Sunday, August 28, 2011

Can Communities Reclaim the Right to Say "No" to Corporations?

Many communities trying to stop fracking, drilling, or big box stores out are finding they don't have the legal right to say no. So they are trying to change the structure of law.
August 24, 2011 |

It's no wonder that many communities want nothing to do with the natural gas drilling procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

The practice, which involves pumping chemical-laced water underground at high pressure, results in millions of gallons of frack wastewater that's been found to contain dangerous levels of radioactivity, carcinogenic chemicals, and highly corrosive salts. Last year, 16 cattle died after being exposed to the wastewater; a famous scene in the documentary Gasland shows a resident lighting his tap water on fire.

But communities trying to protect their drinking water from fracking haven't found it at all easy to do.

No Right to Self-Government?

In June, the city council of Morgantown, West Virginia--which draws its drinking water from the Monongahela River, just downstream of a new natural gas well--passed a ban on horizontal drilling and fracking within one mile of city limits. Two days later, a company seeking to drill sued Morgantown, claiming that because drilling is regulated by the state, it wasn't within the city's authority to keep fracking out.

In August, a circuit court agreed, invalidating the city's ordinance. In her decision, Judge Susan Tucker ruled that municipalities are but "creatures of the state" without jurisdiction to legislate on drilling or fracking within their borders. Tucker further wrote that "the State's interest in oil and gas development and production throughout the State...provides for the exclusive control of this area of law to be within the hands" of the state of West Virgina. The environmental concerns of the residents of Morgantown, she determined, were not relevant to her ruling.

Morgantown is far from the only town to have discovered that it doesn't seem to have the legal authority to say "no" to drilling and fracking. When communities try to exercise such authority to protect themselves, they are met with threats of corporate lawsuits and state efforts to override their decisions.

Why is it that cities and towns facing the direct impacts of these and a wide range of other harmful corporate activities do not have the authority to determine whether they should occur? How is it that corporate directors who live hundreds if not thousands of miles away--working hand-in-hand with the state and federal officials that residents often expect to protect them--are able to override local, democratic decision making like Morgantown's?

Since the early part of the 19th Century, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted ever-expanding rights and protections to business corporations under the Commerce and Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Corporations use these "rights"--originally intended for actual people--to challenge laws protecting the environment and public health.

At the state level, once an activity is deemed a "legal use," communities are legally prohibited from banning it. Legal uses include everything from drilling and fracking to factory farming and corporate water bottling projects. When state governments legally authorize corporations to conduct fracking, they simultaneously prohibit communities from saying "no" to it.

When a community finds itself facing fracking and drilling, it learns that its municipal powers are very limited, largely confined to influencing site selection by zoning. If it attempts to use zoning to ban drilling or another legal use, it finds itself violating the corporation's "right" under the law.

This is why communities engaged in traditional "site fights"--trying to stop an unwanted corporate project by appealing state-issued regulatory permits that allow corporations to site a new drill well, factory farm, Walmart, or other unwanted activity--are relegated to fighting about limiting traffic, noise, or odor, instead of about whether the activity should be allowed to occur at all.

Communities are therefore left with a choice. They can fight the traditional site fight, or they can decide to take a different approach, one that challenges the fundamental structure of law that allows corporate interests to override the best interests of people, communities, and nature.

To read the rest of this interesting article:

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Protect the Ramapough tribe: stop Ford from polluting!


For 25 years, Ford Motor Company dumped toxic waste from a nearby factory into New Jersey's Ringwood State Park. 
Members of the Ramapough tribe, who've lived on the land for generations, routinely fell ill from various poisons. Their children suffered nosebleeds any time they played outside. 
Cancer rates in the area are elevated, and the Bergen Record found arsenic and lead one hundred times above safe levels in the nearby Wanaque Watershed, which supplies water to millions.
But instead of working to clean up the area, the Environmental Protection Agency is actually considering giving the land back to Ford to use it as a toxic waste dump.  
There's not much time left to protect the park -- the EPA is announcing its plan in less than two weeks.
Edison Wetlands Association started a petition on asking the EPA to keep the park public and make Ford clean up the park for the public's use. Click here to add your name to Edison Wetlands' petition to demand the EPA protect Ringwood State Park from Ford's continued pollution.
Right now, Ford is secretly lobbying both state and federal officials to gain the right to resume toxic dumping in the park. But a national outcry can outdo them. 
Sign Edison Wetlands' petition to the stop Ford from polluting before the EPA's deadline in less than two weeks:
Poster from the Ramapough Lunaape website.

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Next Barn Over, Gardening the Community plan cook-out on Wednesday!

Tory Field, who has an organizer with Arise for several years, realized her dream a couple of years ago when she and friends purchased Next Barn Over in Hadley.  She's been working closely with Gardening the Community this year, and this Wednesday, there's a cook-out for the community at their 256 Hancock St. garden site!  From 5:30 to 8 pm, grilled food, good company and music!  It's a potluck, so bring food to share if you can.  Come check out these two fabulous organizations!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

From No One Leaves: next step in foreclosure ordinance

Sisters and brothers, 

As the movement to fight back against no-fault bank evictions and the foreclosures that lead to them continues to grow because of the brave and courageous dedication of residents standing up to the banks, Springfield is on the verge of passing the strongest anti-foreclosure legislation in Massachusetts and becoming a leader in holding big banks accountable for the havoc they've wrecked on our community. 

Come join Springfield bank tenants and allies to ensure the passage of this legislation, and urge city councilors to continue to stand on the side of the people over profit. 
WHAT: City Council Meeting on the Anti-Foreclosure (Final Vote) 
WHEN: MONDAY AUGUST 22ND @ 6PM (Arrive at 5:45PM) 
WHERE: Springfield City Hall -- 36 Court Street

***Immediately following the meeting we will hold a rally and press conference outside of city hall.*** 

Thank you for your ongoing support and dedication,
Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude Campaign

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

September 24th is coming: solving the climate crisis

You probably know that people around the world are getting ready for "Moving Planet", the big, bold, beautiful day of climate action that's happening this September 24th. But chances are, there are some people in your network that don't yet know about the big day.
This video lays out an inspiring vision that can help spread the movement far and wide: take 90 seconds to watch it, and then share it with everyone you know.
On September 24th, we’ll come together in every nation on earth to show that we’re moving the planet beyond fossil fuels. The diversity of events will be remarkable: people are planning marches large and small, bike parades that deliver petitions demanding a clean energy future, and even a kite-powered protest on the beach.

Here in India where I live, hundreds of young people will get on their bikes and encircle a big coal-fired power plant -- and call for green jobs that can put our country on a path of clean development and lift millions of people out of poverty. We’re also seizing on a cool idea that has come out of our global network: making giant arrow-shaped banners to point in the direction that we want to move in (away from coal!) and display our goals for a clean energy future. We hope to see similar arrows all across the planet, pointing away from fossil fuels and towards the solutions we need to get back to 350 ppm.

I'm also making sure that we take at least one iconic photo of our event in India to upload to the Moving Planet website when our event is over. organizers in New York City will be delivering photos from the Moving Planet events directly to world leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly -- and displaying them on screens near the meeting. Together, we can show decision makers that it's time to get out of neutral and start moving quickly towards a clean energy future.

We won't just demonstrate that another world is possible -- we'll show that we're already building it from the ground up. It's a world based on bikes, not cars. It's a world based on renewable energy, not tar sands oil. Most of all, it's a world that cares more about the rights of people and the health of our planet than the profits of polluters.

To create this world, we'll need a massive movement -- and that movement will be built by people like you. Print Friendly and PDF

In Massachusetts, documenting police brutality can land you in jail

Well, we knew this could happen, and now it has: Stephanie Barry reports in today's MassLive  that Tyrisha Greene, the woman who videotaped the beating of Melvin Jones in November, 2009, may have criminal charges pressed against her for illegal wirtetapping!

To add insult to injury, it's one of the police officers who was was involved in the beating, and who was suspended for 45 days following an investigation--  Michael Sedergren-- who has filed an application for a criminal complaint against Greene.  the poor baby says it was illegal to videotape him without his consent.
The MassLive article is pretty comprehensive so I'm not going to paraphrase it here.  The comments are well worth reading, though, because although there has been little public support for beating victim Melvin Jones, there is little or NO support for the law which criminalizes, in this case, documenting police abuse.

Ms. Greene will have to appear at a "Show Cause" hearing next Wednesday, August 17, in Chicopee District Court.  I know Arise members will be there to support her.

Funny-- with the prevalence of video cameras everywhere in our lives,without our permission,  that we are not allowed to document our own abuse with them.

Two good sites that go over some of the rights to photograph and videotape-- and many of the violation of those rights-- are Flex Your Rights and Photography is Not a Crime.

Before and after photos of Melvin Jones from The Brown Watch.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London riots: can't happen here?

 Today an African-American man came into the office with his family.  He had just been walking by and saw our sign in the window: "Please sign our petition for police accountability' and that's why he came in. 

He said, "Yeah, I just got arrested for being Black in Springfield."
What happened?" I said.
"I was downtown with my family," he said, "and I saw a cruiser pulling somebody over.  So, just being nosy, I went over to see what was going on.  The cop said, 'Move along' but i guess I didn't move fast enough because the next thing I knew, I was up against the cruiser and in handcuffs."
"What did they charge you with?"
"Disturbing the peace."
"And what happened when you went to court?"
"I had to pay an $80 fine-- for being Black in Springfield."

Watch this video, and observe the contempt with which the BBC interviewer treats the man she is interviewing about the London riots.
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More to do to make ward representation a full success

Today Arise had a press conference with some of the Springfield's most stalwart warriors for ward representation, to talk about what's gone right so far with the new system and what still needs to be done.

  • We now have geographic representation.  In the 10 years previous to changing to ward representation, an astounding 89% of at-large candidates came from only three of the city's eight wards.  Now every ward has a councilor.
  • We have increased racial diversity.  In the 45 years previous to ward representation, only four African-Americans and one Latino had ever been elected to city council-- in fact, Jose Tosado got his first seat on the council when a councilor resigned and he moved up from 10th place. Now we have three Latino/as and two African-Americans in ward seat.

Still to be done:
  • Increase voter turn-out.  Voter participation has been declining for decades, and ward representation is not going to turn that around in just two years.  However, in the 2008 election when ward representation was on the ballot, an astounding 74.2% of those who voted said YES to ward representation.
  • Get more candidates running.  2009 was a truly competitive year for ward seats, but 2011 has only one ward with a contested race.  But instead of considering that a failure, it may very well be that people in each ward are pleased the with performance of their representative!

In the "fair and balanced" category, Pete Goonan of the Springfield Republican got comments from the two people who voted against placing ward representation on the ballot-- Tim Rooke, still currently serving in an at-large seat, and Bud Williams, who hopes to regain an at-large seat this November.  Bud gives ward representation a "C+."  I wonder if he enjoyed the good old days of the at-large system, when he got to be the only African-American on city council?

Yesterday's press conference featured some of the real heroes of ward representation.  Frank Buntin and Gumersindo Gomez, Exec. Dir. of the Puerto Rican Veterans Center, started meeting about ward rep in 1992, and we built on their experience.  Both stayed involved for the long haul.  Joe Fountain tried to file a lawsuit against the at-large system in 1996, but was denied standing as a white person.  He brought the lawsuit to Arise and we recruited the NAACP and the Spanish American Union (now sadly defunct) to join with us in the first federal lawsuit.  Rev. Talbert Swan II was a plaintiff in the second lawsuit, and involved his network in pushing the work forward.  Council president Jose Tosado, a long-time supporter of ward rep, got the city council to approve placing the ward rep question on the 2008 ballot.  And there were so many more that if I get started, I'll be bound to forget important people, but I do have to give a shout-out to E. Henry Twiggs, Min. Yusuf Muhammad, Nick Camerota, Norm Oliver, Alan Howard and Mable Sharif, to name a few, and, within Arise, most especially Joe Oliverio, Tory Field and Liz Bewsee.

We have a lot more to do to make sure democracy really works in Springfield.  I called the Election Office last week to see if there were any community groups leading the charge on voter registration, and sadly, there were not-- not even, to date, Arise.  But we're going to turn that around.  We need a new coalition in Springfield that focuses on voter education and participation, that helps identify potential leaders and that mentors them through the electoral process.  The Springfield Institute and MassVOTE have already offered support.  Who else would like to join us?

Photo from the Springfield Institute. Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tent City in New Jersey Forest

The Tent City of New Jersey: Desperate victims of the economic slump forced to live in makeshift homes in forest.
n scenes reminiscent of the Great Depression these are the ramshackle homes of the desperate and destitute US families who have set up their own 'Tent City' only an hour from Manhattan.
More than 50 homeless people have joined the community within New Jersey's forests as the economic crisis has wrecked their American dream.
And as politicians in Washington trade blows over their country's £8.8 trillion debt, the prospect of more souls joining this rag tag group grows by the day.
Building their own tarpaulin tents, Native American teepees and makeshift balsa wood homes, every one of the Tent City residents has lost their job.
These people have been reduced to living on handouts from the local church and friendly restaurants and the community is a sad look at troubles caused as the world's most powerful country struggles with its finances.
'We have been in and out of the camp for a year,' said ex-hotel worker Burt Haut, 43, who lives with his wife, ex-teacher Barbara, 48 in a tent styled like a teepee from the Old West.
'Our financial difficulties since the credit crisis three years ago have caused us to camp on public ground, at the back of churches and down the backs of closed down stores.
'We have had help from our friends and family, but we have run that well dry.
'We are trying to get back on our feet and with help from the camp leadership we hope to get back onto a social security scheme or help with some assisted housing.'
Ravaged by the loss of their jobs and their homes, the residents of Tent City struggle to get by without day-to-day luxuries that we take for granted such as food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Ex-minister Steve Brigham, 50, runs Tent City, which consists of a dirt road running through a two-acre encampment which has flowerpots laid out front of proud tents and homes.
Functioning as near to a normal town as possible, Tent City is governed by democratic rules agreed by all the residents.
They all must agree to no fighting, to clean the camp, to volunteer their time when they have it, and to most importantly keep the noise down after 10pm.
The camp is currently involved in a legal battle with local Ocean County authorities which wants to remove the camp and the case has gone all the way to New Jersey Superior Court.
Steve and the community of Tent City want Ocean County to provide a purpose built shelter for the homeless and are working with a local lawyer working who works for free.
'This is a place to recover, to dry out, to get back on your feet to help to re-enter the world,' said minister Steve who was ordained eight years ago but has given up all his possessions to live in poverty with the growing community in Tent City.
'We have a petrol-powered generator that heats up the water for the shower and lets us wash up dishes after donated meals.
'We have pet chickens which are not for eggs, they are to eat the ticks that could make us feel very ill with Lyme disease or a blood infection.
'It is a racially diverse community with Mexicans, Polish, Irish, African American and white people.
'There are eight women living here too, which was a problem in the past, but has now made the camp more calm by their presence.
'The struggle for every day existence here makes us realise how lucky we are when we have our homes and our lives all in front of us with our televisions and microwave meals.'
Even though the camp has relied heavily on the ingenuity of Steve and his able helpers, keeping hope alive in Tent City is his toughest task.
'We have a working chapel here that is built out of recovered wood and a tarpaulin roof,' explained Steve.
'In summer we perform the service outside in a circle laid out with chopped tree bases as seats.
'It is not a requirement to come to a service, but spirituality and hope can help these people who have hit their darkest hours.'
One couple who have lived for over a year in the camp are Elwood and Cynthia, who have both built there own cabin complete with functioning door and even have got themselves a sofa.
'We have upgraded from our tarpaulin tent to a balsa wood one, which should help us in the winter in case the snow weighs down our roof,' Elwood said.
'Hopefully in the summer too the temperature wont be so hot as well.
'Every help we get from Steve puts us that bit further on the path to a social security cheque or a government assisted housing scheme.
'I used to work cleaning for a local restaurant and Cynthia used to be a waitress.'
For Burt and Barbara the care that they receive here is preferable to living on benefits provided by the Government.
'The care and community offered by the Tent City is wonderful,' said Burt.
'It is just like getting back to nature and it makes you realise that all our wonderful appliances like microwaves, telephones and even cars are not essential.
'Food, shelter and water is what you need and is what we get here.'
One member of the motley crew who lives in Tent City claims to be the nephew of country great Johnny Cash.
'I used to be a guitarist and played at BB Kings' club in New York City,' said Mark.
'But my girlfriend left me, I lost my home and I travelled round Toms River near here sleeping rough.
'I was told about Tent City and minister Steve by a fellow homeless person and I walked down here and approached him for a space in his camp.
'It is like a family here and he helped me get set up with a camping tent and now I have friends and people to talk to, which I have not had since my life collapsed.
'My family can't seem to help me no more and I have accepted that every time that they have tried to I have let them down and failed to sort my life out.
'I don't know what I would do if I didn't have this place to live in.'
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Obama's failure, a truth-telling tour, and a march on Washington, D.C.

This morning I read an opinion piece by Drew Westen that completely summed up the deep disappointment I feel in our president, Barack Obama.  I urge you to read all of it, but these two paragraphs frame Obama's failure.
When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public. 

IN contrast, when faced with the greatest economic crisis, the greatest levels of economic inequality, and the greatest levels of corporate influence on politics since the Depression, Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze. Instead of indicting the people whose recklessness wrecked the economy, he put them in charge of it. He never explained that decision to the public — a failure in storytelling as extraordinary as the failure in judgment behind it. Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century. He would have offered them a counternarrative of how to fix the problem other than the politics of appeasement, one that emphasized creating economic demand and consumer confidence by putting consumers back to work. He would have had to stare down those who had wrecked the economy, and he would have had to tolerate their hatred if not welcome it. But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far.
 Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West believe that Barack Obama is ignoring the plight of poor people.  They have launched The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience, to help wake this country up to what poor people have to go through every day, how their lives and the lives of their children have been stunted and cast aside.  Their inspiration also comes from Dr. Martin Luther King: "I choose to identify with the underprivileged, I choose to identify with the poor, I choose to give my life for the hungry, I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. . .This is the way I’m going.  If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way.  If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way.  If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying “DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS.”

Poor people are organizing on our own behalf, too-- not just in the small ways we do every day, but for major mobilizations.  The Assembly to End Poverty, which was formed from the poverty resolution at the 2010 United States Social Forum, is calling for a march on Washington, D.C. on June 30, 2012. I don't know yet how we're going to do it, but Arise, and poor people from all over Western Massachusetts, will be there.

We are fighting for our lives.

Photo from Racole's photostream from Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Milk Crate Gardening

 Found this article which reminded me very much of the street art action the QuESTies did....From CARE2

A temporary farm on a stalled construction site is an innovative response to two issues: finding local food in a city and beautifying urban spaces. GrowNYC is transforming many pockets of New York “through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”
One of its partnerships is with the Alexandria Center for Life Science, at East River Science Park. Right in the heart of skyscrapers and busy traffic, Riverpark Farm “is already supplying fresh produce to the adjacent Riverpark Restaurant, and in September, 2011 will open a unique green space that will further enhance the Kips Bay neighborhood.”
The milk-crate farm is on the site of what will eventually be the Alexandria Center’s west tower. Like so many construction projects in a flat economy, this one is on hold. The Farm’s Web site calls Riverpark Farm, “a landmark example of temporary alternative use of a stalled site to stimulate local interest and economic activity, benefit the environment, and beautify an area, and engage the community.”
By planting in milk crates, the urban farmers are growing an impressive amount of produce without sinking roots in a temporary location. Some plants do not grow well in confined spaces, but that leaves plenty of options for meeting the demands of a busy restaurant. The farm is water intensive because the containers drain and dry quickly. Still, they offer an aesthetic and tasty return for the investment in time and resources.
Being surrounded by concrete does offer some pluses. Michael Robertson talks about the “heat island effect” that allows Riverpark Farm to grow plants that normally do not thrive in a northern climate. Okra, anyone?

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

Why YOU should care about stopping the Tar Sands Pipeline

 Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline
"Essentially game over" for the climate.
That's what climate scientist James Hanson calls the proposed Keystone XL pipeline -- which would carry oil out of Canada's vast tar sands oil fields to Texas, where it will be refined, then burned across the globe, dealing a catastrophic blow to our chance of returning earth to a stable climate.
This project requires a presidential permit to start building -- and it is President Obama's decision alone to grant or deny that permit. He will make the decision as soon as September.
Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Alberta tar sands are a carbon bomb. The 3rd largest oil field in the world, the difficult extraction and transportation of the tar sands oil ultimately produces up to three times the carbon emissions of traditional oil. (And extreme environmental devastation along the way.)1
The Keystone XL pipeline is the fuse to this bomb - a highway to swift consumption of this dirty, dangerous crude. As if that wasn't enough, it poses a massive spill risk in the six states along the pipeline route, including over the Ogallala Aquifer which provides up to 30% of our nation's agricultural water.

Twenty leading climate scientists have just sent a letter to President Obama urging him to deny the permit.
And from August 20th to September 3rd, there will be a massive, historic, daily sit-in outside the White House where more than 1500 people, including CREDO staff, have already signed up to risk arrest in peaceful protest. (For more about the sit in, see below.)
The administration's previous decisions on climate do not inspire confidence that they will deny the permit. Recently the administration has opened new areas to offshore drilling and coal mining, and late last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even said she was "inclined" to approve Keystone XL.
But President Obama still has the final word. He does not have to negotiate with Congress or industry. As his State Department reviews the permit, the decision -- which could have a devastating impact on the livability of our nation, and our world -- is entirely in his hands.
We've lost too many climate fights already. We need a massive, historic show of pressure to make sure we don't lose this one. Please sign the petition and read below for other ways to get involved.
Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  From Credo.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Street Art That Makes You Look Twice

It’s all too easy to get stuck in a routine, walking through the city on autopilot without even noticing what’s around you. Urban guerrilla street artists seek to shake things up, force you to take a second look, change your preconceptions about your everyday surroundings.

Street art is any art that is created in public spaces, or, “in the streets!” It is unsanctioned art - art that is not sponsored by the government.

On Thursday, August 4th the QuEST Project of Out Now set out to the streets of Springfield to do some urban guerilla street art. We decided to take to the streets and fill in some of those pesky potholes that have taken over our some of our city streets. And, we chose to fill the potholes with flowers. Flowers would change the landscape; make people look twice, maybe three times; and, would get people wondering what we were up to.

As we went to into the neighborhoods, some people asked us what we were doing. Others asked if we were filling all the potholes in the city with flowers! Some young boys just stared at us with smiles. One couple, watching us from their front yard, gave a heartfelt, “Thank you.” At the end of our adventure, one woman approached us and said with negativity and skepticism, “What are you trying to prove…did you steal those from someone’s flower garden?”

Whatever the range of responses, we sure had some fun together and made people on our streets look twice! Print Friendly and PDF

Yes-- we're appealing Dept. of Environmental Protection's air permit for PRE.

In today's Republican, Pete Goonan has a story about the next steps in fighting to keep Palmer Renewable Energy's biomass incinerator out of Springfield.  The Conservation Law Foundation and Toxics Action Center have both filed appeals to the Department of Environmental Protection's issuance of an air permit. CLF is filing on behalf of its members, which includes many people from Springfield, and Arise for Social Justice.  I want to say thank you to both CLF and the Toxics Action Center, which have provided us with invaluable support the last two years, for taking up this battle.

Check out the new advertisement from the American Lung Association.  It reminds me of when one of our Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield members used the bulk of her two minutes before the Springfield City Council playing a recording of a child having an asthma attack.  Our city council did the right thing and revoked the local permit, but, not unexpectedly, PRE is now suing the city.  So the battle goes on.

I wrote on Monday about why local control may be the only control we can count on in the short term.  But even local control  is hard-won!  We have a lot of community education and mobilization still to do.  Want to help?  Get in touch. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mandatory mediation before foreclosure! Encourage Springfield City Council

Springfield City Hall (36 Court Street) -- Room 200
(we will gather at 4:30 PM outside City Hall)

Next wednesday August 10th at 5PM, the Springfield City Council will hold a subcommittee hearing to finalize the details of the mandatory mediation and the securing & maintaining foreclosed homes ordinances that unanimously passed first step on July 18th. There is growing noise that some banks, including the big banks, may be in attendance, possibly to lobby against this strong legislation. 

We plan to be there to support the city council's efforts to hold the banks accountable for the crisis they created, mitigate the impacts of the foreclosure crisis, keep Springfield residents in their homes and keep communities safe. 

Please join us to support the efforts to pass this ordinance and ensure that Springfield stands on the side of the PEOPLE not the BANKS! 

For more information on the Springfield Anti-Foreclosure Ordinances see 

Peace and Respect

Springfield No One Leaves & Springfield Bank Tenants Association
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The Decline: The Geography of a Recession by LaToya Egwuekwe

Stock market tanking...waiting for news of the overseas market...meanwhile, here's a video of the unfolding unemployment crisis.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee: listening is not necessarily hearing

On behalf of Arise, :Liz and I went to the first Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee meeting last night at Milton Bradley Elementary School.  The listening sessions are designed for the four sections of the city hardest hit by the June 1 Tornado; this one was for residents and businesses in the South End.

Other than advisory committee members and public officials, only about 20 people attended-- not surprising given that the dates for the four meetings were announced on Friday, July 29 and last night's meeting was Tuesday, August 2.  In addition, only 6 of the 15 advisory committee members actually attended the session (a tally kept by a man-- a renter-- in the back of the room).  I will be curious to see if advisory board members make a better showing in the primarily homeowner neighborhoods .

Health and Human Services Director Helen Caulton-Harris, who I believe described herself as the liaison between the community and the advisory board, and Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management Director Patrick Sullivan, another liaison, talked about the length of the tornado and the damage done.  They also talked about the development of a Master Plan.  i admit my heart sunk a bit there, not that I hadn't heard that before.  Whose Master Plan?  How much will that plan really include the desires and needs of Springfield residents?  And how can it include them if thery're not sufficiently invited?

Most South End residents talked about the need to have their housing rebuilt.  One woman, from 15 Park St., said, "OK, you wanted us to live downtown, and we did.  Now help us come back!"  Rico Daniele of Mom and Rico's wanted to see the South End Community Center built deeper into the South End.  Someone else spoke about the need for a market.  (By the way, check out Mike Dobb's editorial in the Reminder about the same need in a different place-- should be online tomorrow.)

I'm going to try to keep an open mind about the whole process, although I know most decisions are made behind the curtain.  Still, as the organizer's axoim goes, use what you've got to get what you need.
August 5th       6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      JC Williams Comm.  Cntr         116 Florence St.
August 11th     6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      Greenleaf Comm. Center         1188 ½ Parker St.
August 16th     6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      Holy Cross Church                    221 Plumtree Rd.

Photo by Don Treeger, Republican staff photographer Print Friendly and PDF

Just do it!

Thanks for the tip, BoingBoing! Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tornado listening session

In a few minutes, I and a couple of other Arise members are off to the first "Listening Session" held by the Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee.  I will definitely report on what it's like.  Meanwhile, here's a picture of the June 1 tornado that Steve Dzubek took as we were watching out Arise's back door. (That's Ruben in the lot, trying to get his own shot.) Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tornado Recovery: Will they really listen? Not if we don't speak out!

If you don’t read the newspaper everyday…if you’re not on the city’s email list…..then you might not know that there’s a Rebuild Springfield Citizens Advisory Committee which will make recommendations to the Mayor about how to rebuild our city.

Some people don’t want ANY new rental housing to be built to replace what is lost.. Is that what YOU want?
Some people want a supermarket built in the inner city. Do YOU like that idea?
Some people want more parks, more green space. How do YOU feel?
Some people want more businesses on Main St. but NOT a Big Box drugstore. How about YOU?

Arise for Social Justice is concerned that city decision-makers will rebuild Springfield for the people they WISH lived here, not the people who DO live here!

Make sure your voice is heard and attend these listening sessions? Need more info? Call Arise at 734-4948.


July 27, 2011 – In collaboration with the DevelopSpringfield and Springfield Redevelopment Authority’s Public/Private Partnership, the Rebuild Springfield Advisory Committee will be holding a Listening Tour during the month of August to hear from homeowners, residents and businesses about how they envision their neighborhoods to be rebuilt.  This is a unique opportunity to improve upon the past and preserve the vital components of each neighborhood. 
The tour is part of the overall Master Plan process and the Advisory Committee wants to ensure input has been solicited from each neighborhood in order to share it with the consulting firm that is ultimately chosen to prepare a master plan.  Each neighborhood affected by the tornado is unique and has individual characteristics that should be preserved.  The Advisory Committee realizes that an effective Master Plan must reflect the voices of the people and businesses that reside in each neighborhood.  These meetings are an opportunity to ensure that everyone is part of the rebuilding process.
The tours are scheduled as follows:
August 2nd       6:00 – 8:00 p.m.     Milton Bradley School             22 Mulberry St.
August 5th       6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      JC Williams Comm. Cntr         116 Florence St.
August 11th     6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      Greenleaf Comm. Center         1188 ½ Parker St.
August 16th     6:00 – 8:00 p.m.      Holy Cross Church                    221 Plumtree Rd.
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The worst is yet to come

Does anyone think, this morning, that the debt ceiling crisis has been "solved?"

I'm no political analyst and it's going to take me (and the rest of the country) some time to figure out exactly how bad the pending deal is going to be for poor, working class and middle class people of this country.  But I got a big hint this morning of where we're headed next during CNN's interview of Sen. John McCain.

McCain mentioned that as a way to stimulate the economy and get businesses investing, he'd like to see a two year moratorium on all government regulations.

Following is a list of some of the federal agencies and bureaus that would be affected by McCain's plan.  Take a look and use your imagination: Just how might the robber baron corporations exploit lack of regulations, both those that currently exist and those that might be proposed?

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Bureau of Prisons, Commission on Civil Rights, Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture,
Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services,Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Division, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Maritime Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Fish and Wildlife Service, Food and Drug Administration,Food Safety and Inspection Service, Housing and Urban Development, Justice Department, Labor Department,Marine Mammal Commission, Mine Safety and Health Administration, National AIDS Policy Office, National Park Service, National Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Public and Indian Housing, Veterans Health Administration.

Well, I can give you a hint: as of last Friday, 39 anti-environmental riders were attached to the 2012 spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.  If passed, they would mean that for a year: no greenhouse gas regulations, no new auto efficiency regulations,  no limits on mountaintop coal removal, no strengthening of protections for wetlands, no labeling the toxic ash from coal-fired power plants as hazardous waste-- and much more.  You can read some details in a Sunday Editorial in the New York Times.

So what are we to do?  Our options on a federal level may be limited at the moment, but as a lifelong community organizer, at least one course of action is clear to me: fight for local control on every front of this war against us.  Build our strength and our skills to challenge, from the bottom up, the corporate control over our lives.  Tell the truth!  Oppose illegitimate authority!  Start taking back our power-- at the next street corner, at the steps of city hall, at our state capitals.  And do it now.

Only after the last tree has been cut down.
Only after the last river has been poisoned.
Only after the last fish has been caught.
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
                                           ~ Cree saying
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