Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Dallas Logistics Hub is focal point for the transportation of goods from Gulf of Mexico and Pacific areas through the North American trade route through Midwest and southeast United States. That along with the Trinity River Tollway and the Great Trinity River forest hold great promise for the redevelopment of working class and economically distressed areas of our city.
The Allen Group, an inland port developer and the principle investor in the DLH, projects that this hub will produce some 60,000 jobs, directly and indirectly. This as well as the aforementioned projects, hold great promise in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, environmental technology, construction and benefits to southern Dallas proper as well as suburbs to the south. Yet, as far as we know, Dallas' initial lobbying in anticipation of the new administrations stimulus package, efforts hardly mention plans to aid in the growth of this enterprise. This is not a bailout measure, mind you, it is simply the proper role of city and county government to address the infrastructure and environmental issues needed to expand the project. Until recently, the city and county proposals have been for the development of a 'Master Plan' which ultimately serve to delay support of this project for another 18 months.
I'll speak more to all of this later. In the meantime you can read the full column here.
Also, Don Baylor has written a very important op-ed column on Texas' need to reform its unemployment insurance policy. Don is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. It's a great organization led by Scott McCown.
Texas in general, and Dallas in particular have weathered the economic storm that has hit the rest of our country so hard. But our leaders must be more visionary and much more proactive!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
It is a honest, challenging account of the fear, doubt and uncertainty that men face when living with this disease and going through treatment.
What Dana says about the fears and discoveries of new strength through the support of family, friends and even medical professionals is both refreshing and sobering.
I went through, and am going through much of what he talks about. Dana and I are not alone.
If you or someone you know either faces or is living with prostate cancer or its aftermath, it might help you to follow his account of his journey.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Eventually, news like this comes not as an announcement, but more like a personal message. It drives home increasingly the vulnerability and brevity of life. We don't all get to be old men and women and we are not all destined for rocking chairs and retirement homes.
Ironically, this yule tide season carries with it its own message.
Last Christmas, the first in our new home, we were able to experience what we had fantasized about since we moved: having the family over for Christmas. All day long family, friends came and went. It alleviated my mother from the burden of having to clean and entertain and it was a joy to watch her sit and enjoy Christmas without having to even think about cleaning up.
I watched a new generation of cousins. These were the grand children of first cousins and second cousins and their children, so I had to keep asking, "OK, now whose baby is this?" It was exciting and sobering at the same time!
Last September I had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A second PSA screening had confirmed it, so it was a question of treatment. I had postponed the research that would lead me to making an informed decision. When you hear that you have cancer, you really don't take in a great deal after that. My wife and I hadn't even told our children yet. With the death of their brother in September, we figured to let them enjoy the holidays. Besides, earlier that morning we got word that another friend of theirs had died earlier that morning (believe it or not!).
I remember about the time we served dinner and everyone was milling about the table deciding what they would pile on their plate, I looked at the everyone trying to take it all in. One thought kept haunting me: "Next year, I might not be here..."
Obviously, things went much better than my worst fears. And this year, I think I'm a little more appreciative of just being here to celebrate this season. The year hasn't been easy, but this year is one for which I am truly and seriously more grateful.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." Luke 2:1 - 17 (KJV)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
This past Sunday I attended worship at the church of a friend of mine and what did I encounter when the time came for us to read the scripture for the morning. You guessed it! And so did the rest of the church, but it was a typo that really made me think.
The scripture is Luke 2:14, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to all men." But the scripture in the bulletin read, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to tall men"! Needless to say there were chuckles throughout the congregation.
But isn't it true that in so many ways we figure that there is grace, good will and peace that only goes to a select few.
The recent economic woes, the uncertainty of the future, the incoming administration, indeed any number of things often conspire to divide the world into winners and losers.
The fact is, we are often on different ends of a continuum: we are poor and rich, black and white, Republican, Democrat or Independent. But the future belongs to all of us to create and this season should remind us that we can all share in a good will accessible to us all.
No matter where it is modeled or heralded. Whether Washington D.C. or Heaven itself we can choose a reflect a good will that is intended to characterize humanity and help each of us rise to become our better selves.
We all actually have the chance to choose whether we are 'tall' or not!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Haven't many of us who voted for Obama, complained that the current administration talked to no one but the ones who agreed with them?! They fired government those in the administration who would not adjust facts to fit a neo-conservative world view; the President wouldn't even appear at the NAACP convention, because the organization didn't like him; they marginalized Cabinet members who wouldn't toe the party line. And now the incoming president invites someone who is a fellow Christian but who doesn't totally agree with him ideologically or theologically and asks him to give the invocation and now the liberals who are complaining.
Obama is doing what he promised to do - bring down the each against all frame that has defined our politics for far too long. Obama said that we should be willing to engage in dialogue with those who did not agree with us. Did we not expect him to model this? Or did we think this only applied to foreign policy? This is a first step that we should welcome. If we are saying that a man who doesn't march lock step in political and religious views of the newly elected president shouldn't pray and for the country at his inauguration, then Obama's election was more about vindication than it was 'change'.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
British Prime Minister and Minister of Defence
Nobel Prize Laureate
"If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Less than 3 miles from there is an area called the Lamar Street Corridor.
For more than a year, I've represented Central Dallas Ministries working with a group of community leaders, residents, religious leaders, a world class city planner and a group of committed technical advisers to make sure that this neighborhood doesn't get left out of a more than $300 million highway, toll road improvement associated with the Trinity River Project.
People say that South Dallas needs economic development. South Dallas proper is about a 13 square mile area in which there are more than 300 liquor related businesses. On the Lamar Street corridor, in about 215 acres, alongside and down the street from churches and houses, vacant and inhabited, are 5 night clubs, 11 liquor stores, 5 scrap metal yards, 6 truck and warehouse facilities and a dairy factory! Combine that with the addicts selling stolen copper to the scrap metal yards, drugs and prostitution, there's plenty of 'economic development'! Just not the right kind.
Would anyone in his or her right mind think that what is needed to bring economic development and restoration of the health and wholeness of this community is a sports bar that serves alcohol?
Dallas' Plan Commission, obviously believes that the one thing needed to return this neighborhood to viability is the aforementioned sports bar which will add an additional liquor related establishment to the 16 current ones. They approved a Special Use Permit to serve alcohol for the business because they felt sorry for the owner who had invested some $75,000 in getting this venture underway. I have a former member who lives about five blocks away from the 'sports bar'. She's been in the neighborhood for more than 40 years. I wonder what she deserves for her considerable investment.
Of course no one asked the people brave enough to stay there if they want their area continually depressed by blight, crime and businesses that bring down the value of their neighborhood.
But this is a new day. Earlier this week, braving bitter cold, rain and snow, more than 60 church members, residents, neighborhoods leaders met with the city planners to review the plans which they will recommend to city for their neighborhood next month. There will be more meetings and more, many more residents, involved in the effort. They will be at City Hall to oppose the granting of this SUP and to promote the plan that they've helped to develop. It involves healthy retail, it involves new housing, common spaces for gathering and recreation and walking.
It does not include one liquor store, or one night club, or one sports bar. It is designed to be a neighborhood that attracts mixed income families and those who want to be a part of something enhances the life of the community and the city. And despite the economic crisis in this country there is the passion, the move and the growing commitment on the part of this community not to give up on their neighborhood.
These residents, these citizens will create the political will necessary to change their neighborhood. I'm proud to work among them.
I look forward to celebrating victory with them!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I believe we're talking about a democratic institution that responds to the needs of our country by inculcating young people with the principles of citizenship, providing them with an education that stimulates their appetite for lifelong learning and prepares them to make a productive contribution to their communities and society at large.
Those in themselves are lofty goals. We appear to become manic about encrusting these objectives with standardized tests which require near rote memorization and political demands on administrators which distract, divert and deny good teachers the opportunity to do their best work.
With the growing demands for accountability and conflicting ideas about what constitutes accountability (test scores, graduation rates, report cards, etc.), we tend to miss accountability on the part of those who are elected to make sure that standards of accountability are adhered to - whatever those standards may be. I'm talking about school board trustees and district administrators.
Dallas' school district fiasco in which 700 teachers were hired without adequate budgetary oversight to make sure there was money to hire them (resulting in a $64 million deficit and the firing of hundreds of teachers), demands accountability.
Correcting the crisis, is fundamental: fix the problem of course, but also find out both how it happened and who was responsible. This may or may not mean that heads will roll, but to keep it from happening again, don't you have to know what caused it? Seems simple to me.
Not only has no one been fired anyone except the district's chief budget officer, trustees have decided that they need to extend their term of office - an indication that they think that they've done a good job. In doing so they've been dismissive of the idea that this might not be legal.
But wait, that's not all! It has declared that there is no interest in finding out how it happened!
"I have very little interest trying to figure out who to blame for this; I'm trying to look out the front windshield, make sure it doesn't happen again and get back to the business of educating kids.
"I don't want to interrogate the people in the budget office and the HR office and see what they did wrong. I don't care", says the districts chairman.
Most of these board members will be returned to office and nearly 200,000 students will get a message, explicitly or implicitly, by the culture that is created by such thinking: accountability really doesn't matter. If you mess up, change the rules of the game and keep on playing.
The only real question is whether or not come election time - whenever it is - will Dallas citizens ask why these trustees should be re-elected and demand an answer worthy of DISD employees, the students, their families and the rest of Dallas.
Failure to ask these tough questions and the refusal to answer them, by those who seek and receive our votes imperil not only the future of our children, but the fundamental purpose of public education, and democratic institutions in general.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life', there's a line in there that I like to remember regarding ordinary people. George Bailey tells Mr. Potter, "...don't forget its this rabble you talk about who do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this town..."
It's too easy for us to forget this, when great fortunes seem more important than the empty pockets of ordinary people.
We're not talking about the fast food industry, or even certain sectors of the retail industry. Bankruptcy for automakers is not like bankruptcy for the airline industry. Most of us will never own a commercial airplane. Almost all of us own, or are in some way dependent upon automobile transportation. Failure in that area, makes collateral failure a very frightening proposition.
I heard a commentator say over the weekend, that the Chrysler bailout of near twenty years ago didn't work because it cost the American taxpayer money by paying off the loan early! Excuse me?! Didn't the government get any money from taxes on car sales? People who continued to work in the industry as opposed to the lay-offs that would have ensued? Advertising revenue, didn't help the country? Lee Iaccoca's book sales - I mean come on, that bailout didn't work? Seriously?
Maybe we all can stipulate that auto industry executives haven't helped their cause:
The chairmen of the industries flew in to D.C. to beg for money on corporate jets - got it.
The cars that have been made by the automakers catered to worst excesses of their customer base and ignored or resisted efforts at regulation that would have had them produce more fuel efficient cars - you're right.
Foreign auto makers building cars on American soil make a car, on the whole, about $2000 less than American manufactures primarily due to labor costs - OK.
In a free market economy you have to be able to keep up with the competition, otherwise you just lose out - point well taken...
But w are talking about one of the last major manufacturing industries that we have in this country.
I'm not an economist, but here's a question: exactly what will unemployment benefits cost for the 3.5 million workers who would lose their jobs if the automakers went under? In an economy that threatens the prospect of a 9% jobless rate, how would that be helpful?
Another question: how much would cars produced by foreign automakers cost if there were no competition by American auto manufacturers?
According to the head of the UAW, and members of Congress, the sticking point in the bridge loan negotiations, was the fact that the UAW wouldn't guarantee a date certain that they would bring wage demands in line with those of foreign automakers. So the reason Congress couldn't see themselves allocating $14 billion was because of the employees?! Because their representatives couldn't guarantee a date in 'certain' when the employees would take less pay after previous concessions?
The refusal to refuse the bridge loan, goes to a fundamental philosophy regarding who has value in this society. If this philosophy prevails, its going to be awfully hard to pull out of this mess. More than $700 billion was appropriated to financial institutions who have essentially passed money around among themselves - a philosophy that says the presence of these institutions maintain the financial solvency of this country.
Nearly 2 million people have joined the ranks of the unemployed and essentially the Congress took a pass on the prospects of an additional 3 million Americans out of work.
We can go round and round regarding who works and who provides jobs. Until, that is, there's no money to buy the hamburger, the hammer, the wrench or the car - no matter where its made. Then we'll find who this country's MVPs really are.
Monday, December 15, 2008
"In the meantime, a lot of pain lies ahead."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
"Graham's restatement of [St. Anselm of Canterbury's] theology of satisfaction sharply diverged from King's liberation theology. Academically trained in a tradition that rejected Anselm wholesale. King would never ground his social thought in a bloodthirsty God or the Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world. Even as a seminary student, King had written a critical reflection on Anselm's satisfaction theories. Such views taken literally," he argued, 'become bizarre. On the one hand, merit and guilt are not transferable from one person to another, and on the other, the practice of human repentance requires a condition in which Jesus Christ has not already "paid the full penalty of sin." But King reserved his greatest displeasure for the type of God reflected in Anselm's theology: "It presents God as a kind of feudal Overlord, or as a stern Judge, or as a Governor to a state. Each of these minimizes the true Christian conception of God as a free personality. Rejecting Anselm, King eventually identified Jesus not a s the Lamb slain for the sins of the world, but as the Liberator who could free blacks from the oppressive reign of racist pharaohs. also contradictory to Graham, the civil rights leader held that the cross of the Liberator was never about cleansing blood for individual hears seeking salvation but about virtues and practices that mark the people of God - forgiveness, love, sacrifice, and nonviolence. The cross was not a nice place to kneel at in quiet prayer; it was rather the way of life to take up and bear. It was the locus of reconciliation and healing for the world, not because it cleansed confessing converts, but because it revealed the way, the truth and the life - the reconciling power of turning the other cheek even while demanding that pharaoh let God's people go."
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
After 12 years of education, kids graduate with little curiosity, little capacity for thinking critically and sometimes little in the way of a sense of the world in which they live. Five years ago 48% of 9th graders remained in school to receive their diplomas. In 2007-08, it was just barely 42%. Neither are great numbers, but neither can the significance of such numbers be obscured by the constant administrative drumbeat announcing 'rising test scores'. Children love to learn, but they have to stay in school to learn and they only enjoy learning when they have a sense of achievement and contribution that cannot come from a standardized test.
Admittedly, when it comes to education a lot of factors enter into this. Life in environments characterized by concentrated poverty, for instance. The challenge is for schools to reinvent themselves if they are to be effective. But presently, young people drilled on standardized testing skills to justify a politician's re-election bid, is leading us into a cultural, moral and intellectual ditch, rivaled only by our current economic meltdown.
In Texas someone has forgotten adjust school systems for a post-industrial, technological age (although, it would be nice for all students to have some antiquated learning materials like, oh let me see - textbooks!). Children don't need computers in classrooms to help the pass the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) test. They need to learn how to use computers as tools to help analyze and develop solutions to complex sets of scientific, cultural and social challenges that face our nation and the world. And they shouldn't have to wait until senior year of high school or freshman year of college.
Take a look at what works!
I mentioned that I haven't met an educator yet who refutes the notion that children are becoming trained test takers vs. educated citizens. What I do tend to get from defenders of the status quo is, 'Well, how do you suggest we assess children's mastery of the core subjects?'
I don't know? Creating opportunities for students to exercise their minds, to observe, and demonstrate the relevance between what they have been taught and life, perhaps? Perhaps if, as in Dallas, nearly 80% of high school graduates going to community college, having demonstrated 'subject mastery', yet needing remediation shows that what they have mastered was filling in bubbles with a number 2 pencil. Perhaps the successes, touted as the results of the system, are, results obtained by students bright enough, and teachers good and proficient enough, that we would have seen success if these students had been hidden in a cave from grades K-5!
The Texas legislature is getting it - well sort of - they want to refine the test!
The Dallas Morning News reported earlier this year, "Lawmakers who lead the way on education policy are warming to the idea of major changes to Texas' report card system for public schools, which already gets failing marks from superintendents and teachers.
"A new version, as currently envisioned, would dramatically alter the focus of student testing, which forms the basis for school report cards, and introduce new incentives for schools that make gains."
How about the creativity and courage to reinvent schools so that children who graduate are students who have actually learned?
I do not suggest for one second, that this is easy. But when you consider what's happening in public education currently, can anyone honestly say that the work required is not worth it?
Much of the hard work requires all of us, in every neighborhood, championing the proposed goal of public education: an intellectually well rounded, socialized, physically healthy citizen prepared to begin to make a positive contribution to the world. And this means creating a system designed to provide this benefit for every child.
If what we are doing doesn't work, then we have to create the structure that will. Unless, its in someones interest for it not to work!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Turns out someone took the vitriol of the campaign much more seriously than I did. Leo Donofrio of New Brunswick, New Jersey, had filed suit earlier alleging that Barack Obama's candidacy for the nation's highest office was invalid because he is not a - well - a citizen. A citizen of the United States that is. According to Donofrio, because Obama's father was from Kenya and in 1961, when Obama was born, Kenya was a province of Great Britain, Obama had dual citizenship thereby disqualifying him for the office of president. To be fair, Mr. Donofrio also included in the suit an allegation that John McCain - yes that John McCain - is also not qualified, by virtue of some questions regarding his citizenship. Of the United States, that is.
The suit made it all the way to the Supreme Court and the Court (fortunately) refused to hear the case. Reports conjecture that one reason is that Donofrio could not prove that he had legal standing. In other words, he didn't prove that he was materially harmed in some way more than the rest of his fellow citizens - the 64 million of whom elected Obama to be the 44th president of the United States - of America, that is.
There are other suits in the offing. As a matter of fact Alan Keyes, the perennial Republican candidate for just about every office you can name and most recently vanquished by Obama for the office of U.S. Senate from Illinois, is one of the plaintiffs in one of those suits. Really...
Seriously, if the economic crisis were a foreign enemy invading our country we'd be at DEFCON 4 about right now. We're not sure that we won't lose the auto industry, one of the last manufacturing industries we have. We've lost more than 2 million jobs in an economy that was supposed to 'trickle down' opportunity for everyone. We lost half a million of those jobs last month and there is no clear end in sight. The rest of the world is feeling the effect of this fiscal contagion and there is a fringe group that wants to add to these and the collateral woes a political and constitutional catastrophe by overturning a presidential election.
The Supreme Court refused to here the case but did so without comment, so again the question of legal standing is conjecture. So since we're conjecturing we could add some other possible reasons:
Perhaps the Court thought that as contentious and as 'pull out all the stops' as the Democratic primary had been they figured that, if true, this might have become an issue.
Maybe they thought that after a 2 year long presidential campaign, someones campaign, one of the one's that really wanted to win (like almost all of them?), would have pointed out that one of the candidates wasn't a legal citizen.
Perhaps the Supreme Court in its wisdom, figured that before Barack Obama went overseas and met with heads of state, as a viable candidate for Commander-in-Chief, they would have checked out whether he was a citizen before okaying the trip.
The Supreme Court, might have thought that the Secret Service might have asked some questions before they assigned agents to a candidate who really wasn't a naturalized citizen.
The justices may also have figured out that the Republican Party and those who REALLY wanted to stay in power, may well have checked into this and used it, even if there were a hint of truth to it. They brought up 'socialism' and missed, legal citizenship status?!
The Court may well have thought that the implications of the suit were just ridiculous. You mean the country was so desperate to have a black president that everyone responsible just forgot to consider whether or not he was constitutionally qualified?!
Our country has real problems. For the current generation of leadership, congressional and otherwise, times worse than the ones we face are a historic memory. We don't have any actual experience in dealing with a crisis that calls for the near reinvention of our economy and by extension, our way of life. Maybe the justices on the Supreme Court thinks that's what we ought to be dealing with. We need to figure out how to bring an end to two wars. Maybe they thought that's what we ought to be concerned about. Public education isn't working, maybe the Highest Court in the land considered that to be a higher priority. If so, I agree with them.
Or am I still being naive?
Monday, December 8, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
There are some places where its totally unavoidable - movies, banks, DMV, check out stands. But on the whole I avoid it whenever possible. That's why I have always had a hard time relating to people who will camp out in long lines, sometime for days, for movie and concert tickets, or department stores...
But the trampling to death of a Wal-Mart employee in New York, puts a whole new spin on the idea of this phenomenon. Thirty-four year old Jdimytai Damour, a temporary maintenance worker at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. He was trying to help control a mob of 2000 frenzied early shoppers who had gathered before 3:30 am to shop for 'bargains'.
There are questions regarding crowd control, adequate security, etc. All are extremely important issues for which Wal-Mart ought to be held accountable in some way. But here's another thought - how about people acting like sane human beings?!
I thought, we all got it: the recent economic decline, caused by the exploitation of policies designed to help the middle class and working class achieve homeownership; greed on Wall Street, people living beyond their means all were supposed to signal the need to re-evaluate our values. That's why citizens are incensed about bail outs, leveraged government loans, the meltdown of the capitalist system - right?
We were supposed to be reassessing our materialism and the way we equate bigger and newer with 'successful'. This is one time, we don't have a systemic problem. This problem is cultural, spiritual. When it comes to greed and insensitivity you don't have to be eligible for a golden parachute!
Don't get me wrong! Wal-Mart certainly did have a great sale - a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9. But somehow, I can't believe that anyone who bought anything on last Friday at that Wal-Mart, really believes what they bought was worth it.
But then again, according to Kimberly Cribbs, when people were asked to leave so that police and investigators could assess what had happened, "...people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."
While Wal-Mart offered the obligatory public sympathetic statement, no one from the company contacted the grieving family.
The store re-opened at 1:00 pm, that afternoon...
We obviously don't get it. Black Friday indeed!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
But there is always hope that large scale history making electoral politics can actually have significant local impact, after all, aside from local sales tax, local and state income taxes, property taxes and fees, all that's left is federal money. So 'local', practically speaking, is relative isn't it?
Jim Reid, is the former Executive Director of the South Dallas Development Corporation and is now president of a statewide non-profit called Momentum Texas.
Jim's insight into the local implication of the incoming administration's policies are, I believe spot on. And his understanding of the need in areas of concentrated poverty in Dallas are inarguable:
"The severity of poverty in this part of town and the absence of "living wages" make initiatives to increase income imperative. Thousands of southern Dallas residents who work full time are unable to pay living expenses. A tax policy initiative that could move hundreds of southern Dallas residents above the poverty level is linked to proposed increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which is designed to promote financial stability and "make work pay."
"Also germane is a proposed increase in the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2011. Subsequent increases would be indexed to inflation. The minimum wage is now $6.55 an hour, or $262 weekly. How can a single parent with two children meet basic needs at this income level?
"In the late 1990s, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas did a study of southern Dallas indicating that residents' main concern was good-paying jobs. This concern remains totally relevant based on today's rate of unemployment and a fragile economy."
The fact is, the people who are going to be hurt the most if this economy craters are not the people on Wall Street or Main Street. It will be the people on local streets most of which neither the people on Wall Street or Main Street have never heard of.
Monday, December 1, 2008
An interesting thing has developed on the way to the White House, however. We're hearing words that are being refreshingly associated with the presidency. Words like, smart, intelligent, impressive, articulate, curious. During the primaries and the presidential campaign itself, articulateness and intelligence became dirty words. It was almost as if being thoughtful and reflective was a constitutional disqualifier.
I almost expected Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to be removed from the roster of former presidents!
This interregnum between administrations has actually turned into an Obama 'pre-Presidency', again, a sign of how desperate the times have become, but as such, it is only a hint at the decision making process of the the soon to be POTUS, not necessarily a guarantee of success. However, it apparently is enough to make the country feel, well - hopeful.
The intelligence and thoughtfulness with which Barack Obama is approaching the monumental task of righting this country's economic ship is being met with a great deal of admiration by even conservative columnists. David Brooks, referring to the current announced administrative appointees and personages ar a 'validictocracy' says, "...as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.
"The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically."
Washington Post's David Broder said, "...I am struck by how lucky this country is, at the moment, that the president-elect is a super-smart person like Barack Obama."
These are not homages to a brainiac Commander in Chief, but rather, I believe a recognition that maybe we need more than just reflexive certitude in a president. Having the smartest guys in the room surrounding the president doesn't necessarily mean that there is an overlooked magic bullet to fix the economy, health care, end the war, prop up public education and - well I don't need to go on, you get the picture - that only the uber educated can find. But some Americans could learn that its not enough to just have an ideological predisposition toward a solution; that intellectually disciplined women and men, committed to presenting well thought out points of view, with enough depth that those points of view can be probed and adjusted as circumstances dictate, are an asset not a liability. It will be important as we entered the uncharted territory which the new president and his administration will surely face.
I also wonder about the example this might to our young people. All young people. African-American youth and children, Hispanics, high school age, elementary, you name it. It's a good thing to have the President of the U.S., with the ability to communicate clear strategy, inspire hope through his articulation of vision, and the capacity to critically think through problems and issues and develop a process based on the most thoroughly debated range of options?
Consider another one of Broder's observations, "...the quality of his questions -- and his follow-ups -- were a measure of the depth of his knowledge of the situation.
"He has not been tested that rigorously in the news conferences he has held so far, but his ability to respond to the questions he has been asked, to make his points in a coherent, balanced way and to avoid any misstatement has certainly been a treat to watch."
What a great object lesson it is to have a leader (and leaders), in our country who have not allowed ethnicity, age and socioeconomic challenges serve as barriers to achievements, but stepping stones? I think Kathleen Parker, another conservative columnist had it right: "By [Obama's] example, he telegraphs the following messages: Being smart is good; education is good; being a good father is essential. Being an egghead is cool."
Think about it. According to Brooks, on January 20, these are the personalities who will support the new executive branch of government:
"Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.). The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law)."
Again, I want to stress, Barak Obama's not POTUS yet (although there are some who are arguing that his first 100 days have already started), and it takes more than a degree to make one an effective leader, after all, the smartest guys in the room sunk Enron! But the example Obama currently projects may be good for more than just our fiscal and political future. It just may be good for our image of ourselves.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Some of mine are no longer with us, men primarily, of whom some may have heard, some you may have never heard of, but their insight and skill in the pulpit inspired and ministered to me as a Christian and as a Gospel preacher.
Still others are with us and I count some of them as friends and colleagues.
One of them is George Mason, of Wilshire Baptist Church here in Dallas. George provides a wisdom and instruction, that is both timely and timeless!
George's sermon after the November 4th election, entitled 'Sorting through Our Gods', is something I think all of us who are believers should heed. Here are some excerpts:
"I heard a fellow Baptist preacher use a blowtorch just this past Sunday. He took the biblical verse Blessed be the nation whose God is the Lord to mean that America is a Christian nation and there is no place among us for leaders who would show respect to other religions. He was clear that we should vote only for a Christian, and only for one whose positions on certain issues are in line with the ones he listed. It’s about the righteous versus the unrighteous. And there was no question whom he was telling them to vote for and whom to vote against. The congregation applauded. I think you would boo me, if not stone me, for doing that. Rightly so.
"The Internet has been inundated with accusations that our president-elect is secretly a Muslim and that voting for him is voting to put away the God of Christianity and replace it with the god of Islam. My friends, this rhetoric is unbecoming of Christians, who should have no fear of our faith failing, since it is founded upon the Rock of Ages, not upon Plymouth Rock. We live in a nation that, while grounded in Judeo-Christian principles, gives place to all religions, along with the freedom to practice without interference from government. We can leave it to God to sort through the religions. That does not mean Christians should be silenced or sidelined, but neither does it mean we should be arrogant and privileged. It means that every individual should “choose you this day whom you will serve” without anyone in Washington or Austin or Rome or Jerusalem or Mecca telling you what god you have to serve or what religion you must follow. When you try to sweep away other religions by intolerance and disrespect, you are using a blowtorch that will backfire and burn you in the process."
"Ideology and idolatry are close kin. The hope of the world is found in the Lord and in the Lord alone. Left, right and center are not points on a spiritual compass. Politics and politicians come and go—some for better, others for worse. But the God who made you and saved you in Jesus Christ is everlasting.
"You choose the Lord and put away the god of the polls when you order your life according to the biblical principles of hope rather than optimism, and justice rather than self-interest. Now is the time to get back to the basics of faith and faithfulness."
As wonderful as some of us feel the election turned out, its important that we keep it in perspective.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is a law designed for birth parents, most often young, single women, unprepared for and unwilling to assume the rigors of caring for their infants or newborns. Its a good strategy. The parent are able to take the child to a Nebraska hospital and with no questions asked, leave the child there with medical staff who would turn the infant over to child protective services. Fewer children run the risk of criminal abandonment, abuse and neglect. The problem is Nebraska specified no age limit in the legislation!
Who knew that people from other states would bring children 10 years and older and leave them at Nebraska's doorstep?!
Two things that are important: While its probably a given that Nebraska's legislature should have checked the wording of similar legislation throughout the country to avoid such a crisis, we certainly must laud their effort and motive.
In 2006, more than 905,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse. Nearly 75% of those were first time victims. Sixty-four per cent of those children were victimized through neglect and the age range of that victimization was 24 per 1000 children in ages birth through 1 year and 14 per 1000 children for ages 1-3. There is obviously a problem and Nebraska sought to address the problem in a proactive manner that is not quite as concerned with the parents unfitness as it is the well being of the child. Again, we should commend Nebraska for the effort.
However, there is a second issue: There is obviously a real problem out there when it comes to parenting that must addressed somehow. The Nebraska episode tells us about the parents willing to take extraordinary measures to 'give up' on their kids. Not newborns and infants, but in the case in Nebraska kids as young as 10 and as old as 16 and 17.
Children can be a chore. I tell friends that my children were kidnapped by body snatchers at the age of 12 and replaced by little monsters. I didn't get my real children back until they were about 25!
It is particularly difficult to resist 'old timers' syndrome and begin the 'back in my day' solution to parenting (along with everything else!).
The reality is that no parents - not even two parent families - were meant to do child rearing by themselves. To raise children in an even marginally effective manner, it really does take a village. I know that there was a period during which that African aphorism was demeaned and misrepresented as some kind of 'communist', 'socialist' rhetoric. But the fact that parents have not employed, or some communities have not provided adequate or easily accessible to the necessary resources and wisdom of the village is one reason Nebraska saw this amazing and sad phenomenon.
Social services, non-profit programs, churches, municipal programs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, enrichment programs in schools, trusted relatives: aunts, uncles, grandparents; trusted neighbors and extended family all contribute to the physical emotional, intellectual and spiritual health of our children. Its called community and it works.
Of course there are no guarantees; there are no perfect parents. Under the best of circumstances children make bad choices, at times with consequences that are irrevocable. But almost no child stands a chance without the intervention of some kind of loving community.
At the church I pastored, we intentionally focused outreach to the children and youth in a public housing development in our area. We brought them to Vacation Bible School. Many kids joined our church through VBS, but just as many if not more, became a part of the life of our church whether they joined or not. They attended Sunday School, sang in the choir, participated in some way in nearly every thing we had to offer. We provided back to school supplies, gave Christmas toys by name. Included them in Easter plays and Christmas plays. One year we moved the Christmas Sunday service to the elementary school near the housing development and even I was amazed to see that the youth workers found a way to include nearly 100 kids in the Christmas play!
Some of these kids had parents who seemed not much older than their children. They had no life experience and some who succumbed to addictions and unhealthy lifestyles. The church had to become 'parents' for these children. We had members who checked on their school progress, got to know their teachers, got to know their parents. At times, a few members took these children home with them. Members, on their own, provided clothes and school supplies.
When VBS morphed into an annual Youth Retreat, there were members would pay for some of the kids to go to the retreat. Members who couldn't afford the full cost, partnered with other members to pay for their registration. Some kids who were old enough, worked the concession stands at SMU football games to earn their registration.
One couple 'adopted' other children in their neighborhood, feeding, clothing and working with them in school. One of the first Christian Rap Groups in our church, was formed almost entirely by a group of boys whose parents were no where close to being members, but they were boys who had been 'adopted' by a family in the church and virtually lived with them.
There were great successes and sad failures. Some kids graduated from high school, went on to college and now live stable lives. Some kids ended up on the street. As a church we made mistakes. Feeding all those kids once a week before or after Bible Study wreaked havoc on the church budget. Not every member was happy! At times I wasn't very happy! I insisted on more accountability, but also insisted that we find ways to do more for these children in substantive ways. There were times I had to defend our church's expenses for ministry to these youth and children. There were members who complained about 'those kids', and 'the little hoodlums'. Not all the kids were grateful. And believe me, that many young people were rough on church facilities! With the day care center we operated it meant that our church operated seven days a week!
But it was a church full of excitement! And while they were with us, they weren't getting into mischief and they were cared for, corrected and comforted when things went wrong. And for many of these children, we were not the only positive influence. Together, with those other influences - we were the village. And the parents (and grandparents), no matter their resources or capacity, were not alone.
We need a more 'safe havens' for all of our children. And we better figure it out soon.
This isn't Nebraska's problem alone. These youth and children belong to all of us.