Saturday, June 30, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Felix Frankfurter

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

"[Judicial judgement] must take account of what it decrees for today in order that today may not paralyze tomorrow."

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Winston Churchill
Prime Minister
United Kingdom
1940-1945, 1951-1955

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense..."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Want Your History 'Neat'? Sorry, it Doesn't Work that Way...

On last Sunday, the Dallas Morning News began a series of three articles which told the story of Isaac Bruce, a black man who in 1892, in Hillsboro to celebrate Juneteenth, was almost lynched by a mob after being arrested for the rape of a white girl. Bruce was eventually found innocent and exonerated of the crime by then Texas Governor James Hogg. Reporters Diane Jennings and Selwyn Crawford did a stellar job on this series.

It's a fabulous story, one which I vaguely remember hearing about and one that I deeply appreciated. In many ways it seemed very appropriate for both Juneteenth and Fathers' Day. You can read the stories here.

Of course those feelings weren't shared by everyone.

Sheriff John Cox who defended Isaac Bruce from the Hillsboro , TX  lynch mob

A couple of 'Letters to the Editor' took particular exception to having this tale recounted...

Don Skaggs of Garland, Texas wrote:

"For what purpose does The News select an incident from 1892, a period in our history that no one is proud of relative to race relations, that highlights an incident where a black man is being unfairly treated by whites, to celebrate Juneteenth? Since two reporters were assigned to this story, could they not find a story that emphasized a positive relationship between blacks and whites to celebrate Juneteenth? Over 120 years, could they not find one positive story?"

"Even expressing sympathy for the raping and killing of a 3-year-girl mentioned in the story would have been a better focal point."

Chris Bolt of Frisco, Texas opined:

"What we know is that all races have both good and bad in their midst, and when all of the good of all races assemble together, we have unity, not diversity."

"In this series, Sheriff Cox showed the good side of the white race when he told the crowd, "I will be a dead man before a prisoner in my custody is harmed.""

"More than 300,000 predominantly white soldiers fought and died in the Civil War in an attempt to end slavery -- a movement supported by 6 out of 11 items in Abraham Lincoln's platform, which was endorsed by a predominantly white voting population."

"The Constitution, the Abolition of Slave Trade Act, the Emancipation Proclamation and nine Civil Rights Acts all give further evidence of goodwill by whites toward their black brothers."

"God gave human beings different skin colors in order to provide additional opportunities for them to act stupid and make asses out of themselves."

The dungeon where Isaac Bruce awaited execution in 1893

And then there is Bob Dewberry of North Dallas:

"Does editor Bob Mong really believe that dredging up a hurtful, racial history of events occurring over a century ago is helpful to race relations? What are the editors thinking, other than selling more newspapers through even more racial division? Good luck with that."

I found these responses very interesting.

A friend of mine called me an 'historian'. Far from it. I like history, because I like real human stories.
Whatever else the story of race is in America, it is fascinating human drama; a drama that is still unfolding.

The critics appear to want us to excise the painful part of that drama from our history, as if progress in the area means that we ignore the past. But in order to maintain what progress we achieve, it is critical that we remember those painful parts of our history.

The story of Isaac Bruce, is a story that tells an ugly part of the relationship between blacks and whites in this country. But THAT is the story. Far too many people, particularly white, would like to relegate America's racism to a remembrance of incivilities, impolitenesses, and insults, perpetrated by the boorish among them. But racism is more vile than that. It is the brutality practiced and perpetrated by a people whose collective psyche was unable to deal with the horrendous inhumanity visited on an entire race. The coping mechanism was to further dehumanize those people legally and culturally by further seeking to rob them of rights accorded by the Constitution and deny them the very protections due citizens under that same Constitution.

When Chris Bolt invokes the 'goodwill' of whites toward blacks, as evidenced by 'The Constitution, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, the Emancipation Proclamation and the nine Civil Rights Acts' he fails to acknowledge that the Isaac Bruce affair took place WHILE these evidences were still in effect! He also seems to comfort himself by failing to mention that the realization of the goals of the Constitution as evidenced by these laws, were not the result of an awakening of the benign beneficence of whites, but by cost of blood of countless black men and women who fought for their freedom, often having to prod the conscience of whites to the actual justice of equality.

James Hogg Governor of Texas 1891-1895

When Dewberry asks about 'dredging up a hurtful, racial history of events occurring over a century ago', I actually don't know whether to be amused or offended. It's very interesting that we tolerate graphic depictions of other ugly sacrifices of other Americans: the Revolutionary War, our World Wars, the Vietnam War, our country's westward expansion, just to name a few. It seems only when we want to deal with race, that we want the telling of our nation's story to be ahistorical.

I would like to ask people who share Mr. Dewberry's view, 'What part of your history do you want forgotten? Not your own personal mistakes, but who in your family do you want never to be mentioned? What are the stories of your people, in their struggle for freedom (because we all have them) do you want unacknowledged because they are painful to the descendants who inflicted the wrong upon your ancestors?

It's a little too convenient.

The facts are the Isaac Bruce story has plenty of heroes: the white sheriff, who, on more than one instance, said to his own townspeople that he would rather die allow them to do harm to his prisoner.
Governor Hogg, who sought to do justice rather than dismiss Isaac Bruce's case because of the color of his skin. Because I don't know enough about Hogg or this sheriff, I have no idea of where they stood personally or publicly on the issue of race. What I do know is that I will never again hear mention of this story without thinking of their courage. And while the mob shows the ugly, vicious side of race relations in this country, it is a reminder that progress comes both with pleas and demands for justice and hearts that can be moved to do the right thing.

The home of Isaac Bruce's now abandoned home in Waxahatchie, TX.
No pictures exist of Isaac Bruce
History is not always neat or pleasant. And when we think of how where we stand on the issues of our day, it would do us well to remember that one day people will look back on us and will judge us based upon that stance. I'm sure some of those in the mob that called for a lynching, were perceived by some others as faithful husbands, generous fathers, hard workers and even leaders in the community. They come to us as bloodthirsty and inhumane because in this instance of recorded history that's what they were. How will people look upon us 60-70 years, or more from now, when they look at how we stand on issues of immigration, war, the environment, poverty, women's and gay rights? Maybe someone will be there to say that the generations of the future should dismiss it if we are not getting those issues right. But I hope not. As our country matures, we must look back and decide what we wish to emulate and what we hope we never repeat. 

It's our story. If we want it to be more of a fairy tale, then we need to write our chapter much more carefully...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Payday Someday!

There is probably no sermon preached in the 20th century, more famous than 'Payday Someday'!
It is definitely one of the greatest sermons I have heard and I not only listened to it repeatedly (I literally wore out my originally copy of the tape), but it was a gift I gave to almost every preacher who started his ministry under my pastorate.

The sermon was preached by Dr. R.G. Lee, the venerated and legendary Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Robert Greene Lee (1886-1978) is said to have preached this sermon, taken from I Kings 21:18, 19,23, over 1200 times! I've heard few messages that have approached it in power, eloquence, poetry and prose and it's dynamic call to a life lived with integrity and in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.

You can here the sermon in it's entirety here...

Enjoy! Be blessed!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Dr. Stephen Olford

Christian Leader, Author, Bible Expositor

"What God expects us to attempt, He also enables us to achieve."

Friday, June 22, 2012

It IS Politics and It's Right...

On last week, when President Barack Obama announced his change in immigration policy which took the frame of the long sought DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), the lives of nearly 800,000 undocumented youth and children immediately got easier.

The decision by the Obama administration, to no longer enforce deportation of young people who were brought to this country by their parents. If they have not participated in criminal activity; if they are enrolled in public, private school or a college or university; if they are serving in the armed forces they can stay in this country and can get work permits. It is not amnesty. It is not a pathway to citizenship. It's not an executive order. It is a change in enforcement policy that allows young immigrants who are undocumented, to stay in this country and provide them with the opportunity to work.

It is a change in policy that has presidential opponents in knots. The line most often trotted out is that the President has circumvented Congress and has somehow abused Presidential authority with an executive order.

Again, it's not an executive order. It is the use of enforcement discretion. Much in the same way a policeman has the discretion whether or not to give you a speeding ticket, or a judge can give you deferred adjudication or a prosecutor can decide whether or not to prosecute a crime.

But the complaint that the President didn't go through Congress to enact more meaningful legislation is not just a false argument - it's false period.

In 2010 a Democratic controlled House actually DID pass the DREAM Act. And so did a Democratic controlled Senate. However, in the Senate, you no longer win votes on a majority. Although the DREAM Act passed 55-41 in the Senate, there were not enough votes to avoid a filibuster and so the DREAM Act went down in defeat.

Now for opposition to feign concern that they were not given an opportunity to vote on this measure and accuse the President of 'playing politics' is pretty disingenuous.

The office of the President is a political office. This is an election year. The President is clearly using the advantages of incumbency to do what he can to keep a political promise. And in the process, there are young people whom we are either educating or have educated, who will have a chance to further their education, or serve our country or work in our country, without looking over their shoulders. Until Congress gets some backbone, passes the DREAM Act and does the hard work of enacting meaningful immigration reform, it means that we get a better return on our public investments in these young people and the U.S. doesn't break up families.

There are times when policies which are clearly political, are unalterably moral and right. I tend to admire politicians who aren't immobilized when that which is political is also right.

Opponents of the President's policy are perfectly free to go into session and actually pass the DREAM Act. In doing so, they take the issue off the table for the Presidential election. Then they can have the distinction of doing that which is politically expedient and morally right.

In the meantime congratulations to all of my friends who have been working on the DREAM Act for years! It's not everything, but it is you're closer than you were before. Keep the faith!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Congratulations to Dr. Fred Luter, President of the Southern Baptist Convention

Well I said I didn't know if it would happen... but it did! On Juneteenth believe it or not!

"When the Southern Baptist Convention met Tuesday, it elected its first African American president, Fred Luter Jr., a former street preacher and current pastor of a church in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward."

"Luter’s election marks a watershed moment for the SBC. The organization was founded in a split over slavery before the Civil War and for decades was a largely segregated, all-white denomination..."

"...the election of Luter will not be, at least primarily, about fixing the sins of the past. Rather, it will be about the future of an organization that has seen declining membership for five straight years. The denomination—the largest Protestant body in the United States—will need to seek new growth from urban centers and minority groups, or at the very least, maintain its size by helping struggling churches find ways to stay afloat. “I think they thought racial diversity would happen,” Ed Stetzer, the president of the SBC’s research organization, told the Associated Press. “Now they realize they have to make it happen,” he said."

"Luter’s experience can help with all three of those needs. His church, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, is an inner-city black congregation—still somewhat of a rarity in the SBC, which counts a minority membership of 20 percent—and is thriving. Before Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the church, it reached a high of 7,000 members, making it one of the largest churches in the state. Just 50 or 60 of its members remained, while the rest fled New Orleans, but Luter worked to rebuild the congregation, sharing another church until construction was complete in 2008. The congregation has swelled again to some 5,000 members."

"Most of all, being the black leader of a black congregation in a traditionally white organization should help to broaden the SBC’s appeal. Tokenism is a risky approach to choosing leaders, but that hardly seems to be the case here. By all accounts, Luter is an exceedingly successful, charismatic and motivated leader of his church who happens to be black. “His presidency is not going to be about him,” David Crosby, the pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, which opened its doors to Luter’s church in Katrina’s aftermath, told PBS. “It’s going to be about the health of our convention. And we need his help. We need his perspective. We need his wisdom.”"

 I'll be praying Luter and for the Southern Baptist Convention. This election won't come without challenges, but it is an tremendous act of courage on the part of Luter to run and, I believe, faith on the part of the SBC to elect him. Our country can only be blessed if that courage and faith is rewarded.

Read the rest of the article here...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

These People are in Business Too!

William Jennings Bryan

"...When you come before us and tell us that we shall disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your action. We say to you that you have made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer.  

"Cross of Gold" Speech, 1896

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Juneteenth's Fine Print

Major-General Gordon Granger
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.   This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.  The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages.  They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

General Order No. 3 
Delivered June 19, 1865

We celebrate Juneteenth today. The day when slaves in Texas got the news that they had been emancipated. Although Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was signed in January, 1863 the word got to Texas two years later. 

There are many who disparage the celebration of this day. They think there's something silly, if not demeaning in celebrating having remained in bondage two years longer than necessary. Of course they overlook the fact that no slaves anywhere in the United States were truly free until 1865. 

Nonetheless, this post is not so much about Juneteenth, as much as it is about General Order No. 3, the order read by Major-General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas. In fact, it's not about the entire order but the last sentence. It has been relegated to 'fine print' in the celebration and in some ways bolsters not only the celebration - it broadens those who can participate in it. 

"[Former slaves]are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either their or elsewhere."

Imagine that! Newly  freed slaves were not to gather at military posts and were warned against 'idleness'. These were the men, women and children, who had planted and harvested the cotton and sweet potatoes; tended the children and the sick; kept the homes of their masters - they and their descendants for more than 300 years without pay, and they were told not to be lazy!

It is an interesting commentary on whose work was respected in 1865. It is a sad commentary on which workers were respected, and those who are not. 

The people who stood before Granger on that day were people whose families had been torn apart by chattel slavery - and whose morality was questioned; some receiving that news on that day had scars on their backs, shaped like grotesque trees. They were whipped in the service of their masters or, because they loved freedom so much they risked escape - but their industry was questioned; they survived brutality, possibly only rivaled by the brick pits of Old Testament Egypt. Still they were unwanted, told to return to the masters as 'employees - the same masters'who just hours before could have continually brutalized them with impunity. 

Interestingly enough today, there are those who say that workers caught in the maw of a stubbornly bruised economy shouldn't get continued unemployment insurance - it will create 'dependency'; we question the morality of the undereducated and hard to employ without jobs that would enable them to care for their families; still others would deny citizenship to undocumented immigrants who pick our fruits and vegetables, wait our the tables or wash the dishes in restaurants we frequent, care for our children and tend our lawns, or clean our houses. 

We still don't appreciate how we dehumanize the people from whose labor we benefit. We foolishly and heartlessly count them as disposable. They inconveniently take the jobs 'we' want, but for which we don't apply because we consider such work 'beneath us'. 

To celebrate Juneteenth is to not only celebrate the late arriving news of emancipation, it should also be to look forward to the day when we recognize the inherent dignity of all labor, as well as all laborers. 

It's the 'fine print' of Juneteenth that we should all read...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Job Creation Myth

It suddenly became clear. I heard it watching to Melissa Harris Perry on yesterday. One of her guests, Keith Boykin of CNBC said it so plainly, I don't know why the truth has eluded me until now:

"Business doesn't exist to create jobs; business exists to create profit"!


Now of course anyone else reading this is probably amazed that it's taken me this long to realize what a dummy I've been. But in my defense (and I do indeed think I've been a bit of a dummy when it comes to this), it's something I've known, but there's something about it that just didn't sink in.

So now that I've been 'enlightened' something else becomes clearer: if business exists to create profit, not jobs, then businessmen can only collaterally be considered 'job creators'. It is neither a direct intent and is only of a necessity a direct consequence. Businesses will only create the jobs they need and if necessary will create as few jobs as possible in order to maintain, if not maximize profits.

So how can a businessman - or more specifically a capitalist - seek elective office with the claim to be a job creator?! The fact is, if he (or she) is honest can't.

This video by capitalist Nick Hanauer provides a more - even blinding clarity - on the subject. And he explains the irrationality of insisting on believing they myth of 'business as job creator' in the excerpt from his Bloomberg op-ed below...

"It is mathematically impossible to invest enough in our economy and our country to sustain the middle class (our customers) without taxing the top 1 percent at reasonable levels again. Shifting the burden from the 99 percent to the 1 percent is the surest and best way to get our consumer-based economy rolling again."

"Significant tax increases on the about $1.5 trillion in collective income of those of us in the top 1 percent could create hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our economy, rather than letting it pile up in a few bank accounts like a huge clot in our nation’s economic circulatory system."

"Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high."

Aggressive cost cutting, including cuts in labor have led to great corporate profits. The job of business. However, in a country in which what passes for 'business' is paper shuffling and gambling on debt - nearly any one's debt - the absence of a strong manufacturing base is shutting out (and has shut out for years), the real American job creators. The consumer. So far, that's not been a significant part of the political and economic conversation.

Interestingly enough, we've met the job creator and he is us! Now whom are we trying to elect? If that's clear, then we can have a sane conversation about increased taxes on the rich, the income and wealth gap and economic recovery.

 But only if that's clear...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Paul Mayfield
Rev. Gerald Britt, Sr.

My Father when I was...

4 years old: My daddy can do everything!
5 years old: My daddy knows a whole lot
6 years old: My dad is smarter than your dad
8 years old: My dad doesn't know exactly everything
10 years old: In the olden days when my did grew up, things sure different
12 years old: Oh, well, naturally, Father doesn't know anything about that. He's too old
14 years old: Don't pay any attention to my father. He is so old fashioned
21 years old: Him? My Lord, he's hopelessly out of date!
25 years old: Dad knows a little bit about it, but then he should because he has been around 
30 years old: Maybe we should ask Dad what he thinks
35 years old: I'm not doing a single thing until I talk to Dad
40 years old: I wonder how Dad would have handled it. He was so wise and had a world of experience. 
50 years old: I'd give anything if Dad were here now so I could talk this over with him. Too bad I didn't appreciate how smart he was.I could have learned a lot from him. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

John Qunicy Adams

6th President of the United States

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

Friday, June 15, 2012

It Made too Much Sense NOT to Do It...

Another victory realized for CitySquare's work in Public Policy.

If you live in the Dallas area and you're receive SNAP benefits, or you know anyone who does, help us get the word out: Dallas Farmers Market has officially begun taking the food stamps...

And this, from the Dallas Morning News...

"Back in November, we reported that the Dallas Farmers Market would soon accept the state’s Lone Star food stamp card."

"Turns out soon was eight months later. Word came today that, at long last, a “SNAP shop” was set up last weekend where people can use their Lone Star cards to get tokens to purchase food from vendors."

"The vendors are then repaid in cash. Funding for Lone Star cards comes from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."

"Rev. Gerald Britt, of CitySquare, has worked with City Hall and the Friends of the Dallas Farmers Market for a long time to set up a way for low-income people to access the market’s fresh produce."

"He said he is excited about the development, even if it took longer than he had hoped."

"“What we heard last weekend was they anticipated getting about $150 worth of business, and it was over $350 without any promotion at all,” Britt said."

"It’s unclear what impact the city’s ongoing effort to privatize the market will have on the effort."

"But it doesn’t seem like the money-losing market is in a position to turn away business."

"Meanwhile, the benefit for Lone Star card holders could be important."

"Obesity and the health problems it causes are rampant in Dallas at all income levels. It was hard to understand why a city-owned market that offers healthy food was essentially unavailable to those who rely on assistance for their meals."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Billion Dollar Bake Sale

Well here's another way to finance education...or show how ridiculously counterproductive the cuts to education funding have been in Texas...

"Last month, education advocates and teachers staged a cupcake bake sale in front of the state capitol to help “raise money” for Texas schools. The intent of this ironic bake sale actually was not to raise money, but to raise awareness of the significant cuts public education has absorbed since the last legislative session.  Texas public schools endured $5.4 billion in cuts from the state legislature, leaving school districts with the difficult task of raising local revenue and/or cutting personnel or instructional programs to make up the shortfall."

"Governor Rick Perry was not present for the bake sale but was asked by a journalist if he would be interested in buying a cupcake. Perry responded, “I hope they raise some money, there are a lot of folks who put dollars into private sector efforts to improve education I would think that they would support private sector vouchers for public schools. That’s another idea they might work on,” said Perry."


"Did that make sense to anybody?"

"The deep cuts placed on public education by Perry and the 82nd legislature has led to a public outcry (and multiple lawsuits) to fix the state’s school funding system. Public education advocates are “selling” billion-dollar cupcakes to support make up the budget shortfall for Texas public schools (a constitutional requirement of the state government) and the elected leader of the state of Texas suggests they should work to support private sector vouchers instead? Where are your pitchforks? Where is your outrage?"

"The democratically elected leader of the state of Texas has shrugged off the state’s responsibility to education and is overtly suggesting privatizing education with vouchers. (Let’s hypothetically assume that this in some way actually solves the funding problem, which actually doesn’t go away when you merely spread the state’s limited education funds around to include private recipients.)  Perry’s ill-conceived solution to the public education funding crisis is to move public tax dollars into vouchers that will in turn be transferred to parents in the name of “school choice.” Those vouchers will then find their way into the hands of charter school conglomerates and private schools – groups that are not accountable to taxpayers. (When was the last time you had a chance to elect your school board representative for your community charter or private school?)"

"The truth is that with that very statement, Governor Perry sends a clear message that he has no interest is following the tenets of the Texas state constitution (Article, 7, Section 1), which establishes the requirement for a public school system in Texas. Instead of restoring funding to public education (which failed to keep up with statewide enrollment growth for the first time in decades), updating the 21year old Cost of Education Index, and working with the legislature to fix the structural tax deficit that is largely responsible for the budget crisis. The governor is instead calling for a budget compact to continue to cut legislative spending and funnel taxpayer money from public education into private hands.. His flippant solution to public education cuts is privatization, which still would require the state to dig deep to fund the 160,000 students they ignored last session. Governor, it you don’t have a plan to fix the education crisis in your state. And clearly, you don’t care."

"Where is our leadership? Where is our outrage?"

Read the rest of the article here...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Buddy Can Dallas County Spare Half a Billion?

We live in an age in which some of us seem quite comfortable with the idea that we can leave some people behind. People on public benefits, for instance. We can't 'afford' these 'entitlements'.

The numbers suggests that we can't afford not to have them. Not just those dependent on them - I mean all of us. Or, maybe I've missed something in the news lately. Is, Dallas County, for instance, so flush with cash that we can pass up half a billion dollars?!

Larry James, my friend and our CEO at CitySquare reminds us in his blog post today that under enrollment in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - commonly known as 'food stamps), is costing us dearly...

"The Texas culture typically chaffs at the mention of "public benefits."  Texans typically don't appreciate "welfare.""

"But, maybe we aren't looking at such benefits properly." 

"If wages are too low for a significant portion of the workforce to make a life and we continue to depend on that sector of the workforce to make our community work, then public benefits actually benefit all of us in direct and indirect ways."  

"Taken further, public benefit programs that place purchasing power in the hands of those at the very bottom of our city's economic pyramid ensure that those dollars surge into the local economy, and very quickly."  

"The fact is poor people spend what money they do have."  

"In 2010, according to the Texas Hunger Initiative, Dallas County left over $500,000,000.00 of purchasing power on the table due to the fact that all those eligible for the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP--food stamps) did not enroll to receive the benefits available and designed for working people.  Statewide the total unclaimed benefits ran into the multiple billions!"

"We need to understand a couple of things about that very significant pool of cash." 

"First, these dollars flow back to Texas from Washington, D. C. when claimed by and used by the state.  When we fail to enroll an eligible person, we allow tax dollars that we've already sent to the federal government be redeployed in some other part of the country.  The very small cost to Texas to leverage these benefits back to Dallas is more than worth it to recapture funds we've already invested or set aside for the purpose of assisting low-income Texans." 

"Second, and even more powerful, the half-billion unclaimed dollars are not just lost to our neighbors, but they are lost to the retail grocery businesses in our city.  Why these businesses don't insist on better performance by Texas is beyond me." 

Me too! Read the rest of Larry's post here...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Is One Red Cent Too Much?

Education spending is still an important topic, even though most students and teachers are out for the summer. All too soon, we will be wrestling with public conversations on education reform and funding.

I thought I'd repeat a post that reminds us why we're in this situation in the first place and a rather sane solution, which no one has come close to considering. Maybe it makes too much sense...


A group of CitySquare employees, interns and supporters went to the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday in alliance with 'Cover Texas Now'. We were lobbying our legislators to find ways to fix our state's budget woes without drastic cuts in CHIP and Medicaid. It's incredibly interesting that a budget crisis caused by an economic collapse of near global proportions, stemming in no small part by the greed of the financial industry is to find its solution by draconian cuts in aid to the mentally ill and poor children. Yet, an overwhelmingly conservative majority is proposing just that.

The fact is, without some serious, sane budget legislation irreparable harm will be done in unimaginable ways to the most vulnerable Texans and to the Texas economy. A Dallas Morning News editorial on the subject affirms this:

"The budget bill the Texas House is considering Friday understandably is drawing fire from Texans concerned about health care, including from medical providers."
"The House’s two-year spending plan takes a big swing at the payments made to doctors and hospitals that treat Medicaid patients. It slices and dices payments to nurses. And it eviscerates spending for nursing homes."
"The tea party movement might think the public wants to gut health care spending, but judging from the response legislators are getting, there’s plenty of room to think otherwise. Dan Stutz, the Texas Hospital Association’s president and CEO, typified the reaction when he declared Tuesday, “The proposed budget before the House cuts into the core. Hospital services — and jobs — will be lost, and not just temporarily. These cuts won’t heal.”"

It seems that we have now become a society in which children are our most precious asset...until we have to pay for them!

One of the most interesting encounters I had was with Lan Bensen, Texas businessman and Chairman of the Texas advisory board of the Children's Defense Fund. He's also the son of the late and legendary U.S. Senator, and Vice-Presidential Candidate Lloyd Bentsen.

Lan, spoke at the rally held on the steps of the Capitol and quite unexpectedly joined the group I was with as we visited GOP Senator Bob Deuell, who apparently sees the unadulterated absurdity of a 'penny wise, pound foolish' politics that seeks to achieve prosperity by increasing the number of poor, uneducated and undereducated. Lan Bentsen eloquently laid out the finer points of our proposal and in leaving he shared with me that he had written an op-ed piece he had written that appeared in the Austin-American Statesman. Not only does he address the crisis from the standpoint of the business community, but he also suggests something that no one has suggested and its one of the sanest proposals I've heard this session: a temporary (two year), one cent sales tax to balance the budget. Read it here for yourself...

Bentsen: Three strikes against the Texas budget bill

Lan Bentsen, Special Contributor

Published: 6:54 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Texas House budget bill fails the test of good public policy on three counts. Keep in mind, the question is how best to balance the budget and optimize the state's long term viability.
Strike 1 – The premise behind HR1 is the incorrect assumption that services must be cut because taxes cannot be raised. Today the people of Texas are certainly not over served or over taxed. We already rank at the bottom of the 50 states in both taxes and vital services; cutting another 27% in health and education services, from our already-last-place standing, to assure that we maintain our rank as the lowest of the low, cuts too far into our future workforce. This is not a rational approach. Successful businesses need a healthy educated workforce, and self sufficient consumers with purchasing power – and this budget undermines that.
Strike 2 – There are two parts to the current deficit, but HR1 only addresses one, and that one is done the wrong way. The legislature created a structural deficit when it rearranged education funding streams in 2006. It needs to address that fix permanently or we will continue to face $10 billion dollar deficits every session. The second part of the deficit is a short-term revenue deficit due to the economic downturn. Instead of addressing these two root causes, the legislature is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, and students with unintended irreversible long-term consequences. Some of the cuts proposed will cause hundreds of babies to die over the next two years due to lack of prenatal care, significant intellectual capital at the university levels will forever depart, and more lifelong dropouts will be realized at the K-12 level. There will be no restoring or reversing these losses in two years.
Strike 3 – The current cuts are terrible tax policy. Tax-wise, cutting $7 billion in state support for programs such as Medicaid ends up costing us another $10 billion in foregone federal matching funds. And yet another $10 billion will be spent at the local level because communities must now pick up the cost of that mandated care. In an effort to ‘save' $7 billion in the state budget, Texas taxpayers are out a minimum of $20 billion paid at the local and federal levels, before calculating the economic impact of the reduced spending and the benefits of proper services.
A Modest Proposal - The remedies should reflect the problems. Texas's leadership must permanently fix the business tax it broke in 2006 and provide an interim revenue patch to address the temporary economic downturn. Instead of cutting an already lean budget, dumbing down our education system and denying the most basic medical needs to our citizens, we should use the Rainy Day Fund and consider a one cent sales tax increase for the next two years to fix our temporary shortfall. With these measures we can affordably realign and balance our budget, recapture our federal matching funds and get us through this coming biennium with no expansion of services or irreversible long term losses. That is a win-win for all of us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Major Dick Winters

U.S. Army Major, 
Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
 101st Airborne Division

 "Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wise Words

A Disparity of R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Regular readers of CTW know that CitySquare has worked with Unify South Dallas, a coalition of civic groups, faith and business leaders and non-profit agencies, to address the need for more inclusion in conversation about growth in south Dallas. 

While the coalition is no longer active, one of its most challenging confrontations involved the presence of heavy industrial businesses in a residential area along Lamar Street. Ironically, residents of Frisco, TX, a suburb to the north of Dallas, considerably more affluent than the residents living along Lamar Street, won a victory by forcing a battery recycling plant to shut down its operations. 

Lamar Street and Frisco are separated by quite a few miles. They are also separated by how they are treated when the summon up the nerve to have a voice in their quality of life and what they do - and don't - want in their neighborhood. 

For those who can't get behind the pay wall, my column in this today's Dallas Morning News deals with that disparity...and what it says about all of us...

Taking Frisco’s activism to Lamar Street

"One of the best recent examples of effective community organizing can be found in Frisco, whose residents should be congratulated in their victory over Exide Technologies, the world’s largest battery recycler. Exide has been forced to accede to the power of organized citizens and agree to close its plant due to concerns about lead emissions."

"The relentless pressure by Frisco residents and their elected representatives sets a precedent for dealing with businesses whose operations are deemed incompatible with their neighborhoods. It sends the strong message that the interests of commerce cannot trump those of citizens.
For decades, residents along Lamar Street in South Dallas have faced a situation similar to that of their Frisco counterparts. Heavy industrial businesses, including recyclers, are less than a stone’s throw away from churches, homeowners and renters. The situation exposes a hole in Mayor Mike Rawlings’ otherwise impressive “Grow South” strategy: How do we redevelop southern Dallas without addressing incompatible business uses near residential neighborhoods?"

"Frisco and South Dallas residents both have been concerned about the impact of recycling operations on community health. In Frisco, it is concerns of rare cancers usually traced to lead pollution; in the community along Lamar Street, asthma, heart disease and cancer have been reported."

"State Sen. Florence Shapiro, who has represented the Collin County area, allied herself with residents saying, “It is critical that steps be taken to protect the citizens of Frisco.” The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality paid for blood tests, although the tests showed no substantial impact. In South Dallas, a study commissioned by one of the recyclers confirmed decades of pollution that the company declared to be “contained,” but no independent tests have been conducted to verify or disprove that assertion."

"Frisco officials were concerned about the quality of life of the residents in the area. Mayor Maher Maso testified in Austin that the city had lost businesses and residents because of Exide’s operations. South Dallas residents and their allies have expressed similar concerns — worries that a drive down Lamar Street confirms. Owed significantly to the presence of recyclers and the crumbling remains of night clubs and urban nuisances, more wholesome economic development has been effectively choked out."

"Exide Technologies’ attempt to reassure Frisco of its willingness to be cooperative, to the tune of $20 million worth of improvements, was unsuccessful. However, recyclers along Lamar were able to get unanimous council approval to expand their footprint with fa├žade improvements, landscaping, vague commitments to lead neighborhood redevelopment and the purchase of property — from the city — to reroute heavy traffic, albeit in the same area."

"The result of Frisco’s activism is hailed as a victory. In South Dallas, the owners of the recycling operations have been portrayed as victims who are being preyed upon by mischief makers with nefarious motives."

"The difference between the activism in the two communities comes down to money. The community near Lamar Street is one of concentrated poverty. Frisco’s is not."

"We cannot and should not blame Frisco residents for possessing financial wherewithal. But the message that business trumps the interests and health of poor communities is just one message being sent to the residents in South Dallas. When our elected and public officials are unwilling to stand up for our most economically vulnerable citizens as vigorously as those in more affluent communities, it’s a message about those whose lives and futures we consider expendable."

"Ultimately, that’s a commentary on us all."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Happened to Compassion and Eloquence?

When I listen to RFK's speeches, I wonder why we no longer have politicians who speak of the role and responsibilities of government in such noble and lofty terms. They are as inspirational as they are a sad reminder of what we've lost as we've coveted 'plain speaking'...


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Refreshing Prospect

This is going to be interesting!
I have heard of the prospect of Rev. Frank Luter becoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I'll confess I haven't known of him or heard him preach. But this would be interesting. 

I'll confess that when I was a pastor, I was particularly suspicious of the SBC. It's track record, with minorities was not good. And it showed no signs of getting better. The very idea that Luter is considered by some to be a serious contender for president of the convention, is a sign of some change. 

Should he be elected, whether or not he will be able to lead, to help make it a more inclusive body, will remain to be seen. It's a tall order for a two year stint, but it's serious opportunity for Luter and for Southern Baptists. 
I know this - I'll be praying for him and for the convention. Change has been a long time coming. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hip-Hop, Scholarships and Wealth

From the outset let me say, that I'm not a fan of hip-hop, rap or whatever it happens to be called. I'm just not. There may be some songs that I like, but believe me, by the time I get around to knowing who actually 'sings' the songs they're pretty much yesterday.

So when I say the controversy surrounding Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs' son's football scholarship is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, its not because I'm a fan.

Justin Combs has received a $54,000 scholarship from UCLA and it has some people apoplectic. Why? Because, the critics say, Sean is rich enough to pay for his son to go to UCLA or any other school he wants. And he is. what?

Justin Combs was awarded a scholarship to play football. Football factories like UCLA are not in the habit of philanthropy - they lost EIGHT games last year. They have a new coach. When they take the field this season, no one will care that Justin Combs is P.Diddy's son. If he makes the team and gets on to the field, they will care if he produces!

It's interesting that no one is asking whether or not Donald Trumps' kids are 'qualified' to be a part of his empire. No one is saying that they are taking jobs away from qualified minority executives by working for their Dad. But the complaint that young Justin is taking a spot away from a more worthy, and much less wealthy student athlete when Sean has all this money.


Sean Combs is worth more than $400 million. Fabulously wealthy for someone who started out at the bottom of his industry. I may not be a fan, but you don't have to be to watch this guys fabulous rise as an entertainer. Criticisms that he gave his son a $360,000 car for his sixteenth birthday, are also out of bounds. Especially in light of the fact that his boy is graduating with a 3.7 grade point average at a private school and worked hard enough in football to catch the attention of Bruin scouts. This is obviously an exceptional kid.

Combs didn't make his money illegally. With all the problems I have with hip-hop, its not the first musical genre with its share of unsavory characters, or horror stories and it won't be the last. At one point, Sean was a part of a sordid narrative with Tupac and Biggie Smalls. But he's survived all of that to become a pretty well respected producer, actor and entertainer. One of the perks is to be able to give your children a better life. Is that distorting young Justin's values? Did I mention he has a 3.7 GPA and plays football well enough to get the attention of UCLA football scouts?! We might want the boy to be Mother Theresa, but he's a little young, so we have to appreciate him for where he is.

Listen, I'm not a fan of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital background. I don't think being a corporate raider qualifies you to be President. But, at the end of the day, its what he did to earn a living. Do you think maybe his children had some advantages that mine don't have? You bet! And we can't begrudge them those advantages. I can argue how much I don't like Bain Capital in the same way I don't like hip-hop. But they are both legal. And Romney and P.Diddy and their families live comfortable lives. My family lives a more comfortable life now than they did when I worked in a department store warehouse. It's why we work.

Here's what I think is important: are people who are successful, less compassionate? Are their values distorted by their wealth? What type of children do they raise? Are they good young men and women with good hearts, who will be good citizens? And, always from my perspective, will those who are successful find ways to create real opportunities and access for others less fortunate?

We all want to be successful. For some of us that will include money. But we have to be careful about denigrating people because they are wealthy or successful. What we really want is for all children to have what Justin Combs has: solid loving parents and options for their future. I just can't find anything wrong with that...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kingdom Values

I Corinthians 13

1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, June 2, 2012