Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
"Derrion is the Chicago youth killed last month while walking home from school, beaten to death, caught in a fight between two rival gangs. Other young people witnessing the event captured the tragedy on cell phone video, which was broadcast on news outlets throughout the country and then went viral online."
"Both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder were dispatched to Chicago, where they condemned the horrendous incident and announced federal funding and the need for new strategies to stem youth violence, referring to it as a "public health issue.""
"That may be true. But youth violence cannot be addressed that narrowly. Efforts to reduce it must be viewed in a larger context of urban, concentrated poverty. Until that is the norm, such a tragedy as 16-year-old's Derrion's death is possible in Dallas or any city where poverty is addressed ineffectively..."
"The more effective tools address the larger issue of concentrated poverty in Chicago, Dallas and every other major city in our country: increased education and job training, increased prevention services, increased counseling and access to substance abuse treatment."
"The Children's Defense Fund recommends additional policy solutions, such as a minimum wage indexed to inflation, increased affordable housing and adequate funding for and access to food stamps. These solutions are critical complements to effective anti-gang programs."
"Youth must be held accountable for the crimes they commit. But all adults are accountable for creating an environment in society that provides them with more opportunity and hope."
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The fact that we have come this close, given all the misleading brouhaha over the summer is amazing in itself. Also amazing is that the prospective bill won't give liberals everything they want, but may provide what everyone has come to say is needed: some relief from the exorbitant costs of health care. It is amazing in that everyone - Democrats and Republicans - say that citizens need relief, yet aside from a prescription drug bill in the last administration that increased the costs of prescription drugs, prohibited government negotiation on costs and increased the deficit, nothing has been done.
In the meantime, the other inarguable fact is that, whether or not you agree that America has the best health care system in the world, it certainly costs its citizens the most - in more ways than one. Depending on whom you want to believe and how you want to slice the data, somewhere between 19% - 50% of bankruptcies in the country are related in some way to health care costs. A wide swing? You bet. But there are other countries which have us beat in this regard. Watch...
Deflections on the subject don't address the issue. The fact is, we do need help with health care that will make it possible for people who are ill to not go bankrupt as well - no matter how many there are.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Our city will change!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Ernesto Cortez, Jr., is directs the Southwest Region of the Industrial Areas Foundation. Ernie has been a tremendous influence on my life and ministry, helping me to expand my world view and my understanding of what it means to be engaged in public life.
Ernie, who can always be counted on to teach with an intellectual depth that is both informative and inspirational, broke into a pattern which some of us recognized but hardly anyone said anything about. In his discussions and even conversations, Ernie would quote philosophers, prophets, politicians, economists, academics, clergy, etc. Gradually we noticed that he started making his points reminding us of scenes from movies. Finally one of the organizers asked, 'Ernie, why are you quoting lines from movies so often?' To which Ernie replied, 'People may not remember what they read, but they remember the movies they see.'
This is a great scene, from a great movie, "Twelve Angry Men". Hope you enjoy it and learn from it as much as I have!
Monday, October 26, 2009
There are moving stories about the plight of undocumented children who come here looking for their parents; undocumented workers and a community of Hispanics whose assimilation into our country's community values which has transformed a dreaded neighborhood into one in which families celebrate the search for the American dream.
And then there is the segment which bothered me the most: the beating death of Luis Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Almost as incomprehensible as the acquittal of Ramirez's attackers (they were convicted of 'assault'), is the assertion of residents of this community that it 'wasn't a hate crime'. Equally disturbing was the dismissive attitude that if Luis hadn't been there in the first place, that 'it wouldn't have happened'.
Whatever else, 'Latino in America' shows (and it does indeed reveal the wonderful pride and spirit of Hispanic people), it also shows that our country does indeed have a long way to go.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
If like me, you've never quite understood the intersection between the textile, fashion, clothing industries were and issues such as immigration and unions were to the development of our economy you will find this special pretty valuable. In that regard, the garment industry is a metaphor for the what has been happening in our country over the past 30 -40 years.
You owe it to yourself to watch!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it."
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The responsibility aspect is also exciting. I happen to supervise several programs at Central Dallas Ministries and I'm extremely proud of the work of all of our program managers. Our After School Program, in Dallas Housing Authority's Roseland Homes community is growing more and more exciting! Due to the loss of learning centers in Dallas Independent School District, it now serves well over 100 children, with homework, recreation and enrichment. One part of the program happens to be the oldest after school offering which we call our After School Academy, headed by Janet Morrison. She too is a fellow blogger and her passion and commitment comes through in every post.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I had just concluded preaching the sermon at the church we are members of, when one of the associate ministers asked me, 'Have you heard about the law that congress is trying to pass, that would outlaw the preaching of the gospel?'.
When it comes to social and political issues, uninformed and ill informed clergy, can be a pet peeve of mine. I tried to suppress it (my impatience), but evidently I must have rolled my eyes, or something and said, 'That's probably not going to happen...'
I mean, really?! Outlaw the preaching of the Gospel? Are you serious?!
Nonetheless, I've been wondering where on earth something like that could come from? The immediate suspect was the Internet. I'm beginning to believe that there needs to be some filter for some people to use to see if they have enough discernment to actually use it. Those of you whose inbox or spam box gets stuffed with the latest conspiracy theories know what I mean.
But, this man seemed so sincere, I was wondering where on earth such nonsense could come from.
Then I found it!
The Democrats in congress have attached an amendment to the military appropriations bill - a federal hate crimes amendment. Its a bill named after Matthew Shepherd, the young man who was killed in Wyoming 10 years ago, brutalized and beaten to death because he was gay. It also is named after James Byrd, the African-American who was dragged behind a pick-up truck in Jasper, Texas and killed by two white men.
(Talk about uninformed clergy - I thought the bill had passed! I guess now I have to be irritated with me!)
At any rate, it appears that Republicans have been successful in defeating the measure everytime it has been introduced. Now, by voting for the military appropriations bill, they will be voting for a bill that protects the safety of homosexual and transgendered people.
Now this post doesn't have anything to do with how you feel about any of that. Remember the preacher who is concerned about preaching the Gospel being outlawed...
"The talking points being circulated among conservatives and repeated like video loops on talk shows are few but they are powerful -- and they are delivered with conviction: Pastors would be hounded out of their pulpits or even rounded up because a hate crimes law would "criminalize" speech and particularly sermons that quote scripture saying homosexuality is a sin."
Devastating right?! And untrue.
Read a little further...
""In June, 60 religious conservatives sent a letter asking senators to filibuster the bill, which they said "would criminalize preaching the Gospel and put preachers in the cross-hairs." The letter was signed by the likes of James Dobson of Focus On The Family, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, and Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America. Many Republicans, including Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, agreed with them.After the House passed the bill on Oct. 8, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council renewed the charges, saying the legislation is an Orwellian "thought-crimes bill" that would give "special rights" to homosexuals. Rep. John Kline of Minnesota echoed that, saying that "any pastor, preacher, priest, rabbi or imam who gives a sermon out of their moral traditions about sexual practices could be found guilty of a federal crime.""
"But the bill in fact expressly prohibits any such thing, and at several points reaffirms all First Amendment and other constitutional protections on free speech and religious freedom. Among other things it says:
""Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association..."[The full text of the bill can be found here, near the bottom of the National Defense Authorization Act.]""
Here's the problem (and maybe its my own idealism that's showing here): can't anyone argue policy on its own merits anymore? Is the only way to get legislation passed to try and see just how many citizens can be scared out of their wits?
Sorry, preacher! Looks like you're not the one with whom I should be losing my patience!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Nearly all of us would describe Clay Campbell as 'homeless' and many people intentionally dredge up the worst stereotypes when it comes to these citizens. But one reason for that is because its much more convenient to promote those stereotypes than to have compassion and to try and do something about the primary tragedy: homelessness itself.
Often when we try and get people to understand the plight of people who live on the streets, those efforts are made with all manner of caustic and sarcastic comments. It would be interesting to hear from some of those same people about this situation.
Estimates put the number of homeless people in Dallas at above 6000. Clay Campbell is not every homeless person. But there are far more of them than we know and they need our compassion, not our hard hearted indifference.
"Clay Campbell was killed Monday morning when an 18-wheeler struck him as he stood on a street corner just south of downtown Dallas. Witnesses at the scene described him as "a transient," and that was reported in news accounts of the accident."
"But now family and friends want to set the record straight."
"Clayton Webster Campbell may not have led a conventional life, but he was not a transient. In fact, he died in the same hospital where he was born 34 years ago – Baylor University Medical Center."
"Campbell was a 1995 graduate of Highland Park High School, attended the University of North Texas and served in Iraq in the U.S. Navy."
"And, according to his mother, he was a young man who "just never found his way."
Campbell confounds many of our notions of what it means to be homeless."
""No, he might not have had a roof over his head every night. He died along South Central Expressway in an area where the homeless often roost for the night in hidden corners."
But Campbell reported regularly for a volunteer job in Plano, clean and well dressed. Just two weeks ago, Campbell was in coat and tie, posing for ribbon-cutting photos with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson."
""He kind of bounced around. I don't think he had a permanent address. But he definitely wasn't a bum," said Robert Aiken, who worked closely with Campbell for the last year.
"He was just trying to get his life squared away," said Aiken, also an Iraq veteran.
Most recently, the two men had been working together in Plano to establish the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce (www.usvcc.com). That was the basis for the recent photo session with the congressman."
Monday, October 19, 2009
The case of Cameron Todd Willingham has been the source of significant public conversation nationally. Willingham, not the most upstanding of citizens, was, nonetheless found guilty of an arson that took the lives of his two daughters. He was executed in 2004.
It appears as if the forensic science that ruled the deaths of these two girls was the result of arson, was tragically flawed. If that is the case, one horrible mistake was compounded with another. You would think that the state would prefer to know that, going forward. You would think - that if we were going to have the death penalty, we would want to use it judiciously and correctly. You would also think that as a state in which we tout an individual's 'right to life', we do not cavalierly taking anyone's life carelessly - even if you believe the state has that right.
In recent weeks, the Governor of our state, has mocked those who have found the science which helped convict Willingham (using air quotes when referring to the 'experts'); has conveniently replaced members of the panel who were scheduled to hear the testimony from those experts and is now, and now is essentially saying that Willingham was such an unsavory character its not hard to believe that he may have been guilty of murder.
All of these stances are disturbing. The last one, more so to me. If we can incarcerate, let alone execute people because - although not guilty of the charge for which they are arrested and convicted - they must be guilty of something, we're headed down a dangerous path indeed.
Let me put it like this: I want to know if our state executed a man for something he didn't do; I want to know if the evidence was faulty and whether or not it was known to be faulty at the time. I'd like to know whether his conviction was a mistake or was it convenient. And I would like to know if there are others on death row, because of a similar 'mistake' or convenient conviction.
And I'd like to know that we have elected officials who are concerned about the same thing.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
What a novel idea! Evangelism by establishing relationships by demonstrating compassion and concern for the city! Kevin Palau has organized this tremendous mission outreach in Portland, Oregon. A type of mission that does not see the city as an 'object' to be 'won to Christ', but as people with whom relationships are built and 'good news' shared as friends!
Season of Service, is a season that can last all year long...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
"You can not possibly have a broader basis for government than that which includes all the people, with all their rights in their hands, and with an equal power to maintain their rights."
Friday, October 16, 2009
Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, reminds us that homelessness is also a health care issue.
"...a 1996 nationwide study of homelessness found that only 25 percent of homeless single adults were enrolled in Medicaid."
"It's not always easy to see, but homelessness and health care have a clear -- and cyclical -- relationship: poor health can lead to homelessness, and homelessness can aggravate poor health. And both can be a burden on our health care system."
"Many people become homeless due to a lack of health care. Untreated illnesses can lead to disability and job loss -- and unemployment remains one of the leading causes of homelessness. It's worth noting here that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical expenses, insured or not. So people's incomes are clearly tied up with their ability to get or pay for health care; and the lower incomes lead to higher risk of homelessness."
"The other side of the coin is that homelessness aggravates poor health. The lack of access to water, food, and clean, safe and stable housing only puts further pressures on a person's body.
With few resources and little access to any alternatives, homeless people will wait until the last possible moment to seek treatment, and then likely resort to costly emergency room (ER). Once they're in the hospital, then tend to stay longer. After discharge, pushed back into homelessness, their symptoms often return and worsen, until they're right back in the ER."
"The cost of this inefficient, ineffective cycle is something we all pay for -- through higher medical costs, insurances rates, and local and state taxes. In fact, many cost studies of this social problem suggest that it may be more financially prudent to ensure that homeless people receive preventive and primary care before minor conditions become chronic ones."
We can't forget, that there are no 'stand alone issues'. Homelessness and health care intertwined pathologies, we can't effectively deal with one and not be committed to end the other.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
"This building is dedicated to the principle that only business that will endure is that which is unselfishly devoted to the interests of its country, state and community."
The sentiment may be incredibly lofty - but it shows that capitalism doesn't have to be predatory!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Take Texas for example: inefficiencies, poor management and clerical work, and, ultimately the outsourcing of one of the most vital safety nets for poor citizens is resulting in thousands of Texans unable to schedule an interview for months. For months!
I love Texas. I can scarcely think of anyplace else I'd want to live. But, honestly, with more of this stuff, we can stop this embarrassingly silly talk of secession. The U.S. could revoke our charter of statehood for sheer inanity!
Failure to continue to meet the 30 day deadline for deciding food stamp cases could result in the $173 million to cover half the cost of the federal programs overhead.
So let me get this straight, we've rejected stimulus related unemployment dollars in order to save the tax payers because 'strings' were attached and to save small business owners money. So by rejecting the unemployment stimulus money, it saddles business with $ 294 million in unemployment expenses it wouldn't have had to pay otherwise. And now inefficiency that comes from a strategy to save money, could cost us another $173 million?!
I'm totally baffled by 'tough fiscal conservatism' and the capacity of some its adherents to shoulder the misery of others with such poise.
In the meantime Central Dallas Ministries has provided 1 million pounds of food from January through September of this year. That's more than twice the number all of last year!
Now - for the 'die hard-fiscal-let's-fix-the-economy-first conservatives: that's 1 million pounds of food that was not bought in a grocery store - with food stamps!
Let's just say a pound of food costs 90 cents. A million pounds of food at 90 cents is $900,000. That's how much money the Dallas' economy missed because people didn't have, had trouble reapplying for, or couldn't get an interview to get food stamps. That's what it cost the economy to give away food at Central Dallas Ministries.
There are 1100 food pantries in Dallas.
Every time a person has to go to a food pantry for free food because they can't get food stamps, it takes money out of the economy.
This is just Dallas.
So, how does the state deal with this fiasco?
[Governor Rick] Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone responded: "Our office is closely monitoring this issue, and we expect [the commission] to handle it in an efficient and timely manner."
One should only hope!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Great editorial and all of us who are working on it appreciate it!
Just one word of correction: the churches aren't committing to 'build' 700 units of housing for the poor - we are committing to become advocates for Dallas' official goal of 700 units of permanent supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing is an opportunity to get the homeless off the street, providing not only shelter, but re-connection to the community, but also support in terms of access to the health care, education and quality of life components that will lead them to the type of interdependent lives the rest of us enjoy. We don't want these formerly homeless citizens sequestered in one area of the city. We believe that every community, every sector of the city should make room for them. We're asking churches to educate, advocate and become a resource and community for these citizens all over Dallas.
Of course any church who chooses to build permanent supportive housing is more than welcome to do so!
Here, too, is a glimpse at the first night of the Justice Revival held in Columbus, Ohio last year.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Fellowship in Washington and Dallas religious leaders announced plans for a November "revival." This isn't an altar call affair, the kind with a tent in a park. Rather, the effort will be sustained over time by people of faith who want to deal with poverty in Dallas without partisan divides sidetracking them.
What a concept: Focus on a common problem without getting bogged down in left/right debates.
Wallis has a track record of working across party and denominational lines. He previously launched a national "common ground" campaign among religious groups. And the liberal evangelical minister has authored books that have challenged left and right, including God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.
His latest effort is Justice Revival, the movement that he and others have spawned to encourage churchgoers to revitalize their communities. The concept is similar to a parish taking responsibility for the surrounding neighborhood.
After a year of identifying challenges in Dallas with Christians from about 1,000 evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal and Protestant churches, Wallis and the movement's local leaders are embarking on a campaign to improve Dallas schools and increase the supply of affordable housing. They aim to create at least 25 church-school partnerships and build 700 housing units for the homeless.
We like that this arrangement isn't hierarchical – and it intentionally stays away from being seen as charity, which adopt-a-school efforts can be. The partnership implies the churches and the schools are in this thing together.
If Justice Revival works in Dallas as it did in Columbus, Ohio, Wallis envisions such efforts helping recast our national dialogue about many different issues. He believes that houses of faith can be sanctuaries where people of all stripes, including those who have no interest in religion, can gather publicly to discuss everything from health care to immigration reform to school policies.
The one rule is no one can trash someone else.
As we said, it's a novel concept. And we can't wait to see it break out in Dallas and across the country.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
But today two different issues claim my attention.
The President of the United States has won the Nobel Peace Prize! As far as I can figure out, he's only the third sitting U.S. President to win the prestigious award. And America's reaction? Profound - ambivalence?!
Let me state from the outset - I am surprised!
How about the idea that there is something to be proud that the Nobel committee actually thinks that the goal of bringing peace to a world that is war torn, poverty riddled and talking more about the number of nuclear weapons a nation can have versus how to actually live without them, is laudatory? How about the idea that in looking at world leaders across the globe Obama has been considered worthy of the award by those who actually give the award? And how about the idea that it is particularly strange that there are those who believe that supporting war is more patriotic than supporting the nation's leader when a Nobel prize committee looks to encourage our nation's leader to bring peace?
The facts are that there is something seriously wrong with cheering the president for failing to persuade the world to give award this country the Olympic Games and 'booing' (either figuratively or literally) when that same president wins the Nobel Peace prize! Is there something wrong with some of us in this country or what?!
When opponents of the president's policy cry about how unfair it is to brand them as hateful because they carry signs that depict him as Hitler, or the menacing Joker. Or when they whine about how terrible it is that calls for harm to come to him, or refer to him as a Nazi or socialist are their 'rights' as Americans and that to refer to that as 'hate speech' is over reacting and 'reverse racism'' - then we have to ask, what category is vilifying the president for winning the Nobel Peace Prize fall under?
How about if we looked at this as encouragement to - I don't know - bring peace wherever America's global footprint?
How about remembering the words of another president, "The greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker." That was Richard Nixon, by the way. The Republican president who never won a...oh never mind, you get the picture.
Looks like 'those people' might have to be more concerned with the people from 'nice neighborhoods'....
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are rightly concerned with the horrifically violent death of Chicago teen Derrion Albert.
Albert, an honor student, church member and, by all accounts was brutally beaten to death on his way home from school when he got caught in the middle of a fight between two rival gangs. His beating, caught on cell phone video has been seen around the country and is seen as symptomatic of a larger problem with violent inner city youth. Derrion's school, reported to receive $500,000 in federal funds to stabilize as students return to that school.
Again, an understandable concern and a significant initial response. Of course there is also additional responses. Some are now calling on youth violence to be seen as a public health crisis.
I guess that's one way to look at it.
But I also think that we are never going to really make much headway if we keep segmenting pathologies associated with concentrated poverty.
Out of control youth are really a product of an adult society which can't get its act together. That definitely includes parents - but it is true of all adults who touch the lives of children and youth.
For more than a couple of decades now, we've begun to criminalize youth behavior. We have allowed public education to become a jobs program for adults, a cash cow for companies that produce standardized tests and a football to be kicked around by politicians. And we have allowed ourselves to be deluded that the world can be divided into 'those kids' and 'our kids'. We isolate these children and youth geographically in poor neighborhoods while giving them a window to the world's prosperity through television and videos (again, making adults rich).
And we wonder why we have a problem.
How we've come to view our young people is portrayed poignantly in a study released this year by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
"Wrongly assuming that crime rates and demography are inextricably linked, a number of academics warned of an impending juvenile crime wave. In 1995, John Dilulio attached the term “superpredator” to the then preadolescents that he predicted would be part of a huge and ruthless juvenile crime wave (dominated by youth of color). These youth were described as “fatherless, jobless, and Godless” by Dilulio, who was joined in his dire predictions by James Q. Wilson, Charles Murray, and James Fox. But soon after the peak in the mid 1990s, juvenile crime rates fell for the next ten years and several studies showed that Dilulio and others had gotten the issue wrong. The temporary spike in youth violence was not simply a matter of more youths on the streets, and did not indicate a change in the nature or basic behavior of youth. Rather, the short term rise in crime was attributable to economic disparity, adult drug dealers using youths as pawns, and, most importantly, easy access to guns."
"Nevertheless, Dilulio and other “Chicken Little” warnings about “a new horde from hell that kills, maims, and terrorizes”had taken hold. A barrage of “get tough on (youth) crime” laws were enacted and for the most part remain in effect today, long after the very temporary juvenile crime wave subsided. A combination of media coverage, political fear mongering, and a misinformed public—and conservative mountebanks such as Wilson, Murray, and Dilulio—came together to change the very nature of the national debate on juvenile justice."
The study, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and assesses the intersection of media coverage of youth crime, public perception, public policy and real trends and issues in youth crime Washington D.C., San Mateo, California, and Dallas, Texas. It looks to more effective and realistic views to dealing with youth violence than simply introducing kids to the criminal justice system at earlier ages. Even Dilulio has changed his mind, stating in 2008 and "...argues for less detention and a more community-based response to crime."
The report covers newspaper coverage in these target cities over a 20 year period; reviews and assesses crime statistics to discern actual trends; includes interviews with stakeholders - juvenile court judges, chiefs of police, probation, probation staff, police, prosecutors and public defenders - as well as in depth interviews with youth caught up in the system.
A summary of some of the findings include:
Most adults have little contact with youth and most never have direct experience with youth crime. They base their impressions on word of mouth, public officials and the media.
Most stories on youth depict them as 'troubled or, more likely trouble for society' with stories identifying them as either the perpetrators or victims of violence. Too much coverage focuses on infrequent but heinous cases without any context.
Communities often need to respond to shorter-term crime trends. Systemic responsiveness checks public fear and law enforcement needs to be carried out in a responsible, planned and strategic manner vs. panic mode.
The study also calls for an 'evidence-based approach based on the real stories of the system involved or at-risk youth themselves.'
More on this later. For me, the point is that we need to understand that the true triage that needs to go into effect is not just in singling out youth as a troubled demographic. The systems that surround them are equally as troubled. They are responding inadequately to youth AND their families.
One of the problems I have with George Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' legislation has little to do with the legislation. It's the subliminal message sent intentionally or unintentionally. We cannot seriously be committed to 'No Child Left Behind' and leave behind their families.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Charged by the federal government of bribing a low income housing developer for votes to support their tax credit applications, prosecutors proved to the satisfaction of a jury that Hill, his wife, Lee and co-defendants Darren Reagan and Rickey Robertson pressured these developers for hundreds of thousands of dollars, under the guise of requiring that they work with minority contractors.
In a federal court trial that has lasted some three months, Hill was convicted on two counts of bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit deprivation of honest services and one count conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Sheila Farrington Hill was found guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of aiding and abetting in bribery, aiding and abetting in extortion, conspiracy to commit deprivation of honest services and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Lee was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, two counts of bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion, conspiracy to commit deprivation of honest services and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
All devastating and sad.
No matter the occasion for gathering, those of us who know them and those who don't, ask one another, 'What do you think?' I'm afraid all of us are at a loss for words. Most of us who know them are at a loss because they are at bottom nice people. They are friendly. They are church members who are cared for greatly by their fellow congregants. Don has been a very admired and respected figure for years. Neither the charges, the tapes or transcripts, nor the verdict, speak to people or the practices of those people with whom many of us are familiar.
Let me be clear: that incredulousness does not extend to some of the people who have been a part of this sorry saga. And I guess that's part of the problem.
I still don't have an answer to the 'What do you think?' question. I have a habit of trying to think over the implications of things like this over. Much of the mean spirited blather pointed toward these two feels wrong and unwarranted. But then you have the verdict. What does it all mean?
The more I think of it, I have more questions than answers:
How could they have been so stupid?
Hill ran for mayor, while under these indictments - what if he had won and THEN been convicted?
What about their children?
Are there ANY statesmen left?
Am I the only one who still believes that politics is a noble calling?
What are the 'legal' ways that politicians get development done that many not be considered ethical?
There are honest contractors who would have benefited through honest process - even if it had taken political hardball. If anyone else fights for them now, will it automatically be considered 'pay to play'?
Redress for racist and unfair practices in the past is one thing; this conviction cheapens the argument - don't public officials who do this type of thing realize this?
How can I show compassion to them and that even now, I wish them the best?
What if they win on appeal?
Did anyone really expect race to be a factor?
Are lofty notions of government as a tool to improve the quality of life of all citizens, just naivete?
Why can't we see that loss of faith in government is too high a price for citizens to have to pay for the failure of our public officials?
The natural reaction is to 'strengthen' the rules that have been broken. Are the rules really the problem?
If the verdict reflects the truth of what happened - how much 'Don Hill' is in each of us?
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Dallas is facing a rather unusual situation in that it there will be an election to decide the representatives for three school board trustee seats. This is an election that should have been held in May of this year, however, there was an effort on the part of the school board trustees to extend their terms of office thereby eliminating the need for the regularly scheduled election.
They forgot to check with the State Attorney General's office...
Having been notified that there were a few steps an elected body has to at least tip their hats to before they can do something like play fast and loose with the people's election of their representatives, we are now looking to replace at least one of those trustees who has decided not to run for reelection.
Normally the AAPC would have a candidate's forum, but it was decided that the aforementioned issue, along with other critical challenges facing the school district call for a more substantive conversation regarding the state of affairs in Dallas Independent School District and the state of affairs in public education in general.
We at Central Dallas Ministries are proud to partner with the AAPC in presenting the forum.
We know that education is the primary pathway to the enhanced quality of life that can lead families out of the grip of poverty.
We will have a panel of participants whose careers and concern with public education and a history with DISD should prove interesting indeed. They are:
Carol Francois - Dr. François, Director of Learning at the National Staff Development Council (NSDC), is a lifetime educator who describes her self as a catalyst for positive change. She began her career as a teacher at age three when she says she taught her dolls on the doorstep of her home. Since that career starter, she has served in a variety of roles including posts as Chief of Staff for the Dallas Independent School; Associate Commissioner of Education at the Texas Education Agency; Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources for Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, North Carolina; Department Director at Region 10 Education Service Center; grade-level principal in the Richardson Independent School District; and Dean of Instruction with the Dallas Independent School District.
François holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Lock Haven University and a Master of Education degree in Education from Temple University, both in Pennsylvania. She earned a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration at Texas A & M University - Commerce. In addition, she is a certified Process Manager as well as a certified Retirement Options Coach. She has been awarded numerous honors including being named the Dallas Independent School District Teacher of the Year, a Meadows Foundation Principal Improvement Fellow, and a Texas A&M University – Commerce Alumni Ambassador.
Rose Parker - Ms. Parker is the creator of the Residential Model, an innovative reform model for public high schools, has had successful careers both in public education and private industry.
As the Director of Research at Sevin Rosen Funds, a top tier venture capital firm with $1.6 billion under management, Parker assisted general partners and entrepreneurs in analysis of market research for due diligence, as well as training entrepreneurs at StarTech in Richardson, the University of Texas at Dallas Entrepreneurship Program, the Society of Competitive Information Professionals (SCIP), and the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Previously, Parker served as Research Analyst for an early-stage broadband wireless startup and then moved into the role of Director of Education for an Internet education company. Parker created a model for Electronic Benchmarking to enable real-time data sampling for state accountability testing, developed an entire reading curriculum for a wireless gaming system, and trained teachers.
Parker served as social science department chair at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts and was awarded recognition as Teacher of the Year and district semifinalist for the Cabell Award. Parker was recognized as a Favorite Teacher for many years by Positive Parents of Dallas and received the Gold Star Award by Texas School Public Relations Association. She was also honored by the social science department of Brookhaven College, where she taught sociology and psychology, as Adjunct Teacher of the Year.
Parker has 20 years of teaching experience, curriculum development including writing and piloting the first interdisciplinary women’s studies course in Texas, teacher training, teacher appraisal, and sponsorship of district champions in Mock Trial. She taught social studies, team taught history and English, was the laureate teacher, and created innovative programming while teaching at Pearl C. Anderson, H.G. Spruce, BTWHSPVA, the Health Magnet, and Sunset High School. While at Sunset, Ms. Parker instituted a college preparatory program that produced one of the first Advanced Placement scholars at Sunset.
Parker is a magna cum laude graduate of North Texas State University, where she also earned a M.Ed. in Secondary Education and Social Science and completed all requirements for a Ph.D. in education and social science except completion of the dissertation. Ms. Parker also earned a Master of Library Science degree from Texas Woman’s University, completed coursework and training in Talented and Gifted Education, and postdoctoral graduate work in the social sciences. Ms. Parker also holds a Supervision Certificate.
Dr. Jessa Jai McNeil - has been a professional educator for 40 years. He has traversed the educational scene from blackboards and chalk to portable, handheld smart boards. He has earned 4 degrees and numerous professional certificates. Having taught Jr. High School music, elementary self contained classes and special education, he has headed Divisions of Education and been Lead Professor for Educational Administration programs at Bishop College, The University of Texas at Arlington, and Texas Southern University. In public school administration he has been Coordinator of Staff Development, Title I – Administrator, Discipline Intervention Specialist, Assistant Principal, Principal, and Deputy Area Superintendent in the Dallas Independent School District. He served as principal at both elementary and secondary levels, receiving Honorable Mention accolades with a Governor’s Educational Excellence Award.
McNeil earned an Ed.D. at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Massachusetts
and a M.Ed. – Springfield College – Springfield, Massachusetts.
It's a fairly impressive line up being brought together to provide us with their unique perspective on the challenges presented by both some of the changes taking place in public education (for instance school closures due to poor test scores, declining student populations in urban areas; the real meaning of school rankings, what standardized test scores actually measure and discrepancies in test scores, graduation rates and college readiness; the politcization of public education with regard to some of the changes on the state school board).
It should be an interesting and engaging evening.
Kirkwood Temple CME Church is located at 1440 Sunny Glen Drive, in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Hope you can make it!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
"Chicago is a beautiful city that would have made a perfect backdrop for the Olympics. The President was right to fly to Copenhagen to try to land the games, not for the sake of his city, but for the good of his country. The fact President Obama failed makes me respect him more for taking the chance, and the fact many right-wing figures opposed the President's mission shows just how narrow-minded partisanship makes us all."
"For the better part of 20 years, a bitterness has infected our politics that has weakened our country."
"We Republicans spent eight years trying to delegitimize Bill Clinton."
"Democrats spent the next eight years doing the same to George W. Bush."
"Now that a Democrat is in the Oval Office again, it is the GOP who is trying to delegitimize a sitting president."
"When I try to talk to Republicans about the need to break this cycle of viciousness, some cite the chapter and verse of every hateful left wing attack against George W. Bush."
"Whenever I attempt to have a conversation with some Democrats about the need for us respect our president-- whether he be an Obama or a Bush-- I am told that Bush deserved whatever he got because he was a lying war criminal who hated the Constitution and loved torturing
"Fortunately, there are a growing number of Americans who believe we cannot continue going on this way."
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
It's the only way to explain treating insurance companies as an minority group whose entitlement status must be protected.
The Senate Finance Committee's vote this week played out like a melodrama. A poor one...
At least given the account in Politics Daily.
"Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said insurance companies are "getting away with banditry, and they revel in it." Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa countered that "the government is not a fair competitor; it's a predator.""
"So many villains, so much villainy. At this point, I'm not sure I want insurance from the government or the private sector..."
"Grassley raised the specter of employers ending their insurance coverage and forcing people wholesale into a public plan (actually they'd be forced into a new exchange or marketplace, which would offer many private plans and possibly one plan administered by the government.) Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts categorically stated that a public option, paid for by premiums, would not be an entitlement -- and two minutes later Republican John Cornyn of Texas said we shouldn't be creating another entitlement."
"As Kerry said right before that exchange, "People are sort of talking past each other a little bit here.""
If we are protecting the insurance companies and their executives - let's at least be honest about it. Then we can have the debate we REALLY need to have.