Why Is a Health Funder Backing Work on “Sustainable Neighborhoods” in the Bay Area?

If you’ve ever lived in a gentrification zone, you can probably figure what the term “sustainable neighborhoods” means. These would be places where, among other things, low-income, elderly, and disabled folks aren’t bulldozed aside by development trends dictated strictly by market forces.

via Why Is a Health Funder Backing Work on “Sustainable Neighborhoods” in the Bay Area? – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence – Inside Philanthropy.

Lead Abatement: It’s a Good Thing and Whitehouse Knows It

From the Whitehouse Press office:

 Providence Receives $3.9M in Federal Funding for Lead Safety

Providence, RI – Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced that Providence’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has received $3.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to protect city residents from the hazards of lead-based paint in their homes.

The funding will be used as part of DPD’s Lead Safe Providence Program, which coordinates existing city services to mitigate lead hazards in Providence’s low-income communities. The funding will support the building or renovation of 250 safe, healthy, and sustainable housing units in the city.

“Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child’s ability to learn and has a significant cost for schools and our society. Without this federal funding, fewer parents would be able to protect their children from lead hazards that may be present in their homes. Too many children and families right here in Rhode Island remain at risk. We must be proactive and continue to invest in the health and development of our children,” said Senator Jack Reed, who was awarded the 2014 National Child Health Champion Award by the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Rhode Island Childhood Lead Action Project. Earlier this year, Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, successfully restored $15 million in federal funding for the CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

“Rhode Islanders continue to deal with the toxic legacy of lead paint. In 2013, over 1,000 Rhode Island children under the age of six, including more than 400 in Providence, were diagnosed with lead poisoning,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, while serving as Rhode Island Attorney General, took legal action against lead paint companies over the risk they presented to the public. “I applaud Mayor Taveras on his efforts to respond to the health risks from lead paint, and I am grateful to see federal funds helping to keep Rhode Island families healthy and safe in their homes.”

“Lead hazards have been on the decline since Rhode Island passed crucial lead-paint legislation, but there is still much work to be done to bring our state into compliance. Lead paint poses a significant health risk to Rhode Islanders, and children in particular, and this funding will go a long way to making homes across our state safer for everyone,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.

“Children deserve a healthy home free from the serious danger of lead poisoning and these federal funds will help protect children and families from the hazards of lead paint,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I will continue working with my colleagues, Mayor Taveras and other local officials to ensure our communities have the resources they need to remove lead paint from homes and improve the health and well-being of Rhode Island families.”

“With the support of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s lead abatement program over the past 15 years, our city has addressed the hazards of household lead paint in 1500 units for Providence children and their families,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. “These additional funds allow us to continue the work to improve the well-being, educational potential and life prospects of all residents. I’m grateful to the congressional delegation for their efforts on our behalf.”

The funding comes in the form of two grants from HUD programs designed to help cities reduce risks from lead-based paint and other housing-related environmental hazards. Providence has received $3.5 million from HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration program, which assists cities with the highest incidence of lead-based paint to implement programs to protect residents. The City has also received $400,000 in supplemental funding from HUD’s Healthy Homes program, which helps cities to coordinate their response to housing-related hazards.

Beasts and the Ghosts of Hurricane Katrina

Buzz about ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ led me to expect a visually beautiful and inspiring story of childhood resilience, and there is that. But so much more. A review by critic, Rex Reed in the New York Observer gets it…

The setting is the emotionally parched and geographically designed cartographer’s view of hell called The Bathtub—what’s left of an area of makeshift cardboard and toothpick shanties that Katrina devastated, scattering the region’s population to the wind like dandelion fuzz. It lies low between the Gulf and the Mississippi River—a man-made wall has gone up on the dry side of the levee to protect against annihilating floods. This is where nothing grows, catfish and crawdads from polluted water are the only food, and stubborn Cajuns who refused to evacuate to higher ground when Brad Pitt and Sean Penn came down to rescue them on CNN News still live in the ultimate depths of poverty and ignorance. It’s the most sobering view of the uneducated and disenfranchised outcasts the world has forgotten since Precious.

The tone of the movie is deeply sad and brings up unfinished business. Hush Puppy, played by six-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, is the center and heart of the story. She and her father Wink, played by Dwight Henry, struggle to keep above the rising waters of their bayou shantytown, The Bathtub. It’s a desperate and doomed struggle. Wink is dying, and the community of The Bathtub is trapped behind levees–the ocean rising as icebergs melt and the debris and pollution of the more affluent poisoning their waters. They have a survival ethic and skill that is deeply human, they wear the history of the human race tattooed on their bodies. But they are among the majority of the seven billion on our planet who, lacking power, could disappear beneath the waters without a trace.

This Wednesday, August 29th, marks seven years from the landfall of Category 5
Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Residents in the poorer quarters of New Orleans, like the residents of ‘The Bathtub’ in the film, lived below sea level. The levees in New Orleans failed catastrophically and more than 1,800 died. Those walls were intended to keep the water out. Years of other priorities, as foretold in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Washington Post, left the most vulnerable citizens unprotected against the worst forces of nature. The elderly and handicapped were too often left to their own resources, and many, having survived other hurricanes, stayed in their apartments and hoped for the best. The fall of the levees was an unexpected and overwhelming disaster.

For the rest of America, the news footage of people stranded on rooftops, miles of water where neighborhoods used to be, a woman dying in a wheelchair on an overpass above the flood waters– these images will stay with us.

The news obsessed about ‘looters’ and pumped up stories of violent anarchy that slowed rescue and opened the gates to vigilante tactics by police officers. Crime was real enough, but in the crossfire between the frightened and armed, the innocent were left to die in abandoned rooms and drowning hospitals.

Some stats from the Common Dreams Katrina Pain Index

21 Percent of all residential addresses in New Orleans that are abandoned or blighted. There were 35,700 abandoned or blighted homes and empty lots in New Orleans (21% of all residential addresses), a reduction from 43,755 in 2010 (when it was 34% of all addresses). Compare to Detroit (24%), Cleveland (19%), and Baltimore (14%). Source: Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC).

27 Percent of people in New Orleans live in poverty. The national rate is 15%. Among African American families the rate is 30% and for white families it is 8%. Source: Corporation for Enterprise Development (CEFD) and Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC) Assets & Opportunity Profile: New Orleans (August 2012).

33 Percent of low income mothers in New Orleans study who were still suffering Post Traumatic Stress symptoms five years after Katrina. Source: Princeton University Study.

All of us who watched this disaster unfold are left with a sense that we could have done better. A barn-raising sort of mutual aid was needed, and volunteers from every state were eager to help. This good energy was squandered, along with the relief money and the teachable moment that this new level of disaster may be a warning of storms to come.

One of our two great political parties, the GOP, is holding their convention in Tampa, FL. They had to delay the convention by a day for Tropical Storm Isaac, which is predicted to strike land with hurricane force on the very anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

It would be a crime to let the 24 hour spin cycle rob us of the longer view. The struggling poor in Beasts of the Southern Wild are haunted by ghosts from pre-history. America is haunted by ghosts from the drowning of New Orleans who have not been appeased, and will not rest easy as long as we close our ears to their warnings.

Japanese Say ‘No’ to Nuclear

USA Today reports that as many as 200,000 Japanese rallied against re-starting more nuclear power plants.

Led by Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe, pop star Ryuichi Sakamoto and visual artist Yoshitomo Nara, the protesters expressed outrage over a report that blamed the Fukushima disaster on Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience” and held no individuals responsible.

Japanese officials say that the needs of Japan’s economy require bringing more nuclear plants back online. Protesters want a phase-out of nuclear power. They also want accountability for the human role in the Fukushima disaster…

The demonstrators also said they were offended by a parliamentary investigation that blamed Japanese culture for the Fukushima disaster.

The report, released earlier this month, said, “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture — our reflexive obedience, our reluctance to question authority, our devotion to ‘sticking with the program,’ our groupism and our insularity.”

Midori Tanaka, a schoolteacher marching at the park, said the right people should face up to their mistakes.

“Things can never change if we blame culture. We need to get to the bottom of this,” she said.

Oe said blaming culture was a cop-out, adding that individuals — including the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Fukushima Dai-ichi — should be held responsible.

Imagine if it were harder for individuals to hide behind corporations. Is Japanese culture the problem, or is it the undermining of democracy by big money?

In the days after the tsunami, there was no immediate risk to the established powers. The Japanese people came together for rescue and relief. Now with the passing of time, the Japanese people are demanding to know why corruption and negligence went so far without people being named and held accountable.

Nuclear Offline in Japan

As the US makes plans to build more nuclear power plants, Japan has found none of its existing nuclear facilities safe enough to operate.Public trust is lost… (Photo courtesy of The New Age.)

By YURI KAGEYAMA
AP Business Writer

TOKYO (AP) – Thousands of Japanese marched to celebrate the switching off of the last of their nation’s 50 nuclear reactors Saturday, waving banners shaped as giant fish that have become a potent anti-nuclear symbol.

Japan was without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido went offline for mandatory routine maintenance.

After last year’s March 11 quake and tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, no reactor halted for checkups has been restarted amid public worries about the safety of nuclear technology.

This article from Japan Times,End to Crisis is Years, Fortune Away is worth reading for its relevance to nuclear problems the US has kicked down the road–

By MARI YAMAGUCHI and CHARLES HUTZLER
The Associated Press

Once Japan’s leaky nuclear complex stops spewing radiation and its reactors cool down, making the site safe and removing the ruined equipment is going to be a messy ordeal that could take decades and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Radiation has covered the area around the Fukushima No. 1 plant and blanketed parts of the complex, making the job of “decommissioning” the plant — rendering it safe so it doesn’t threaten public health and the environment — a bigger task than usual.

Toshiba Corp., which supplied four of Fukushima’s six reactors, including two on which General Electric Co. collaborated, submitted a road map this past week to the plant’s operator for decommissioning the crippled reactors. The study, done with three other companies, projects that it would take about 10 years to remove the fuel rods and the reactors and contain other radioactivity at the site, said Keisuke Omori of Toshiba.

Yamaguchi and Hutzler cite costs of decommissioning US plants like Vermont Yankee and Three Mile Island, which is still a toxic waste site that will require a vast investment of public funds to stabilize long-term.

We just passed the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. A veteran photographer, Paul Fusco, who once worked for Look magazine, has created a photo essay from Russia. Link here to see it, but be warned, it’s enough to keep you up at night.

Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and countless nuclear sites less well known continue to menace future generations. We have no right to leave this mess for the sake of corporate profit and the promise of cheap energy never kept.

The answer? Prepare to spend a lot of money safely decommissioning existing nuclear power plants when their useful life is done, stop building more. When the real costs are added up it’s clear that the money is best invested in diverse, local and smart energy.

Letter to Treasurer Raimondo

A group of civil rights and advocacy organizations in Rhode Island is calling Treasurer Raimondo’s attention to some of the extreme political positions taken by The Manhattan Institute and demanding that she return the award she recently received:

January 11, 2011
Hon. Gina Raimondo, General Treasurer State House, Room 102 Providence, RI 02903

Dear Treasurer Raimondo,

On behalf of a broad range of civil rights and community organizations, we respectfully write to you regarding your recent affiliation with the Manhattan Institute – an extremist right wing group that promotes offensive, ignorant and hurtful positions towards the LGBTQI community, women, minorities and our environment.

Last week you traveled to New York to stand with and be publicly recognized by The Manhattan Institute, where you accepted their “Urban Innovator Award” for your work to alter Rhode Island’s pension system. Your work regarding the pension system has certainly been the subject of significant debate, and our purpose today is not to reexamine the merits of those legislative efforts. Rather, we seek to call your attention to a series of troubling articles and position papers that we sincerely hope do not reflect your own personal or political positions.
· In “Gay Marriage vs American Marriage”, the Manhattan Institute comes alarmingly close to some of the more common anti-equality rants espoused by the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council, by claiming that marriage equality (same-gender marriage) is not the same as “American Marriage”. Furthermore, in “Redefining Marriage Away”, the Manhattan Institute claims that the reason to fear marriage equality is that gay and lesbian couples do not value fidelity, that their asserted lack of monogamy is immoral and dangerous. As if these articles aren’t offensive enough, they publish and reference anti-equality articles and books written by former NOM president Maggie Gallagher including “Why Marriage is Good For You”.
· Ms. Hymowitz writes about how “Women Prefer the Mommy Track,” widespread rape on college campuses is a myth, and claims that feminism as a whole is “not so much dead as obsolete.”
· The Manhattan Institute called claims of racial profiling by police “ACLU misinformation,” “promoting racial paranoia,” and “ivory-tower posturing” and compared being charged with racism to being charged as a witch: to be without any conceivable defense.
· The Manhattan Institute rails against President Obama’s green jobs initiative, stands in opposition to wind power, and sees fracking as an alternative energy solution.

Madame Treasurer, the aforementioned articles are just a sample of what is readily available on the Manhattan Institute’s website. We must ask if you or anyone in your office were aware that this organization published such venomous, racially-charged, anti-gay, anti-environment and anti-women positions before you agreed to be honored by them in New York. We are willing to accept that you were not, but that acceptance must accompany a proactive effort by you. Return the Manhattan Institute’s Urban Innovator Award and publicly condemn these harmful writings at your earliest convenience, preferably within the next 48 hours.

We recognize that the purpose of your visit to the Manhattan Institute was to receive an accolade for your pension work and not to discuss the important issues we have brought to your attention. It is simply unacceptable to us as a coalition, or your constituents as a whole, for you to stand with or accept an award from a narrow-minded and hurtful organization. To do so would be seen as nothing less than an implicit condoning of their bigotry.

Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration, we look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely, Clean Water Action Rhode Island
Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island
Hope United
Marriage Equality Rhode Island
National Association of Social Workers Rhode Island Chapter
Ocean State Action
Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter