Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
It boggles the mind that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan actually has the audacity to leave his crime ridden, violence prone Chicago base and come to Detroit to tell us how this city can be saved. His visit last week was, at best, a recruitment campaign.
He’s yet to prescribe a lasting, workable solution for what ails urbanAmericaat large or Detroitin particular. Detroiters are far better off gleaning what little is palatable from his message and ignoring the rest of the rant from the messenger.
The controversy surrounding his appearance notwithstanding, Farrakhan was welcomed with open arms at City Hall and in the pulpits of some of the city’s largest churches. He delivered a message tinged with emotion and direction on how the black population should pool its resources to buy distressed properties. The clergy were urged to become catalysts in the effort to “re-own”Detroit.
Of course, some of what he said is worthy of consideration. Encouraging investment in residential and commercial property has always been a great idea. But there are amply reasons to be skeptical of the messenger if not the message.
In the mid-1990s, he called on black men across the country to converge onWashington,D.C.for a “holy day of atonement.” Participants were prodded to accept more responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities. A large contingent of “disciplined, committed and dedicated” disciples responded to make the Million Man March a success. But nearly 20 years later, Farrakhan grew in stature, but the problems of the black family have never been worse.
Farrakhan too has listlessly witnessed the failure of schools, churches and other community institutions to end urban terrorism. He has turned a blind eye as welfare rights became a sacred economic life-support entitlement.
Nor has this self-proclaimed cultural leader been successful in addressing the burgeoning number of black males serving time in the criminal justice system. Nothing more underscores the failure of leaders like him to reverse the social and economic isolation black men face.
With Minister Farrakhan, there is always another message lurking just beneath the surface — a message of divisiveness. His unflattering history of offending the sensibilities of people is legendary.
He has repeatedly preached a liturgy of hate, referring to Jews as bloodsuckers. His messiah mentality and misguided moralism stereotypes whites as a “devils” who are oppressors of people of color. He has called for separate states for the races.
During his Detroitvisit, for example, Farrakhan blamed former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s corruption conviction on racism. White politicians are no less corrupt, Farrakhan said, but “they hide their crap under the rug” and unite to protect each other. “But anything (blacks) do, (whites) expose to destroy your love and confidence in one another,” Farrakhan is quoted as saying. “The enemy that charged him is a liar from the beginning.”
It wouldn’t be the first or last time he engaged in his ritualistic pro-black tirade. He once said of blacks: “Our degeneracy is part of a master plan…what you don’t realize is you have been set up, you in your foolishness have played into the hands of your enemy…it is not an accident thatjobs are leaving the inner cities.”
He went on to accuse the government of allowing corporateAmericato movejobs abroad “into cheaper markets, so the inner cities are filled withjoblessness, poverty and despair.”
The problem with Farrakhan is that, among other things, he’s a self-aggrandizing opportunist who tends to show up in times of despair to exploit the disadvantaged and downtrodden. His purpose is not to unite, but to grow his membership.
For Detroiters to rally to the call of Farrakhan now would legitimize his efforts and give him credibility. He’s deserving of our contempt.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 13:43
Category: Your Voice Written by Wendell Anthony
As many gather on this island at the annual Mackinac conference, we must remember those who are not here. Much of the discussion and deals that may be cut will have an impact on people not only in this part of the state of Michigan, but lest we forget, in Southeast Michigan also. Michigan touts a Pure Michigan mantra which is supposed to motivate and entice business and community participation throughout our state. Sounds good, but when one looks at Michigan today, the policies coming out of Lansing are polluting the lives of Michiganders.
You cannot talk about a Pure Michigan when the effect of imposing emergency managers, eliminating collective bargaining, cutting needy families from financial aid without a job or an alternative, and a continuous emphasis on product over people is most impure. Does this really feel like the Michigan that many of us have come to know and love as the place for economic, social and educational mobility?
I’m reminded of the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through.” Ain’t that the truth. The stench polluting the air of a non-pure Michigan is causing nausea in the lives of individuals from Detroit to Benton Harbor. It is important that we recognize that people do want partnership. It is important to recognize that financial restructuring and city government realignment must occur. As a matter of fact, in many cases it has.
Yet as we remember the 50th anniversary of the death of Medgar Evers this week in the state of Mississippi, he did not die for Michigan to become the very thing that he fought against which was the elimination and denying of the right to vote. There are alternatives to denying over 50% of the African American population in the state of Michigan the right to elect their own public officials according to the Constitution and their home charters. Even former Secretary of Labor Dr. Robert Rice agrees with this as he said “self-government does not end when creditors are displeased.”
We can do better than this. There have been no new ideas, no new recommendations, no new job development, no new job training, no additional revenues for the city of Detroit, no clear vision and no shared sacrifice from those who would dictate what the future of Detroit shall be.
It must be said that many in the city of Detroit are not opposed to change. Many in the city of Detroit do want improved city services. The people in the city of Detroit also want respect, dignity, and their constitutional rights protected. No, we do not want part of the Constitution, nor do we want part of our rights. We want all of our rights and the full implementation and protections guaranteed by the Constitution.
This is why we believe that the financial stress test as applied by the State of Michigan to determine who gets an emergency manager based on 0 to 10 points and who does not was not applied equally. Particularly when cities in Oakland County, with majority White populations who are economically stressed possessing a high score similar to Detroit or Pontiac, did not receive an emergency manager. We believe that each voter should be treated equally and his or her voting power weighed with the same dignity. We thought this lesson was learned during the historic decision of Bush vs. Gore in the 2000 general election.
While it is important that we have relentless positive action, what we do not need is a constant overbearing subtraction of the power of the people to decide their own destiny. Michigan is better than that.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:59
Category: Your Voice Written by Robert Weiner and Richard Mann
The news conference that President Obama held last Tuesday, where he led with the difficulty of the options in Syria, would have had a crisis of even far greater dimensions if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had not taken major steps toward Middle East peace before she left office.
President Obama and new Secretaries of State John Kerry and Chuck Hagel at Defense recently made trips to the Middle East. Obama visited Israel, the West Bank and Jordan in March, while Kerry visited Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq. Hagel visited Israel just days ago. None of these trips would have been possible without a little-noticed set of urgent shuttle diplomacy by Clinton.
The media regularly says President Obama has failed to bring peace to the Middle East. But “peace” there is even more of a misnomer than peace with the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. The U.S. and many countries ultimately realized that “peaceful coexistence” was a more realistic term and objective.
Last November, rockets were flying over Israel after the targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. The threat to world peace with outright war was far more real than the braggadocio verbiage from North Korea now which all seem to be taking as a real threat. In Israel, the bombs and missiles were coming in daily. Nearly 300 Israelis were injured or killed. Israel had to fight back and did, firing the defensive iron shield system and attacking militant cells and rocket launchers in Gaza. This was real war if ever there was one.
Hillary risked her safety and life to go into the fray. She went to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo on Nov. 20-21 and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and other military and civilian leaders. In typical Hillary fashion, she determinedly flew back and forth and back and forth between the locations, and included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in the discussions.
She told the Middle East leaders to stop the missiles and the bombs. She told them to negotiate. And she probably told them, secretly, that if they did, President Obama, and then the new Secretary of State to follow her, would visit, give them US prestige and credibility, and generate an ongoing relationship including continuing our financial and technological support. She probably also told them that if they kept sending missiles at each other, there was no way on earth that the US would send top officials there, they would all look like pariahs, and US financial and military aid from Congress would be threatened.
She brokered a cease-fire, sponsored by Egypt. In the Middle East, if you’re not at war, you’re at peace.
Syria—at Israel’s northeast border—is a world boiling point right now. The President is able to isolate the problem and our options just to that nation because of former Secretary Clinton’s intervention. At least some of the region is not a powder keg.
Hillary had a lot of accomplishments in her tenure – getting Burma to allow elections with the opposition including National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, placing a value on women’s dignity and rights throughout the world, garnering more support in a Latin American trip than any top US visitor since JFK until Obama’s current trip. In addition, her presidential campaign (the past one—a current one has not been decided) laid out a better foundation for health care—a cross between single payer and public option. Hillary’s plan would have been far more in step with the rest of the world. Other countries pay about half the price for a longer life span and lower infant mortality than we provide citizens in the U.S.
But when Hillary became Obama’s partner in the administration – a brilliant step by President Obama to bring in his strongest primary opponent – one of her biggest accomplishments was the Middle East peace process. Even though it may have had far reaching positive world impact, it was also her least noticed achievement.
Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman in the Clinton administration and former chief of staff for Cong. Claude Pepper(D-FL),spokesman for the House Government Operations Committee, and senior staff for Cong. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ed Koch (D-NY), and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He wrote the epilogue to Bankole Thompson’s groundbreaking book, Obama and Christian Loyalty. Richard Mann is senior policy analyst for Solutions for Change.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 00:06
Category: Your Voice Written by Harvey Hollins/ Office of Urban Affairs
When our central cities hurt, we all hurt and we are all less competitive than our neighboring states and less attractive on the global market. According to the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), while the national economy struggles with two years of slow economic growth, U.S. inner cities are reeling under a decade of economic stagnation.1 Between 1998 and 2008, the number of private sector jobs in the 100 largest U.S. inner cities grew in aggregate by only 1%.2
These trends have profound implications for economically distressed urban neighborhoods. Among employed inner city residents, almost 40% also worked in the inner city where the decay of local employment over the past decade has been devastating in terms of job opportunities and economic well-being.
Restoring vitality to central cities that have experienced decades of population and job loss will not be a simple matter, and it will not happen overnight. It will be a complex, gradual process involving change to these cities’ social, economic, and physical features, a task rendered even more difficult by the severe fiscal constraints.
That’s what we face regarding our cities, and this state will not reinvent itself to meet competition in this global economy without restoring its central cities. Despite the challenges in our central cities, I believe we can enable the playing field to become a destination state with a robust and diverse economy and culture, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit, growing and retaining human and intellectual capital with vibrant central cities.
We owe it to the state’s residents to work at reversing those trends of the industrial age, end the divisive fight between rural and urban, and lay a strong foundation to once again make Michigan a magnet for job creators and talent around the world.
All too often, the material difficulties cities face are complicated by political, psychological, and legal challenges. In addition there is little accepted language in government for talking about a city experiencing severe population loss and few policy frameworks that do not revert to talk about growth.
Both state and federal government play a critical role in restoring central cities; however, policy making have been affected with at least three major structural problems: the absence of coherent and comprehensive strategies, lack of coordination among different federal and state agencies, and failure to maintain a sustained commitment to these cities.
We need a roadmap to help put policies into a more objective, analytical framework while we continue to find opportunities to engage in main street and neighborhood initiatives. Such a framework will establish the parameters for urban economic and community development, help align public and private resources, and create policies resulting in the restoration of Michigan cities. The implementation and adjustment of initiatives and policies against strong indicators creates an “Urban Agenda” that will restore Michigan cities.
1 - ICIC defines inner cities as core urban census tracts with 20% or higher poverty rates or that meet two of the following three criteria: poverty rate of 1.5 times or more than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, median household income of half or less than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and unemployment rate of 1.5 or more than that of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
- In the absence of growth from education and medical institutions, both of which are likely to face serious constraints in the next decade, inner cities would have suffered net job loss (-0.1%) over the period.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:53
Category: Your Voice Written by Sen. Bert Johnson
Yesterday, May 6, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited schools in Detroit that are part of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA). As is the norm for such visits, I am sure he had the opportunity to speak with several well-coached students about how great things are at their school. The reality, however, is less rosy. Click Here For Complete Story
Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 10:13
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