In an unusual unanimous vote, the Oakland City Council passed the Oakland Together budget that included $44.4 million in amendments to the administration’s original proposal, focusing city investments on the homeless crisis, affordable housing, maintaining local parks and tackling illegal blight remediation.
The Oakland Together budget, approved on June 24, also restored cuts to Parks Maintenance positions and increased funding around police accountability and workforce development.
The budget was introduced by Council President Rebecca Kaplan together with Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, and Sheng Thao.
“I want to thank my colleagues for working hard to provide for the needs of our community,” said Council President Kaplan. “A special thank you to Councilmembers Thao, Bas and Taylor for serving on the budget team, and to Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb for their thoughtful amendments. And to Vice Mayor Reid and Councilmember Gallo for their successful advocacy for pro-active illegal dumping removal and cracking down on people who trash Oakland. “Although we made significant progress, there is still critical work to do including valuing working people and increasing funding for workforce development.”
One key inclusion for police reform was funding to study the CAHOOTS model of sending EMT and mental health workers to respond to appropriate 911 calls reducing the need for police to intervene in an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.
For housing and unsheltered neighbors there is funding for mobile showers and restrooms, a navigation center, a tiny house village project and additional safe parking sites.
The Oakland Together budget adds funding for food security and healthy options by adding funding to Meals on Wheels and the Alameda Food Bank and piloting a healthy food conversion program in corner stores in East and West Oakland.
To alleviate blight and illegal dumping, the Council added a fourth illegal dumping crew, additional cameras and enforcement measures, and an educational outreach program to assure that people know Oakland is not the place to dump their trash; and assist homeowners and other small property owners in adding an Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or other projects to their properties, the budget adds evening hours at the permit desks for planning/building.
The budget amendments secured funding for workforce development programs, and the council still needs to assure the programs are fully funded and working to help unemployed and underemployed community members get the training they need to secure living wage jobs, said Kaplan. Employment in the Black community is much higher than their unemployed white counterparts, and a thriving workforce development program that focuses on equity is a solid step to balance the inequity, she said.
There is also the issue of impact fees. It is important to have transparency around funds paid to the city for the benefit of community.
Finally, city staff gave much in the downturn, some even count among Oakland’s working homeless. It’s time to thank them for making the sacrifices the city needed and reward them with a contract that shows that residents value the work they do every day to keep the city running efficiently and effectively, said Kaplan.
Water has for the most part has been restored to the residents of Poe Homes in West Baltimore. But an air of wariness remains among residents at the aging housing project after the weeks long ordeal of losing access to water has raised concerns the low-income facility was a low priority for the city.
A variety of residents spoke to the AFRO about last week’s perilous outage, and most said they still believe that the prolonged period without water in their homes was in part a matter of long-term neglect.
“If this problem happened in Fells Point, they would have got it done, they would have gotten it done in two days, “a resident who only wanted to be identified as Ms K. told the AFRO.
“We’re Poe Homes, I feel they look at us as being the poor people.”
Shanelle, a five-year resident said life was difficult during the nearly eight days she went without water.
“We weren’t able to wash clothes take a bath or shower,” she said. “We had to use the bottled water they gave us to flush the toilets.”
Officials with the Department of Public Works dispute that Poe homes was neglected. In an interview with the AFRO DPW spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said repair efforts began immediately and have been ongoing since the crisis began.
“This was absolutely a priority,” he said. “We never left this alone.”.
“This was not a reflection of our customers, but the infrastructure.”
He said the agency that manages the city’s water infrastructure was blindsided by a cascading series of events that culminated in an inoperative water main connected to Poe’s primary water supply line.
“It goes back to some valves that failed several weeks ago,” Raymond said. “In the course of shutting them down some of the valves failed.”
But, several residents pointed just across the street as an example of how the city prioritizes resources. Less than a block from Poe Homes stands the Center West apartment complex, a brand new rental development funded in part by an $80 million tax break.
“They never want to come and fix here, they want to build for the tourists,” a young resident named Tezz said.
In fact, some say the new development billed as a “luxury” apartment complex stands in stark contrast to conditions they contend with daily.
“They are building pools inside those apartments,” Tezz noted. “You have to put two and two together.”
Help for the embattled residents may come with strings attached.
Last year, the Baltimore Business Journal reported that Poe Homes was the recipient a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The grant is intended to study and prepare for an overhaul of the development, which the city’s housing department hopes to make part of the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, or RAD.
The program allows private developers to purchase public housing in exchange for making much needed repairs. Critics have said the program prioritizes profits over well maintained publicly subsidized housing.
“The RAD program is as American as apple pie; use government funds to guarantee profits to the private sector while meeting the needs of 25 percent of those requiring assistance,” Jeff Singer, a professor for the University of Maryland School of Social Work told the AFRO.
Also adding to the anxiety of residents is a ten percent increase in their water bills effective July 1. It is a rate hike they say is ill-timed.
“I don’t think they should do that now,” Shanelle said.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.
Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a new letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General formally requesting an investigation into the Trump Administration’s decision to delay release of the redesign of the twenty-dollar bill.
More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.
Leader Schumer is demanding answers to the official explanation by the Trump Administration about why the bill’s release has been delayed. In the letter, Leader Schumer specifically requests that the Treasury Inspector General examine whether political considerations played a role in the decision to delay the release and why the Treasury Secretary suggested that it would take a decade or more to produce a new $20 bill.
The request seeks a review of the involvement of the interagency process related to the redesign—including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations did not taint the process to recognize Harriet Tubman’s heroic legacy.
Leader Schumer’s letter also comes after he successfully secured the establishment the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Tubman’s hometown, Auburn, NY– which was formally established in January 2017. Schumer fought for years to make Tubman Park a reality. He authored, introduced, and passed legislation authorizing the park and lobbied federal officials to secure the establishment of the park.
Full text of Leader Schumer’s letter is below and a PDF is here.
The Honorable Eric M. Thorson
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Inspector General Thorson:
I write to request that your office investigate the circumstances surrounding the Department of Treasury’s decision to delay redesign of the $20 note featuring the portrait of Harriet Tubman, including any involvement by the White House in this decision. More than three years ago, Secretary Jacob Lew announced that he had ordered the acceleration of redesigns of the $20, $10 and $5 notes, and that the “final concept design” of the $20 note, including Harriet Tubman’s portrait, would be released in 2020.
Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, however, all mentions of the Tubman $20 bill were deleted without explanation from the Treasury Department’s website. Then we learned, according to recent testimony by Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a decision had been made to delay the release of the new $20 note until the year 2028. The Treasury Department subsequently refused to confirm that Harriet Tubman’s image would ever appear on the new note – notwithstanding recent reports that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has already completed extensive planning work on the redesign effort.
We do not know the real reason for these decisions, but we do know that during his campaign, President Trump referred to efforts to replace President Jackson’s likeness on the front of the $20 note as “pure political correctness.” Secretary Mnuchin attempted to explain the delay as necessary to accommodate anti-counterfeiting measures, but it is simply not credible that with all the resources and expertise of the U.S. Treasury and Secret Service, a decade or more could be required to produce a new $20 bill. If the Empire State Building could be completed in 13 months almost 100 years ago, the 21st century Treasury Department ought to be able to get this job done in a reasonable period of time.
Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary American and New Yorker whose story deserves to be shared with current and future generations. She deserves to be honored for her bravery, compassion, and service to the United States. There is no reason to reverse the original decision to recognize her heroic legacy on the $20 note. Any unnecessary delays, especially for political reasons, in redesigning the $20 note in her honor are improper and unacceptable.
For these reasons, I ask that you conduct an investigation into decisions made at the Treasury since January of 2018 regarding the delay of the redesign of the $20 note. I also ask that you review the involvement of other participants in the interagency process related to the redesign – including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations have not been allowed to infect the process for designing American currency.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Charles E. Schumer
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Four years ago, the American Petroleum Institute, the world’s largest energy industry trade association, opened a chapter in Colorado, owing to the growing opportunities from natural gas and oil in the state. Since its inception, the Colorado Petroleum Council has served as an advocate for – and partner to – communities across the state, placing great emphasis on innovation, public health and safety. This has allowed the industry the ability to invest in reducing its emissions to historic lows even as energy production has reached all-time highs.
“Most importantly, Colorado is our home,” said Lynn Granger, the new Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council. “When we arrived in Colorado, our mission wasn’t simply to grow jobs and economic opportunities for the people of our state, though we are encouraged with our progress on that front. We breathe the same air and drink the same water as our neighbors, and we are proud of the leading role that our industry has played – and will continue to play – in the development and implementation of emissions-reducing technologies that benefit all of Colorado’s vibrant communities, regardless of income level, color or creed.”
A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans.
“We’re especially proud of our commitment to education,” continued Granger. “Our industry has taken a leading role in promoting STEM education across Colorado. The natural gas and oil industry continues to grow amidst the American energy renaissance, creating jobs that need to be filled with talented, skilled workers. We are focused on ensuring that Coloradans from every walk of life are given a true and just opportunity to benefit from these opportunities, and the foundation for future success begins in the classroom.”
The natural gas and oil industry is projected to create 1.3 million new jobs between 2015 and 2025, with that number growing to 1.9 million by 2035. Of these new jobs, 707,000, or 38 percent of the total, are projected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers through 2035.
According to a 2018 report based on state and federal data, natural gas and oil operations support over 232,900 Colorado jobs, provide an annual statewide economic impact of more than $31.4 billion, and contribute more than $1.2 billion per year in public revenue to the state, including $180 million toward local universities and school districts.
“These jobs and dollars support communities across Colorado, funding everything from schools, to roads, to emergency responders,” noted Granger. “But they do so much more than that. This has allowed us to redouble our commitment to education at the local level and to serve as true partners in communities across the state. We are proud of the work we have done thus far, but know that there is more to be done for current and future generations of Coloradans.”
Colorado’s natural gas and oil industry, in partnership with dozens of government agencies, has implemented the most robust regulatory framework in the nation. Granger acknowledged that the industry’s growth, and the burgeoning opportunities it provides, can only be sustained with an all-hands effort toward keeping public health and safety paramount.
“None of what our industry does would be worthwhile if not for a round-the-clock effort to mitigate any environmental impacts that could have adverse effects on Colorado communities,” said Granger. “These efforts have been my top priority since assuming this role, and I want the people of our state to know that I will be fierce in promoting a balance between sustainability and the opportunities our industry brings to the table.”
Granger, in closing, recognized the existing disparities in Colorado’s economy, and expressed determination on behalf of her industry to be proactive in addressing the issue.
“People have moved to Colorado in droves from across the country, which has certainly presented challenges. We are committed to turning those challenges into opportunities. Colorado’s economy consistently ranks as best in the nation, but these economic opportunities feel out of reach for too many people in our state. The natural gas and oil industry is committed to being a partner in changing this dynamic. Everyone deserves a shot at the American dream, and the Colorado Petroleum Council and our member companies are unwavering, through investments in education, innovation, and directly into communities, to bringing these dreams to life.”
The world got an idea recently from 92-year-old Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who popularized mindfulness and meditation in the U.S. The monk returned to his home in Vietnam to pass his remaining years. Many admired his desire to live his remaining time in peace and dignity.
Researchers from the University of California-San Diego recently did a literature search to understand what Americans might consider to be a “good death” or “successful dying.” As can be expected, their findings varied. People’s views were determined by their religious, social and cultural norms and influences.
The researchers urged healthcare providers, caregivers and the lay community to have open dialogues about preferences for the dying process.
As scholars who study social health and human services psychology, we found something missing in these conversations — how race impacts life span. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has an equal chance at “dying well.”
Black population and ill health
Take the disease burden of the African American population.
African Americans experience an earlier onset and greater risk of what may be referred to as lifestyle-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 40 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the likelihood of experiencing a first stroke is nearly twice as high for African Americans compared with Whites. African Americans are more than two times more likely to experience a stroke before the age of 55. At age 45, the mortality rate from stroke is three times higher for Blacks compared to Whites.
This disease burden consequently leads to their higher mortality rates and overall shorter life expectancy for Blacks compared to Whites.
And while the life expectancy gap differs by only a few years, 75.3 for Blacks and 78.9 for Whites as of 2016, research suggests that African Americans suffer more sickness. This is due in part to the increased prevalence of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes in this population.
Genetics, biological factors and lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and smoking, help explain a portion of these differences. However, researchers are still learning how race-related social experiences and physical environments affect health, illness and mortality.
Access to health care
One factor is that African Americans have historically underutilized preventive medicine and healthcare services. They also delay seeking routine, necessary health care — or may not follow medical advice.
One study found that during an average month, 35 percent fewer Blacks visited a physician’s office, and 27 percent fewer visited an outpatient clinic compared with Whites. “The only time I go to the doctor is when something is really hurting. But otherwise, I don’t even know my doctor’s name,” said a young African American male during a research study in Chicago.
There are reasons for this mistrust. Researchers who study medical mistrust argue that high-profile cases of medical experiments are still playing a role in how African Americans view healthcare systems and providers.
In the past, physicians have intentionally done harm against people of color. A well-known case is the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis” in African American men, which lasted from 1932 to 1972.
In this clinical study, 399 African American men who had already contracted syphilis were told that they were receiving free health care from the government. In fact, doctors, knowing their critical condition, were awaiting their deaths to subsequently conduct autopsies and study the disease’s progression.
Even though penicillin had been proven to treat syphilis by 1947, these men were denied the treatment.
Why discrimination matters for health
Other studies suggest that regardless of their knowledge of past medical abuse, many African Americans have low levels of trust in medical establishments.
“Doctors, like all other people, are subject to prejudice and discrimination,” writes Damon Tweedy, author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. “While bias can be a problem in any profession, in medicine, the stakes are much higher.”
Unfortunately, these fears are underscored by empirical evidence that African Americans are less likely to receive pain medication management, higher quality care, or survive surgical procedures.
In addition, a growing body of literature has established that experiences of discrimination are extremely harmful to physical and mental health, particularly among African Americans. This research adds to the body of evidence that experiences of discrimination harm people’s health and may contribute to the increased rates of premature decline and death among Blacks.
What does it take to SOTdie well?
As African American scholars, we argue the “art of dying well” may be a distant and romantic notion for the African American community. African Americans are also exposed to earlier and more frequent deaths of close loved ones, immediate family members and friends.
Their increased “vulnerability to untimely deaths,” writes Duke University scholar Karla Holloway, shows African Americans’ lack of access to equitable and fair paths in life.
Before defining “a good death,” American society must first begin to fundamentally address how to promote quality living and longevity across all racial groups.
Story republished with permission from The Conversation.
Jason Ashe is a doctoral student in human services psychology at the University of Maryland. Danielle L. Beatty Moody is an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Maryland.
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
The California statewide Youth And Family Civic Engagement Initiative, a joint program of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center in Oakland, has received a three-year allocation in the California State budget, approved by both houses of the California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom.
The Initiative and its programs are designed to increase civic engagement, participation and civics education among youth, their families and communities in 12 California counties–Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Tulare and Yolo. The organizations will receive $2 million per year over three years.
The Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative increases understanding of government and civic institutions and increases civic participation among low-income, disenfranchised youth and their families in targeted regions throughout the state for the purpose of reducing racial and socio-economic disparities.
“We are grateful that the legislature and the Governor have made it possible to expand the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center’s Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative to reach more underserved youth throughout California, with a focus on youth engagement, youth empowerment and leadership development using the philosophies of active non-violent movement building,” said Dolores Huerta. “The leadership training that the youth receive will be magnified tenfold as the youth take the lessons learned to address and resolve the many issues that they are confronted with in their respective communities”. Said Dr. Roy D.
Wilson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, “Thousands of young people throughout the state are searching for pathways that will lead them into meaningful public service.
They know they have something to learn, and they know they have much to contribute. The Initiative provides the skills and knowledge by which young people can navigate themselves onto the road of civic engagement where they can play an important role in developing programs of social uplift, and a stronger democracy.”
By Charlene Crowell, Deputy Communications Director with the Center for Responsible Lending and NNPA Newswire Contributor
More than 50 years ago, this nation enacted legal guarantees that fair housing would be available to all Americans. Despite this federal assurance, however, a disturbing and ongoing stream of reports and lawsuits remind us that we are still on an aspirational journey. Aggressive enforcement of fair housing and other anti-discriminatory laws are supposed to bring punishments for violators, and restitution for those harmed.
But as with so many justice issues –either financial or criminal, what really happens in life seems a world away from the African American experience.
Since its inception, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mandate was to protect consumers from discriminatory lending as well as to ensure fair access to credit. In addition to violations of the Fair Housing Act, CFPB also has the authority to refer potential violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to the Justice Department.
Despite these and other enforcement options, CFPB’s most recent fair lending report to Congress acknowledged a full year without any fair lending enforcement actions.
“The Bureau must refer to the Justice Department (DOJ) a matter when it has reason to believe that a creditor has engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination in violation of ECOA,” acknowledged the report. “In 2018, the Bureau did not refer any ECOA violations to the Justice Department…In 2018, the Bureau opened and continued a number of fair-lending-related investigations, however, it did not bring fair lending-related enforcement actions”, the June 2019 report continued.
While CFPB turned away from fair lending, several 2018 lawsuits were filed mostly by private and nonprofit advocates. Their collective actions realized large settlements, fair lending reports and continued documentation of illegal breaches.
For example, nearly a year ago, New York’s Suffolk County Federal Credit Union signed a $1 billion settlement rather than go to trial on discriminatory charges. The settlement resolved a case filed two years earlier, in 2016 that alleged Black and Latino consumers were denied mortgage approvals at a higher rate than that of the credit union’s white customers.
Later that same year, in a regulatory examination of Citigroup, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) found that consumers of color were not receiving the same mortgage rate discounts reserved for its large-deposit customers. That case was referred to the Justice Department.
Another 2018 discriminatory case involved lawsuits with several major banks on behalf of consumers in two Maryland counties, Montgomery and Price George. The case alleged that as early as the mid- 2000s, consumers of color were steered into higher-cost, non-prime mortgages – a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Some might contend that this sample summary might not be fair to CFPB and its mission.
To such questioning minds, I would add that this June a coalition of 158 state and national advocates filed written comments against another recent deregulatory move planned by the CFPB. This effort would exempt hundreds of lenders from providing vital data that tracks the market and consumer access to credit.
Every year, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) report makes public details of the past year’s mortgage market. It is the only national report that includes the race and ethnicity of mortgage applicants, types of loan approvals as well as denials. Most importantly, the actual behavior of lenders – both banks and nonbanks record the total number of loans involved.
By exempting so many lenders, the highly anticipated report would lose valuable clarity and irrefutable data.
Among the organizations signing these comments were: NAACP, The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Responsible Lending.
“A large loss of HMDA reporting will create a distorted view of lending trends in these underserved areas and will make it more difficult for stakeholders to determine if revitalization efforts are succeeding,” wrote the housing advocates. “The overall impact of raising the threshold will be to frustrate HMDA’s purposes of determining whether credit needs are being met and whether public investment has succeeded in rejuvenating the housing and lending markets in struggling neighborhoods.”
The coalition comments also include a litany of CFPB actions that have occurred since 2017, all with anti-consumer effects:
- Failure to issue any violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act;
- Declared its intent to ignore the Disparate Impact standard, a long-standing legal test that holds the effects of discrimination, not the intent are legal violations;
- Publicly praised the repeal of anti-discrimination auto lending guidance;
- Sided with payday lenders in their challenge of the Bureau’s payday rule promulgated under the previous director;
- Stripped the Bureau’s fair lending office of its supervisory and enforcement powers; and
- Relegated the development of regulation on fair lending for minority and women-owned businesses to a low-level concern.
In many ways, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has failed to live up to its name and reneged on its mission.
“This lack of enforcement demonstrates our journey towards fair lending still has miles to travel,” said Melissa Stegman, a CRL Senior Policy Counsel. “CFPB was created to protect consumers without exception.”
Charlene Crowell is the deputy communications director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at [email protected]