Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Can We Afford NOT to Raise the Minimum Wage?

What do you think about fast food workers' call for a $15 minimum wage?

The demands of the workers in fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King say that it is impossible to provide for themselves or their families on today's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

"The nationwide day of demonstrations came after similar actions organized by unions and community groups over the past several months. Workers are calling for the right to unionize without interference from employers and for pay of $15 an hour. That's more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year for full-time employees..."

"...Jobs in low-wage industries have led the economic recovery. Advocates for a higher minimum wage say that makes it crucial that they pay enough for workers who support families."
"The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and insists that sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices for customers and fewer opportunities for job seekers."
"The drive for better pay comes as the White House, some members of Congress and economists seek to raise the federal minimum wage. But most proposals are for a more modest increase, with President Barack Obama suggesting $9 an hour."
"The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing financial support and training for local organizers in the fast-food strikes around the country."
"Walkouts were also planned Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Memphis, Tenn., Milwaukee, Seattle, St. Louis and other cities. Organizers said they expected thousands of workers and their allies to turn out, but the number of actual participants was unclear..."
That $15,000 a year figure is a startling figure, especially when you realize what it really takes to make it in a country still crawling out of the impact of the greatest recession in our history. 
According to an interactive data website by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a family of four (two adults with two children), with no health care and no savings (usually the case for a number of service industry jobs), needs to make more than $60,000 a year, if they live in the Dallas-Plano-Irving area. That's two $15 an hour jobs...and the Texas economy is faring better than the rest of the country! 
But look at it another way. 
I graduated from high school in 1975. Shortly after I graduated, I worked at Jack-in-the-Box. Even then, I think I made more than the minimum wage. But here's a grocery store sales paper from that year, when the minimum wage was about $2.10...

Now, here's a sales paper from this week...

Of course the items aren't the same, but I think it's easy to say that there's a significant different in the pricing (like you needed to be told). So here's a thought: as insufficient as $7.25 is in today's economy, prices for commodities, goods and services rise with the increase in the minimum wage. Which means that they become affordable, because of the increase.  That is, if the rise in the minimum wage keeps pace with inflation...and it hasn't.

Take a look at this graph...


The real value of the minimum wage in 1975 in today's dollars was a little over $8.00. The value of today's minimum wage is barely worth $7.25. 
The question seems to not be whether we can afford to raise the minimum wage...and raise it higher than the President's proposed $9.00...the question is whether we can afford not to...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Education: A Generational Family Affair!

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Hamilton Park, a small predominately black community in far North Dallas. I was among the first students bused to all white schools in Richardson, Texas, in the early 70's. It was a move meant to satisfy the court mandated desegregation as ordered by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. Richardson ISD was finally, essentially found compliant a couple of weeks ago.

The Hamilton Park School itself, eventually became a 'Pacesetter' magnet school. A former schoolmate of mine recently sent me a wonderful story which tells of some of the richness and resilience of some of the families of that community. These members of the Jefferson family were my neighbors when I lived there and Thomas and his family (one of the first families to live in Hamilton Park) are friends of mine to this day!

This is a beautiful story that emerges out of what could be a tragic tale of loss and displacement.

_______________________________




Today was the first day back to school for  most Texas kids.  – including a Richardson Schools 2nd grader named Thomas Jefferson the 5th. And like a lot of other kids, TJ strolled into Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet elementary side by side with a family elder. But here’s where the story gets interesting. The great grandfather TJ accompanied is 70 year-old Thomas Jefferson, Jr. – who attended Hamilton Park himself six decades ago. He made the same walk with his son, Thomas Jefferson the 3rd, and grandson, Thomas Jefferson the 4th. Here’s a look at an African American family legacy.
Hamilton Park School was built in in a middle class neighborhood in 1954. That’s the same year the landmark Brown Vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
A spry, Thomas Jefferson Jr., and his wife Mary –high school sweet hearts – say despite segregation, this neighborhood school was like family.
“Everybody got along real well together. We played, had fun. Teachers were like our parents away from home. They looked after us. We really learned quite a lot from them,” said Mary Jefferson. 
Husband Thomas Jefferson, Jr., added "You’ve got to look at this school as a part of the community because it was a community school. First grade through 12th grade. What we looked forward to, when we were getting ready to graduate, was a place to live when we came home. That’s how the generation thing continued to grow.”
Thomas Jefferson the 3rd attended Hamilton Park in the 70s, his son Thomas Jefferson the 4th came here, and 7 year-old TJ 5 made the walk Monday. Jefferson says this school was forced to change under a federal desegregation order in the mid-70s. The campus became a K through 6th grade magnet school, to integrate the students. At first, Jefferson felt betrayed, fearing the neighborhood would lose its heart and soul.  
“For instance, if I’m walking to school, and I’m a senior and I have little brothers and sisters and they’re tagging along with me on our way to school, that was a big impact because we were able to look after our little brothers and sisters and we thought we were going to lose all of their identity."
But now, after decades of federal court oversight was lifted, Jefferson says things are actually better.
“However, we didn’t’ lose our identity. As long as the school is here. there’ll always be that blood running through the community.


Leaving 7 year-old second grader Thomas Jefferson the 5th to carry on the tradition. But first, he has some work to do
“You have to learn how to write, because when you get into 2nd grade the teachers aren’t going to help you that you much or help you more.”
Great grampa Thomas Jefferson Jr. will bw there to help, as he was for his son and grandson.
Click here to hear the audio
                             

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: An Event to Remember



I've posted Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech at the March on Washington a few times, most recently last week. But I think the excerpt which I post today highlights the both the breadth of the benefits of a more just society and what the justice movement has accomplished and is yet to accomplish. True reflection on the march and the speech cannot seek to turn King into some iconic cultural plush toy that comforts some people by appealing to a day in which we all become 'color blind'. King was a challenging, agitational figure

And he must remain so today...for all of us. 
_____________________________


"The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

"We cannot walk alone.

"And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.

"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.""


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

McCuistion Episode on Payday Lending

On September 12 at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas, the Anti-Poverty Coalition of Greater Dallas will host a training we call 'Payday Lending 101'. The purpose is to educate community leaders and members of the faith community and other interested individuals on the perils of short term loans. 

We also want to provide information to those who may live outside of Dallas on the city ordinances which were passed by Dallas' city council in 2011 and encourage them to speak their city council members about adopting the same ordinances. The city of Flower Mound, Texas, recently became on of a number of cities which have chosen to protect their citizens by passing these ordinances

This seemed like an appropriate time to repost the video of 'McCuiston' on which Ann Baddour, of Texas Appleseed and I, along with Rob Norcross, lobbyist who represents the payday loan industry were guests. The program aired in November of last year and was reared this past Sunday. It's a short primmer on the industry and how it traps it's customers in debt. 

_______________________________________






The 2012 Presidential elections are now behind us, and the public policy work of CitySquare, turns it's attention to next year's state legislative session, during which we will try and strengthen gains we made in the regulation of payday lending last year. 

This past Sunday's broadcast of the locally produced 'McCuiston' talk show, featured Rob Norcross, a lobbyist for the payday and auto title loan industry, and CitySquare's and the Anti-Poverty Coalition's ally in our work at the state level, Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed. 

I hope it give s you better perspective on the work that remains to be done - and our commitment to see it through!

Also, check out the invaluable information and resources on our other statewide partner, Texas Faith for Fair Lending

Monday, August 26, 2013

We Can All Feel Like Super Heroes Now!


Ok, this is just for fun...but, it's also the first thing I've seen in a VERY long time that has made me wish I knew how to swim!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dr.C.T. Vivian: Medal of Freedom Honeree


Later this year, Dr. C.T. Vivian, will be among 16 American heroes to receive the Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian award. Along with American heroes like President Bill Clinton, Ben Bradlee (posthumously), Bayard Rustin (posthumously), Oprah Winfrey and Daniel Inouye (posthumously), Vivian will be recognized by President Barack Obama in an East Wing ceremony that will honor citizens for their contributions in advancing American democracy. 

C.T. Vivian is particularly noteworthy in that the iconic video footage which shows him being punched in the face by Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, as he tries to register black Americans in Selma, Alabama while they are standing in a cold rain in February 1965. 

Dr. Vivian courageous stance, along with those who were with him on that day, is a reminder of both the precious nature of the right to vote and why we must fight the pernicious voter I.D. laws coursing through our nation. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Column in Today's Dallas Morning News

Economic justice eludes black Americans 50 years after MLK’s ‘dream’




This month we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the momentous March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s acclaimed “I Have a Dream” speech.
By far the most familiar portion of that speech is the aspirational line in which King muses on the day when his children will be “judged by the content of their character” and not the color of their skin. Yet recitations of this passage almost always ignore its context — and the persistent significance of the overall events.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was the official theme of the march, took place 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It had been a century of state-sponsored brutality, injustice and inequality.
And King’s dream of a day in which character trumped color was not spoken of in a vacuum. It was to be the defining result of an America that fully embraced the democratic ideals of freedom, justice and equality as the inheritance of every citizen.
Throughout the speech, King referenced the incivilities and inconveniences that segregation visited upon blacks, and he denounced the efforts of southern politicians to nullify court rulings and interpose the states’ rights against federal laws that were meant to end segregation.
The 250,000 attendees of the Aug. 28, 1963, march demanded rights and protections that would eventually be put into law in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act — signed almost 100 years after the end of the Civil War.
Focusing only on the eloquence and power of King’s oratory has caused even some of his admirers to miss the historical context of King’s call for social equality and the contemporary significance of the issues of that day. The march was organized both to demonstrate public support for civil rights legislation and to call for action to address the high unemployment rate among black Americans.
Fifty years later those themes are still relevant.
The National Urban League’s “State of Black America Report” for 2013 notes that 10 percent of black Americans were unemployed in 1963, compared with 12.6 percent today. For most of this time, unemployment among blacks has remained almost double the national average and that of white Americans.
The picture isn’t any better in recessionary times. The average unemployment rate during recession years over the past 50 years has been 6.7 percent. Yet for African-Americans during that time, the average has been 11.6 percent while for whites the rate has been 5.1 percent, at times falling as low as 3.1 percent. Only in 1969 did black unemployment dip below the national recession average to 6.4 percent. The report’s conclusion: Over the last 50 years, the black unemployment rate has been at a level typical for a recession or higher.
Meanwhile, the percentage of blacks living in poverty has decreased from 48 percent in 1963 to 28 percent in 2013, and the number of black children living at the poverty line has improved to 38 percent, compared with 57 percent in 1963. However, the poverty rate among black households compared with white ones was a staggering 27.6 percent vs. 9.8 percent as recently as 2011.
King’s growing awareness of the depth of economic disparity eventually caused him to lament that his dream had turned into a nightmare. He would come to place greater emphasis on economic justice, even protesting the Vietnam War as a national distraction to the priority of eliminating poverty. King was assassinated nearly five years after the 1963 speech, while in Memphis, Tenn., supporting the cause of striking garbage workers. His final days had been spent organizing a Poor People’s Campaign, in which thousands of poor Americans would occupy Washington until their concerns were addressed.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, that event and the true context of King’s speech are vivid reminders that however far we’ve come, we still have a great deal of unfinished business.
The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr. is vice president of public policy at CitySquare. His email address is gbritt@citysquare.org, and he blogs at changethewind.org.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Miami Dolphins - Recognition Better Late than Never

Although I'm an unabashed Dallas Cowboys fan, one of my favorite AFC teams is the Miami Dolphins.
I was a fan even when Dallas trounced them in Super Bowl VI 24-3. They were a cast of characters that not just fun to watch, they were a great football team. The '71 Cowboys' victory was a matter of the Dolphins running into a team on the precipice of a dynasty. It was a buzz saw which would have destroyed any team in their path.



But the greatness of the Dolphins would be seen the year after that crushing defeat, when they would be the first team to go undefeated! The Dolphins ripped of 17 straight victories, including a convincing defeat of the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. That no team has gone undefeated in 40 years is a testimony to the nature of that feat. Only the New England Patriots (another favorite AFC team of mine) has come close. Personally, I think a longer season and the weight of the Dolphins historic season caused the Pats to come two games short of crowning an undefeated season with a NFL championship in 2007.

This week, the Miami Dolphins received the recognition of that singular season in a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. It didn't happen in 1972, because the tradition of championship sports teams visiting the White House hadn't been established...and because President Richard Nixon was a little busy (Watergate).

The undefeated Dolphins have become downright proprietary about their undefeated season. They want their record to stand. I used to think that was a little selfish. But the older I get, the more I understand that most of us, however successful, usually don't have many stellar moments. It makes sense that Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Don Shula, Manny Fernandez and the rest of the team want this to last as long as possible!

There will almost surely be another team that goes undefeated in the National Football League. I don't know if I'll live to see it. But even if I do, Miami is the first. It's a team I've rooted for from my youth. And even this belated honor, a visit to the White House has taken 40 years, it's a reminder of some wonderful times when I was learning about the game.

I still pull for Miami to make it to the Super Bowl...against the Cowboys...again...with the same outcome!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Morning Blessing: Mahalia Jackson


It's taken me a long time to appreciate this. But Mahalia Jackson's rendition of this classic Christian hymn is the difference between worship and performance. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Former City Council Member Leo V. Chaney, Dead at Age 62

The Honorable Leo V. Chaney, the former Dallas City Council member who represented District 7, which includes South Dallas, died yesterday in a fire at his South Dallas home.

Chaney was yet another politician with whom I was proud to work. Oh, don't get me wrong, we didn't always agree. But I think that's because as a preacher and pastor in the area, I had the luxury of being far more idealistic. Chaney was a politician and was more practical. But there were two things I liked about Leo: he loved South Dallas and he delivered. When you drive down Bexar Street which runs along the western side of the church I served, the redevelopment you see taking place Leo who made sure the money to start was there. It was $750,000 in CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds, meant for the area, but held hostage by the Mayor. Chaney shepherded the process that allocated the funds for the redevelopment, which is a basic design developed by the area's T.R. Hoover Community Development Corporation.

He was really excited when I invited him to come to our church one week night, to share with our congregation to show our members and leaders the plan for Bexar Street and talk about what the development would mean for the area. We didn't have the number of people in attendance that I'd hoped to have, but Leo graciously offered to come back again.

And I guess that's the point. Chaney cared for his constituents. I remember him speaking with great affection about 'the little old ladies' who ran the neighborhood associations in his district. He genuinely liked them and they liked and respected him. Oh, don't get me wrong. If they didn't like what he was doing they had no problem letting him know it. And he was took their praise or their wrath seriously, without patronizing them.

As much as I, and some others thought projects in the area should have been more massive and comprehensive, Chaney knew what was possible and whatever was possible, is what he got done. He built on the efforts of the late Charlotte Mayes before him and Diane Ragsdale before that. I think he actually felt the weighty significance of serving in a position that he inherited as a trust from Elsie Faye Heggins and Juanita Craft, and for eight years, I really believe he did his best.

The Chaney family is a well respected, prominent business family. Chaney's brother succeeded my grandfather as a pastor in east Dallas after his retirement. Leo saw this public service as a council member as the responsibility to contribute to the community in which he grew and which nurtured him.

Some people die in ways that really give no implication of significance of their lives. They either die ingloriously, or sometimes in ways so ordinary that they actually seem larger than their deaths. Chaney's death was like that. To say he died in a house fire is say it was accidental. Chaney, who was 62 years old and who served eight years on the council, seems bigger than any 'accident'. His contribution were outsized by comparison. The community he served, indeed all of Dallas, has a better future because of his work.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Not the Same Ol' School Days

In about a week, summer vacation will end and school will begin for most children in the state of Texas. And Texas schools are changing...again. 
During the last legislature Texas lawmakers passed HB5 which makes significant changes in some aspects of student testing and graduation. Some of us may have heard that there will be fewer end-of-course exams. Others are familiar with different graduating pathways. But what does this mean and more importantly what does this mean for public school children in Texas. 
Bill McKenzie of the Dallas Morning News Q& A with State Senator Dan Patrick gives some pretty good insight into the intent of the law. Parents especially should familiarize themselves with it. You can find out more about it at the Texas Education Agency website.

Sen. Dan Patrick Q&A: Demystifying HB 5, the new education law about to go into effect

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, along with Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, led legislators this year in creating a new way to assess students and schools. The much-debated HB 5 also created new high school diploma options. The bill’s significant changes will begin this school year. Points asked Patrick, chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, to explain the changes — and defend them.
The state will now use a new performance index to evaluate schools. It contains so many data points that the index reads like Tom Landry’s old complex Cowboy playbook. How can you keep this simple enough for parents and educators to understand?
If our schools perform as well as the Cowboys did under Landry, I will be happy!
This system came about through conversations that Aycock and I had with many superintendents. The feedback I’ve heard so far is educators like HB 5 and its new directions because it includes their suggestions. It gives districts more local control and teachers more freedom to teach. Educators also understand that accountability comes along with that freedom.
The Texas Education Agency may need to simplify the system over time, and we may need to keep tweaking it. But we didn’t drive this legislation down school districts’ throats. We listened to their suggestions in writing HB 5.
How will parents know if their child’s school is performing well?
Within two years, school districts will move to an A-to-F rating. They will be ranked just like their children are on their report cards. Parents will certainly understand how their district is performing.
The system will require districts to buy in because they will want every school to perform well. Otherwise, the district itself will not get a high rating. Unfortunately, schools will not be rated using an A-to-F system. Democrats didn’t want that. Campuses still will use the exemplary, recognized, acceptable and unacceptable rankings. We need to better explain those to parents. The goal is for all schools to perform higher.
This year’s high school freshmen will only have to take five end-of-course exams before they graduate. How will parents know if their child is really ready for the workforce or college, especially since many tests will stop by the end of 10th grade?
Students will still take math, science and social studies courses. The difference is that not all will have a state test. We just went overboard on testing. Texas was off the testing Richter scale compared to other states. Using numerous end-of-course tests made sense in theory, but it didn’t work in execution.
I read a book by a whistle-blower who worked for the Pearson testing company. He hired people who graded the tests, but I realized they were hiring people who in some cases may not have been qualified to assess the exams. Who better to grade a student: a teacher who has been with the student all year or a stranger far away with no relation to the student? That key point has been lost in the rush to standardized testing.
If standardized testing is so bad, why did scores for blacks and Latinos go up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, before the Obama administration started slowing down No Child Left Behind’s accountability requirements?
I support standardized testing at a certain level. But we have gone too far. The question is not all or nothing. The question is: What is the right number of tests that will hold schools accountable and at the same time not undermine what you are trying to achieve with the tests?
You champion using SATs and ACTs to help evaluate student performance. They are important, but they aren’t aligned to the state’s curriculum. Shouldn’t tests that we use as part of our accountability system be aligned to the curriculum?
Standardized tests are allegedly aligned to the curriculum. Assuming they are, that gives you one set of information. Are students learning what the state requires?
The SAT and ACT are different tests. They tell you how your students compare with other students in the nation. Both pieces of information are important.
When I talked to university presidents before preparing HB 5, I found out something very important. None of them said they looked to the state’s standardized tests as an admission factor. They looked at grade-point averages and the SAT or ACT. Until this changes, students need both sets of tests.
What should happen if students score poorly on the SAT or ACT?
If they perform poorly, they will also likely perform poorly on the state achievement test and end-of-year classroom grades. There may be exceptions, but not for most.
If a student is not performing well on these tests, we have to look at their entire academic career. Do they have a basic reading problem? Is this an issue of not having a solid math foundation?
Your bill sets up new pathways for high school students. They can earn endorsements on their diplomas if they have enough credits in designated areas. But what incentive is there for most high school students to take more challenging courses like Algebra II?
I do not buy into the idea that students want to take the easy way out. Some will. But I believe students will step up if they are challenged in areas that interest them. Many students still will want to go to college. This system will not change their thinking or direction.
The purpose of the pathways is to make sure students are not pushed in only one direction. Not all students want a four-year degree. Previously, 80 percent of Texas students were on a college pathway when in reality many were never going to go to a four-year university. They ended up graduating from high school and not attending college while lacking the skills to begin a career.
The focus of HB 5 is to make sure every student graduates prepared for college and a career by creating flexibility for students to pursue their passion. My goal is to see every student graduate with an endorsement.
Eighty percent of all jobs require some additional education after high school, but not all jobs require a four-year degree.
I encourage all students to attend college, but if they choose not to, I want them prepared to earn a great living in a challenging profession. We have devalued many jobs that pay well but don’t require college. That needs to change.
This Q&A was conducted via email and condensed by Dallas Morning News editorial columnist William McKenzie. His email address is wmckenzie@dallasnews.com. Dan Patrick can be reached at dan.patrick@senate.state.tx.us.

New Rules

Clearly, this post, originally written February 23, 2011, apparently escaped the attention of a number of people. I thought I'd repost it to make my position clear...

___________________________________


Change the Wind is approaching 1000 posts!

It's been interesting because originally I absolutely resisted the idea of putting my commentary in the public domain. At least on the electronically, I've always wanted to write for a newspaper and after doing that for a couple of years, I find that as enjoyable as I thought I would.

But I had no interest in writing a blog, because I could not see myself writing daily (even though that's not necessary) and my opinions are just that, my opinions. What I have learned over the past couple of years or so, is that my opinions are as valid - and on occasion - just as valid as anyone else's. And so I've enjoyed this and I hope you have as well.

Now its time for a little change. No, CTW isn't ending. My work at CitySquare is teaching me far too much for that. I hope, that as my role in the organization evolves that my perspective will grow and mature as well.

But I am going to make a change with regard to comments on this blog.

I am under no illusion that I am right every time, but without patting myself or any other person participating in this or any other kind of journalism, it takes a certain amount of courage to put your perspectives out in the public domain. Especially to do it in your own name. When people know what you think, it colors how they approach you and what they think of you. They may not agree with you, but they read (or misread), understand (or misunderstand) what you say and form their own perspectives of you based on what their take-aways from what you've written. They may, or may not, confront you or engage you personally. They may, or may not, agree with you. But they know something about you and based on whether or not agree or disagree, deal with you from that perspective.

This isn't so with those who like to engage and respond 'Anonymously'. Their friends, family and whatever public they have, may have no idea what they feel inside. Especially if their points of view are particularly ugly, bigoted or negative. In person, they may need to be 'nice' people. And they have to project a facade which enables them to hold down a job or do business with the very people they hold in contempt. Electronic media gives them an opportunity to 'hide' between a thick, virtual curtain. They oftentimes have the opportunity to spew venom and invective in ways that would surprise those very people.

This is not why I started CTW.

My hopes, however naive, was for a forum where public conversation could take place in the 'open'. Where I could put my opinions 'out there' about politics, culture, our social challenges, our faith and, whether people agreed or not, would be able to engage one another in an intelligent dialogue, however virtual. While people disagree, it would be more than regurgitating talking points from the 'echo chambers' we have today, whether those echo chambers be on the right or the left. Hopefully we could inform one another's perspectives and opinions with real information, based on facts and not simply reduce every argument and perspectives with rejoinders that ultimately boiled down to, 'Yeah, well, you mother wears Army boots!'.

Lately, the 'Anonymous' responders have assumed that CTW could be used as a platform to spew invective and attack. Apparently because they have had a pronounced incapacity to deal with issues and opinions presented here by responding with fact or research, or positive information - or even intelligently expressed opinion. I don't owe them the forum. To be honest, I have no idea why they even read this blog. It's pretty easy to start your own blog...I have no idea why they don't.

I realize now, its not necessary for me to continue to provide them with such a forum. There are plenty of other blogs and electronic media designed for those who don't want to seriously and intelligently engage with those who want to read and hear their ideology reflected back to them. If you ask those who really know me, they know I cherish debate and challenging conversation on almost any topic (almost to a fault!). And have no problem talking to someone who doesn't agree with me or whose perspective is different from my own. But I also don't have a tolerance for those who expect me to make their argument for them or who can't sustain debate beyond the first engagement and have to resort to trite, rehearsed talking points and labeling to defend their point of view. It's just not my job to agree with you or help you make your point.

So, from now on - no more 'anonymous' comments will be accepted on CTW. And no more pointless political rhetoric. You don't have to agree, but you'll have to do more than quote Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh to get engage in conversation here. You'll have to use your name - some name. And the more 'made up' it seems, the less likely it will be to be a part of the conversation. Again, there are plenty of forums for mean spirited dialogue to take place...I don't want Change the Wind to be one of them. Besides, if I have the courage to express myself and use my real name, anyone else who engages here out to have at least that much courage.

I hope that doesn't stop too many of you to stop reading. And I hope that doesn't stop anyone who has a serious (or humorous) comment from doing so. It just won't be published anonymously. What our current electronically saturated culture has done, is prove that what many of us have known for a long time: that there is a sub-culture of rudeness, incivility, hatred, intolerance, racism and mean spiritedness

I can't stop them. But I can invite them to share satisfy their need for another 15 minutes of fame elsewhere. They can start their own blog...really. I even promise not to read it!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Riches and Selfishness

Luke 12

13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 
15 And he said unto them, Take heedand beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in 
the abundance of the things which he possesseth . 
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying , The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully : 
17 And he thought within himself, saying , What shall I do , because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 
18 And he saidThis will I do : I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul,thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease , eat ,drink , and be merry . 
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be ,which thou hast provided ? 
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dallas Faces Race, Screening the Documentary 'King: Montgomery to Memphis'


Dallas Faces Race is the beginning of a sustainable forum on race in Dallas. The forum will bring together organizations to actively build their capacity to address racial equity and make change. 

CitySquare is a Dallas Faces Race partner

There are several events designed to foster meaningful education and discussion meant to lead to greater understanding between racial groups in Dallas. One of these is screening of the classic documentary 'King: Montgomery to Memphis', about the life and career of one of the greatest American leaders in our history. 

The movie will be shown on August 28, at the Galaxy Theatre Stadium 10 (Screen 1) 11801 Mccree Road here in Dallas.

While most people are familiar with King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, few have heard the speech that propelled him into national prominence. This video (there is no actual footage of the meeting itself) is that speech, delivered in December of 1955, at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King's words on this evening launched a boycott of the Montgomery bus system that lasted nearly a year. 

I encourage everyone to attend this screening and avail yourselves of the opportunity to participate in the conversations which will lead to a tremendous conference to be held in Dallas in November 2014. 

Take the time to register here...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

ACU at CitySquare - An Exciting Partnership


Lately, when people talk with me about the work we're doing at CitySquare, I find myself saying, 'We're excited...' a lot. 

But that's because we are! From the work we're doing in public policy, and the expansion of our job training program, to our Food on the Move program which this summer will serve 1 million meals to children who would otherwise go without lunch and the completion of our 53,000 square foot Opportunity Center on the outskirts of South Dallas, our work is really...well, exciting!

When I came to the organization, I told Larry James, our President, that we really need to have a relationship with colleges and universities. While we were nowhere near the size we are now, I knew that what we were doing, even then, should be of interest to academic institutions in this state and throughout the country. But I never imagined what we are experiencing now!

Abilene Christian University is partnering with CitySquare in a most unique way. While instituting degree programs which relate their various disciplines to the our various programs and departments, they are providing us with an ingenuity and energy that comes from young people seeking fresh innovative ways to apply their ambitions, passions and faith; we provide ACU with an opportunity for experiential learning that takes their education beyond the theoretical and provides them to engage in practical application for what they are learning. 

I love these kids! They are idealistic, they are smart, they are eager to make a difference. I love their professors! They are passionately committed to the mission of their students, the school and CitySquare's mission. It's a great partnership that will transform many lives...and I'm not just talking about the lives we will touch among those we call poor. We are all being made better through this partnership. 

Yeah, 'exciting' is the right word!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Living Wage: Dollars and Sense for Everyone...

Perhaps you've heard by now that in an effort to help it's employees manage their pay, McDonald's produced a money management guide.  Let's just say it's come under plenty of criticism

"McDonald’s has taken some heat for its Practical Money Skills Budget Journal, a financial planning guide for its low-wage workers that suggests monthly spending on a variety of expenses. That’s pretty ironic since heat was one of the things McDonald’s failed to anticipate in the guide’s first iteration—it was later included in the sample budget in response to public pressure."
"News coverage has noted the implausible monthly $600 rent (compared with the national average of $1,048). Many people have pointed out the impossibility of spending just $27 a day on gas and groceries, and the absence of a clothing budget. All of these criticisms are completely valid."
And then there's this from the Economic Policy Institute...
"Even if McDonald’s employees meticulously track all of their expenses, they will still fall short of what is necessary to make ends meet, let alone actually be able to save $100 every month, as the McDonald’s budget suggests. It’s tempting to believe that all America’s low- and moderate-wage workers need to get by is better life skills, when in fact what they really need is a raise."
AOL used EPI's budget calculator and McDonald's sample budget with one for a second budget for a McDonald's employee who is a single parent with one child living in Newaygo County, Mich., which has the average cost of living for the country. The results is what you see above. 
There has been a great deal of talk lately about low wage workers, particularly at WalMart and in the fast food industry. Day strikes are taking place in a number of cities across the country. Some protesters are calling for a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. Many in the country are completely nonplussed at the prospect of paying such an exorbitant wage for someone to 'flip hamburgers'. 
On the one hand I kind of understand it. When I was around 19-20, I worked at Jack-In-the-Box. I wasn't there long. Maybe 3-5 months. It's the type of work that really is more demanding than it looks. 
But nearly 40 years ago, it was a job primarily for teen-agers and people either on a management track or in transition. These days, it is not uncommon to find these jobs filled by college graduates, or workers laid off from more considerably higher paying jobs with dim prospects in their chosen fields. That's why the calls to 'Get another job, stupid!', as I read in the comment section of one online article, are mocking and cruel. People making such comments are either ignorant of, or intentionally in denial of the reality of the job market. 
Much, much more so today, than nearly 40 years ago, McDonald's, along with many fast-food restaurants and big box discount stores like WalMart are multinational corporations, raking in hundreds of billions of dollars. The complaint that they cannot make a profit by paying their employees a little more, rings hollow. 
In fact, the call for a significant increase in the minimum wage (anywhere from $12-$15 per hour), is not just fair, it really makes economic sense. The idea of these being jobs set by the market and what the market will pay, thus being the value placed on the type of work done by such workers doesn't hold water if you take into account the growth in the service industry. 
Texas, for instance, leads the nation in such low wage jobs (550,000). It partially explains why our state has climbed out of the pit of the Great Recession faster than the rest of the country. At the same time, cuts in education and health care, will eventually come home to decimate that recovery if they are not restored and if wages don't increase. 
Think of it: Let's say an increase in the minimum wage does cause the price of a Big Mac to rise. A higher minimum wage for the 'hamburger flipper', also means an increase in the minimum wage for the sales clerk at the department store who buys the hamburger. The department store clerk won't work in the shoe department for $11 an hour if the person working at McDonald's is making $14. Raises in the minimum wage ultimately raises the pay for nearly all American workers. 
The 'free market' rarely comes to this kind of 'competitiveness' without the force of such regulation. Some multinational corporations like WalMart, claim that they can't raise salaries because it can't make a decent profit by doing so. Interestingly enough Costco has no problem paying it's workers competitively...

According to Cesar Martinez, "The company gives you a decent wage and treats you with respect and takes care of you. That's why we all give 100%."

It is true, business exists in order to make profit, not necessarily provide jobs. But once a company realizes that a business dependent upon customers does a better job if it's employees feel they're compensated in a way that ties their interests to that of the company, it doesn't have to interfere with the bottom line. 

You actually can make dollars and sense at the same time.