to block the passage of legislation initiated by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters that would immediately allow those who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina (including thousands of children, teenagers, and their working class parents) to return to their project homes. Seventy percent of those who evacuated have still not returned, all African American, although the City is at seventy percent of its pre-Katrina population.

If Vitter and his political class African American supporters successfully block passage of what is known as Senate Bill 1668, or the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (GCHRA), 4,500 units of public housing will see the wrecking ball before Christmas 2007, leaving no more than 2,000 units out of a 1996 total of 14,000 units. Vitter and his pals call the demolition of historically significant, well-constructed brick buildings that served the needs of thousands of low-income families over seven decades REFORM. Keep in mind that these units survived Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Katrina in 2005. They are wrong and clearly guilty of class cleansing, as described below. We could add the charge of racism, as all the victims are African American, except that Vitter’s pals are also African American. It’s clearly a case of money and corruption to get money, as described below.

1. Vitter claims that a type of federally-supplied, historically significant architecture known to many as a “public housing project” destroyed New Orleans as much as the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. So when did this infliction occur? In the 1940s and 50s, the Iberville project was a segregated white, working class housing development. Iberville and the non-white project at Lafitte were safe neighborhoods of children, teenagers, and parents. Poverty was not concentrated then by those bricks and mortar, so something must have happened in the 1960s to the present day to create the conditions that Vitter now abhors, not only at Iberville and Lafitte, but at those projects slated for demolition that include the St. Bernard project. Who doesn’t abhor crime and drug abuse? It is no secret that administration and management of those public facilities changed. For decades up to the present day, federal housing policy rewards those who abandon the City for Vitter’s Jefferson Parish suburbia. Housing funds were and continue to be squandered by corrupt officials. Further, local and federal government chose and continues to choose to withhold equal crime prevention protection for “innocent” residents of the projects. A similar disrespect destroyed community schools through similar policy, practice, and management choices of officials, not through choices of residents. The type of architecture had and has nothing to do with cycles of crime and drug abuse.

2. So we know that African American children, teenagers, and their parents are the losers in this failed New Orleans public housing policy over the years. Vitter names them the trapped innocent residents. Who are the winners of this failed public housing who effectively trap children, teenagers, and their parents? Let us begin with HUD Secretary under President Reagan, Samuel Pierce from the Reagan era. Sixteen of his staffers were convicted of crimes that temporarily had them as winners. Now we have Jimmie Thorns, William Hairston, and current Secretary of HUD Alphonso Jackson of the present era. HUD housing policy is ripe with corruption that is not under serious review by authorities, although HUD Inspector General and FBI are going through the motions now, questioning officials about one miscue of Secretary Jackson who rewarded golfing buddy William Hairston a mere $485,777, no bid contract.

3. Who would derail important public housing reform? Rather than GCHRA stalling needed housing reform it is Senator Vitter who is stalling the reform. Immediate and thorough investigations of corruption at the highest level of HUD need to commence tomorrow. The reform would begin with the suspension of all contracts HUD has with companies associated with HUD’s Jackson, including Columbia Residential that was recently awarded a $127 million contract to redevelop the St. Bernard project. Clearly a conflict, Secretary Jackson is owed as much as $500,000 for work previously performed but not paid by Columbia before becoming HUD Secretary. What could Jackson do to pry that money loose that Columbia is protecting short of a quid pro quo smoking gun arrangement? Columbia would demolish St. Bernard project and rebuild it with fewer units for children and teenagers who once lived there and for those who need housing today and will need it tomorrow.

4. Real reform would end the non-transparent and non-accountable operations of Jimmie Thorns’ New Orleans Industrial Development Board (IDB), who as the Times-Picayune’s James Gill and the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) correctly note are not bound to requiring beneficiaries of the tax breaks that IDB issues to demonstrate social need or potential public benefit; they should respond to any reasonable request about how public revenue is disbursed but do not. A billion dollars worth of tax breaks for demolishing public housing were issued by IDB recently. No accountability is expected or asked for by Vitter and his pals.

5. Real reform would see residents taking control of their neighborhoods as that has occurred in similar circumstances in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor, with cooperative public housing arrangements. First-floor businesses and second-floor residences is the design advocated by the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) and it is a feature that could improve the lives of children, teenagers, and parents living in the targeted projects. Real reform would retain all viable housing projects which include nearly all of the 4,500 units slated for demolition. This conforms to a standard of the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a nationally-recognized architecture-engineering standard for neighborhood development and building design. Enough points could be granted to qualify the redevelopment of St. Bernard project according to the ideas I present above to at least a certified LEED design and it would allow all who evacuated to return home, including all who were on the pre-Katrina waiting list for public housing.

6. It is not cheap keeping African American children, teenagers, and parents from re-populating traditional neighborhoods such as the St. Bernard project, as Vitter will admit it is, if asked. Six thousand market-rate vouchers amount to approximately $120 million per year and if Vitter has his way, he would increase the number of vouchers, perhaps for the 8,000 families of children and teenagers who were on the waiting list for public housing before Katrina. Vouchers alone could easily amount to a billion dollars every three years, an opportunity cost that could be better spent on more sustainable, resident-managed solutions for affordable housing as outlined above. Vitter is comfortable with enriching a non-accountable class of real estate developers at billions of dollars in tax breaks and at hundreds of millions per year for a non-accountable class of landlords while ignoring the blatant conflicts of interests of those he compliments including Secretary Jackson and Messrs. Hairston and Thorns. All this money spent NOT on alleviating the problems of those “innocents” of public housing for whom Vitter’s crocodile tears are feigned to flow.

Call to Action!
Jordan Flaherty and Xochitl Bervera reported on the importance of 50,000 people supporting Mychal Bell and the other five defendants in Jena. Flaherty said the September 20th action was not about division, but rather a generational moment….a watershed moment…a victory if it brings about conversation on race that we were promised after Katrina. He also asks those who came to Jena to return home and find the Mychal Bell of their home town and in that way lead to a broader and deeper action by those who refuse to be silent. Bervera calls for accountability from elected officials regarding the criminal justice system….a system that must be decoupled such that a real system of public safety can be realized, that is prevention oriented, that advocates principles of restorative and transformative justice, that makes victim and community whole, that creatively resolves conflict, and that is community-based, assures quality education, and eliminates racism. New Orleans’ housing advocates agree. Those leaving Jena who vowed to memorialize that watershed moment should pick up the gauntlet thrown by those who would class cleanse New Orleans working class African American children, teenagers, and their parents.

What can you do to help?
We have two actions coming up, designed to put political pressure on Senator Vitter to do the right thing and support the GCHRA legislation that would allow all Katrina evacuees to return to their homes and allow all those on waiting lists for affordable housing to get into units that could be made available in short order, were the political will there.


Action #1
Friday, October 12, 2007, 7pm, at the end of Poydras Street at the river, Hilton Riverside Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana - ForeKids Foundation has a black tie / fundraiser event to celebrate their planned demolition of 1,396 units of housing at the St. Bernard project. This group is associated with the apparently corrupt Columbia Residential company implicated with HUD Secretary Jackson’s conflict of interest. We demand that HUD officially rescind the contract with Columbia Residential so that no unit of housing at the St. Bernard project is demolished, and that Secretary Jackson support passage of GCHRA.

Meet at 6 pm at the boarded up St. Bernard project, 3800 block of St. Bernard Avenue, at Foy Street. We will carpool to the event. Bring signs, banners, flyers, and energy.


Action #2
Saturday, October 13, 2007, 2 pm, at Senator Vitter’s home in the mostly white suburban town of Metairie, Louisiana located in “Old Metairie.” We are planning to show Vitter the faces of the children he wants to permanently displace from their homes so his pals can profit handsomely. Mr. Family Values has a few chickens coming home to roost. We demand that HUD officially rescind the contract with Columbia Residential so that no unit of housing at the St. Bernard project is demolished, and that Secretary Jackson support passage of GCHRA. Poking fun at Vitter’s choice of sex mates is OK.

Meet at 1 pm at the boarded up St. Bernard project, 3800 block of St. Bernard Avenue, at Foy Street. We will carpool to the event. Bring signs, banners, flyers, and energy.

Nobody will change our history for the better but us. Let it begin today.

C3 means Concern, Community, and Compassion.


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