Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springfield Non-English speakers deserve police protection

Please join the Pioneer Valley Project and other community members at the Springfield City Council meeting  THIS MONDAY, MAY 2 AT 6:30 PM to pass the Language Access Ordinance to ensure that immigrants and non-English speakers have access to police protection and other public safety services. Over 30% of Springfield residents speak a language other than English at home.
 When they call 911 or speak to officers on the street and cannot get help because of language - we are all less safe.  Language access is a civil right which has not been well protected in Springfield in the past.  PVP has worked to pass this language access ordinance over the past 9 months and has negotiated the final language with the city council and the police department.
 The City Council's ordinance committee has voted in support of the ordinance and will bring it to the full City Council for a vote at Monday's meeting.

Please let us know if you are able to attend or if you need any additional information.  Thank you, Fred Rose, Cell 413-522-2204

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Date set for Springfield City Council hearing on biomass incinerator

OK, this is it-- on Tuesday, May 17, 4:30 pm., at the request of Council President Jose Tosado and Councilor Melvin Edwards, Springfield City Council will hold a hearing to consider amending or revoking Palmer Renewable Energy's permit to construct a biomass incinerator in Springfield.

We who have been opposing this plant have been organizing for almost two years, doing everything we can think of to wake up our community to this threat to our already poor air.

I'll have a lot more to say about the City Council hearing in the days ahead, but there are two actions people opposed to biomass incinerators can take right now, whether you live in Springfield or not.

First, you can comment to the Dept. of Environmental Protection about the draft air permit for Palmer Renewable Energy.  From the Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield website:

Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield has recently learned that the developers of the PRE biomass incinerator have paid extra fees to 'fast-track' their state permitting process.  And they only need one more permit before they can put a shovel in the ground. Can you please spare a minute to click here and comment on the State's draft air permit? The deadline for the air permit comment period is Friday, April 29.

Hampden County is already home to the dirtiest, unhealthiest air in the state (please visit Several hazardous air pollutants are already alarmingly above allowable levels.  Springfield children have blood lead levels and respiratory disease rates twice that of the children of the state.

You can make a difference!  We have already stopped these developers from burning construction and demolition debris in their incinerator.  The state and city of Springfield are taking notice of our requests for clean air and its link to our health.  Thank you for continuing to support this citizen activist effort by sending the message that clean energy does not come from a smokestack. 

Second, you can sign a petition to Gov. Deval Patrick, asking for a three year moratorium on all biomass permits in Massachusetts.

More to come.

Photo from Basibanget's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

We have to stand up for homeless people whenever we can

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Homeless people chased from place to place....not a new story.  Please sign this petition and read more about it below.

I must say that ever since Arise has become involved in environmental justice work, the opportunities to take action on environmental issues overwhelm our inboxes!  But electronic opportunities to take an action for poor and homeless people remain rare. supports many causes, and has a section for Economic Justice.  Check out Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homeless mom prosecuted for sending child to "wrong" school

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A homeless mother in Connecticut has been charged with theft of "education expenses" totaling nearly $16,000 after it was discovered that she registered her son for school using the babysitter's address.

The Stamford Advocate reports:

A homeless woman from Bridgeport who enrolled her 6-year-old son at a Norwalk elementary school has become the first in the city to be charged with stealing more than $15,000 for the cost of her child's education.
Tonya McDowell, 33, whose last known address was 66 Priscilla St., Bridgeport, was charged Thursday with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing $15,686 from Norwalk schools. She was released after posting a $25,000 bond.
McDowell's babysitter, Ana Rebecca Marques, was also evicted from her Roodner Court public housing apartment for providing documents to enroll the child at Brookside Elementary School.
According to the story, McDowell was primarily sleeping at a home in a different city, although she could not be there during the days, and also spent time at a local shelter.  The boy went to the sitter's house daily after school.

An argument could be made that as they had no permanent home, there is no reason why the babysitter's house isn't a place of residence, as it was a place he went to daily and had more permanence than their other living situations appeared to.  However, the school disagreed and decided after an investigation to press charges against the mother, claiming theft.

The Chair of the board of education admits the move is unusual -- normally a child found attending school out of district is just sent away.  Others are speculating why this case became the case that the district appears to be interested in using to "set an example" in order to discourage other parents from attempting to send their children to school with false addresses, especially since the mother obviously has no ability to pay for the "theft."   A lawyer involved in a similar case wonders why they wouldn't choose to go after someone where they may have a chance to get reimbursement back for the educational costs while making their point.

Could it be that the district is less concerned about sending a general example and more concerned about sending one geared to a specific audience?  Like, for example, the low-income and homeless in the area?
Mayor Richard Moccia said of the case,
"This now sends a message to other parents that may have been living in other towns and registering their kids with phony addresses."
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day

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Candlelight vigil to support the Dunwell family

Fannie Mae is still pursuing a no-fault eviction of the Dunwell family even though the Dunwell family has stated their willingness and offered to pay rent, or purchase the home back at the current market value with an agreement to share any future equity appreciation. On Saturday, we will join together as a community to hold a candlelight vigil in support of the Dunwell family and make it clear to Fannie Mae that enough is enough! No-fault Evictions after foreclosure destroy our communities, leave families and children without homes and depress the value of homes throughout the neighborhood by creating more vacant and boarded up homes. 

GREED IS NO REASON TO EVICT! Come out and join the fight this Saturday! 
We are determined to stop the eviction of the Dunwell family and no-fault evictions after foreclosure throughout Springfield. 
We will block this eviction if necessary!

20 Hughes Street, Springfield, MA (in Forest Park off Belmont Ave via Woodlawn St.) 

David, Yanick and their 3 daughters (8, 11 and 13) are at risk of being evicted by Fannie Mae, after their home was foreclosed on by Bank of America.
The Dunwell’s fell behind in their mortgage payments only after David lost his human service job of 17 years due to severe state and federal budget cuts to Bridgewell, the private agency that he worked for.  He had no union and no protection. Bridgewell workers are now organizing with SEIU Local 509 so they’ll have protection from such treatment. Prior to losing his job, the Dunwell's had kept on their mortgage.  

In spite of his setback, David has recently been able to return to full-time work, and his wife Yanick also works full-time as a health care worker.  They have a dual income and a reliable, rent-paying tenant downstairs. 
With their current income, they could afford to purchase their home back from Fannie Mae at real market value, or to pay reasonable rent!

This case is so simple! Don’t evict no-fault! Sell back to the Dunwell family at real market value or accept rent and market occupied. The Dunwell’s are even willing to share any future equity appreciation with the bank. This is a better deal for Fannie Mae! 
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to support unions after breaking the labor taboo

I know there's been a lot of discussion (most of which I haven't been privy to directly) over the blog post I wrote about building trade union behavior at the Palmer Renewable Energy air permit hearing.  As I suspected might happen, my criticizing unions is of greater importance to at least some union members than the booing and bullying tactics of the building trades.  How quickly someone can move into the enemy camp by breaking a taboo: criticizing unions.

When I sat down to write my blog post, less than 24 hours after the hearing, relationships with unions was not the first thing on my mind.  Poor strategic thinking?  What very much was on my mind was the fear in the eyes of the children sitting in the Duggan Middle School auditorium who had come to talk about their own asthma.  They were bewildered.  They didn't understand what was happening.  I was ashamed that I had asked them to come only to be subjected to booing.  In fact I was furious, and still am.  But everyone who came to oppose the biomass incinerator felt attacked and traumatized-- even we relatively thick-skinned organizers

I admit I don't understand unions very well, beyond an intellectual level.  I've never been in a union, and most of the people in Arise, very low-wage workers, have never been in a union, either.  And yet we have never failed to support the organized labor movement.  Anyone who reads this blog, or my own blog MichaelannLand, knows that.  So a little context to the "Michaelann as enemy to the labor movement" might be warranted. And the rest of the labor movement, beyond the building trades who were present at the hearing, should be asking themselves: who really did harm to the public perception of organized labor on April 5?

At the same time, I could (and should)  have applied that context to my own blog post.  I wrote, " I will tell you that my first reaction was that you couldn't pay me enough for me to ever show up at another pro-union rally."  Well, yup, that was my first reaction.  But intellectually, I have not changed my mind about the absolute necessity of supporting organized labor.  Yesterday at Arise I was trying to explain to Ruben how unions help keep the wages up for everybody, not just union members, by using the fruit-picking story from The Grapes of Wrath.  He understood what I was saying, even though, at the air permit hearing, where he carried around our giant asthma inhaler, he got more than one sneer from members of the building trade unions.

After the air permit hearing, I asked a couple of my contacts in labor to explore three questions: 1. Is there a way that what happened at the air permit hearing could be used to build a bridge between the building trade unions, who often stand aloof from labor's larger struggles, and the rest of the movement?  2. How did the building trades so successfully mobilize at the air permit hearing, who paid for it, and were they likely to do it again at the still-pending city council hearing about PRE's local permit? And 3:  Is there any way that other unions could take stands against biomass? 

If any of these questions get answered in a way that moves us forward, then I'll try to decide if it's worth it to be viewed as the enemy by organized labor (although Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield and Arise shouldn't be tarred with that brush).. I'm not at all convinced that there would be much discussion among local labor going on at all if I hadn't written what I did, even though I wish I had been clearer about not indicting all of labor.  Too many times our movement, such as it is, avoids tough questions,  fails to think seriously about what divides us, and calls out for solidarity when the foundation is shaky and ill-defined. I don't know why I think it should be any different this time around, but I still have hope.

Solidarity mural: Hands in Solidarity, Hands of Freedom mural on the side of the United Electrical Workers trade union building on West Monroe Street at Ashland Avenue in Chicago, Illinois-- photo from Atelier Teee's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, April 18, 2011

Earth Day!

 Earth Day ‘11:  Facing Our Present and Future through Eco-Poetry, Prose, and Song
   Friday, April 22, 6:30-9:30pm, Northampton, Unitarian Universalist Society, 220 Main St.
Monday, May 2nd, 6:30-9pm, Greenfield , Second Congregational Church, Courthouse Square, (Near intersection of Main and Federal Streets)
 Valley poets, writers,  and musicians will offer their work focused on the ecological crisis facing—and caused by-- humanity.
 The poetry will include not only expression of the grief, fear, outrage, and despair felt by many, but also the vision and hope for healing the planet, and living in sustainable harmony with the earth and each other.  This is the first such gathering, which will continue once every three months with different artists presenting their work.
 Poet John Berkowitz of Shelburne will host, and offer his recent poems such as: Vapor Trails, Apples from China,  A Tsunami of Plastic,  Tech-knowledg-y or Ignorance,  and Honeybees: This Century’s Canary in the Coal Mine?  He and others will also read environmental poems by Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Ellen Bass, Wendell Berry,  Marge Piercy, David Whyte, Galway Kinnell, and others.  Poetry in songs recorded by Bruce Cockburn,  Joni Mitchell,  Bruce Springsteen, Magpie, and others of national and local renown will also be played, listened to, and discussed.  People attending are also welcome to bring and read their own work, or favorites by others.  After each reading, the audience will be invited to share their response to the poem or song and what it expressed.  This will be limited to 5 minutes; and each responder will have not more than 1 minute, allowing others to have a turn. For those who wish to read along as well as listen, and take home the poems afterward, copies of each poem or song lyrics will be provided by those poets/writers who wish to do so.
 Participating poets/writers/musicians for Friday, April 22 *  Lori Desrosiers, Westfield poet, editor of Poetry News online calendar of  events, *  Jim Culleny, Shelburne poet/writer, op-ed column writer in Shelburne         Independent and Greenfield Recorder, *  Stan Pollock, Florence poet, *  Annie Hassett, Greenfield, musician/songwriter, *  Paul Richmond, Wendell poet/writer, host of Spoken Word events, *  Erica Wheeler, Colrain musician/songwriter
 Participating poets/writers/musicians for Monday, May 2 *     Susan Middleton, Ashfield poet, * Jay Mankita, Northampton musician/songwriter,  
 More info:  John Berkowitz, 413-625-6374
 Organization Co-Sponsors (not yet confirmed): Greening Greenfield, Traprock Peace Center, MoveOn, CAN, Safe and Green, Transition Towns: Greenfield, Shelburne, 350 Pioneer Valley   Alan Eccleton, National Priorities Project , Alliance for Peace and Justice, Arise for Social Justice, Stop toxic Incineration in Springfield, Connecticut River Watershed Alliance, Clean Water Action, American Friends Service Committee, Jobs With Justice, Coop Power, Center for Ecological Technology, Northampton Grow Food, Hungry Ghost Bread, Bread Euphoria, New England Organic Farmers Association, New England Solar Energy Association, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County plus Spfld/Russell group, PV Local First, Amherst Sustainability Fair, Seeds of Solidarity (Orange), North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens, Boys To Men Teen Mentoring Program, Charlemont Academy
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The only numbers you need to know to understand the budget debate.

Republican plan for the next ten years:
Cut spending on government programs over the next decade by $4.3 trillion. 
Cut tax revenues over the same period by $4.2 trillion. 

In other words: steal from the poor (actually,  steal from almost everyone) and give to the rich.

Oh, and squeeze social policy change in there, too, most of which will benefit corporations by removing regulations.

Here we are in Western Massachusetts desperately fighting to stop three polluting biomass proposals tokeep our air from getting any worse than it is, and yet the Environmental Protection Agency is going to lose 16% of its funding just in the current, stop-gap budget.  Republicans say that environmental regulations hurt jobs.  What they really mean is it hurts corporations, two-thirds of whom paid no federal taxes at all last year.

I've often wondered just what rich people think they and their children are going to do in twenty, fifty or a hundred years, after they've completely ruined the economy and the environment.  Living in gated communities won't cut it, because the rich will still have to breathe the same air.  Live underground?  Colonize the moon?  Are they really that self-delusional?

I hope it's clear to everyone that winning protections on the local level is about all we've got--  that's not saying much, given that federal cuts produce state cuts and state cuts produce local cuts....but at least, in terms of the mayor and city council, we put these folks in office and we can take them out again if they fail to listen to what the people of Springfield want.

Arise recently joined a statewide coalition, Campaign for Our Communities, which is basically about restoring the income tax rate to 5.9%, with subsidies and rebates for anyone earning under $100,000 so that we would not experience the increase.  Only we're not supposed to frame it as raising taxes!  And we're not supposed to talk about the cuts poor people are experiencing, supposedly because that's not the "message" that will resonate with the middle class-- who wants to protect poor people?

Frankly, I'm sick of the bull, from progressives as well as reactionaries. Let's start telling the truth, people, it's class warfare, and we, the poor and working class,  didn't start it.  But we'd better get ready to fight it.

Photo from ElyceFeliz's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Extremely hazardous air today!

And Palmer Renewable Energy wants to add to this!  Hey, Springfield people, keep calling your city councilors and tell them you want them to revoke PRE's permit-- and everyone else,  and for sign this petition asking for a three year moratorium on air permits for biomass plants.

More info: Partnership for Policy Integrity. Print Friendly and PDF

This Saturday: Arise Annual Meeting!

All Welcome at the
Arise Annual Meeting
Saturday, April 16, 1 – 4 pm.
Christ Church Cathedral
Lunch and social: 1 pm.
Our campaigns and elections: 1:30
Guest speaker: Patricia Montes, Centro Presente, Boston: 3 pm.
“The Reality of Latinos in Our Community”

End foreclosures      Stop police brutality

Fight for cleaner air  Human rights for all

Fight hate and homophobia    End Poverty

Protect homeless and poor people let our voices be heard!     

For more information, call Arise for Social Justice, your low-income rights organization, at 734-4948 – Call if you need childcare.  Bring a dish for lunch if you can, or just come!
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Behind that sign...

Behind that sign is Elizabeth Lederman, with the great courage to stand in the middle of an unfriendly crowd at the air permit hearing.

Photo: Dave Roback, The Republican Print Friendly and PDF

Just tell it like it is: are we getting a health study or not?

Guess I've reached my bullshit quota for the week.

This afternoon I went to Holyoke to hear Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach present one of his regional health dialogues on new directions in public health.   I was going to wait until after the presentation to catch up with him and ask him a question: when was the DPH going to do the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) for which it had received funding nearly a year ago?  I haven't been able to get an answer from my contacts at the Environmental Health Bureau of DPH, and the clock is ticking-- the biomass incinerator we're trying to stop is only two months away from getting its air permit.

After Auerbach finished his presentation and called for questions, an older woman stood up and I recognized her right away as Jean Caldwell; in fact I'd just heard her give a statement at Tuesday's Dept. of Environmental Protection air permit hearing..  She doesn't come to meetings of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, but has become very engaged in this issue since our first phone conversations, doing her own research, contacting public officials and writing letters to the newspaper. 

She gave him a  overview of Tuesday's hearing, and mentioned a plant in Connecticut which required zero emissions from a proposed plant before they would approve it.  She said that while she recognized DPH had no authority over decisions made by DEP, what could they do to help us?  Possibly a Health Impact Assessment?

Auerbach had started nodding during Jean's presentation, showing he was familiar with Springfield's situation.  He began his answer by agreeing she was right about the relationship between DEP and DPH.  He then said  that as she knew, DPH had suffered substantial budget cuts.  DPH had the resources to provide existing data, but if she was thinking about focus groups, community input, anything in-depth, they just didn't have the money.  Of course he took about two minutes to say this, while my blood started to boil.  We have been depending on this study, and even though suspicion has been building up that it just wasn't going to happen, we've been trying to keep faith.

When he finished, I stood up, not waiting for him to call on me.

"Excuse me, that's not correct," I said, and introduced myself.  "DPH received a grant from Pew Charitable Trust to do this study and we have been waiting for it to begin.  I know it had to be reconfigured after the plant decided to burn green wood instead of construction and demolition debris-- but that was five months ago, and I'm not getting my phone calls to Suzanne Condon answered about when the study will start."

"Yes, we did get that grant," he said, "but that was for a different project."

"Why don't you just ask Suzanne to call me," I said, picked up my notebook, and left.  I could tell I might really lose it if I stayed any longer.  I wasn't yelling but I know my anger showed.  Mr. Auerbach did more than dissemble when he didn't tell Jean that DPH actually had a grant for the study. 

I probably now will get a call from Suzanne Condon, and I'm sure she won't be happy.   But I think we deserve the truth.  This has not been an easy week for any of us who are fighting this plant.  We've had rogue labor booing us, bureaucrats dissembling, and corporados cheerleading with their cynical  "clean and green"  mantra.  But we've had our resolve hardened and we're getting ready for whatever comes next.  Want to get involved?  Call Arise and leave a message for Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield.

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inequality: Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

a board member with United for a Fair Economy sent this piece from "Vanity Fair" out. It's a pretty good read. At least some folks get it.

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.

May 2011

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

Check out the rest of the article at

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Stooges for the rich

I've been so tied up with the fall-out and next steps from  Tuesday's biomass air permit hrearing that I've only kept half an ear to the national news. I've had time to glance at the headlines and know that our country is  headed for a government shut-down, but only tonight did I pay attention to some of the riders on policy Republicans are insisting be passed with the budget.

A chief target is the Environmental Protection Agency, which would be forbidden to regulate greenhouse gasses-- costs too many jobs, Republicans say.  Of course this put me in mind of Tuesday night's trade union vocal support support for Palmer Renewable Energy's biomass proposal.  Maybe those guys would agree with the Republicans on this one.

Here we are in the middle of the biggest upward transfer of wealth in eighty years and yet there are people out there thinking that making rich people richer is going to be good for them.  Maybe they haven't thought about it that way; the typical Tea Party member is a sheep who cries out for tax cuts and smaller government and then won't be able to get her aging mother into adult day care and her kids into a decent school.  No problem for the rich, though.

Poor and working class people don't think that way.  That doesn't mean we have all that much class consciousness-- hell, poor people would love to be rich-- but our expectations have gotten very low, as low as our economic ranking.  We got pushed down the ladder back in the 80's and 90's and have never accumulated any wealth to speak of in a lifetime of work..  Many poor people under forty don't know that times have ever been different.  We're so numb from assaults we hardly even feel it anymore.

I sat in a meeting today that is trying to promote a campaign to increase state revenue by returning to a higher previous income tax rate with substantial personal exemptions for the bottom 60%.  We spent a good bit of time talking about messaging and finding the right way to convey to the public that essential services are at risk-- firefighters, teachers, nurses, et cetera.

Meanwhile I'm wondering why we aren't out there telling the truth to people: the rich are stealing our lives!  They don't care that they ruin our environment, consign our children to mediocrity, shorten our days.

And they don't even need the money. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 11: Participatory Budgeting presentation and panel

Hey, I'm swiping the whole rest of this post from The Springfield Institute (check them out) because I'm part of the panel, but somehow I didn't catch that David Panagore was a co-panelist.....David Panagore, former chief development office for Springfield's former Finance Control Board....who slid Palmer Renewable Energy's proposal for a construction and demolition-burning biomass incinerator so easily through the City Council and the local permitting process in 2008.  Wonder what he thinks of it all now?  I'll have to make sure I ask him.

Participatory Budgeting: International trend, local possibilities

Date: April 11, 2011, 4-5:30 pm (RSVP here)
Location: Springfield Technical Community College, Scibelli Hall (Bldg 2), 7th Floor
Presenters: Chicago Alderman Joe Moore; Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Brown University; José Tosado, Springfield City Council President; David Panagore, City of Hartford Chief Operations Officer; Michaelann Bewsee, Arise for Social Justice Executive Director; Ayanna Crawford, education consultant.
First developed in Brazil, Participatory Budgeting (PB) has spread throughout Latin America and has been implemented in over 1,000 municipalities worldwide. But it has only recently arrived in the US—in Chicago’s 49th Ward. Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, named the “Most Valuable Local Official” in the country by The Nation, will share his experience implementing PB in his ward. (Over 1,600 residents came together to directly decide how to allocate a $1.3 million discretionary budget.) Brazillian PB expert from Brown University, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, will briefly provide some international context. Then, a dynamic group of officials and community leaders will consider the value of such a model for their own constituents, and audience interaction will follow.
All are welcome. Event sponsors: Springfield Technical Community College, The Springfield Institute, and groups from Amherst College. More background on PB here:
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Unions tried to bully us tonight....shame on them.

I'm not going to say much now, because I've got some investigating to do, but tonight when we biomass opponents turned up at the air permit hearing for Palmer Renewable Energy's incinerator, we were greeted by an astounding sight-- about 300 members of various building trade unions, including some student groups, with matching tee-shirts, slick posters, stickers and two canopies set up to keep out of the rain.  At first I had to laugh, because we had clearly been outmaneuvered, and I have some sympathy....but it didn't last long.

I talked to some of the union folks and they wouldn't tell the truth about where they came from or what city they lived in.  I asked  some of them what they knew about biomass and it wasn't much-- might have come right our of a  Dick and Jane primer.  But it was obvious they'd been fed their soundbites.

Their behavior in the Duggan Middle School auditorium was appalling.  They actually booed every anti-biomass speaker, including an elderly woman, a pediatrician who spoke about the kids with asthma he treated, a respiratory therapist, an elderly man...they went on and on.  There were a number of children with asthma who had volunteered to come to the press conference we held, and they were little boy's eyes brimmed with tears.

I will tell you that my first reaction was that you couldn't pay me enough for me to ever show up at another pro-union rally..  Organized labor sure didn't make any friends tonight with their ignorant and bullying behavior.  John Bennett from Mass Senior Action reminded me that  the building trades didn't even show up for pro-union rallies.  But it wasn't just who was there from the unions, but also who wasn't there.  If other unions disapprove of their trade union brothers, they sure keep quiet about it.

Then suddenly almost all of them were gone-- whisked away on the buses they came in on?

Who paid for the tee-shirts?  Who paid for the signs?.  Is it true that the union apprentices were told that if they didn't show up for the hearing, not to bother coming back?

I was proud of our people, who were knowledgeable and well-prepared, and didn't let themselves be intimidated.

And to the union members, I can only say...shame on you.  Shame on you. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What were they thinking?

With so many other things happening around Springfield from Biomass to foreclosures I'm late in re-posting this but take a look anyway. You can read the whole article at
Thank Wazi for sending this my way.
Arizona approves uranium mining permits in Grand Canyon 2011
(Source:, March 14, 2011)

"Ignoring widespread public opposition, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued three air- and one aquifer-pollution permits for three uranium mines located on public lands within
Grand Canyon National Park’s immediate watershed," said the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Image courtesy of http: Trust.

Gathered at sacred Red Butte in the Grand Canyon to oppose uranium mining here in 2009, Supai said this is a sacred place where they go to offer prayers for the protection of the earth.

Matthew Putesoy, vice chairman of the Havasupai Nation, said the Grand Canyon is a national treasure, inviting 5 million people every year to explore and be inspired by its beauty. As the 'guardians of the Grand Canyon,' we strenuously object to mining for uranium here. It is a threat to the health of our environment and tribe, our tourism-based economy, and our religion.

Supai Waters said that protection of the Grand Canyon also affects the weather patterns and climate of the earth.
"My people have lived in the canyon since time immemorial. The canyons contain power points and vortexes. If there is tampering or pillaging, the earth will not be the same.

American Indian Nations joined local residents to oppose this threat to their water and air. However, Arizona regulators caved in to the pressure from the corporation -- Denison Mines based in Toronto, Canada -- and the coopted US government.

Contact the AZ Dept of Environmental Quality to let them know this uranium permitting is not acceptable
Henry Darwin, (602) 771-2204, Director
Eric Massey, (602) 771-2308, Air Quality Director
Trevor Baggiore, (602) 771-2321, Air Quality Permitting

For More Information
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One more time: stand up for our city and say NO to the biomass incinerator!

Tomorrow is the air permit hearing for Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE)'s biomass incinerator.  Those of us in Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield have been busting our asses for weeks, flyering the neighborhoods, phone banking, spreading the word.

I don't know how many people will turn out tomorrow night, but I think we're as well-prepared as we can be. Our allies in this fight have stepped up to help-- Toxics Action Center, Pioneer Valley Asthma Coaliton and the Conservation Law Foundation, to name a few.  These are new allies for Arise, but it's what the campaign called for, and I think our roots are deeper for it.

Tonight I spoke on a panel at Mt. Holyoke College called Women and Community Organizing. Someone asked me a question about ward representation, and I thought, not for the first time, how similar the ward representation and anti-biomass campaigns are turning out to be..

Every single person in this city was affected by the old at-large voting system, which denied real representation to everyone except the city's most affluent and politically connected-  but the old system had the most disenfranchizing impact on the poor and the powerless.

Every single person in this city is already breathing air of poor quality, and all will suffer if Palmer Renewable Energy ever begins spewing its fine particulate matter into the air-- but those who will pay the highest penalty are our children, our elderly, our people who are sick enough already-- disproportionately poor people and people of color.

Both campaigns came about because people were being shut out of the democratic process by antiquated laws and weak regulations that those in power had every incentive to maintain.

Both campaigns started from the grassroots, with very few people aware (at first) of the stake we had in these issues. It took two decades for ward representation to build a mandate in Springfield.  Anti-biomass sentiment in Springfield, however, has gone considerably faster-- from maybe two dozen of us opposed to the plant  twenty months ago to tens of thousands of us now.

There's a least one more similarity.  Not only are voting rights being attacked in many states through right-wing efforts to disenfranshize the poor and people of color,  the very meaning of our vote is being eroded by increasing corporate influence over elections and elected officials.  And while stopping this incinerator is intensely important to us here in Springfield, we are really in a struggle not only about our right to protect our well-being but about our right to determine what  kind of world we want to live in.  Struggles like ours are happening all around the planet, and we're late getting started

We won't know for sure whether or not the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection is going to grant PRE's application for some 30 days after the hearing.  We all do expect PRE to get their permit, but while that's far from OK, we have other cards to play.  And who knows?  Maybe turn-out will makie a difference.

So one last time: tomorrow, Tuesday, April 5, 6:30 pm. at Duggan Middle School, 1050 Wilbraham Road.  Come on out and see what people power looks like. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Scott Lively sure does love his poor people

Yup, that must be why Lively went to Europe's poorest country, Moldova, last month, to speak against an anti-discrimination bill.  (I thought the air near the corner of State and Walnut Sts., where both Arise and Lively's Holy Grounds Coffeehouse, are located, seemed fresher in March.)

Even though passing an anti-discrimination bill is essential if Moldova wants to join the European Union, bringing the country into the 21st century, Lively thinks the country should pass on that opportunity, if it means not discriminating against people on the basis of the sexual orientation.

"During his visit, Lively said ending discrimination against gays would be the first step towards the "homosexualization" of society and would be followed by granting gay people the right to marry and adopt children."  Radio Liberty.   The horror!

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, which was introduced in its legislature shortly after another visit by Scott Lively, isn't moving forward at the moment.  The bill includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors, consensual or no,  or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn't report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the "promotion" of homosexuality which is so open-ended that it would endanger HiV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country;
  • The ban could also be used to effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • Breaking all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
You can sign a petition to the  Hon. Stephen Tashobya, Chair of the Legal & Parliamentary Affairs Committee to the Ugandan Parliament, against the bill at Care2.

Meanwhile, back in Springfield, MA, Arise and Stop the Hate/Stop the Homophobia are having a heck of a time trying to find members of the religious community to stand with us against Lively's homophobia.  Seems like if you call yourself a Christian, you can get away with a lot.  I wonder if these controversy-shy clergy ever ask themselves: What would Jesus do?

FYI, Lively has frequently said that he's not in Springfield to fight the culture wars.  However the Tea Party is using his headquarters to plan a Tax Day rally in Springfield.  That's not illegal, but it sure puts the lie to Lively's claim he only moved to Springfield to "rechristianize" Springfield. 

Be in touch with us if you want to help us stop hate and homophobia in Springfield.  Our next meeting is Thursday, April 29, 6 pm. at Out Now, 1695 Main St., 2nd. floor.

Photo of rural Moldova from Azkid2It's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Update on the Lennon Family eviction

Take Back the Land is reporting potentially good news for Catherine Lennon and her family.  As you read about the organizing in Rochester, New York, remember that you can get involved in foreclosure prevention right here in Springfield, through the No One Leaves Campaign.  By the way, there'll be a civil disobedience training April 20, Time and place still TBA, for those who want to be involved in or supportive of this work.

In a major victory for those fighting back against the foreclosure crisis, mortgage and foreclosure giant Fannie Mae began talks with Catherine Lennon about the Rochester, NY home from which she was forcibly evicted just one day before. The negotiations, initiated by US congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), took place after Take Back the Land- Rochester (TBL- Rochester) organized a 2 week long eviction defense of the Lennon home, which ended in dramatic fashion with a SWAT team followed by a phalanx of police and multiple arrests. The goal of the talks is to get Lennon and her family back into their home.

Catherine Lennon lived at 9 Ravenwood Ave. in Rochester for seven years. Economic hard times forced some of her children and grandchildren to move into the home and the family to miss some mortgage payments. Bank of America began foreclosure proceedings shortly after Catherine's husband died of cancer. Fannie Mae, recipient of a $90 billion taxpayer bailout, took over the home and proceeded to evict the extended family of 11.

While the eviction was set for Monday, March 14, 2011, the community had other plans. TBL- Rochester organized a community eviction defense, with neighbors and supporters physically blockading the home for two weeks, preventing the family from being forced out. All that ended on March 28th as Rochester police brought the SWAT team and an estimated 25 police cars, to forcibly execute the eviction. 7 eviction defenders were arrested, including a 70 year old neighbor still in her pajamas. However, the eviction defense did not end the fight, it only started the second phase.

After a flurry of supporter calls, emails and viral videos of intense media scrutany, the very next day, US congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) directly intervened, convening a conference call between Catherine and high level Fannie Mae officials, who are now re-reviewing her case. In addition, TBL- Rochester was contacted directly by the offices of Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both of whom committed to step up efforts to assist the family.

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Be careful, people....

E-Newsletter, March 2011

New Study Finds Food packaging is the Main Source of Hormone Disrupting Chemicals BPA, DEHP

Levels of BPA and DEHP Decrease over 50% When Adults and Children Avoid Food Packaging, Study Says

Grocery shoppers may want to avoid food packaged in plastic and cans and opt for fresh food prepared at home, according to a new study released today.  The study, "Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-ethylhexl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention" tracked levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals Bisphenol A (BPA) and the phthalate DEHP in study participants as they changed to a fresh food diet with limited food packaging.  BPA is a weak estrogen mimic with evidence of promoting breast cancer in laboratory studies. 

The study, conducted by Silent Spring Institute and Breast Cancer Fund, found that levels of BPA and DEHP declined by over 50% on average in study participants when they ate a fresh food diet that excluded plastic food packaging, cans, plastic wrap and other food packaging suspected to contain these chemicals.  Reductions were more pronounced for the highest exposures, which decreased by over 70% for BPA and over 90% for DEHP. These chemicals can migrate from the lining of cans and plastic packaging into food and beverages, especially when broken down by acids and fats in food, and when they are heated. 

"Women should not have to worry that using canned and packaged foods might be contributing to higher breast cancer risk," said Erin Boles, Associate Executive Director for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. "Laboratory studies show that BPA stimulates breast cancer cell growth and can influence early breast development in ways that increase cancer susceptibility later in life.  This is a clear example of how our current laws are failing us and need to be updated to reflect modern science."

Consumers in Massachusetts should be outraged, particularly because the state has among the highest breast cancer rates in the country, nearly 10% higher than the national average. 

The new study supports stronger consumer protections.  Last year the Public Health Council of the MA Department of Public Health voted to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, but dismissed a push by the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and other health and environment groups to pass a broader ban aimed at all food and beverage containers.  This study provides compelling evidence that a more comprehensive BPA ban and substitution of safer alternatives is needed to protect health. 

"This study provides compelling evidence that food packaging is the major source of exposure to hormone-disrupting BPA and the phthalate DEHP.  Now that we know food packaging is a major source, we can take action to reduce exposure," according to Dr. Julia Brody, an author of the study and the executive director at Silent Spring Institute.

** A tip sheet on how to reduce BPA and DEHP exposure is available at:

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Martin Luther King stood up for workers-- how about us?

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

In his last days, he stood with striking sanitation workers and faced down the armed forces of a city and state to demand dignity and the right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life.  Forty-three
years later in Madison, Gov. Scott Walker threatened peaceful demonstrators with the force of the state, threatening to bring in the National Guard and illegally barring the doors of the Statehouse to its citizens.

Join us in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for:  the freedom to bargain, to vote, to afford a college education, a home, and justice for all workers, immigrant and native-born.

In Springfield, we will honor Dr. King's legacy and answer the AFL-CIO's <> "We Are One" call for nationwide actions with a March for Economic Justice. We will call upon elected officials to rebuild our economy through taxing the rich and reinvesting in our communities.  The idea that a balanced budget requires slashing our public services or taking away workers' rights is a lie!  We will march to Bank of America to demand that they stop bankrupting our tax base and destroying our neighborhoods, end post-foreclosure evictions, and reduce the principal balance on millions of home mortgages.  Homeowners are underwater and workers are unemployed because of the economic crisis that Bank of America and the other Wall Street Banks created!

Stand Up! Fight Back! on April 4:  click the links below for info and to RSVP

Honoring Dr. King's Legacy: A March for Economic Justice in Springfield

3:30pm: Gather at City Hall.  4:00pm: March to Bank of America to picket against the economic crisis that the Wall Street banks created.  Then rally on City Hall steps, 5:00-5:30pm, to call upon elected officials to stop evictions, tax the rich, and reinvest in our communities. Print Friendly and PDF

Freedom Riders in Springfield

Friday, April 8, 2011
Symphony Hall, Springfield, 6:30 pm

Join us as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders and our own civil rights history.
WGBY and The Springfield Public Forum present an advance screening of the new American Experience Film Freedom Riders followed by a conversation with local Freedom Riders Albert Gordon, Jean D. Thompson, Judy Frieze Wright and James Breeden, young activists committed to non-violent change in 1961.  Representative Richard E. Neal will moderate this event.
In addition to the 1961 Freedom Riders, a roll call of individuals who played a role in national and local civil rights history in Springfield will join us and be acknowledged. The roll call will be presented in portraits on the big screen and then combined with short intergenerational interviews to be posted on the WGBY website.
You will have the opportunity to visit with local community organizations in the Symphony Hall lobby who are addressing challenges related to civil rights today.
Please join us as we mark this pivotal moment in history and hear from Freedom Riders who got on the bus in 1961.
Free and Open to the Public! Print Friendly and PDF

Where do homeless couples go? Not to KFC!

Last week a 22 year old woman and a 30 year old man were arrested in Springfield's Sheraton Hotel.  Their crime?  They had been living in a utility room at the top of an elevator shaft. 

The woman was released on her own recognizance and the man was held in lieu of $500 bail.

Many people don't know that if you are homeless and part of a couple, you will have to separate in order to obtain shelter.  no one accepts couples as couples.  There's only one shelter for women in Springfield-- Friends of the Homeless on Worthington St.-- and there's a men's shelter there, also.  Go up as a couple and you will be sent to two different buildings.  Many of the folks who choose to sleep rough on the riverbank are couples who don't want  to be separated.

Coincidentally, yesterday when I spoke at a Springfield College class, I met a young man who works at the Sheraton.  He mentioned that the room where the couple had stayed was not exactly pleasant to clean up-- they had used buckets as toilets. 

If the woman is looking for work to bail out her boyfriend, she can skip trying for a job at a KFC franchise.  Earlier this week, 90 people lost their jobs when seven franchises closed after the owner retired (and I guess couldn't find a buyer?)

There's an article in today's New York Times about economic insecurity.  It mentions a new study by Wider Opportunities for Women which outlines what it really takes to meet basic human needs in this country.  Check it out. Print Friendly and PDF