Category: Your Voice Written by Jimmy Settles
As I talk to people in my hometown of Detroit, I’m confronted with a question more often than I would like. I hear it asked by young people frequently, but, increasingly, I’m hearing it from veterans of the workforce, too. The issue at stake is collective bargaining, and the question is “why do unions still matter?” There’s another question implicit there. Even if unions and collective bargaining do matter, why should you give them your support?
These are proper questions, and ones that deserves thorough answers in a time when the average worker probably doesn’t belong to a union, and may not even know someone who does. They are hard questions, and ones that require honest answers in a time when many of the most important gains that organized labor has made throughout the years are now enshrined in law. They are acute questions that desperately need factual answers in a time when both workers and business are vying for your vote on Proposal 2 to the Michigan Constitution — a proposal that would grant private and public sector workers a constitutional right to join a union and collectively bargain. They are questions I hope to answer over the course of three articles in the coming weeks.
Now, I am a vice president of the United Auto Workers; but, today, I’m writing as a lifelong Detroiter, as an African-American, and as a concerned citizen. I’m also writing today as a man old enough to remember the past. I am writing with the hope that my experience can help acquit this next generation of their condemnation to repeat it.
I hear people say often that unions and collective bargaining were a necessary and important part of our history. They helped win better wages and working conditions for the worker, unemployment insurance for those out of work, social security for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for the aged. But now, the battle is over. Like a punch-drunk boxer too proud to admit he’s past his prime, unions have stayed in the ring too long.
It’s true that unions played a significant role in our collective history and won crucial gains that helped all people who work—no matter if they were in a union or not. They won holiday pay, sick leave, and weekends. They stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Moreover, the UAW provided Dr. King with the financial and organizational support he needed, when he was planning his first march in Detroit. That’s because both Dr. King and the UAW knew that our causes were inextricably linked. Without economic justice, there could be no social justice. Without workers’ rights, there could be no civil rights.
Our opponents knew this too, which is why they struggled then and continue working today to foment racial resentment in the middle class in order to roll back hard won gains like voting rights, affirmative action and collective bargaining rights.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 16:06
Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
Expect the quadrennial process of selecting an occupant for the Detroit’s most exalted office to be livelier next year than in the recent past.
An expanding field of contenders can only enhance the mayoral sweepstakes. Most importantly, it offers an opportunity for a fresh airing on what direction Detroit ought to be going — and what kind of leader is best capable of policy decisions that transform failure into prosperity.
DMC Chief Executive Officer Mike Duggan didn’t exactly shake up the political landscape by adding his name to what is expected to be a growing list of potential candidates trying to replace Mayor Dave Bing. Duggan’s political foreplay had been going on for several months. It was expected. He did, however, add another wrinkle with the prospect of the first white mayor since 1973.
Broad speculation surrounds other possible hopefuls, including Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, State Representatives Lisa Howze and Fred Durhal.
The compilation of this short list of potential contenders suggests that the once rising star of the mayor is in free fall. Mayor Bing was elected to keep Detroit from committing suicide. But under his stewardship fiscal and economic self-destruction appears all but inevitable.
Over the last three-plus years, Bing has managed to alienate almost every segment of his constituent base. The optimism and high expectations of residents has faded. City services remain inefficient, departments customer-unfriendly. Social and cultural upheavals, crime and population flight show no signs of abating. His questionable judgment on financial issues has brought into question the absence of bold decision-making.
Fiscal stress and a huge budget deficit challenged him to cut waste and operate more efficiently. His alternatives came down to peeling back onerous and uncompromising labor contracts, lay off workers, sell off city assets or put city services out for bid. Some options he didn’t try, perhaps conceding that outsourcing wouldn’t go over very well in a city where yielding to labor demands is a way of life.
As the mayor and City Council grew increasingly dependent on unions for votes, unions became overly dependent on government for jobs. This perverse marriage caused government to be separated from focusing on one of its most urgent needs: creating a supportive environment for jobs and growth in the business sector.
It’s not too early for Detroiters to begin thinking about whether a spirit of political adventurism is needed to exploit other possibilities and opportunities. Hopefully, a new mayor will understand that because the economics of the city have changed. So too must the role of government and its relationship with its workers.
The next mayor won’t have the luxury to shun bold initiatives. Voters too may be asked to boldly look beyond the color of a candidate’s skin and decide whether Duggan has leadership qualities that equal his ambition to be mayor. They must legitimately and earnestly ask whether his talents, not fatal as a county administrator, prosecutor or company turnaround agent, would spell disaster for the mayoralty.
I also believe real people power comes from building a broader base and putting together a solid game plan to solve problems. If both idioms are true, there will be no one to blame if voters fail to put in the game the best player available.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 16:04
Category: Your Voice Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
The ongoing federal corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his alleged co-conspirators speaks to the price of power. While the rule of law dictates that Kilpatrick and his co-defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the trial doesn’t excuse the fact that we are seeing men who were once seen as invincible now being drawn into court to account for what happened under their regime. So many of the former mayor’s appointees have pled guilty while others are cooperating with federal investigators in the ongoing case which is the biggest corruption trial in Detroit’s history.
The Kilpatrick trial no matter how it turns out is a lesson for politicians and others who serve in the public domain about the need for restraint and to exercise diligence and trust in the execution of their duties as civil servants.
Once hailed as a rising star in the Democratic Party Kilpatrick now faces the specter of 30 years in prison.
What do you make of the Kilpatrick trial?
Do you believe that Kilpatrick and his co-defendants abused their power?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 12:37
Category: Your Voice Written by Steve Holsey CHRONICLE STAFF
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 16:05
Category: Your Voice Written by John Griffith, Julia Gordon and David Sanchez
The ongoing housing crisis remains one of the biggest drags on our economic recovery. But less than three months before a presidential election viewed by many as a referendum on the economy, housing is little more than a side conversation on the campaign trail.
President Barack Obama has barely mentioned housing in recent months, aside from occasional pitches for reforms to help more homeowners refinance. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic plan unveiled last year makes only a couple of passing references to housing, and Gov. Romney is yet to release any substantive housing proposals since.
As our presidential hopefuls stay silent, the sluggish housing market continues to plague our economy. The historic decline in home prices since 2006 has cost Americans more than $7 trillion in household wealth, forced millions of families out of their homes, and left nearly one in four homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Private investment in housing is a fraction of its historic norm, translating to billions in lost economic output and millions of missing jobs. And more than five years into the crisis, the U.S. mortgage market remains on life support as the federal government guaranteed more than 95 percent of home loans made last year.
The U.S. housing market is where the Great Recession began and we’re unlikely to see a full recovery until the market heals. The housing sector historically accounts for about one-fifth of our economy and housing booms paved the path to our last three economic recoveries. But few analysts expect such a boom anytime soon.
We can no longer afford to ignore these problems. As the presidential campaign shifts into high gear in the coming weeks, President Obama and Gov. Romney must lay out their respective visions for housing in the United States. This brief lays out seven essential questions the presidential candidates need to answer on housing, including:
1. What will you do to prevent more unnecessary foreclosures and keep more families from losing their homes?
2. How will you address the problem of “underwater” mortgages?
3. How will you revitalize communities already hit hard by the foreclosure crisis?
4. How will you meet the pressing need for affordable rental housing?
5. What will you do to assure that working and middle-class families can achieve homeownership in the future?
6. What do you plan to do with the government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and what will take their place in the mortgage market of the future?
7. How do you plan to protect households from predatory lending and discrimination in the U.S. mortgage market?
Each question includes key facts for voters, reporters, and other key stakeholders, as well as a brief discussion of why the issue matters and CAP’s recommendation for fixing the problem.
Foreclosure is often the worst-case scenario for every party involved, since it results in extraordinarily high costs to borrowers, lenders, and investors—not to mention the spillover effects on the surrounding community and the broader economy. And since millions of at-risk mortgages are owned or guaranteed by the federal government, taxpayers are on the hook for billions in foreclosure-related losses.
There are several ways to lower an at-risk borrower’s monthly payments and increase the chance of repayment. If the borrower is current on their payments, they often have the choice to refinance to today’s historically low interest rates, saving an average of $2,600 a year in interest payments.18 If the borrower has fallen behind, the investor can often save money by working out a new deal, usually by extending the loan’s terms, modifying the interest rate, deferring payments, or lowering the amount the borrower actually owes on the loan—so-called principal reduction. Or, if the borrower either can no longer afford the house or does not wish to stay, they can still leave gracefully without going through a foreclosure, either by handing the home back to the lender (known as a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure) or negotiating a short sale with the mortgage investor.
In a well-functioning market, the lender or mortgage investor responsible for the loan considers a range of options when deciding which intervention is best for the specific borrower, and negotiates a deal that minimizes losses and keeps families in their homes when possible. But we’re not in a well-functioning market. Recent experience has shown that mortgage servicers—the companies in charge of collecting timely mortgage payments on behalf of the investor—are often unwilling or unable to work with struggling homeowners, even when those homeowners want to work with them. The result is unnecessary foreclosures which harm the borrower, the investor, surrounding homeowners, and the larger economy.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 15:57
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