Sunday, October 28, 2012

History's 'Birthday Gift' to Me

My birthday is this Wednesday and, of course, I have endured all of the jokes that go along when you were born on Halloween. 

However, there are some other notable events that have happened on October 31. For instance, on October 31, 1517 (considerably longer ago than I was born!), Martin Luther, nailed his '95 Theses' on the church door at Wittenberg, essentially attacking Papal Sovereignty, the doctrine of indulgences (absolution from sins in exchange for monetary gifts to the church) and began a revolution that resulted in what we call the 'Protestant Church'. Martin Luther's revolutionary teaching that salvation was by 'grace through faith', is still wrestled with today, yet it is based on Ephesians 2:8 and it reminds us of a God is so Holy, that we can never do enough deeds to earn His Forgiveness, Love or Salvation. 

This is a dramatization of Luther's defense of his remarkable document. The passion and conviction in this portrayal of Luther is palpable. It is a reminder that those of us who purpose for living is based on God's Word, should be faithful to that purpose no matter what. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

For Those Who Change the Wind

Paul Wellstone 

United States Senator, Minnesota

"Education and democracy have the same goal: the fullest possible development of human capabilities."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dedication of Zan Wesley Holmes Middle School

I am very proud to call Dr. Zan W. Holmes, Jr. a mentor, a friend and an encourager of mine.
There are preaching heroes and legends. Zan is a ministerial legend, and there is no such thing as a time spent in his presence that can be counted as anything but a blessing.

On Friday, Dr. Holmes will receive a signal honor: he will have a public school named after him. The Zan Wesley Holmes Middle School in west Oak Cliff will be dedicated in his honor. Few people are more worthy.

Dr. Holmes has had a life and career that has profoundly touched others. He has been a preacher, pastor, seminary professor a Texas state legislator and a community statesman. Ron Kirk, was the first black mayor of Dallas. But Zan could have been. A few years before Kirk's election, Zan was almost drafted to run. It was the first time I have ever known a black preacher to have to hold a press conference to announce that he did not want to be a candidate for public office!

I've known Zan personally for nearly 40 years. But my earliest memory of him was as the pastor of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church, in the community where I grew up. I was 8 years old and when he would come into the barbershop and I was impressed with the tremendous respect everyone had for him and the regard with which he engaged everyone there.

A recent 'Q&A' 'Faith & Leadership' article, shows a couple of reasons why, to this day, I love this man and love being around him!

Q: What are the major lessons that you have learned about preaching and pastoral ministry?

"One is to never be guilty of homiletical arrogance, to become so self-centered, so caught up in my own preaching, that I cannot learn from others who have different styles and emphases."

"I must be open to hear others and to seek to hear others."

"There are preachers I listen to. I may disagree with their theology, their emphasis, but I find that often I can learn from their style or what they say -- or I can learn what I don’t want to do."

"Another lesson is the difference between charity and justice. Charity deals with what I call social service. Justice deals with social justice."

"Charity is necessary, but it does not get at the root problems of many issues, like poverty and racism. Acts of charity do not solve those problems. There are also justice issues."

"In the criminal justice system, it’s not enough to visit, to have prison ministries. We should also be concerned about the criminal justice system, unfair punishment and the whole rehabilitation process."

"I also learned a lesson from a time when I had spiritual “burnout.” I did not have a deep prayer life. I was not giving enough attention to devotional practices, to prayer and preparation for preaching."

"I was treating the Bible as a tool every time I picked it up. I was looking for a sermon. I was not reading the Bible devotionally, and so I hit a spiritual crisis."

"I learned from that to place more focus on Bible study, on reading it not to ask, “What is in here that I can use to preach to those people?” but, “What is in here that’s speaking to me that I can preach with power and conviction?”"

Q: Serving in the Legislature, in the midst of powerful political and economic interests, is it difficult to be a legislator and remain true to the gospel?

"It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge, because I always knew my true convictions."

"I wanted justice, particularly for the oppressed, the poor, those who had been marginalized. I was very clear about that. I wanted to kick the ball forward and make progress. I had no problems forming relationships with so-called power people. In fact, they would come to me, because they knew I had influence and leadership in the black community."

"The tension is I could have easily sold out. I could have allowed them to manipulate me, and the struggle was to be sure I did not allow that to happen."

Read the rest of the article here, and Congratulations Zan Holmes! You deserve it...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dallas Bond Election also on November 6 Ballot

The Presidential election is not the only thing on the ballot on November 6 (remember early voting started yesterday).

Dallas residents have a very important bond election as well. We urge you to vote yes. If you haven't already voted already, here is some important information...

On November 6, 2012, when Dallas residents are voting for a president, senator and other elected officials, we will also be voting on the 2012 Dallas Bond Program (early voting takes place from Monday, Oct. 22 to Friday, Nov. 2).

This program consists of three propositions that if approved will direct $642 million toward important basic projects all over Dallas.

But taxes will not increase if the bond program passes.

The projects focus on three major priorities:

preserving and restoring our streets

protecting lives and property from flooding

enhancing economic development to grow the tax base
The projects contained in the bond program were chosen based on:

citizen input at town hall meetings

survey forms

city council member input

priorities identified by business, homeowner and neighborhood associations

recommendations by city staff
The projects address the city's most critical needs. Our elected city officials and city staff understand that we are still dealing with tough economic times. So the bond program is considered “bare bones” – addressing the most needed improvements in every section of the city.

It is important to note that the bond propositions will be at the very end of the ballot. So, be sure to go to the end of the ballot (or if voting on paper, perhaps a separate ballot) to vote FOR projects that will improve the quality of life for people throughout the city but not cause your taxes to increase.

You can get more information here...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Know Your Rights as a Voter in Texas

Today early voting in Texas begins. Here are your rights as a registered vote in the state of Texas...

  • As a registered voter in Texas, you have the right to:
  • A ballot with written instructions on how to cast a ballot.
  • Ask the polling place official for instructions on how to cast a ballot (but not suggestions on how to vote).
  • Cast your vote in secret and free from intimidation.
  • Receive up to two more ballots if you make a mistake while marking the ballot.
  • Bring an interpreter to assist you as you qualify to vote if you do not understand the English language.
  • Help to cast your ballot if you cannot write, see the ballot, or understand the language in which it is written.
  • Report a possible voting rights abuse to the Secretary of State (1.800.252.8683) or to your local election official.
  • Cast a provisional ballot if your name does not appear on the list of registered voters or you do not have proper identification.
  • Vote once at any early voting location during the early voting period within the territory conducting the election.
  • File an administrative complaint with the Secretary of State concerning violations of federal and state voting procedures.
Texas is one of 18 states that restores a convicted felon's right to vote immediately after the completion of the incarceration, supervised parole and supervised probation periods. Felons who receive a pardon for a conviction will also have their voting rights restored immediately.

This is important information especially in this election. Pass it on...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Morning Blessing: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - 'I Made It'

I've written on any number of posts that I'm not a big fan of some contemporary Gospel music. But this is one of my favorite songs by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I pray you are blessed by it this morning!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Connie Mack

Owner Philadelphia Athletics 

"You're born with two strikes against you, so don't take a third one on your own."

Friday, October 19, 2012

CitySquare: Growing Deeper in Public Policy & Advocacy

I'm extremely proud to be working at CitySquare. When I started working here in 2004, we the budget was not quite $4 million ($3.7 million to be exact) and we had about 55-60 employees. We now have a budget of nearly $15 million and 125 employees!

We are growing deeper and not just wider. We've eliminated some cherished programs that were just to hard to fund. We have increased capacity in programs that are effective in serving the community, but which also enhance the effectiveness of our existing program offerings. Our Neighborhood Support Services (formerly Social Work Services), ably led by Lisa Ciminelli, not only helps people connect with our other programs, but they provide case management support across nearly the entire organization.

And our work in Public Policy is growing. Last year we began offering theater screenings of documentaries which help raise public awareness about issues related to our organizations work or which serve as instruments to build a constituency for our advocacy and direct action initiatives. A couple of years ago, we added an additional Urban Engagement Book Club on the third Thursday of each month, held at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas (we meet at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, adjacent to the Southern Methodist University campus, on the first Thursday of the month).

We have had victories in getting state legislation passed to increase the compensation of the wrongfully incarcerated and to regulate payday and auto title lending. We've gotten local ordinances passed to regulate that industry and those ordinances have been adopted by the cities of Austin and San Antonio. We've gotten the Dallas Farmers Market to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or 'food stamps') as payment. We have an assessment of hunger in Dallas underway and, at the same time we have worked to register and will work to get out the vote in low income neighborhoods throughout Dallas. The construction of our new Opportunity Center, has us in the thick of addressing major economic redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization in South Dallas.

I'm not doing this by myself. A young lady named Jessica Davila, was my Public Policy Coordinator. She was a brilliant young woman, whose attention to detail kept me on track (no small feat), and who became an admired leader in her own right in the process.

Jessica left for work in education that allowed her more time with her family.

Keilah (KEE-I-lah) Jacques (Jock), now serves in that role and she is AMAZING! She brings gifts and talents to the position which allows us to tap into colleges and universities for additional support and supervises the interns who work in public policy. She organizes the book club and screening events and helps me keep track of our work with a dizzily diverse array of allies who increase our effectiveness.

And now we dig even deeper in Public Policy with the addition of Dr. Janet Morrison to our staff. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Janet was the Program Director of our After School Academy (and actually all things that had to do with education and programming for youth and children). We ended that program last year, and she now works with me as Education Policy Coordinator. Janet's job will be to enable us to address policy issues in public education and build relationships with schools - particularly in South Dallas - in order to help us learn how to organize and advocate to remove systemic barriers to student achievement.

Like Keilah, Janet is an incredibly smart woman who brings to our work a passion and creativity that will help CitySquare realize it's mission to work with our neighbors to change the trajectory of their lives.

In Janet's blog 'Janet Morrison's Community Dialogue', you can get a glimpse of her passion and perspective. Here's an excerpt from a recent post:

"The other night I was invited to attend an Allen High School choir concert. I went to support the teenager who asked me. I've known him since he was three and was interested in seeing him in his musical element that he has decided is his focus of study.

He had told me the performance was at the PAC at the high school. Ok. No problem. Every high school I've ever been to has an auditorium so I'll just go there and get directed to the PAC auditorium, I assumed. I "turned left" as Rosie (my GPS system) told me to but instead of being in front of the school I was on a street with multiple buildings."

"The new, $60 million stadium was on my left. I saw a building on my right and thought maybe that was it. As I pulled up to the building I could see through the windows and saw people with swimsuits. Obviously, not the right place. I pulled away and saw the sign, "Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium." I kept driving. Several lit-up tennis courts were on my right. I kept driving and started thinking, Good grief this is a college campus, not a high school! I saw the high school on the right, heard cheering from a smaller football field ahead of me, and finally noticed a sign, "Performing Arts Center." Oh. Wow. It's it's own building."

"When I walked in, 10 students were on stage. One kid was introducing the band members and the students on stage. He projected his voice. He was confident. He spoke to the audience of about 1000 people with as much ease as if there was no one in the room. He asked the other students to introduce themselves and they all oozed with confidence just like he did. The auditorium was full. Parents and students were clapping and cheering and encouraging the students in a way that would make anyone feel good."

"I nearly teared up..."

Find out what made her so emotional here.

Support the work of CitySquare, we're making  a difference in Dallas and I don't want you to miss the opportunity to be a part of it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Daredevil or Just Crazy? You Decide...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I think you have to be stark raving mad to attempt this. On the other hand, it's thrilling to challenge the limits of human endurance in order to accomplish something that's never been done before!

"After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled balloon, Felix Baumgartner completed a record breaking jump for the ages from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket-powered airplane. Felix reached a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h (833mph) through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In Memoriam: Andrew Brimmer (1926-2012)

Andrew Brimmer
When I was growing up I saw Andrew Brimmer's picture in JET magazine. Usually there was some very short story about him and often he was recognized as almost a 'Black History' subject, but I confess I never read those stories. 

Andrew Brimmer, the son of sharecroppers,  was the first African-American appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Brimmer died Sunday at the age of 86. 

What I also didn't know until now, was the breadth of respect for his wisdom, his expertise and competence as an economist. 

Brimmer, who served 8 1/2 years of his 14 year term before joining the faculty at Harvard University,  also successfully worked to restore fiscal the fiscal integrity of Washington D.C. when he chaired the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, in 1995. According to the Washington Post...

"...the Harvard-trained economist served as de facto mayor until he stepped down in 1998. “Clearly, this is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced, ” he said at the time. Thankfully, he and his four colleagues on the control board proved more than up to the task."

"By the time he departed the board, which continued for another three years, he had succeeded in bringing order to the city’s finances, right-sizing a bloated workforce and establishing a culture in which performance and results mattered. It was, as Alice Rivlin, who later took over the control board, observed, a thankless job. Mr. Brimmer endured unceasing — often racially tinged — attacks from the likes of then-Mayor Marion Barry, who fought Mr. Brimmer all the way and once likened the actions of the control board to those of Hitler’s Germany. Mr. Brimmer’s thick skin, cool competence and perseverance proved to be more than a match. “I do not discuss the mayor anymore . . . ,” he told the New York Times in 1997. “Why should I produce drama when I can produce action?”"

"In announcing his departure from the board, Mr. Brimmer said it was time to say goodbye and “thank you very much.” It was one of the few things he got wrong; it was the city that needed to thank him."

This NPR interview from 2009, about a week before the inauguration of the country's first black president. The conversation gives insight into his mind and also is a reminder at how dire our world looked in January of that year and the policies that a number of economists were suggesting to pull us out of what has come to be known as 'The Great Recession'. 

And lest one is tempted to think that Andrew Brimmer was a partisan fiscal ideologue, this story  totally contradicts that view...

"One little-known achievement in his distinguished career was his partnership with President Ronald Reagan in 1982. Red ink was mounting, and the markets were worried. Reagan reluctantly decided that he had to rescind some of the 1981 tax breaks. He needed support. Chief of staff Jim Baker instructed me to reach out to Mr. Brimmer, a board member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was opposing the tax increase."

"Mr. Brimmer met with the president and announced his wholehearted support for the plan. He then contacted dozens of distinguished economists and opinion leaders in support of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The bill passed with broad, bipartisan support. Mr. Brimmer’s spirit of bipartisanship is sorely missed and needed in today’s Washington."

'Sorely missed and much needed', is a good way to put it. Whether you knew of Andrew Brimmer or not...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Little Known Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love to read and listen to speeches and sermons that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave that are not widely known. Many of the familiar presentations of King, have lost their original impact and through reinterpretation and co-opting are no longer viewed in their context to make some who listen feel more comfortable. We also tend to forget his personal brilliance. 

This particular speech is set against the backdrop of the struggle to obtain the right to vote. Between the narrator and King's speech we see what has taken for blacks and other minorities to gain their franchise. Note that this speech wasn't given 100 years ago, but only 54 short years ago. 

King also helps us understand how much our world has and hasn't change. Substitute the word 'segregation' with the word 'power' and you can see that there is a struggle still before us. 

This is a young 29 year-old Martin Luther King. Wise beyond his, we hear strains of themes that he would preach and share for the next 10 years. 

I can never listen to King, whether his familiar or unfamiliar speeches or sermons without recommitting myself to do more, to continue to preach the Gospel with all that is within me, and to work even harder make equality and justice a reality. 

What about you?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Poet, Novelist, Playwright, Philosopher

"Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men." 

Friday, October 12, 2012

CitySquare's Urban Engagement Book Club Reviews 'The Accommodation',, October 18th

"Peter Johnson was working hard and fast to show the homeowners where to find sources of power that were unfettered by connections to the white power structure and, what may have been tougher, to develop their own power free of obligations to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the rest of the old black power structure. Johnson made sure that black people in Dallas would hear what major figures in the Civil Rights Movement believed about all this talk of Dallas as a model of modern race relations. He brought a very young Jesse Jackson to town, and Jackson read the law to everyone who came to hear him speak at Warren United Methodist Church on Oakland Avenue. 

"Dallas is wicked city," Jackson thundered. "I saw the downtown skyscrapers and I saw the great buildings built by fortunes that came out of oil exploration...but I have seen in H.L. Hunt's town white people starving."

"He pledged ;war;to bring economic welfare to the black people of Dallas. But Jackson told his listeners one major and significant untruth. He promised the national Civil Rights Movement, having discovered the plight of black people in Dallas, had come to stay: 'We ain't just passing through town," Jackson said. 'We ain't camping in Dallas. We're gonna live here for a while."

"As for the George Allens and the S.J. Wrights of the world, the Fair Park homeowners movement was to be their Waterloo, although it would be many years before they recognized the real dimension of the political defeat they had suffered there. For one thing, Peter Johnson and the SCLC started saying things about the traditional black leadership that had never been said before in public. Willie Bolden of the SCLC national staff came to Dallas to help carry out a study of hunger in the city and quickly became involved with Johnson in Fair Park..."

--The Accommodation, by Jim Schutze

Come to CitySquare's Public Policy Department's Urban Engagement Book Club, at First United Methodist Church, 1928 Ross Avenue, October 18, 12:00p - 1:30p. for a review of the 'The Accommodation' and meet Jim Schutze and Peter Johnson. I look forward to meeting you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Appeal to Tighten State Regulation on Payday Lenders

The following is my testimony submitted earlier today, to the Budget and Commerce Committee, chaired by State Senator John Carona.

During the 82nd state legislative session, The Anti-Poverty Coalition of Greater Dallas, joined its allies from across the state, including Texas Catholic Charities, the Christian Life Commission, 500% Interest is Wrong (now the Texas Fair Lending Alliance), among others, to seek relief legislative relief for economically vulnerable Texas citizens victimized by the exploitative practices of short term lenders. The results of our efforts were HB 2592 (82R) and HB 2594 (82R). These two pieces of compromise legislation were designed to provide greater consumer awareness; through greater disclosure by industry participants and monitoring by the state, we hoped these two bills could help customers make more fully informed decisions before patronizing these businesses.
In the spring of 2012, the Anti-Poverty Coalition, working with Texas Appleseed, conducted ‘secret shopper ‘surveys to determine the industry’s compliance with both state law and local ordinances. The results of these findings would help us determine both the effectiveness of the new regulations, as well as what further efforts should be undertaken should significant non-compliance be discovered.
The survey revealed major compliance issues. The Anti-Poverty Coalition surveyed 37 of the 241 short-term lenders in our city. The average charges for payday and auto-title loans among the 37 range from 24 to 66 times the Texas constitutional usury cap of 10 percent interest.
Only 46% of the surveyed locations posted fees in a manner prescribed by state law. Only 41% of the locations posted the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner contact information and offered the legally proscribed loan disclosure upon request.
According to survey results, the required “warning notice” to consumers about the potential to incur additional charges was posted at only 22% of the 37 surveyed store locations; 46% of the store locations did not show volunteers their CSO registration document upon request. One volunteer commented, "They said they were registered [as a CSO], but would not show me any forms until I brought back all my information."
In addition to noncompliance with the posting and disclosure standards, some locations provided misleading information. In the fee posting, one business listed the loan interest rate as 13.99%, 11.99%, and 10.99% for a 30-day auto title loan. The business listed the monthly interest rate charged for an auto title loan instead of the annual percentage rate, as required by law. These monthly rates are the equivalent of 181.95% APR, 157.02% APR, and 144.76% APR respectively. In addition to misrepresenting the interest cost, the fee disclosures were printed in small type, less than 12 point. Some tellers made similar misrepresentations about the cost of the loans, as one volunteer wrote, “[the teller] showed an actual contract to me, but said the interest rate of 402% wasn't important. The interest due every two weeks was 15%.”
We find these and other deficiencies resulting from our survey’s to be disturbing. We believe that this committee should find them equally disturbing. This represents an industry determined to avoid any evidence of even a good faith effort to comply with state law, at best; it represents a callous disregard for the economic health and wellbeing of the consumers for whom they purport to be a ‘much needed service’.
In fact regarding the Dallas local ordinance (identical to Austin) which seeks to even further protect Texans in our city, auto title lenders are evading regulations limiting the amount of loans to 3 percent of a customers’ total income or 70 percent of the value of the vehicle. They are doing so by transferring existing loans outside of the city of Dallas where such ordinances are not on the books.

Our survey also reveals an apparent inability if not unwillingness, to self-govern. In Dallas they CSAT members are failing to conform to their publicized industry ‘best practices’. Of the 37 stores in question, 70 percent fail to post the CSAT seal; 65 percent post no notice of best practices and almost 80 percent fail to make available the consumer financial literacy materials touted by their industry.
Any evaluation of the effectiveness of HB 2592 (82R) and HB 2594 (82R) must take these culture of determined, systemic non-compliance into account. It is evidence that both enforcement, but stronger legislative remedy is in order, as well as consequences for non-compliance. The cycle of debt into which our most vulnerable citizens are steered must be addressed. This is not anti-business. Indeed stronger regulation and enforcement sends the signal that Texas expects all lending agencies, to operate with the integrity that can only come from transparency.
The people represented by the Anti-Poverty Coalition our allies don’t have lobbyists and lawyers to defend their interests. They only have our organizations and the elected and appointed public servants to take up their cause. We ask that you take this into account in your deliberations.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Payday Lenders' Locations are No Accident

On Tuesday, I'll be headed to Austin to testify before the Business and Commerce Committee, chaired by State Senator John Carona. This interim committee hearing will focus on the payday and auto title loan industry. More about that after I return.

In the meantime, Tod Robberson has an excellent article on the industry and how it targets certain neighborhoods. This is a continuation of a piece Tod's written on ACE Cash Express' role as a major donor to Congressman Pete Session.

The column has interactive maps which show the impact of the predatory intent of this industry and its strategic clustering in communities with high concentrations of apartment complexes throughout Dallas.

"These lenders aren’t, as Sessions argues, merely companies out there to help people who can’t get credit and are undergoing hard times. They aren’t, as he argues, just there to tide people over till their next paycheck, so they can take care of a few bills and keep their electricity turned on. These companies do essentially what I’ve done with these maps. They study the economically weakest, most vulnerable urban neighborhoods."

"They dissect the demographics, particularly with an eye toward finding high concentrations of residents with low educational attainment and a far-below-average command of the English language. Why is that important? Because those are the people least likely to have a bank account or to understand the process of obtaining a bank loan. They are likely to be fearful of any entity that might ask for an ID that might expose immigration status. If they have low educational attainment, they are less likely to have read up on the high interest rates charged by payday and title lenders. They are less likely to have considered the longer-term debt consequences of the easy-money offerings these stores make, or to consider that if they miss a payment on their $300 car-title loan, they could suddenly find themselves without a car or with an exorbitant bill because their effective interest rates could skyrocket under the terms of the loan."

"So how do they locate these neighborhoods so the lenders can figure out where to open their stores? The U.S. Census and American Community Survey is the first place to start. Using various online mapping tools, you can identify where are Dallas’s highest concentrations of apartment dwellers. People with poor English skills and low educational attainment are significantly more likely to live in rental property than own their own homes. The lower the value of housing, the more likely this housing will contain people living on the edge financially. They represent a rich trove of future payday loan customers. Likewise for people with low disposable incomes. If their incomes barely cover their monthly bills, then all it takes is one little problem — a hospital bill, a car accident, etc. — to push them into insolvency. Fertile turf for payday lenders. Finally, look at the parts of town where the highest concentrations of Latinos live. Sure enough, that’s where you’ll find the highest concentrations of payday lenders."

Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed, a public interest, public policy and advocacy group based in Austin, Texas, Rob Norcross, lobbyist for the payday loan industry and I, recently taped an episode of the local PBS talk show 'McCuiston', which will be aired soon. I'll let you know when it airs...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Love's Prerequisite

"If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in."

~ Frederick Buechner
"Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's Dictionary"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mamie Till-Mobley

Mother of Civil Rights Martyr Emmitt Till

"My son was a sacrificial lamb, he was sent to play a special role and I don’t think he died in vain."

Friday, October 5, 2012

"The Revisionaries" & "The Accommodation" Presented by CitySquare!

A couple of exciting things happening at CitySquare in our Public Policy work that we want you aware of...

Thursday, October 11, at 7:00, we will host a screening of the documentary 'The Revisionaries'. I review it in my monthly column in the Dallas Morning News:

"The Revisionaries depicts the ideological tug of war on the 15-member board as it made critical decisions about school curriculum during the 2009-10 session. Their votes determined the content of textbooks bought by our state. And because Texas and California are the largest purchasers of textbooks in the country, those decisions, in effect, create the baseline for what children nationwide will be taught. The next set of revisions can’t be made for another decade."

"Political nerds will find it fascinating to watch the motivations and machinations involved in inserting language into curriculum and textbooks, for example, presenting creationism as a comparably credible scientific theory alongside evolution. It’s equally interesting to watch social studies curriculum massaged to raise Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority movement to greater significance, while de-emphasizing the contributions of civil rights leaders and urban cultural trends."

"Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network (protagonist or antagonist, depending on your point of view), shares what she sees at stake: “Controlling and shaping the politics of a state [by] controlling and shaping what children learn from ages 5-18 is a really smart strategy.”
The story told in The Revisionaries largely flew under the radar for most citizens. As such, it becomes a cautionary tale regarding who potentially can wind up wielding power if more people aren’t aware of the existence and importance of government bodies such as the State Board of Education."

After the movie, we will have our customary 'town hall' meeting and we're excited about our list of panel guests: the director of 'The Revisionaries', Scott Thurman; State Board of Education Member, Mavis Knight; SMU anthropology professor and Texas Freedom Network board member, Dr. Ron Wetherington. The panel discussion will be led by the publisher of 'The Dallas Examiner', Jim Washington.

This screening will support the public policy work (normally the screenings are free) of CitySquare and we hope you'll join us for what promises to be an exciting and informative evening.

On October 18, at 12:00 pm at the First United Methodist Church of Dallas, we will host our bi-monthly Urban Engagement Book Club and it promises to be a thriller!

We will be reviewing the local classic 'The Accommodation', by Dallas Observer columnist (and sometimes nemesis) Jim Schutze. Jim's book tells how race relations evolved in Dallas. It is a primer and a must read for anyone serious about understanding the origins of tensions race relations in our city.

A community conversation will be held after the review (led ably by Randy Mayeaux) led by Jim Schutze and Rev. Peter Johnson, a former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) regional organizer in Dallas, whose story is told in the book. Peter is legendary for his work in non-violent civil disobedience and social justice in our city during very turbulent times.

The Urban Engagement Book Club is a public awareness initiative of CitySquare's Public Policy Department and is free and open to the public. It's held on first Thursdays at the Highland Park United Methodist Church and the third Thursdays at First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

So, Who is 'They'?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country."