God is Watching Georgia

“As Congress debates whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act nationwide, Georgia continues to suffer from the impact of having never fully implemented the law in the first place. Two more rural hospitals are on the verge of closure as a result of Georgia’s backward and politically defiant healthcare policy. Adel and Monroe Counties appear to be the next victims. The fate of Cook Medical Center, in Adel, is now sealed as officials confirm that the center is scheduled to close its doors at the end of February. And Monroe County Hospital is teetering on the verge of shutdown, too.” Better Georgia

This is shameful. As a metro Atlanta resident, my family and I have the good fortune to live within a few miles of some of the most prestigious hospitals and medical care centers in the world. Yet our fellow Georgians,  who live in rural parts of the state, are losing their access to basic healthcare and hospital access. Perhaps the state legislature and the Governor should consider dedicating the state’s profits from proposed casino gambling to expanding Medicare and improving mental health care for the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who have neither. The state legislators who will vote to approve gambling or place a casino initiative on the ballot ought to take a step back and think about the needs of the people they serve. Georgia remains one of the states that values shiny new things and spanking new facilities more improving the lives of its taxpayers and residents. Along with health care and mental health care, education is underfunded as are transit, environmental justice solutions, jobs and business development and community development. If we are to grant new wealth building rights to a few people let’s use the same business opportunities to improve the quality of life of millions of Georgians who call the state home wherever they live in Adel, on Westside Atlanta or Monroe County.

My grandmother, Mary Emma, reminded me when I thought no one was watching,  “God is watching you. And he expects you to do good and to make the world a better place for others.”                        God is watching all of us.  Shirley Franklin

 

Read the entire story at the link below South Georgia hospital treating tornado victims scheduled to close                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

Flint–The Poison of Politics

flintPrior to the environmental fiasco in Flint, I would never have imagined the likelihood that an elected official would make a budget decision that would poison an entire city. It is unimaginable, yet here we are. For those unfamiliar with the widely publicized story, a brief summary is offered.

In 2011 when many cities had still not recovered from the 2008 economic recession, the financially strapped city of Flint was taken over by the state. Then Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, retained emergency managers to cut costs and manage the struggling city.

Two years later, it was decided that Flint should break away from the Detroit water system that pulled water from Lake Heron and join a new water district. In April 2014, Flint switched its water system and started drawing water from the Flint River. There are lead pipes throughout the system and in older homes with copper water pipes that were held together with lead solder, the lead corroded the water. The World Health Organization has said that lead poisoning can cause adverse neurological effects.

The problem is now headline news as reports of sick school children who now have lead poisoning, state EPA officials have resigned, truck loads of donated water arrive in Flint everyday and both the state and federal government officials have declared a state of emergency for the city.

I wish this was just about a bad budget decision, but the cries of environmental racism can’t be overlooked. And not just from political candidates hammering for sound bites. New York Times columnist, Charles Blow wrote,”An entire American city exposed to poisoned water. How could this be? It is hard to imagine this happening in a city that didn’t have Flint’s demographic profile — mostly black and disproportionately poor.”

If not racist it is clearly unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.

Congratulations on the 10th Anniversary of the Gateway Center

This blog is a SHOUT OUT to some fearless Atlanta leaders – Jack Hardin, Debi Starnes, Bonni Ware, Protip Biswas and Horace Sibley and I am sure there are others I have missed. You made a believer out of me!GC

Atlanta’s most needy are better served because of your courageous and innovative leadership. When I was skeptical, they believed they could do the improbable, the impossible – turn an old jail into a vibrant live saving Gateway to a better life for thousands of Atlanta’s homeless people.

This small group of true blue, deeply committed Atlanta residents and seasoned professionals exemplify the best of humankind. They exemplify Margaret Mead’s quote about how and who changes the world – ” never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

The Gateway has served thousands of men, women and children in some of their most needy hours as a shelter, as a place of refuge, as a service provider. Though the Gateway can’t and doesn’t do their work alone, Gateway serves as part of a larger network of organizations whose boards and staff tackle one of the toughest urban issues city leaders face. Every day dozens of families and search unsuccessfully for affordable housing in our city. They rely on the social service sector to provide a safety net, when they can’t do so for themselves. On the 10th anniversary of the Gateway, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to those who launched the organization, to the dozens of partners, donors and supporters who build on yesterday’s accomplishment to enhance the opportunities for some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable residents and most of all the brave clients who fight for a good life for themselves and their families.

THREE LOUD, BOISTEROUS AND DESERVING CHEERS!

Georgia’s Unemployment Rate is Too High–Period.

georg45This campaign season has highlighted a lot of reasons to get to the polls but none is more significant than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that lists Georgia as once again with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Georgia’s unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is a full two points higher than the national average, and Georgia lost more than 15,000 private sector jobs in September. This is not a partisan or political issue; it is a grave economic reality for Georgians.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Sen. Jason Carter. “Gov. Deal has driven Georgia to the very bottom. By his own words, he’s rejecting facts instead of accepting responsibility for this crisis. If he can’t even see the problem, why should we trust him to fix it?”

Since Governor Deal was elected unemployment in Georgia has been high so whatever he has been doing it is not working. It is well past the time for us to get our heads out of the sand.

Gov. Deal has been reported as having said, “I believe that somebody who has a job is better than somebody who doesn’t have a job.” I would argue that is especially false for the job of Governor of Georgia.

 

Isn’t Being Poor Enough?

foostampsAs factions in Congress debate whether the federal government can afford to support needy Americans through extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, and social security benefits, millions of Americans live everyday in poverty. Researchers suggest that 1 in 5 American households need federal assistance for food security. Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP at $80 billion a year it has doubled in five years.

And now those in the medical community are making the link between cutting food aid and higher medical costs. “If you’re interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,” said Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children’s HealthWatch pediatric research.

Today, poverty is a painful reality for many Americans. States challenging expansion of Medicaid/Medicare, no unemployment insurance extension, minimum wages that are not living wages, a recovering economy with people who have given up looking for work and increasing empty shelves in food banks are logical explanations for why Americans live in poverty.

CBS News reported that Georgia State Representative Greg Morris introduced House Bill 772, which would force low income Georgians to pass drug tests to qualify for food stamps. According to Morris “it’s just fairness and protecting taxpayers’ dollars.” Georgia law currently mandates welfare applicants pass drug tests. Chances are House Bill 772 would be challenged as unconstitutional. Such details don’t seem to matter to some legislators.

Morris’ leadership is needed in Georgia to find ways to expand the economy, to support increased funding for every level of education from preschool through college and technical school, to adopt healthcare coverage for all needy Georgians. What a waste of taxpayer money to chase a bill that most believe is unconstitutional. Though democracy requires full participation from every quarter of the electorate, it is frustrating to have our legislators waste taxpayer money on such frivolous efforts.

 

Public Advocacy Gets A New Look in NYC

lJamesNYCThis post is more about the grave and distressing challenges facing homeless children and their families in American cities. But I confess it may sound more like a high-five for the first ever African American woman elected as New York City’s public advocate.

On the day that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took the oath of office, Councilwoman Letitia James was also sworn in as the City’s Public Advocate. The city’s watchdog position was previously held by the new mayor and has an enormous responsibility in addressing the services and concerns of New York’s more than 8.3 million residents.

Letitia James’ election would not be nearly as important here if we had not been introduced to one of her constituents, Dasani Coates, in a heartfelt and grisly feature in the New York Times in early December. As told through the life of just one of New York’s homeless children and her family, it is both riveting and heartbreaking. So I was elated in a progressive Democratic kind of way, when I saw James taking the oath of office with Dasani Coates holding the Bible during the ceremony. Cynics are questioning James’s motives and her exaggeration about arranging the New York Times feature—which she didn’t but that is a mere distraction to the people who benefit from someone whose responsibility is to have their back in City Hall. Segments of her remarks are posted here and the New York Times link to the series that give us a peek into the life of Dasani Coates is below.

Excerpts from New York City elected Public Advocate Letitia James Inaugural Remarks                                                                                “The wave of progressive victories our city has recently enjoyed, thanks to the City Council, was in some ways inevitable. The fabric of our city, of our nation, is made strong by the untold sacrifices of so many who are left defenseless, unrepresented, unspoken for. But at some point in history, the tide must turn. The policies that make them voiceless must give way to a government that works for them, that speaks for them, that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.

To live up to that challenge and to be morally centered in our decisions is the task before those of us who think of ourselves as the progressive wing of our city. Even as the tide turns towards progress, we do not have the luxury to rest.

If working people aren’t getting their fair share, if our government isn’t securing the reforms New Yorkers were promised, you better believe Dasani and I will stand up—that all of us will stand up—and call out anyone and anything that stands in the way of our progress.”

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=1

Aren’t We Tired of Being Sick and Tired?

guardianlv“We are in the midst of the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has known.” Those were the words of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan at a press conference in Washington, DC.

Add his comments to one of the coldest Thanksgiving in awhile in Atlanta, which means higher heating bills. Plus sustained high demand by working families for food assistance from Atlanta Community Food Bank and others. The Food Bank serves as the primary source of food for many food insecure homes and nearly 59,000 different people visit each week. Some 1.8 million Georgians currently live in poverty. Let’s not forget the persistently high post 2008 Recession unemployment rates which mask the high rates of the underemployed and those who after months of searching have given up their fruitless job search. For all of its strengths and renowned business successes America hasn’t cracked the public policy code to eliminating poverty for vast numbers of Americans. There have been some poverty solutions like Social Security that has helped many seniors avoid poverty. The growing national debate and local and state government action about raising the minimum wage has the potential to help lift thousands of Americans out of the grasp of poverty.

According to economist Paul Krugman, “the main effect of a rise in minimum wages is a rise in the incomes of hard-working but low-paid Americans — which is, of course, what we’re trying to accomplish.” Krugman’s assessment is something that many have known for awhile, in fact more than a decade ago a distinguished panel of scholars, business and civic leaders led by former Morehouse College President Walter Massey studied the minimum wage issue and recommended Atlanta adopt a Living Wage Ordinance based on the State of Utah’s model. In the spirit of no good deed going unpunished-the Georgia Legislature decided Atlanta shouldn’t incentivize bidders in procurements to pay their employees a living wage which was calculated at the time at $10.50 an hour. Private businesses, nonprofit organizations nor other governments would have been directly impacted by the city’s ordinance unless they sought to do business through its procurement processes. Since Atlanta’s well-meaning, progressive efforts, currently there are over 120 cities that have wage ordinances.

Taking liberty with famed civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, “Aren’t we tired of being sick and tired” and broke when we do a good day’s work and still unable to pay the rent or feed our children and ourselves.

America shows its compassion in a crisis, now millions of working men and women need us to show compassion in action every day.

Learn more about the needs of hard working people and children in need

Hands on Atlanta  http://www.handsonatlanta.org/HOC__Affiliate_Home_Page

Atlanta Community Food Bank    http://www.acfb.org

Feeding America      http://feedingamerica.org/?show_shov=1

Meals on Wheels     http://www.mowaa.org

Toys for Tots http://www.toysfortots.org/about_toys_for_tots/toys_for_tots_program/default.aspx

Salvation Army    http://salvationarmyusa.org/usn/christmas-assistance

 

Janet Yellen—A Deserving Barack Obama Federal Reserve Nominee

gettyphoto

gettyphoto

I met Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve Bank Conference on Community Development and the launch of the book, Invest in What Works, which is a product of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund. The book offers an introspective practical solution driven look into the challenges of efforts to break the cycle of poverty in America through strong thriving communities. It highlights the pioneering community development work of the Harlem’s Children Zone in New York City, Purpose Built Communities which started in Atlanta and is now in seven other cities, and Neighborhood Centers Inc in Houston.

During the conference, Yellen’s interest in the groundwork of dozens of organizations who tackle the multiple and complex challenges of low-income families and the organizations that serve them was refreshing. She caught conference attendees pleasantly off guard and gave us insight into the Federal Reserve Bank’s national strategy for a slowing recovering national economy. We had no idea then that we were meeting a woman who could make history as the first woman Chair of the Federal Reserve.

This appointment is significant and President Obama is to be applauded along with the hundreds of economists and supporters who advanced her name as the right person at the right time.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/10/09/janet_yellen_six_things_you_ought_to_know.html

A Test of Will Gone Wrong

policymicThe government shutdown is not about strength of will but unwillingness to execute the will of the people.

The complex issues of the US debt rating, the Constitutional budget process, state health care exchanges, the 1995 shutdown, political favorability polls, federal employee furloughs and how Americans will be impacted by the shutdown are being discussed ad nauseam on news shows. 

The budget impasse does not derail Obamacare; today if you are uninsured, the health care marketplace is open for enrollment; Like Social Security or Medicaid; Obamacare is not subject to annual funding by Congress. It is the law of the land, it was signed by the President in March 2010. As millions stand to gain healthcare coverage, millions more still need improvement in the federal minimum wage and extended unemployment benefits. Yet Republicans are fighting too the end it seems. According to some reports half of the Republican Caucus in Congress has been in office for less than three years. The Republican-controlled House has passed a spending bill that maintains spending levels but does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Democratic Senate insists that the program be fully funded and that Congress pass what they call a “clean” CR (continuing resolution).

Before coming to Texas I’d heard big hat no cattle which translates to she thinks she’s all that. Or my mother’s favorite “don’t get too big for your britches”. Watching the Tea Party, Senator Cruz and a few others reminds me of those age-old sayings. This impasse and shutdown reflects there is a need and a place for humility, authenticity, and respect for others…the American public is growing increasingly disappointed in public officials inability to get along well with others.

Maybe we should take a page from Senator Cruz’s reading library.

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Study Suggest the Bootstraps for the Poor May Not be Strong Enough

SocialMobMAP

Many of us have been taught that education is a sure gateway to the American Dream. A recent study titled “The Equality of Opportunity Project” by Harvard University professors Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and University of California Berkeley professors Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez suggests that might be true for some but not for those at the lowest end of the socio economic ladder. Those who frequently struggle to make ends meet are not likely to pull themselves out of poverty. The study’s authors found millions of our neighbors are locked into the condition of poverty from birth. Socio-economic mobility is out of reach. For far too many Americans socio-economic growth is stunted. No doubt we know exceptions and some are well documented. The study makes clear these are exceptions and not the rule. There is a lot of political talk and perhaps needed conversation about public policy to support middle class families however we cannot forget about those whose chances for success are severely limited by their socio-economic DNA.

The researchers who conducted this study admit that more research is necessary to explain why there is such a wide geographic variation between where you are born and your likely chances of economic success. Hendren said, “He thinks much more research should be done to explain why someone born into a poor Pittsburgh family has a greater chance of succeeding than someone born into a poor family elsewhere, such as in Atlanta. The study found that the southeastern United States contained many of the regions with the least social mobility.”

Just 26 years ago, the country’s top economists debated the merits of social mobility and some concluded that the problem was solved. Michigan State Professor Solon said, “People would say, ‘Don’t worry about inequality. The offspring of the poor have chances as good as the chances of the offspring of the rich.’ Well, that’s not true. It’s not respectable in scholarly circles anymore to make that argument.”

Another study noted that the gap in test scores between the children of America’s richest 10% and its poorest has risen by 30-40% over the past 25 years. However, the income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007 and almost no change in the typical family’s income.

The study confirms social mobility is a goal in the US but it is not likely for the poorest Americans. Before we blame those who are the poorest amongst us, we should take a look at the social, educational and political policies that continue to stunt their climb out of poverty.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/krugman-stranded-by-sprawl.html?src=me&ref=general&_r=2&