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Fighting Injustice With Love

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On Valentine’s Day, job seekers and organizers will deliver candy and flowers to local and state officials, contractors associations, and other stakeholders with the goal of changing federal regulations to get construction firms to create more jobs for lower-income women and people of color. Planners, civil engineers, business leaders, and others estimate the U.S. needs to invest billions (or $3.6 trillion by 2020 in the case of the American Society of Civil Engineers) in the country’s infrastructure to update our bridges, roads and transit, water and sewer systems in the coming decade. Increased job training can insure improved infrastructure also creates more opportunities for everyone, Gamaliel advocates say. Because federal dollars typically bankroll such projects, federal contracting rules cover work done.

Written by Rooflines

February 13th, 2014 at 9:59 am

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Conference Emphasizes Need for Parent Engagement in Education

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This past week, 150 parents and educators convened to discuss the importance of parent engagement at Foster High School just outside Seattle. The event featured five speakers who emphasized the necessity of getting parents involved with their children’s education, specifically through programs that include parents in the teaching process and get them involved in the school community.

Joanna Brown and Tami Love from theLogan Square program in Chicago were featured speakers on the panel. Logan Square pairs parents with teachers at local elementary schools around Illinois who mentor the parents, involve them in the classroom and help them achieve their own education goals. These goals range from going back to school to becoming proficient in English.

Bridging the language gap is an important aspect of Logan Square’s program, as language barriers often make parents feel unwelcome in their school communities. This often dissuades them from getting involved with their children’s education or working with teachers.

Patty Samora, a parent liaison at Lake Grove Elementary said, “They can call it parent training or whatever they want, but what it really is, is breaking down barriers and connecting people to one another because when parents talk to parents it just grows. It becomes powerful.”

Both the Seattle event and Logan Square program emphasize that parent and community engagement is essential in nurturing education. When teens reach high school, it is important for parents to remain involved in the college process, whether it be helping students apply to college, saving for tuition or encouraging their kids to stay in school. FUEL works with families from different backgrounds, offering our Savings Circle workshops and college access curriculum in multiple languages so as not to exclude families due to communication challenges. Our program places a similar emphasis on engaging parents in their children’s education, providing families with financial information, college knowledge, savings incentives and resources to help their high schoolers pursue their dreams of a higher education.

Photo Credit: NBC News and Seattle Times

Check out Fuel Education website and like them on facebook.

Written by Logan Square Neighborhood Association - Latest news

February 12th, 2014 at 6:00 pm

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Top streets for creating car-free spaces in Chicago

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To spur conversation about expanding the number of car-free public streets and plazas in Chicago, Active Trans just released a list of twenty streets and locations with strong potential.

Car-free streets and zones can make communities more attractive places to live and shop, generate more biking and walking and thus improve mobility and health, and reduce traffic crashes.

As explained in the story in the Chicago Tribune, the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City and local car-free plazas in Chicago.

There are many types of “car-free” streets. This can include closing an entire street or portions of streets year-round, like the popular transformation of Times Square in New York City or the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall in Boulder, Colorado.

But there are other options as well, including seasonal (e.g., spring through fall) or periodic (e.g., evening and weekends) closings and using a portion of the street, rather than the entire street, such as converting one lane of traffic into a bike lane and plaza.

Nearly a quarter of Chicago’s land mass falls within a public right-of-way, but most of that space is dominated by cars. There's also an enormous amount of city space dedicated to private parking lots and parking garages.

We support the City of Chicago’s efforts to add more car-free spaces, such as the Make Way for People initiative that converts parking spaces, alleys and dead zones into temporary or permanent public plazas, including the plaza in the State Street median downtown.

The city’s People Plazas initiative aims to activate under-utilized city-owned parcels/plazas. And new protected bike lanes create a ribbon of car-free space for cycling.

Chicago has relatively few car-free public plazas and streets across its 234 square miles, and many are small enough to have limited benefits. This lack of car-free public places indicates a need to explore larger car-free spaces in addition to the smaller plazas the city is currently developing.

Some of Chicago’s best car-free spaces include Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square, Sunnyside Mall, Ogden Mall and Englewood Mall.

Car-free spaces are more common in downtown Chicago, where there is a pressing need for car-free space with so many people getting around on foot and bike. Cars, nonetheless, occupy most of the public right of way. Downtown examples include Daley Plaza, Federal Plaza and some other modestly-sized private plazas; the expanding River Walk system; and the wildly popular Navy Pier, Illinois’ top tourist attraction.

Car-free streets and plazas won’t work just anywhere, and they have to be carefully studied and designed. Good candidates may abut existing or potential retail and dining locations, entertainment venues and community centers, and transit hubs.

In residential areas, they should be accessible from local neighborhood streets so residents can leave their cars at home for an afternoon out with family in a safe, car-free location.

With the right designs, plazas on existing transit routes can still accommodate bus service — the best example of this is the narrow bus way and slow bus speeds in Denver’s successful 16th Street Mall. This is a more sophisticated design than Chicago’s infamously failed State Street bus mall where people had to dodge fast-moving buses across a wide street.

Active Trans selected 20 streets and locations that deserve serious consideration for conversion into car-free space. Some streets like 47th Street in Bronzeville and Milwaukee Avenue through Logan Square have already been the subject of formal study. Active Trans selected the streets with input from community leaders.

These aren’t the only streets that deserve consideration, but they are among the best. Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces. Let’s give Chicagoans more car-free zones to walk, bike, shop, socialize or just relax.

Downtown

  • Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, River North to South Loop. Example concept: convert a travel lane on Clark to a protected bike lane with a landscaped seating area next to it.
  • Monroe Avenue between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Example concept: make the entire street segment car-free and extend the existing park space. Wide, well-lit underpasses would replace difficult crossings at Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.
  • Segments of Oak Street in the Gold Coast.
  • Segments of Rush Street in the Gold Coast.
  • Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile. More information at Transitized.Com

South

  • Segments of 47th Street in Bronzeville.
  • Segments of E. 53rd Street in Hyde Park
  • Segments of 18th Street in Pilsen. Example concept: dead end Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets on the north side of 18th to create a pedestrian plaza. These streets already have limited through traffic because they extend just two blocks to the north before dead-ending at train tracks, and each street is offset on either side of 18th.
  • Ellsworth and/or Payne Drives in Washington Park

North

  • One or more streets near Wrigley Field
  • Segments of Broadway in Lakeview. Example concept. From Diversey to Belmont Avenues, make the entire street a car-free greenway with landscaping, seating, restaurant patio space and more. Use diverters to prevent local cut-through traffic, Clark and Halsted absorb traffic.
  • Segments of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park
  • Simmonds Drive between Lawrence and Foster Avenues through the lake front park.
  • Segments of Clark in Andersonville
  • Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan’s Square
  • Bryn Mawr Avenue between Broadway and Sheridan Road.
  • Segments of Webster Avenue in Lincoln Park

West

  • Taylor Street in University Village between Racine and Ashland Avenues
  • Segments of 26th Street in Little Village
  • Humboldt Dr. and/or Luis Munoz Marin Dr. in Humboldt Park. Example concept: Close these streets to car traffic during the summer to effectively expand park space and give people a safe place to walk and bike. This is common in other cities but not in Chicago.

 

Photo of Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square courtesy of Hanncurt. 

Written by Rburke

February 12th, 2014 at 5:02 pm

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Public Competition Solves Community Problem

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lots competition winner_photo by Paul Sableman

Vacant properties have increased over the past few years since the housing and foreclosure crisis swept the country.  Communities have spent time figuring out how to address the issue, which is partly out of their control when banks and other private investors hold title to many vacant properties.  One city is bringing the problem to the people – Louisville, Kentucky recently announced a competition for residents, non-profit organizations, businesses, community groups, anyone with an idea, to offer redevelopment projects for vacant properties.  The “Lots of Possibility” competition will award four winners with funds to carry out their proposals on lots owned by the city – two temporary and two permanent projects

Vacant lots are harmful to a neighborhood for several reasons, including health issues, property values, and safety concerns.  It is an important issue that impacts an entire community, so this type of public problem-solving is beneficial.  First, it brings attention to the issue of vacant properties.  People that know and care about the issue are no longer municipal leaders, non-profits, or neighbors of these vacated homes.  Residents who are not directly related to the issue are made aware of it and learn the reasons why the problem impacts the entire community.

This increased awareness creates solidarity within the community, uniting people who come together for a specific purpose to better their neighborhood.  This also gives residents from different areas within the community the opportunity to build relationships with one another.  These intentional connections and community solidarity are valuable for addressing future neighborhood issues.

Similar competitions to “Lots of Possibility” have been utilized in other cities to form a community effort to revitalize neighborhoods.  St. Louis, New Orleans, and Youngstown, Ohio have held similar competitions that ask community members to craft unique projects on vacant properties.  Projects from other cities have included a public chess venue, a sunflower garden, an orchard, a putting and chipping green, and food gardens.  These projects made neighborhoods more desirable to live in and met the needs of the community.  For example, inner city youth in Youngstown don’t usually have access to golf courses because they require more space than is available in an urban environment, so the creation of a putting and chipping green allows the youth to learn the game inside their neighborhood.

The competition offers the opportunity for individuals or small neighborhood teams to execute innovative ideas that would otherwise be impossible due to lack of funding and significant community connections.  Allowing residents to play a part in the making of their neighborhood creates a culture of community pride.  It gives community members agency over their neighborhood and empowers them to continue making their community a desirable place to live.  The “Lots of Possibility” competition in Louisville is a positive solution to a community problem – it creates lasting changes and strengthens the neighborhood.

For more information on community competitions that address vacant properties:
Louisville, Kentucky
Youngstown, Ohio
St. Louis, Missouri
New Orleans, Louisiana

By Casey Griffith, Research and Outreach Coordinator

Photo by Paul Sableman

Written by Casey Griffith

February 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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Housing Policies in America: What’s Helping, What’s Hurting

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As many advocates know, on Jan. 30, the Corporation for Enterprise Development released its 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which reports on 133 policy and outcome measures that tell the story of Americans’ financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous and secure tomorrow. Titled "Treading Water in the Deep End," the scorecard ranks states based on the number of policies passed that work to bolster the financial security of their residents. The scorecard examines all 50 states and the DC in five key areas: financial assets and income; businesses and jobs; housing and homeownership; and health care and education. The main finding is that nearly half of American families live in liquid asset poverty, meaning they do not have three months’ worth of liquid assets they can turn to in a financial emergency. This finding, though perhaps unsurprising, is especially problematic in light of recent signs of economic recovery. For the housing and homeownership issue area, CFED, working with a variety of partners, identified 11 outcome measures, 10 policy measures and two trend indicators to quantify the effectiveness of state efforts. The housing results vary across states and among policy types.

Written by Rooflines

February 12th, 2014 at 2:45 pm

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Can Democrats Still Create Real Change?

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Thirty-one years before Cory Booker, Junius Williams, another dynamic African-American Yale Law School graduate, moved to Newark with ambitions much like Booker’s. Both had success, but their paths diverged, personifying divisions among those seeking to address America’s urban problems. While both agree on social issues, like gay marriage, Booker has sought the beneficence of Silicon Valley and Wall Street for their money and ideas. Williams, a progressive growth and redistributionist in the mold of Jesse Jackson, the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, and New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, believes change comes from the grassroots up, by building community-based movements. Williams lost his run for Newark mayor in 1982, but he remained in the trenches as a street organizer, lawyer and public school advocate. His persuasive, engaging political memoir, Unfinished Agenda, Urban Politics in the Era of Black Power, is a road map for addressing poverty, failing schools and crime. Williams weaves three separate narratives into one insightful personal story.

Written by Rooflines

February 11th, 2014 at 7:05 pm

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Is There Room for Real Change in the Democratic Party?

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Thirty-one years before Cory Booker, Junius Williams, another dynamic African-American Yale Law School graduate, moved to Newark with ambitions much like Booker’s. Both had success, but their paths diverged, personifying divisions among those seeking to address America’s urban problems. While both agree on social issues, like gay marriage, Booker has sought the beneficence of Silicon Valley and Wall Street for their money and ideas. Williams, a progressive growth and redistributionist in the mold of Jesse Jackson, the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, and New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, believes change comes from the grassroots up, by building community-based movements. Williams lost his run for Newark mayor in 1982, but he remained in the trenches as a street organizer, lawyer and public school advocate. His persuasive, engaging political memoir, Unfinished Agenda, Urban Politics in the Era of Black Power, is a road map for addressing poverty, failing schools and crime. Williams weaves three separate narratives into one insightful personal story.

Written by Rooflines

February 11th, 2014 at 7:05 pm

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Englewood Codes Recognized in Chicago Tech Plan

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Teamwork Englewood launched Englewood Codes with the belief that the best way for Chicago to stay competitive in the new economy is to build a broad base of tech talent throughout the entire city.

With the support of 178 project backers and program partners such as LISC/Chicago, After School Matters and Kennedy-King College, Englewood Codes provided the opportunity for 25 Englewood teens to spend their entire summer learning how to build websites with HTML, CSS and JavaScript code.

Shortly after completing its inaugural summer, Englewood Codes is being recognized as a model of what it takes to "educate and engage young people in technology, preparing them for future careers and building the city's STEM workforce":

In parallel with City-led initiatives, other groups across Chicago are also working to educate and engage youth in technology. For example, building on the successful Digital Youth Summer Jobs Program led by LISC Chicago and its five Smart Communities demonstration sites, Teamwork Englewood has developed Englewood Codes to teach young people how to write code and build websites.

- City of Chicago Technology Plan, 2013

As we gear up for our Spring Break Code Camp, Teamwork Englewood is pleased to be part of a comprehensive plan to keep Chicago competitive.

You can read more about the Chicago's Tech Plan at http://techplan.cityofchicago.org/.

Written by Teamwork Englewood - Latest news

February 10th, 2014 at 6:00 pm

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Twin Cities HUD Office Spared in Scheduled Closings

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Here's some good news to start your Monday: A HUD office serving Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota will stay open and continue providing services to its unique client base after being championed by the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Development in Minneapolis and the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations. Suzanne Gunther tells the story on NACEDA's blog: When HUD announced that it would close 16 of its 80 field offices in April, NACEDA received a call from Darielle Dannen of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) in Minneapolis. Dannen was alarmed that the office serving Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota was slated for closure. She wanted to partner with other NACEDA members top prevent field office closures.     “We thought it was really important to keep our local office open because of their deep understanding of rural development, senior co-operative housing models, Native American communities, and the unique needs of populations living in this part of the country” said Dannen. “We didn't think we'd be as well served by an office say in Chicago that doesn't have that expertise.” NACEDA Director Frank Woodruff contacted members around the country who were affected by the closures. He and Dannen were surprised to learn that no other members raised strong objections to the slated closures. Woodruff sent a letter to HUD explaining why “the Minneapolis Multifamily Office is a shining example of some of HUD’s best work” and should remain open. “It was really useful to find out from NACEDA members that there was not an outcry in other parts of the country. We used that information to emphasize to HUD that this was a unique situation,” Dannen explained.  “It's a lot more compelling when a national organization that represents organizations throughout the nation tells you that it's a mistake to close this particular office,” she added. Click here to read the rest of "NACEDA Associations Help Upper Midwest Residents Save HUD Field Offce."  

Written by Rooflines

February 10th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

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Spring Will Not Be Silent in North Carolina

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“While [Rachel] Carson knew that one book could not alter the dynamic of the capitalist system, an environmental movement grew from her challenge, led by a public that demanded that science and government be held accountable.  Carson remains an example of what one committed individual can do to change the direction of society.  She was a revolutionary spokesperson for the rights of all life.  She dared to speak out and confront the issue of the destruction of nature and to frame it as a debate over the quality of all life.”  - Linda Lear, Introduction to the 40th Anniversary edition of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 

On February 8, 2014, activists, clergy and concerned citizens will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina for the Moral March on Raleigh also known as HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street). This march is threatening to be “bigger than Selma” and is part of the wave of reaction to a Republican minority driving the North Carolina government toward exclusionary policies that hinder opportunity for all the poor and primarily the largely Democratic people of color of North Carolina.  These shocking policies,  most specifically around voting rights,  harken back, not just to the days of Jim Crow, but to the Slave Codes of the late 19th century.  Although not related to environmental justice on the surface, the call to action is the same:  we must fight back against short sighted public policies that serve to enrich an already wealthy minority while killing the larger population…and the time to fight back is now!

Silent Spring caused a firestorm of controversy around the use of pesticides when it was released in 1962.  Penned by celebrated author and pioneering biologist, Rachel Carson, the book called into question the entire biochemical industrial complex.  She made the powerful case for the toxic effects of biochemicals on all creatures, most of all on human beings, linking certain types of cancers directly to the production and use of chemical pesticides.  This was despite popular scientific theory of the time that claimed humans had “tolerances” and “adaptabilities” that surpassed these toxicities.  Her conjecture flew in the face of the greedy, ego driven, arrogant and entirely male dominated world of pesticide and chemical development.  Initially she was dismissed as a “hysterical woman” with no real scientific foundation for her claims.  But ultimately, when President John F. Kennedy took notice of her writing, things began to change.  Eventually, through public pressure, the government was compelled to investigate her theories finding them to be an understatement of the gravity of the actual situation.  Her work would lead to the creation of the EPA and domestic bans on DDT and other advances in the control, limitation and elimination of certain toxic biochemicals.  Her battle was not just for the masses, but rather personal.  Unknown to many at the time, while she worked on Silent Spring, she was battling breast cancer.  She would die in 1964 before seeing the full fruits of her labor.

Today, we still wrestle with big business and government interest around the environment, our food supply and ecosystems.  The battle for ecological justice is far from won, rather, it continues in earnest as the greed of a few continue to push Genetically Modified Organisms into our bodies and minds, with claims that they will be “better for us” in the long run.  The struggle will continue as long as the powerful, wealthy few live in fear of losing their power and wealth. Sadly, it is the same with the state of civil rights in North Carolina and other localities that are feeling the effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling on key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights act last year.  But what is most shocking is the hubris of conservative politicians to assume that they are immune to the toxic political environment they have created. At the very least it is irresponsible, at its worst self destructive.  Reflecting back on Carson’s perspective on the environment, Lear goes on to state that Silent Spring:

…proved that our bodies are not boundaries.  Chemical corruption of the globe affects us from conception to death.  Like the rest of nature, we are vulnerable to pesticides; we too are permeable.  All forms of life are more alike than different. 

Similarly, the restrictive public policies that the Moral March is highlighting ultimately bring down not just people of color and the poor in general, but all North Carolinians and ultimately all people of this nation.  Like the rest of nature…we too are permeable to the pesticides of class and race politics.  We are all susceptible to the poison of public policies that benefit only the very few.  The benefits for those few will only last a short time; the illness and cultural cancers for the many will and have lasted for generations.  Ultimately, greed multiplied by fear is the most toxic poison to the cultural soul.

But there is hope.  We  have seen the images from the struggle for voting rights in the 1960?s: black people…children going to prison, adults being attacked by dogs, or assaulted with hoses and brutalized by police.  But there was also Unitarian Universalist minister and pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., James Reeb, a white man, who was beaten to death in Selma, Alabama for showing his solidarity with blacks in 1965.  His martyrdom and the actions of all the Civil Rights activists, black, white, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and non-religious combine to inspire a new generation of leaders and community organizers who believe that equality is not just for people who look like one group of people or speak the same language or come from the same economic class.  They believe, and the science of Rachel Carson and the science of nature itself, back this up: real social equity is something in which we all must make a deep investment.  It is the only antidote to the poison that permeates the current political climate in North Carolina and it is the only real cure to stop it’s insidious spread to the rest of our nation and maybe even the world.

This spring in North Carolina will not be silent.  March on, march on!

Links:

Historic Thousands on Jones

Standing on the Side of Love

America’s Tomorrow - via PolicyLink

Twitter: #MoralMarch

This blog is also cross posted at spirituwellness.com

Written by Adam Dyer

February 8th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

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