Archive for the 'Public & Affordable Housing' Category


Please help Kori!

kori I’m shamelessly using this blog in the hopes that you can help my family:

My 7yo cousin Kori, whose family is very low-income and lives in public housing in South Boston, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  She has been in treatment for some time, and her short-term prognosis is good.  Long-term, her disease is pretty deadly.  Her family is acting strong but they are definitely struggling.

If you can spare even a dime, please consider making a small donation to help with Kori’s treatment. You can learn more about Kori here, and help with her treatment here.  (There is also the option to contribute instead to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for those not comfortable with donating directly to an unknown family.)

The power of the internet to raise awareness and funds is powerful.  I cannot thank you enough for keeping my family in your thoughts and for any help you can provide for Kori.

I am collecting funds through Friday, January 23.


Bush by the numbers

I received this via e-mail this morning from the progressive NYC think-tank Drum Major Institute.  It’s reprinted in its chilling entirety.

The 2008 DMI Injustice Index: The Bush Legacy

Opening weekend box office gross of Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic “W”: $10.6 million

Opening weekend box office gross of Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911, which intensely criticized the Bush Administration: $23.9 million

Number of days during his presidency that Bush spent on vacation at either Camp David or his Texas ranch, as of August 2008 (including partial days off): 916

Total number of years in Bush’s presidency, if these vacation days are subtracted: 5.5

Proportion of U.S. workers who have no paid vacations or holidays at work: 1 in 4

Date on which President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” while in the midst of a month-long vacation: 8/6/2001

Date on which a FEMA report warned that Hurricane Katrina could “could greatly overtop levees and protective systems” in New Orleans, displacing more than a million residents, a warning which came when the President was again on a month-long vacation: 8/27/2005

Date of a second warning, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that Katrina would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching”: 8/29/2008

Date that President Bush told ABC “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”: 9/1/2005

Date on which George W. Bush announced “I believe we’re overextended… if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road”: 10/3/2000

Date on which the United Nation’s chief weapons inspector, Han Blix, informed the U.N. Security Council that he had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although inspection and monitoring efforts would continue: 3/7/2003

Date that United States invaded Iraq: 3/19/2003

Cost of the Iraq War through 2008: $567 billion

Approximate cost of the privately funded George W. Bush Presidential Library, whose manager insists it will discuss the war “upfront”: $250 million

Year the library is set to open: 2014

Year by which the No Child Left Behind law mandates that all students nationwide must achieve grade-level proficiency in reading and math: 2016

Number of societies on earth that has ever succeeded in achieving universal student proficiency, according to testing expert Robert Linn: 0

Amount by which No Child Left Behind has been underfunded since its inception, according to Senator Tom Harkin: $70.9 billion

Proportion of U.S. public schools that are failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards as of October 2008: 2 out of 5

Percentage increase in overall school performance when previously uninsured children were enrolled in public health coverage, according to a California study: 24%

Change in the number of children with health coverage during President Bush’s tenure: -78,000

Percentage of President Bush’s total vetoes that blocked expansion of children’s health insurance: 20%

Number of times he cited the superiority of private insurance programs in his message explaining the first veto to Congress: 5

Year when President Bush made privatizing Social Security the centerpiece of his State of the Union Address, asserting that “your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.”: 2005

Number of points the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped on September 29, 2008: 778

Overall change in stock market wealth between Oct. 2007 and Oct. 2008: -$8.4 trillion

Date President Bush signed legislation phasing out the federal estate tax: 6/7/2001

Increase in the number of U.S. millionaires since that year: 928,000

Increase in the number of Americans living in poverty since that year: 4.4 million

Cost of all Bush’s tax cuts from 2001 to 2007: $1.3 trillion

Date President Bush announced that his tax cuts would “encourage more investment” and “strengthen the foundation of our economy so that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job.’: 5/28/2003

Rank of the business cycle that included these tax cuts compared to all business cycles since 1949 in terms of employment growth: last

Rank in terms of investment: last

Change in the real median income of non-retiree households since 2000: -$2,010

Estimated home equity lost by American families with the bursting of the housing bubble: $4 trillion

Year that subsidiaries of the U.S. Treasury Department struck down laws in Georgia and New Jersey that were intended to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures within those states: 2003

Year in which the Federal Reserve issued its own rules to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures: 2008

Number of home foreclosure filings in the first three quarters of 2008: 2.2 million

Number of surrounding homes likely to suffer price declines as a result of this number of foreclosures according to the Center for Responsible Lending : 40.6 million

Date on which President Bush appeared on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” joking that he was “thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings’: 4/21/08

Percentage difference in viewership of the episode with the Bush cameo, compared to the show’s season average: -27%

Approximate proportion of Americans who approved of President’s Bush handling of the Presidency in October, 2008: 1 in 5

Proportion of American adults currently incarcerated in a prison or jail: 1 in 100

Date on which President Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s former Chief of Staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice: 7/2/2007

Percentage change in the number of full time staff monitoring hazardous goods at the Consumer Product Safety Commission during Bush’s tenure: -16%

Percentage change in the number of federal investigators who monitor employers’ compliance with minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws during Bush’s tenure: -23%

Percentage of Bush Supreme Court appointees who ruled that factory worker Lilly Ledbetter would get no recompense from her employer despite proving 20 years of pay discrimination: 100%

Number of judges Bush appointed to the Supreme Court as president: 2

Number of Supreme Court Justices who ruled to stop the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore, effectively handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush: 5

Date on which Vice President Dick Cheney announced “history will be the judge – and history, I believe, will say, job well done.” 10/3/2008

To read more from DMI’s 2008 Year In Review, click here.


Friday afternoon news dump

Say hello to’s newest blogger!!  (No, over here!!!)

Yes, me!

I will be blogging about poverty in the U.S.

It’s expected to curb my personal blogging here, but stay tuned for details.

Many thanks I think to Feministe who originally linked to their job postings.  Many thanks to friends and fellow bloggers for thinking through issues of poverty with me here.


Resources, Not Just Role Models

I wanted to get to this one prior to Thanksgiving…

Research shows that children in New York City public housing academically underperform compared to non-public housing peers.  The scholars cite the absence of “role models” and potential presence of immeasurable “differences” between these families and the rest of us. Man, if these kids had a dime for every “culture of poverty” explanation for their achievement gap…

Behavioral explanations emphasize that a lack of “role models” and social networks brought about by “concentrated poverty” lead to unequal outcomes between poor people and an abstracted middle-class cohort (one that might include university researchers, perhaps?) Yes, crime and widespread incarceration of able-bodied men from poor urban communities robs kids of potentially engaged fathers (who also could provide relief for overburdened mothers and grandmothers). But few are mourning their lost wages as a key explanation for the grinding poverty and lack of mobility here.

Public housing is the “shelter of last resort” for the poorest Americans – mostly single moms, children, elderly and disabled. More than half of these kids in NYC live below the poverty level; the average annual household income is about $22,000. Although typical rents are less than $5,000 per year, these figures and adjusted estimates by anti-poverty advocates suggest that after meeting basic needs,these families with greater health and childcare requirements are getting by on less than $400 per month. So should we be surprised that kids fall behind by the fifth grade? Or don’t finish high school or take longer to do so because of the immediate economic or care-giving needs at home?

Culture of poverty arguments obscure the tangible resources required for the effective parenting and mentoring alleged to be absent in the projects. Look at Groundwork, the non-profit mentioned as assisting two young women to succeed at school. Its family and child programs, beyond just “modeling” proper behavior, provide books; music, arts and sports programs; field and camping trips; literacy training; tutoring; test prep; paid internships; financial incentives; parent support groups; mental health services and preventative healthcare; and income supplements. These kids and their parents now have access to the stuff that most middle-class families get through high performing suburban and private schools or their checkbooks.

We tend to use culture of poverty theories to wash our hands of investments in poor communities. (Those teenage girls are just going to have kids anyway; those boys are just going to turn to drug dealing. It’s what they know; what can we do?) Or, we use them to justify marriage support programs rather than drug law reform or alternative sentencing projects. (If they would just get married, he’d stay away from all that criminal behavior!) We’d be better served as activists if we responded critically to the paucity of resources in the projects and the schools – the money, activities, and services that help parents raise their kids and give kids a safe and nurturing environment. An environment, that is, from which role models grow and shine.


Mayors’ “to-do list” for the Obama Administration

MSNBC surveyed 1,000 mayors by e-mail from around the U.S. on “their top two suggestions for the president-elect’s “to do” list.”  205 responded from every U.S. state but Delaware and New Hampshire, and including Puerto Rico.  What’s interesting for urbanist junkies like me is the majority of replies come from smaller cities not normally front and center in discussions on cities.  There’s no input from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or even Boston, but instead requests from Binghamton (NY), Manhattan Beach (CA), Evansville (IL), and Cambridge (MA).

MSNBC created this cool interactive map of responses, the majority of which come from cities east of the Mississippi.  It should come as no surprise then, that the economy and aging infrastructure dominated the Mayoral agenda.  Other priorities include immigration reform, healthcare reform, transit development, and economic development.

Check it out.  After the jump I highlight Mayoral priorities from cities I know whether through proximity, residency, work or travel.
Continue reading ‘Mayors’ “to-do list” for the Obama Administration’


Funding choices

One Obama-Biden campaign promise is to make government run more efficiently – by connecting disjointed programs, increasing transparency, and fully funding programs so they might actually deliver results.  This promise is nothing new, but I’m hoping the Obama’s team’s technological savvy and the Democratic legislative majority behind him translates into some real improvements.  That said, what’s the point in fully funding or linking questionable and bad programs and policies, such as No Child Left Behind or welfare-to-work initiatives?

I say this because the Bush Dept. of Education is pushing a much needed streamlined higher ed financial aid process that to me has one fundamental flaw: its calculation of aid based on the average cost of a two-year college.  They estimate that this would cover for the neediest students 100% of the cost of a community college, 60% of a four-year public college, and one-third of the cost of a four-year private institution.

Led by the Gates Foundation, and suggested in this financial aid change, there appears not only a growing emphasis on improving access to community colleges, but an increasing push to help students graduate from community colleges.  But how does this help us reduce our record socioeconomic inequality, when the differential returns of a bachelor’s degree (or higher) versus a high school diploma has been the single largest cause of rising economic inequality since 1980? (see pp.7-9)

I am not sure what the wage returns are for an associate’s degree.  What I do know is that among the U.S. adult population, 70% have a high school diploma, 19% have a bachelor’s degree, 17% have some college education, 10% have a master’s or higher, and only 8.5% have an associate’s degree.  Well, you wonder, perhaps an associate’s degree is uncommon because students are transferring to four-year colleges from community colleges.  Maybe, but I’m not optimistic.

Continue reading ‘Funding choices’


November 6th

Can I get back to railing against the government now?

I kept a very low profile yesterday, given my mixed feelings about Obama’s win in the midst of euphoria all around me.  I didn’t expect to find my Primary resentment bubble back up, but it did, and I am angry at myself for it.  Looking at front pages from around the country helps.

Probably the biggest bee in my bonnet is the potential fulfillment of Clinton 2.0 that I foresaw with an Obama Administration.  The issue here is that during the primaries, the popular meme in my (faux)-proggy-bloggy world was that Obama was a rejection of the Clinton dynasty/years/Democrats.  Look, I get that he needs experienced people and that the logical step is to pluck them from the “peace and prosperity” filled 1990s.  But having to watch the mental contortions or naive surprise of his most vocal supporters over his Clinton era picks is more than a little irritating.  Though, I suppose the silver lining is that I like being the aggrieved minority, so my renegade Obama-frustration lives on.  I know, I’m a librul maverick!

But this ain’t just about the Clintons (as much as the media or I indicate otherwise). Brownfemipower puts into words on Nov. 5 much of what I can’t yet:

I woke up far too early this morning, and thus was incredibly beyond cranky at all the white folks speculating if racism is…could it be…DEAD???? Because, you know, if one black man could make it as a president, Katrina didn’t *really* happen just years ago. And racism only exists in the form of some ancient by-gone problem of the black community not being able to vote, right?

YES.  The level of hyperbole thrown about right now is more than my shriveled black heart can bear.

And this:

I don’t think that I’ve truly understood until yesterday exactly how terribly the black community has been hurt. How devastated the black community was by the violence inflicted on them. How deep the ache of murder, lynching, rape, benign neglect, and threats etched themselves into the black community.

I mean, I had known–but not really, not until last night.

One of the struggles I’m having is with my inability to relate to a lot of the rejoicing going on.  I wish I could just sit with the disconnect, but it’s driving my must-understand-everything!!!!!!!! brain bananas, and leaving me ashamed that I can logically grasp the celebrations but can’t emotionally connect like seemingly everyone around me.

In part it’s because what moved me most last night was the celebration in Kenya’s streets.  And what moved me yesterday morning was voting at my local public elementary school and having an ethnic gaggle of little kids tell me they’d voted for Obama and that he was “cool.”   I LOVE that his victory is likely so personally meaningful for so many people: African-Americans, people of color, kids of single moms, mixed-race kids, immigrants’ kids, etc. etc.  His life story is an amalgam of so many of our own.   Obama is the perfect cosmopolitan face of our country at this moment in time. Nezua gets at this much better than me (h/t):

This mestizo, this blend, this face actually does represent our culture, our changing demographics, our varied stories and the winding paths that bring us to where we are in this America.

YES.  This is what I see and feel when I look at Obama and his historic significance.  This to me is lost or shrouded in the celebration of his victory as the “final” step in our nation’s long, painful struggle.  Please.  This is not the end; this is a one major, profound, UNFORGETTABLE step on the road to greater social inclusion.  Our nation is going to be minority-majority in about 40 years, and our work is nowhere near “done.”  Prof. Melissa Harris-Lacewell at Princeton said it beautifully on NPR yesterday, and her sentiment was echoed by Obama campaign organizer Marshall Ganz yesterday at a luncheon talk.  Obama’s win is not about what he can do for us (especially given we don’t know what that will be), but what we can do for ourselves in this inspiring, transitional moment.

To start, we need to acknowledge and celebrate that this election was won by voters of color.  The director of the Pew Center said today on NPR that African-Americans made up 13% of the electorate last night, up from 11% in 2004.  19% of African-American voters last night were first-time voters.  Their near majority support combined with the support of two-thirds of Latin@ and Asian voters led Obama to victory.  A (shrinking) majority of white voters went for McCain, but finally, that didn’t decide the election.

I know that the youth vote made a big difference (though the youth proportion didn’t grow as an overall percentage, according to Pew).  Two-thirds of 18-29 year old voters supported Obama.  But this gets back to the significance of the ethnic diversity of Obama’s electorate.  The 18-29 generation is more ethnically diverse and lives much more comfortably in an ethnically diverse world.  Young white voters were not just more likely to support Obama because he’s “cool” and they are easily enraptured, but because his story is likely more normative to them than to many of us older fogies used to a USA in black and white.

Believe me, I’m charmed by Obama’s win, and by the apparent liberal “mandate” indicated by his decisive victory.  But there’s something about the narrow narrative of his victory as an “end” to racial inequality or as the ultimate renunciation of slavery, Jim Crow and structural inequality that leaves me, a fifth generation white ethnic woman from the Northeast, cold (and believe me, I’m from the city used to epitomize Northern racism).  His win is transformational for African-Americans and for all Americans, and not just because we’re supposed to feel better about a dominant but particular history and ourselves in the process.

Obama’s victory represents the future of our nation in all its diverse and troubled glory.  He is mixed-race and international while also being black American “from” the South Side of Chicago.  He was raised in a blended family and a stable, middle-class environment.  He lives in a million dollar home and has relatives living in public housing.  He has been questioned as not being black enough and been adopted as one of African-Americans’ own.  He belonged to an activist church steeped in black liberation theology and is also known as a conciliator, especially those who remember him from his Harvard law school and law review days.  He said healthcare is a “right” and that he doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages.  What I like about Obama is this range of experience, viewpoints and identity markers.  It’s why he won, because there is something in his life story for most of us (and if not, he’s backstopped by the quintessential old-school-working-class-white-guy-done-good in Biden).  This suggests that Obama might be progressive, as his existence suggests a kind of U.S. progress.  But it does not automatically make him a progressive politician, and in fact also positions him nicely for the more centrist, integrative governance to which he alludes.

For Obama’s life story and face as the leader of the U.S., I’m grateful and moved.  For his Administration and politics, I’m skeptical and not all that optimistic.

Let the healing begin!