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Transportation stimulus: ‘small step’

Transportation initiatives in an economic recovery bill released by a House committee today (pdf) “take a small step in the right direction where bold strides are needed,” said Brian Imus of Illinois PIRG.

“Money included to modernize and expand public transportation networks will put thousands to work while reducing our nation’s dependence on oil, traffic congestion, and global warming pollution,” he said.  But he points out that “three times as much money is allocated to highways.”

“The question that remains is whether [highway spending] will prioritize much-needed repair of crumbling roads and bridges or be squandered on wasteful superhighways and lane expansions.”

Napolitano: end raids, support reform

With Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano at a Senate committee hearing considering her nomination as Homeland Security Secretary today, Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights is pointing out that workplace raids and additional billions spent on immigration enforcement have diverted resources from other law enforcement priorities.  In a statement, ICIRR urged Napolitanon to “push for just and humane immigration reform that brings immigrants within the law, offers opportunities for safe future migration, protects all workers, and helps immigrants integrate into American society.”

Geithner – an old hand at economic crisis

The Tribune reports that Timothy Geithner faces questions about his tax returns.  According to Matt Rothschild in the Progressive, there are also questions about his record as in economic policy making, including his role in economic crises and his capacity to hold Wall Street accountable:   Read the rest of this entry »

Immigration Day at Camp Hope

January 15 is Immigration Rights Day at Camp Hope in Drexel Square (see last month’s Newstip), and immigrants and supporters will be present from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. “playing music, praying, sharing testimonies and reflections, having discussions about immigrant and worker rights, and calling on Barack Obama to take action on these issues.”

At 11 a.m. the Chicago Workers Collaborative will present workers giving testimony on workplace abuses and discrimination; at 3 p.m. Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition will hold a memorial for immigrants who have died in the desert and those who have been deported and separated from their families.

Meanwhile, following a 10:30 a.m. press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission, 2500 S. Harding, a procession of immigrants will march nine miles to Camp Hope, stopping at churches along the way.  A welcoming ceremony is planned for 5 p.m., with a 5:30 p.m. press conference followed by a procession to University Church, 5655 S. University, for a forum and discussion.

Foundation challenge

In the Nation, Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice urges foundations  to “seize the moment” and its new “opportunities for progress.” She offers suggestions including “think big,” moving beyond the small-bore, defensive strategies of recent years to bold, transformational approaches; and “invest now,” while agendas are being shaped, by maintaining funding levels (despite shrinking endowments) — and providing more unrestricted support to allow organizations to respond to unexpected opportunities. 

And if you’re in Washington next week, the Alliance is sponsoring a forum on Driving Change: The Role of Activists during the Obama Administration, with Van Jones of Green For All and Eli Pariser of MoveOn on Monday morning.

Recovery and trade

Obama has said he supports free trade, and the New York Times reports the economic crisis may delay action on his promise to renegotiate NAFTA.  But according to Laura Carlson, “It hasn’t been lost on the rest of the world that the U.S. government is adopting measures such as massive subsidies and bailouts that it has sought to deny developing countries under free-trade rules.”

Robert Kutter says many of Obama’s most sensible policies to revive the economy “violate the sacred dogma of free trade.  If the Obama administration is serious about reviving American manufacturing industry, it is only a matter of time before a foreign government hauls the U.S. before the World Trade Organization.”

Meanwhile 60 groups from the Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. joined the Alliance for Responsible Trade urging Obama to renegotiate NAFTA, not just to strengthen labor and environmental standards, but to shape trade policy so it doesn’t favor agribusiness and hurt small farmers — and further exacerbate the growing food crisis.

‘Housing is infrastructure’

With the still-growing housing crisis at the core of the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression, advocates called for affordable housing to be a key component of stimulus and recovery plans.

“Housing is infrastructure,” said Jack Markowski of the Community Investment Corporation, alluding to massive infrastructure investments planned in the forthcoming stimulus program. “It employs people. It provides the foundation to allow people to be part of the workforce.” And with a growing need for energy conservation, “it’s part of the green economy.

“We have proposals that are shovel-ready,” he added, speaking at a gathering of over 200 community housing practitioners convened by the Chicago Rehab Network at Roosevelt University yesterday.

Markowski called for tripling expenditures for the federal HOME Investment Partnership Program, which finances affordable housing production — at $2 billion a year, its budget has not been increased since 1990, he said — as well as for the $4 billion Community Development Block Grant Program.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky described efforts by congressional leadership to include $23 billion for affordable housing development in the stimulus package, including $10 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund to build or save 100,000 low-income rental homes over two years, as well as funds for more low-income rental subsidies, upgrading public housing units to green standards, and helping cities redevelop foreclosed properties.

Together the proposed spending would assist 800,000 hard-hit households and create 200,000 new jobs, she said.

Schakowsky also discussed efforts to require any further spending under the TARP financial bailout program to include at least $40 billion for foreclosure mitigation.

Participants in two panels expressed high hopes for the incoming Obama administration. “We need a HUD that wants to do housing,” said Andrew Geer of Heartland Housing.

Community Media Workshop president Thom Clark moderated the panel discussions.

Joy Aruguete of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation emphasized the connection between affordable housing and a green jobs program, and Ted Wysocki of the LEED Council stressed the need for immediate training for green jobs.

Housing consultant Teresa Prim discussed the economic recovery plan proposed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Steven McCullough of Bethel New Life called for “holding financial institutions accountable and making sure capital is flowing to the people who really need it…. We’re at the point where a large number of multifamily buildings are in trouble because of [lack of] capital flow.”

McCullough said the worker sit-in at Republic Windows last month could be replicated in multifamily rental buildings, with families refusing to move when buildings go into foreclosure.

“In Chicago we’ve seen overinvestment in high-end housing causing displacement, and in Washington we’ve seen that a top-down housing policy allows the bottom to fall out,” said Pat Abrams of The Renaissance Collaborative. “But we who work at the community level have an alternative to the top-down approach.

“Affordable housing is a community anchor,” Abrams said. “We must ensure that affordable housing, and especially rental housing, is the centerpiece of any economy recovery.”

Panel: Treasury defies Congress on foreclosure help in bailout

Something was missing from accounts of new efforts to target financial bailout funds to stop foreclosures — the fact that Congress is contemplating stronger language because the Treasury Department has ignored the mandate for homeowner relief in the original bailout legislation.   Read the rest of this entry »



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  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]
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