Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Support the Equality Nine!

To:  Office of the City Attorney of San Diego We urge the San Diego Attorney General's office to drop all charges against the "Equality 9" local activists who were arrested on August 19, 2010 at the County Administration Building on Harbor Drive.

The Equality 9 engaged in a peaceful sit-in when the County Clerk would not issue Marriage Licenses to two same-sex couples that day, as they were willing to do for any opposite-sex couple that stepped into the office. The 9 were arrested by dozens of Sheriff's Deputies in full riot gear and military-style formation. They were shackled and marched out to buses, then were brought to jail where they were processed and spent several hours.

In the weeks before the sit-in, U.S. District Court Judge Walker ruled, "Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution." But yet Prop 8 lives on, thanks to a stay that was imposed until it is decided that its defenders have completely exhausted their appeals. We believe this is absurd; the courts should not suspend the people's constitutional rights until those who despise them are satisfied. The stay must be lifted.

Sign the petition here!

Photo from SF IndyMedia Print Friendly and PDF

Rochester grandmother evicted, Take Back the Land members arrested

How much sense does it make to forcibly evict a woman and her seven children from a home they already have and move them into a state-funded shelter?

Our brothers and sisters at Take Back the Land have been standing watch every day to try to prevent Catherine Lennon and her children from the house they used to own.  Today, Rochester police swept in and arrested six members and a neighbor who had the nerve to object to the eviction and to the 25 cruisers that invaded the neighborhood.  The International Alliance of Inhabitants has an eyewitness report of today's events. 

Last week at Arise a woman stopped in to pick up some flyers on the potential cuts in family shelters.  We were talking about homelessness and eventually she asked the classic question, one of the questions that helped start Arise.

"Why are there so many boarded up buildings and yet the shelters are full?"

You can ask that question tomorrow when you call your attorney general and ask her/him to negotiate the toughest settlement possible with the big banks.  Crime Doesn't Pay has a number you can call that will direct you automatically.  the site helps explaoin why every call is important.

Locally, you can support the No One Leaves  Campaign.  We're working to stop foreclosures and prevent evictions right here.  An eviction blockade may not be too far in the future.

A few more calls, if you're willing, on behalf of the Lennon family and Take Back the Night:

Make Calls to Step up Political Intervention
Voice your support for the family and your horror at the heavy-handed police tactics:

Rochester Mayoral Candidates
Mayoral candidate Alex White at 585-315- 7687
   Thank for his support
Mayoral candidate Bill Johnson at 585.465.9370
   Come out publicly to support the family and stop the eviction
Mayoral candidate Tom Richards at 585-697-0924
    Come out publicly to support the family and stop the eviction

U.S. Congress
Representative Louise Slaughter at 585-232-4850
    Pressure Fannie Mae to negotiate
Senator Chuck Schumer at 212-486-4430
    Pressure Fannie Mae to negotiate

Rochester City Council
Neighbor and Councilman Dana Miller at 585-428-6048
   Thank him for his support and tell him to keep on.

Rochester City Marshal
City Marshal Responsible or Eviction: Sande Macaluso at 585-544-4888
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Helped more than most? How about hurt more than most.

I saw this show advertised the other day and just from the synopsis I knew I wasn't going to watch it, never mind it was on the FOX network. But to have Stossel say Indians got the most help is ludicrous.

Take a minute and watch the video.

Stossel: No Group Has Had More Gov't Help Than American Indians (VID

Posted by: "Miketben@aol.com" Miketben@aol.com miketben1

Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:27 am (PDT)

_http://tpmmuckraker .talkingpointsme mo.com/20
11/03/stossel_ no_group_ has_had_more_ govt_help_ than_ameri_ 1.php_
(http://tpmmuckraker .talkingpointsme mo.com/2011/ 03/stossel_ no_group_ has_had_more_ govt_help_ than_ameri_ 1.php)

Stossel: No Group Has Had More Gov't Help Than American Indians (VIDEO)
_Eric Lach_
(http://tpmmuckraker .talkingpointsme mo.com/eric_ lach_1/2011/ 03/20-week/) | March 24, 2011,

Quick, which group has the U.S. government helped out the most? Wall Street, maybe? Or the unemployed? Oh, how about all those defense contractors? Wrong, says Fox News contributor John Stossel. As far as Stossel is concerned, it's Native Americans. Stossel was on Fox & Friends this morning to discuss some high-paying government jobs _recently reported_
(http://dailycaller. com/2011/ 03/23/uncle- sam-shelling- out-big-bucks- for-government- jobs-gop- says-time- to-cut/#ixzz1HWS fd
0TM) in The Daily Caller. The report found that the "Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs needs someone to run the Facebook page for the Dept. of the Interior and they'll pay up to $115,000 a year." Stossel took that as an opportunity to wonder about the entire concept of a Bureau of Indian  Affairs. "Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs?" he said. "There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse."  Established in 1824, Indian Affairs is the oldest bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. Among other responsibilities, the Bureau is charged with "maintaining the federal government-to- government relationship with the federally recognized Indian tribes," _according_
(http://www.bia. gov/FAQs/ index.htm) to its website.

Graphic from DistortedSmile's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Help us build the anti-biomass movement! Sign this petition!

Local opposition to biomass is building toward a bigger movement...you can help by signing this petition calling for a three year moratorium on biomass plants!

Citizen Petition Seeking a Moratorium on Biomass Electricity Projects Print Friendly and PDF

Jobs? Or Jobs with Justice for All?

I spent all day yesterday at the Western Mass Jobs with Justice Conference.  I thought it was good-- even better than last year-- and more diverse.  Bill Fletcher was  a very thought-provoking speaker.

Got home and then, after getting the cats settled, did what I usually do after a day out:  looked at the news online   Channel 3 had a little article about a job fair scheduled for Taunton, MA that had to be canceled because not enough employers signed up-- not enough jobs!

This got me thinking about the workshop I had just attended, Good Green Jobs.  I didn't know it was going to be mostly about the Mt. Tom coal-burning energy plant in Holyoke, but  had already heard that the coalition organized around Mt. Tom issues was working on a strategy to preserve jobs as well as trying to move Mt. Tom beyond coal.

Here in Springfield,  where we're organizing to stop a biomass incinerator, the plant proponents that I have the most sympathy with are the building trade unions that want the jobs the plant would bring.  Of course, the question we ask back to them is, At what cost are you willing to take those jobs?  And who will pay the price?

The format of yesterday's workshop was that we all sat at three tables, and the workshop facilitators rotated among us.  The last facilitator to join my table was Brian Kenney, IBEW Local 455, who is the business manager for workers at the Mt. Tom plant.  He told us about the significant improvements in air quality that the plant had made this year after installing new scrubbers.  He also mentioned that Mt. Tom is a peak-load plant-- that is, doesn't put electricity into the system 24/7, but only on those days when it is called for.  Meanwhile, the boilers operate non-stop in case they are needed, and-- I don't think I got this wrong-- burn 1,200 tons of coal a day even when not generating electricity!

I do think it took some courage for him to come to the conference, and I had no desire to be rude.  When it was time for questions, I asked him if he and other workers would be willing to work elsewhere if the wages and benefits were just as good.  (I know you lose the solidarity of people you've worked with for years.)

"Those jobs don't exist," he said.
"Yeah, but if they did exist?"
"Well, yeah, but..."

Then someone else mentioned that the coal burned from Mt. Tom comes from Colombia.  Mr. Kenney said he had just heard that, had always thought it was U.S. coal, but maybe it was Colombian.

This led me to ask if he knew anything about the working conditions on the mining end of the operation, and he said he didn't.

When I got home last night, I did an internet search for the source of Mt. Tom's coal, and came across this informative post at Students for a Just and Stable Future.

Last year, more than 100 Colombian coal-miners died at work. Just five weeks into 2011, the death toll already stands at 26. Other than the ties that bind us all together as humans, what do these deaths in Colombia have to do with us in Massachusetts? The connector is coal: The coal we burn at Mount Tom, Holyoke, comes from Colombia.

How does the coal get from Colombia to Massachusetts? Helpfully, the Wall Street Journalprovides the names of the major companies that own coal mines in Colombia. One of them is BHP Billiton, an Australian company that dedicated $4 million to crushing Kevin Rudd’s surtax proposal. BHP Billiton’s shares were up 0.8% today. Others include Xstrata (up 1.26%) and Anglo American (also up by more than 1%).

As connect-the-dots puzzles go, this one is not very elaborate. GDF Suez imports Colombian coal from companies like BHP Billiton. It burns the coal in power stations like Mount Tom, Holyoke. A lackadaisical approach to workplace safety in Colombia leads to the deaths of miners, and a cavalier attitude to climate safety leads to floods in Australia. What are the common factors joining the Australian and Colombian tragedies? We are. And we are doing something about it.
I've posted before about my apparently deathless idealism about unions.  Of course, I've never been in a union, which helps to preserve my ideals.  And I acknowledge the cognitive dissonance we all live with in Corporate U.S.A.-- electric lights burn in all our houses and we know way too little about the working conditions of those who grow our food and make our clothes. But once we do know, we can start to make choices.

Is it too much to ask that Mt. Tom workers consider their brothers in Colombia?  What does solidarity mean in 2011? 

AP Photo: Woman waits for news of a relative after a Colombian mine explosion this year. Print Friendly and PDF

Straight, not narrow

From the new Straight, but Not Narrow website:

Straight, gay, and everything in between…. why does it matter?

Straight But Not Narrow was started by asking that very question.
There have been a number of great campaigns and charities that have recently emerged to show support to gay youth & teens. However, we noticed one significant niche missing in the efforts…. the message to the young, straight male. It’s an unfortunate reality that most of the bullying and harassment that gay teens face comes from them. It is for this reason that we are building a campaign that is primarily directed to the young, straight male by using comedy and their peers to positively influence their views on LGBT teens.
So, whether you like girls, you like guys, you like both, you like neither (well, that would kinda suck, but you get the idea)…. what difference does it really make? There’s a whole lot more to a person than who they date. And yeah, we’re all different. But we believe that it’s those differences that make us interesting. Why would we all want to be exactly the same? Where’s the excitement in that?
Just be you. Cause that’s good enough for us. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, March 25, 2011

One hour for the earth

After you get back from the Jobs with Justice conference...after you've made supper...after you've found a candle and a good book...turn off your lights and give one hour to the earth!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If I were number 131.....

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »
The City of Gainesville, Florida has recently imposed a 130-meals-a-day limit to area soup kitchens. St. Francis House is one soup kitchen who has enacted this limit. The commissioners of Gainesville could immediately rescind this limit. St. Francis House and other area service agencies would not need to be involved at all.

At a recent City Hall meeting, an 8 year-old girl named Mackenzie Case said, "It makes me sad that we have hungry people we aren't allowed to feed." She also held a hand-written sign that said, "If I was No. 131 you wouldn't feed me?"

The pleas of this courageous little girl speaks volumes. She has the dignity and reason that is somehow lost among the commissioners. We need to let the City of Gainesville know just how outrageous and inhumane this limit is.

In these uncertain financial times, we are all one paycheck away from being homeless. This is not rhetoric, it is a scary fact. Food is incredibly expensive. If a family is forced to pay even more money out of pocket to feed their family, they become even closer to losing their home and other necessities. This is why soup kitchens and food pantries are critical assets to each city. Enacting a limit may lead to less of a financial strain on the city for the short term, but having to provide services to many more homeless individuals and families in the long term will certainly cost much more. Preventing the problem is ALWAYS less expensive than attempting to manage it.

Soup kitchens exist to help meet the basic needs of all of us. We are ALL deserving of a hot meal. Without food, a person cannot possibly thrive. The cycle of poverty will no doubt continue. Each city needs to work to meet these basic needs to ensure that each person can get one step closer to moving out of this dangerous cycle.

Please join us in demanding the city of Gainesville to overturn this limit! It is up to the city - not up to each soup kitchen. Help us prevent another family from going hungry.

Thanks, Change.org!
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hear Bill Fletcher Jr. this Saturday!

Stop the war on the workers!  What sort of movement do we need to lead a fight back, defend and expand our rights, and win good jobs meeting people's needs?
The public is invited to hear Bill Fletcher, Jr., longtime labor, racial justice, and international activist, address this question.

Saturday March 26 ~ 10:45 AM - Holyoke Community College ~ Kittredge Center, 303 Homestead Avenue, Holyoke,
get directions here <http://www.hcc.edu/about/get_arnd_drv.html> ; use Kittredge Center parking
lot: lot E <http://www.hcc.edu/images/HCCMap.jpg> ).

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the Director of Field Services & Education for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Labor Rights Forum, member of the editorial board of The Black Commentator, on the advisory board of Progressive Democrats of America, and a co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating, and advocating for policies
in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Fletcher was the Belle Zeller Visiting Professor in political science at Brooklyn College-CUNY for two years.  Fletcher is also a co-founder of the
Black Radical Congress and is a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC.

Bill will deliver the keynote speech at the WESTERN MASS JOBS WITH JUSTICE EDUCATIONAL, ORGANIZING, <http://www.thecenter-hcc.org/conf/conferences/wmassjobs.pdf> & MEMBERSHIP
CONFERENCE: Making Connections ~ with Jobs with Justice, with Each Other, with the People ~ to Defend our Rights!

You are welcome to attend the speech or the entire conference.  But we need you to register if you want lunch after Bill speaks.

There is NO COST to attend this conference. It is fully underwritten by the grants and donations of generous supporters. We invite you to add your donation to the donations of our sponsors. Please visit
http://wmjwj.org/sustaining-western-mass-jobs-justice or donate at the conference.

To have lunch, you must register online <http://hcc.3dcartstores.com/Western-Mass-Jobs-with-Justice-Educational-Organizing-Membership-Conference_p_2473.html> here by noon on Tuesday March 22.

WHEN YOU REGISTER, please note: At HCC's request, because we are using the Kittredge Center rooms for free, we are using their online course registration software. You will not be charged for this event. Ignore the payment language and the penny charge required by the shopping cart software to enable online registration. To register: Click here <http://hcc.3dcartstores.com/Western-Mass-Jobs-with-Justice-Educational-Organizing-Membership-Conference_p_2473.html> .
Click "Add to Cart",   Click "Proceed to Checkout"., Enter your personal information ("Student Information"). At "Choose one payment method" select "FREE WORKSHOPS ONLY". Answer "Additional Questions" marked with red star. In "Comments" box, say if you want vegetarian lunch or have other
needs. Click "Check out".You will get a confirmation letter by email and real mail.

This conference is a Tabling Opportunity for Progressive Organizations from 10 to 11am: send request to wmjwj@wmjwj.org by Wednesday March 23.

Info, help with registration: 827-0301 x1, wmjwj@wmjwj.org.
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EPA and dioxin: Ask Cong. Neal to sign on

In February, I got the following letter from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, asking that we get our local congresspeople to sign on to a Dear Colleague letter to Lisa Jackson at the EPA.  I've called Cong. Neal's office a couple of times, but he hasn't signed on yet.

Won't you take a couple of minutes to call him and urge him to sign on?  The Springfield office number is (413) 785-0325

Dear friends,
 We’re working with U.S. Rep. Markey’s office on a “dear colleague” sign-on letter from members of the U.S. House of Rep. to EPA on their Dioxin Reassessment, which has been delayed for 20 years thanks to the chemical industry.  Rep. Markey’s office started circulating the “dear colleague” letter for possible House co-signators yesterday.
Can you contact your member of Congress and ask them to sign on to the letter? 
 EPA is being aggressively lobbied and targeted by the chemical industry and Republican members of Congress on this issue, and it’s therefore critically important that EPA hears from members of Congress letting them know they want EPA to do the right thing.
 If you can help, please let me know so we can track who’s contacting whom.
 Thank you.
 Best, Mike Schade, CHEJ, 212 964 3680, mike@chej.org
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

PRE developer tries a fast one - AFSC responds!

To: Secretary Richard K. Sullivan; Assistant Secretary Alicia B. McDevitt; and Ms. Deirdre Buckley

I understand that you are in receipt of a “fail-safe” petition asking for additional MEPA review of the PRE biomass incinerator. Although PRE lawyers seek to imply (fraudulently, I believe) that we no longer oppose this project, we most emphatically do express our opposition and support this petition as one that asks for a review that the special situation in the Springfield region demands.

The American Friends Service Committee sent in the attached letter, and sent a follow-up email asking why it had not shown up on the list of comments – and I was informed that I had missed a deadline, and therefore my comments would not be posted.  To now have that be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of the project is a perversion of our position and a demonstrable deception on the part of the PRE legal team, as I have since been quoted in a press release as being opposed to the project, and have recently publically spoken out against the project and the PRE chief lawyer in particular at a hearing – and was then quoted in the newspaper the following day.  There can be no doubt that the legal team was aware of this, as I spoke quite fervently in opposition to his and PRE’s continued pursuit of the project.

Furthermore, when I spoke out in opposition to this project, I pointed out that I live less than 4 miles away from this plant, in the town of Springfield.  The quote “very few [commenters] live near the project site” is an inappropriate characterization of the opposition to this project.

Lest there be any confusion, the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, and I personally, oppose the PRE incineration project as a threat to our community (on environmental, health, and economic grounds). Please feel free to forward these comments to the folks at Mackie, Shea, and O’Brien, though it is likely unnecessary, because I think it’s clear they were aware of AFSC’s continued opposition, despite their claims otherwise.


Jeff Napolitano
Western Massachusetts Program
American Friends Service Committee

Graphic from Baylor Hospital's photostream at Flickr.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Foreclosure protect Thursday, March 24!

THURSDAY MARCH 24TH, 2011 @ 10:30 AM
(Park on side street OR in Big Y parking lot on St. James Avenue approx. 2 blocks away)On February 22nd, residents and allies gathered to protest (See Video Here & Press Coverage Here) the foreclosure auction of Ms. Inez Williams, who is 71 years old, home. We successfully stopped the foreclosure auction being carried out by MidFirst bank. But MidFirst Bank continues to refuse to work with Ms. Williams. We plan to step up the pressure and show up in force next Thursday to support Ms. Williams and her son. JOIN US! 
We are protesting to do something very specific: send a message to any potential investor, and to MidFirst Bank, that we will resist any attempted eviction of this family. If your business plan involves eviction, you might as well go home!
  • IF THE HOME IS FORECLOSED, DON'T EVICT! Sell Back to Ms. Williams at real market value OR accept reasonable rent from the Williams family!
For more information, please visit www.springfieldnooneleaves.org or call 413-734-4948
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I have sex

Cool video from students at Wesleyan University in support of Planned Parenthood, whose funding is under attack in Congress.  (Thanks for the tip, Care2!)
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Doing our work...

There are always so many things to do and never enough time. Everybody, staff and volunteer get involved in the work. We all do meetings, we all do advocacy. So I am awfully grateful to have folks around who can pick up the work when it gets over whelming or when I am off at a meeting. In office advocacies are what we do the most. Some advocacies are faster than others. Maybe it's helping someone with a food stamp application or helping a tenant find what their rights. If we don't know we'll help find them, sometimes there is nothing we can do except say "It sucks, it's not fair and the only way to change it is to fight for change." A lot of people just need to know that they are in the right when they find themselves facing an injustice. Other advocacies take longer and others you just can't pass off.
So when on Wednesday a young woman came in for help in getting into shelter it was one of those the advocacies you have to follow to the end. Just a few particulars 23, mother of 2 (her children, because of her living situation are with their father, her ex) pregnant due date by C-section only 1 month away and for the last 4 nights slept in her car. She didn't make herself homeless it just happened and we all know that sometimes S&it Happens.

We heard a few weeks ago that "Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness" had endorsed the governor’s budget so when their next meeting rolled around last Tuesday, 4 of us decided to go. It's ironic because it's been a really busy couple of weeks here at Arise; we've been getting the word out about the governor’s budget cuts among other things. I don't pretend to understand all of it or even most of it, what I do understand is that these cuts will hurt everyone but the poor will feel it first and the most. There are so many cracks, crevasses and black holes in the budget that hundreds if not thousands of parents and children will end up on the streets and if these budget cuts were in place today this young woman would have fallen thru them.
We sat there for a while trying to get a feel for where their thinking was around the budget. We looked forward to hearing Leslie Lawrence from Mass. Coalition for the Homeless and Ruth Bourquin from Mass Law Reform Institute who had driven in from Boston to talk on the major lack of safety nets in the budget. What Ruth and Leslie had to say helped the group decide that maybe there needed to be some qualifications to the networks endorsement. It was a good meeting we heard a lot of different voices. We left knowing that there was room for change and isn't change what it's all about. So yea..I think it was a good meeting and hopefully we can have some input on those quailifications.
Anyway after another night in her car and me on the phone to Boston most of that afternoon and the next morning I'm glad to say she was placed in E.A. It feels good to succeed in helping her to get what she needed. But boy it can be like pulling teeth from a whale but that’s for another time. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Help stop "corrective" rape!

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

South Africa is often dubbed the 'rape capital' of the world.
Every 17 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa, and it is estimated that a woman born in the country has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read. There are an estimated 500,000 rapes a year in South Africa, and the country has some of the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world.
Studies have found one in three South African women say they were raped in the past year. Other surveys have found more than a quarter of South African men admit to raping someone. Those figures go up in South African cities, and the overall situation is getting worse, not better.
Thankfully, on March 14 the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development agreed to sustained, long term engagement on the intersecting issues of gender-based violence, anti-LGBTI violence and hate crimes.
We welcome this engagement, and call on South Africa's Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development to keep their promises, and incorporate the concerns and criticisms of civil society.
We will continue to monitor the progress of these negotiations, and look forward to a productive, cooperative working relationship with the Ministry around these issues.
Winning this campaign depends on our ability to call on thousands of supporters like you. After signing this petition, please follow us on Facebook - just click 'Like' at the top of the page.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Big Losers: Poor families at risk of homelessness

OK, service providers, state bureaucracies and Gov. Patrick-- stop pretending that the revamping of the state's Emergency Assistance Program has to do with anything but saving money.  If it was really about preventing families from being out on the street, the state would be offering housing assistance alternatives as well as shelter.  Instead, the state will take away the right to shelter and offer housing assistance which may or may not succeed in preventing homelessness.  AND if that assistance isn't successful in helping a family avoid homelessness, the family is barred from any further assistance for two years.

This is a bit of a long post, but it has information we all need to know.   What follows is from the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.  Read it and then call you legislators-- please!  You can find their phone numbers at The Massachusetts Legislature.

Under the Governor’s budget, most homeless children and parents with no other safe place to stay would be denied access to emergency shelter through the state’s Emergency Assistance (EA) program
Families who would be denied shelter include those who are homeless because they are members of families that are extremely poor, have lost jobs in the horrible economy, have lost homes because of evictions due to foreclosure, or have previously fled a domestic violence situation. 
·        These families have no family or friends with whom to stay -- otherwise they would not currently be eligible for EA. The only families who could access shelter under the Administration’s proposal are those who are fleeing domestic violence in their current housing situation, headed by a young parent, or homeless due to a fire or natural disaster.
Homeless families denied shelter would be offered only temporary rental assistance and help looking for  an apartment.   The proposal mandates shelter denials but not an immediate right to housing.
·        Providing re-housing resources as quickly as possible is important, and this aspect of the proposal (7004-0108) can be useful, with some important revisions.  But since it can take weeks or months to find a unit to rent -- even with subsidies much more valuable than what is being proposed here -- we would be left out in the cold while searching for housing.
 Families who receive any homelessness assistance would be barred from any other help for 2 full years even if they literally have no safe place to stay.

Barring families from shelter does not end homelessness!  Fewer families will need shelter if better housing resources are available! We can improve housing resources AND preserve the safety net!

Proposed House 1 language
 Item 7004-0101
provided further, that notwithstanding any general or special law, or program regulation, to the contrary, (i) those families that shall be eligible for assistance through a temporary emergency family shelter shall be only (a) families that are at risk of domestic abuse in their current housing situation; and (b) families that, through no fault of their own, are homeless due to fire or natural disaster; and (ii) all families otherwise eligible for temporary emergency family shelter pursuant to departmental regulations, including those families otherwise eligible under (i) above, in which the head of household is not more than 21 years of age at the time of application for emergency assistance, shall be served only through a young families congregate housing program;
provided further, that benefits received under section 30 of Chapter 23B and/or the short-term housing transition program shall render a family ineligible for emergency assistance and/or short-term housing transition benefits for a period of 24 months from the later of the date upon which the family exits a temporary emergency family shelter or a short-term housing transition payment is made to or on behalf of the family;
 Item 7004-0108 (proposed new line item in House 1)
provided, that the assistance provided hereunder may include payments of rent arrears; a portion of the household's monthly rent, first and/or last month's rent, and/or security deposit; utility charges; and extraordinary medical bills so long as such assistance will maintain housing for the family; provided further, that a family's eligibility for such assistance shall not exceed a period of 36 months, as a single, uninterrupted period of time or otherwise; provided further, that such payments shall not exceed $8,000 for the initial 12 month period for which the family receives assistance hereunder, reduced by 5 per cent for each of the next 12 month periods for which the family receives assistance hereunder, such 12 month periods being a single uninterrupted period or otherwise; provided further, that the continued eligibility of the family shall be determined on an annual basis;
provided further, that assistance received under this program shall render a family ineligible for benefits pursuant to section 30 of chapter 23B and short-term housing transition benefits for a period of 24 months from the later of the date upon which the family exits a temporary emergency family shelter or a short-term housing transition payment is made to or on behalf of the family;

For more information or to join the Coalition, please contact members of the Coalition to Protect Homeless Children:  Mass. Coalition for the Homeless 781-595-7570 (Kelly Turley x17 kelly@mahomeless.org), Mass. Law Reform Institute 617-357-0700 (Ruth Bourquin x333 rbourquin@mlri.org or Deborah Harris x 313 dharris@mlri.org), Arise for Social Justice, 413-734-4948 (Michaelann Bewsee, michaelannb@gmail.com); Family Economic Initiative 617-603-1626 (Elizabeth Toulan etoulan@gbls.org), Mass. Alliance on Teen Pregnancy 617-482-9122 (Liz Peck epeck@massteenpregnancy.org), Coalition for Social Justice 508-678-5497 (Debbie Fastino dfastino@aol.com), Coalition Against Poverty 508-999-2777 (Missy Gilbarg missygilbarg@gmail.com), Boston Area Rape Crisis Center 617-492-8306 (Clare Namugga cnamugga@barcc.org or Stephanie Decandia sdecandia@barcc.org) or NASW/MA Chapter 617-227-9635x12 (Rebekah Gewirtz Gewirtz@naswma.org), Medical-Legal Partnership – Boston  617-414-3649 (Johanna Flacks Johanna.Flacks@bmc.org).\

Photo from RCVNL's photostream at Fickr.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bio incinerator air permit hearing April 5 - We won't give up!

 Almost two years-- that's how long Springfield residents have been organizing to stop a biomass plant proposed for Springfield. We'll have LOTS more to say about this in the next month, but right now, the most important thing to know is the air permit hearing is scheduled for April 5.  The following alert is prepared by Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield member Lee Ann Warner:

 Please save the date of Tuesday, April 5, 6:30 PM and plan to attend the public hearing at Duggan Middle School, 1015 Wilbraham Road, where the state will present its draft air permit for the PRE biomass incinerator proposed for Page Boulevard in Springfield.  This is the final permit the developers need before they can put a shovel in the ground. Please prepare to speak, submit written comments or just come and show support with your presence which really does matter!

At the hearing, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will let you know that they have tightened the technology for this biomass incinerator to emit less pollution.  They will tell you that 99.9% of the particulate matter will be filtered out and that other pollutant emissions have been reduced. Although this could be true, you must remember that this incinerator will still be emitting over 50 hazardous pollutants into our already polluted air. From the DEP draft air permit, PRE's incinerator will emit over 37 tons per year nitrogen dioxide, over 81 tons per year carbon monoxide, over 26 tons per year sulfur dioxide, over 22 tons per year volatile organic compounds, over 13 tons ammonia, over 89 pounds per year lead, and over 42 tons per year PM2.5, the very fine particulate matter with the worst effects on health.  Particulate matter 2.5 is now directly linked to not only asthma and respiratory disease (Springfield's rate is already twice the state average!) but also heart attacks and diabetes.  In addition, this incinerator will also emit approximately 500,000 tons per year carbon dioxide which will result in increased global warming.

Please tell DEP that Springfield's air must be cleaned up immediately and no more pollution is acceptable.  DEP's own data already show excessive levels of toxic contaminants that are harmful to human health in the air now - before this plant is even built - and DEP does not even know the sources.   From DEP's own monitors, arsenic levels are at 535% allowable ambient level (AAL), cadmium is at 810% AAL, formaldehyde is at 2688% AAL, acetaldehyde is at 246% AAL, benzene is at 718% AAL and ethylbenzene is at 94% AAL.  Springfield clearly has a problem that must be remedied, and the remedy is not more pollution.

Together we have made a difference.  With a strong showing at this hearing, we can show not only the state but also the city of Springfield - which can still choose to revoke or modify the developers' special permit - that this incinerator cannot happen.  Please forward this to your friends, co-workers and neighbors and plan to pack the hearing!  For up-to-date information and action alerts in the coming month, please visit our website at www.springfieldincinerator.info. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, March 4, 2011

Springfield's First Gay Pride - Save the Date!

Arise's online poll about what to do with hate groups in our community closed this morning, and here's the results (which total more than 100% because people could vote in more than category):
  • Drive them out! - 9%
  • Leave them in place so we know where they are - 19%
  • Counter-Demonstrate! - 57%
  • Educate the community - 90%
Folks who've been following this blog know that at least some of us in this community have been galvanized to figure out a response to the presence of so-called  "Rev." Scott Lively in Springfield-- in fact, just a few doors down from our office!  One result is the formation of a new coalition, Stop Hate and Homophobia in Springfield.  We've been meeting regularly and meeting dates are posted on this blog.

One result already is that, for the first time (as far as anyone knows), there will be a Gay Pride event in Springfield!  Why should Boston and Northampton have all the fun?

Save the date: Saturday, July 16.  And if you want to get involved in organizing, post info here, or email Holly Richardson at outnow@comcast.net.

Image from AndresFalava. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, March 3, 2011


So much is happening right now that I find myself fighting mad.  I'll write more about much of this later, but last night I caught a very small headline in the New York Times:  Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters.  Of course, it wasn't the helicopters that killed those children, but the men in them, the governments that sent them, the contractors who built them, and every citizen of every nation who has stopped speaking out about this endless, senseless, murderous war.

General Petraeus apologized, but what good is an apology if you turn right around and do it again?  That's the nature of this war and all wars-- noncombatants die, including children who are poor and cold and who are gathering firewood to try to stay warm.

For what it's worth, here's the White House comment line, where you can leave a message for the President.

Photo of an Afghan child killed in a 2008 U.S. attack from RAWA. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ANYONE can be a victim of elder abuse

So many important issues this week, I could post five times one rights after another...but let me start with this.

Child Star Mickey Rooney Testifies Before Congress As Victim of Elder Abuse
March 2, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. At a hearing held today the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging focused on the issue of abuse of the elderly in America. The hearing, called  "Justice for All: Ending Elder Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation,"   was held on Capitol Hill.
Several members of the Select Committee from New England spoke at the hearing. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said that "combatting elder abuse should be a national priority. It is no longer justt a family responsibiltiiy."
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called elder abuse a "hidden scourge in our society." "All too often," Blumenthal said, "it is hidden and denied. It is upreported because people are embarassed and ashamed. But these are crimes, and they should be reported. It is unacceptable inour society that we allow so many elders to be victims in our society."
The Committee's lead off witness was child film star Mickey Rooney, 91, who told the committe: "Unfortunately, I'm testifying not just as a concerend citizen, but as a victim of elder abuse. Rooney told the Senate Committee he was financially exploited, that his resources were "stolen from me by someone close, a family member... I was unable to avoid becoming a victim of elder abuse. You feel scared and disappointed, and can't believe it's happening to you. You feel overwhelmed. You're afraid about criticism from your family and friends."
Rooney said he suffered "emotional blackmail" as part of his abuse. He said he was told that his financial matters "were none of his business." "It came out of nowhere," Rooney said. "It started with something small, but it was rather sinister. For years I suffered silently. I was told to shut up and be quiet: you don't know what you're talking about."
"It's important for me to tell my story," Rooney explained, "especially to those seniors who suffer in silence."
"You are not alone," Rooney said, addressing seniors directly, "and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You deserve better. You deserve the right to control your life. To end the cycle of abuse, not to allow yourself to be silenced. Tell your story.  Above all, have hope and faith."
"If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone," Rooney concluded. "Stop this abuse of elders now. Say its a crime, and we will not allow it in the United States."
Rooney urged the committee to pass legislation sponsored by Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin , the "Elder Abuse Victims Act."
Massachusetts has had an elder abuse reporting law for 27 years, but national studies show that for every one case of abuse reported, another 24 go unreported. Every day in Massachusetts, another 54 reports of elder abuse are filed. The problem of elder abuse was called  "a silent pandemic" at a Beacon Hill hearing on February 16th.  Elder advocates say funding for protective services was cut back to 2008 levels. The Commonwealth spends 31 times more on child abuse and domestic violence services than on services to alleviate violence against seniors.
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Betty Agin fundraiser this Saturday!

Hey, be there or be square.  Betty is a huge asset to our community, and the talent is great! Print Friendly and PDF