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daredtowork

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Member since: Tue Aug 19, 2014, 11:02 PM
Number of posts: 3,732

Journal Archives

Privatizing Public Housing: The "Genocide of Poor People"

I thought the racial profile of Berkeley's gentrification was bad (black population reduced from 30% to 10%). Apparently the "white-washing" of urban renewal in San Francisco was even more drastic - from 13% to 6%.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/29483

The statistics:

http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/black.html

"...urban renewal . . . means Negro removal." - James Baldwin. But today that means privatization means "cleaning up" the poor people so the rich white people will want to buy condos from rich big property developers.

In Berkeley our local City Council is totally in the pocket of these big property developers already. One of the infamous ones, Panoramic Interests, repeatedly offers to partner with some "public" or historic site such Gaia books (classic feminist bookstore), the Fine Arts Cinema (once run by Pauline Kael, famous film critic for The New Yorker), or the old Center for Independent Living building (ground zero for an important aspect of the Disability Rights Movement that includes a neglected but historic mural). In each case Panoramic Interest uses this "civic preservation" aspect to get the City Council vote (or at least to help make the City Council vote look good), but then they buy out the public/historic partner once they've cut the deal.

I attended a City Council meeting this week where one of the members had literally sifted through books of old obscure city laws to see if she could patch together a resurrection of a "criminalization of poverty" laws that the voters of Berkeley have REPEATEDLY rejected. By finding similar laws already in existence, she could just pass them on to the city manager to look at how to more "effectively implement" the existing laws at the BEHEST OF THE BIG PROPERTY DEVELOPERS instead of bothering with what those pesky citizens wanted. The measures were not referred to any city commissions, including the recently set up (for show only?) taskforce on homelessness. The measures were not referred to any experts on the matter such as the numerous nonprofits that provide for the needs of the homeless and indigent poor and the world class University of California at Berkeley that has whole thinktanks dedicated to the matter just 5 blocks away.

Despite the stealthy way they City Council attempted to get these repeatedly rejected gentrification measures enforced, word got out and an outraged citizenry showed up for the next City Council meeting, armed with legal and academic testimony, video of targeted police abuse, and articles about how such laws had failed in other cities. At the end of the night the City Council simply ignored the feedback from their citizens and passed the "already existing" obscure laws on to the City Manager for review anyway.

Who does the City Council represent? Obviously not the people of Berkeley who are being displaced from their housing right and left, and swept out of the way if they happen to rest on a planter - getting in the way of an aesthetic sales pitch of a condo huckster.

Last month I went to the Mayor's State of the City Address practically across the street from where I live. Rather I spied on it from outside - I couldn't get one of the "free" tickets that were ostensibly offered online. The few people who left the supposedly sold-out talk were dressed to the nines and did not seem like the same people who attended the City Council meetings I had been to before. I wonder if the State of the City Address had more of the tone of a "Shareholders Meeting" for some of those Big Property Developers. This is just speculation since I didn't recognize anyone at all except for the Council Members and some of the city commissioners.

Sorry to go on about Berkeley again - I have lived here for over 25 years, and it is the only "case study" I have direct experience of. However, I think what I'm witnessing is a City government that has been captured by Big Property Developers and the interests of "privatization" - and the experience of Berkeley (decline in black population, displacement of the disabled and the elderly because of chaos in the low income housing market, indifference about the evaporation of programs and services that meant survival to the poor and now create crazy and tortured living conditions) should give an example of why the path of privatization is the undemocratic path and the inhumane path.

Interest Accrual Traps in Federal Consolidated Student Loans

This has bothered me for a couple of years now.

Most of the headaches in my life come from the radical mismatches between the demands of the different bureaucracies that seem to work as millstones to constantly grind me down.

One such clash is Social Services Requalification vs. Student Loan Deferment.

Currently I am supported by general assistance ("GA" welfare for disability while I have been waiting (for several years) to get through the SSI Disability application process. I have to re-qualify for GA in December of every year.

So here is what happens.

In December I do the financial qualification for GA. I ask Social Services if they need my medical information. They tell me not unless I get a letter from Social Services asking for it. Because I'm an old hand at how this system can screw you, I try to get a copy of the forms I will need to provide my doctor with before I leave. There are no copies in available, so I make complaint phone calls until I get them mailed to my home address.

In January I get the usual letter from Social Services saying all my medical records have been lost going back to 2012, and so I have been placed on a 3 month delimited period of GA. (This is what non-disabled people get - only 3 months of welfare). If I want to get back on GA for disability I need authorization from my doctor. I need to wait for my next doctor's appointment to do this. (Just this bureaucratic piece sucks in itself because it's difficult to get these appointments, and this one will be used up by paperwork.)

In February, I get a letter from Navent, the Student Loan agency, saying my Student Loans are due. I am mystified since I last completed the Deferment process in April and requested that the Deferment be through the next April when I know the Social Services bureaucracy matters should be settled. The Student Loan agency says: nope, your deferment ended in February. I have to ask for a Forbearance (during which time my loan will accrue interest) while I get my GA status straightened out.

By the end of February I have my doctor's letter, but Social Services does not generate a new letter giving the new dates for my GA benefit. The only letter I have with dates on it is the 3 month one. When I call, the only letter the Social Services caseworker can make their computer generate is one from September, 2014 which corrected a Social Services error. That one doesn't have any end date on it.

It is now more than half way through March. The previous Forbearance has expired, so I have to get ANOTHER Forbearance. While discussing the problem with the phone rep, she points out that I can't ask for the Deferment to start for more than a month in the past, so no matter what, interest is going to accrue on my student loan because of this. While talking, we also figured out why my previous Deferment lasted only 8 months instead of the 12 that it should have: according to my GA paperwork, my benefits only went though December, so that's how long they deferred the loan. Everyone left out the whole 2-3 month bureaucratic BS padding time in which I have to schedule a doctor's appointment and get a new medical letter!

Moreover, it's not certain the Student Loan agency is going to accept this new Social Services letter that starts in 2014 and doesn't have an end date. It's not an award for the year - it's an amount change letter. However, Social Services seems incapable of providing a letter the computer doesn't automatically generate.

By the time I get the Deferment paperwork in, and they tack on only a month of Deferment into the past, a month of Interest will have accrued. That doesn't seem like much, but there was also some "leakage" of this type last year, and various problems like this in previous years. But the biggest problem of all was when I was trying to get the loans consolidated. During the time I was in grad school, some of the loans had illegally accrued interest and then been resold several times over. There was absolutely nothing I could do to roll this back. I wanted to consolidate them so this reselling would stop happening. But once they were consolidated, these interest add-ons were set in stone.

As a result, I started off with student loans about 1/3 larger than they should have been. So I resent even smallest interest "sneaks" that serve to inflate the amount further.

I do realize that there's a disability discharge for student loans, and I will probably be eligible for it somewhere along the way. However, I also suspect I'm not the only one affected by this problem, so I'd rather put it out there and see what people think. Perhaps President Obama could win some brownie points just by fixing/rolling back some of these unjust interest accrual issues.

Berkeley City Commissions - a Microcosm of Everything that's Wrong with Gentrified City Politics

Tonight I once more attempted, and failed, to participate in my local political process. I attended a meeting of the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission.

I made my first try at this commission meeting last month. After suffering from a serious health incident in trying to speak at a general Berkeley City Council meeting, I thought it might be easier for me to participate in a city commission meeting, and "human welfare" seemed to be the appropriate topic. I arrived late to the first meeting, so I didn't have a very good grasp of what was going on. They were in the process of budgeting and didn't seem to have direct experience of many of the programs they were discussing. They let me comment for 5 minutes, but then told me I would have to come to the meeting next month to get any more time.

I knew exactly what I wanted to speak on and waited all month for this meeting. I consulted with some other people on the topic - gaps that were created by the way they were funding the medical programs. I feel like an authority on this subject, which affects me directly, and I was very eager to get my say in.

It turns out that commission meetings are strategically structured to PREVENT public comment - and it was only my late arrival and my ignorance that had allowed me to speak the previous time. What they do is mumble through a request for public comment directly after roll call. It makes absolutely no sense to ask for public comment then because the public hasn't yet heard anything to comment on!!!!!!! It was only later during the meeting when I asked when I could make a comment on an item that I found out that public comment was "already over".

To add insult to injury, nearly an hour of the meeting was spent discussing a networking opportunity that the commissioners would have with Council Members, and whether elected commissioners would be included with appointed members. This meeting occurs once a month, and they spent a third of it not discussing matters of health and human welfare at all!!!

Through out the meeting was so classic Berkeley it made me want to cry. In fact, tears finally did begin to roll down my face, and I doubt it was very discrete. There were repeated invocations of how their purpose was to "dialogue with the community", how they "wanted to hear from the community", how they should "get someone from the community" to come speak. Well they had someone from the community RIGHT THERE who used many of the programs they were talking about THAT NIGHT, and they didn't give a rats ass what I had to say about it.

To make matters worse, they were working out budget proposals that would last TWO YEARS without having visited the sites of the programs, often just going on hearsay and gossip about said programs, and - this was the worst "Berkeley" mindset of them all - making decisions from some sort of airy global point of view. These people are literally incapable of seeing their local community when it's right in the room! But they did talk about divestment from Israel.

I repeatedly heard lacunae in the Council's conversation that I would have liked to mention during a break if I wasn't allowed to speak during a comment. When they brought up divestment from Israel, no one brought up divestment from the gun industry, which would have a lot more significant local impact. One commissioner wanted to bring up an action regarding sexual assaults in Berkeley, but no one brought up the release of The Hunting Ground. I brought up the City Council's attempt to revive the Sit/Lie law before the meeting: when a commissioner brought it up at the end of the meeting there was no reference to me or where I had gotten the information from at all.

I'm not sure what I'm feeling right now. Outrage? Disappointment? Disgust? It's clear that Berkeley City Commission meetings are a waste of time for average citizens to attend, but they shouldn't be. Their carefully designed exclusion of the authentic lived experience of the local Berkeley resident, particularly the poor one, is a miniature of Berkeley politics in general - and it illustrates well why only around 30 percent of the population bothered to vote in the last election.

Berkeley: Difficult to balance sustainability, equity, planner says

This article makes me feel like one of the most disposable pawns on the chessboard of Berkeley city leadership:

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_27678042/berkeley-balancing-sustainability-equity-difficult-balance-planner-says

It's also more than a little bit creepy that this conference took place downtown (not sure what floor of the building - it would be even creepier still if it was on a high floor where they were looking down on everyone) where a bunch of ivory tower scholars and "thought leaders" got to talk about the people who were actually living all around them.

I wonder how one of them would feel if they were displaced out of their housing and forced to commute back into the city? I suppose they feel heroic that they are standing up for the poor by arguing for higher wages and discouraging the displacement/commute cycle. The problem for me is that the people at risk for displacement need more platforms to represent their own problems - and be respected and attended to - rather than having to be represented by (highly compensated and valorized) "filters" who have to be the PR Face of the situation.

This is just one step away from the Great White Savior problem. We wouldn't need Great White Saviors if people weren't looking for them. Want to learn about The Homeless? Why assume they are all inarticulate and incapable of communicating their situation and unable to connect it to the Big Picture? Some homeless people have nothing better to do than to spend all day in the Public Library, since that's one of the last free public spaces left that allow homeless people to sit down for a while. I'm not saying all, or even most, homeless people are as scintillating as Rachel Maddow. But it's also foolish to stereotype all homeless people as illiterate, uneducated, mentally ill alcoholics. Just the SSI application gap has the potential to create a terrible housing gap for people who may have Ph.D.s. These people could use a hand up, so why give all the gravy to unnecessary filter people who speak "for" them?

For months people in Berkeley have been fighting to have a conversation about gentrification and housing displacement in Berkeley. This location of this "thought leader" conference was a rather tin eared response.

Texas Cities Are Worried Republicans Pushed Tax Cuts Too Far

This is fascinating:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-04/texas-tax-cut-plan-riles-cities-dealing-with-growth-muni-credit

While Texas is struggling to hold the ideological line against "California-izing", I wonder if the cities are eyeing the Minnesota surplus with envy...

Third Way True Believers Live in a Patronage Bubble

A couple of people asked me to turn a comment from If Third Way Democrats continue to the right with TPP, union bashing, privatization it's because... into an OP. Below is what I think the "Third Way personality type" boils down to. Third Wayers, be aware when you think you are propounding from the Very Heights of Reason, you may actually be coming across as outlined below.

********

People who find affinity with the Third Way are people who have held the sort of jobs or other position in life (for instance, big money fundraiser) that require playing courtier and sucking up to the rich. They think they are being "reasonable" and "savvy" when they discourage talk of redistribution and shun the "angry left". Since their livelihood has always been dependent on the favor and patronage of the rich, they see threatening the status quo as a destruction of the source of all lifeblood.

These are the same people that insist on "polite protests" (so the rich might chose to "listen", but remain unoffended so they won't take their toys and go home). Since protests are usually triggered by the rich "choosing" to ignore problems, this approach causes not a little cognitive dissonance in the social justice community. The other Sign By Which Ye Shall Know Them is by their demands for real identity on the Internet in the name of courtesy. But it isn't courtesy they are enforcing - it's deference. Real identity brings the possibility of real life rewards and punishments into play. In that game, the rich have implied power over the poor. When anonymous speakers do end runs around the status quo on the Internet, it fries the Oligarch's hard-wired neural circuitry.

In California there is the added ingredient of New Age modes of thought - especially EST. These ideas proclaim all problems are a matter if attitude or transforming one's consciousness. The rich don't have to take responsibility for an unfair economy: the poor should just get some therapy and change their attitude.

If California invested half the money it puts into therapy into housing and livelihood safety nets, our economy would be blasting off into space! But no, that might involve "redistribution" and making the patron class grumpy, which would be unreasonable. Besides, so many people are employed by the "bureaucracies of poverty" - wouldn't it be unfair if all those folks lost their jobs because resources were redistributed to the poor?

The Third Way point of view is an insidious form of moral corruption because it identifies pleasing the rich with securing one's livelihood. That's how moves to the right became "reasonable". The constant repositioning against the "angry" or "wingnutty" left is based on FEAR of troublemakers as a threat to livelihood BASED ON PATRONAGE. The Third Way drags everyone into the bubble of this corrupt world view.

The Democratic Party needs to air out this underlying motivation and challenge its ethics. I hope we then chose to tear it out by its slimy ass-kissing roots.

********
Ps. My call outs managed to stir up fears in that very thread. I was juried out of the comments with this accusation:

The post confines itself to personal attack only, without supplying quotes to prove its point. So we are left with advice to believe nothing the OP poster says, with no supporting documentation. This is classic Republican rhetorical malfeasance.

I'm a purveyor of "classical Republican rhetorical malfeasance", eh? I'll let the rest of DU be the judges of whether that particular label fits me.

Ideas to Involve the Post Office in Revitalizing our Civic Centers

The U.S. Post Office has been under siege for years. Internet communications undermined the letter. Fed-Ex and UPS gave GOP privateers an alternative model. Financial problems, especially burgeoning pension liabilities, left the USPS appealing to Congress for help. Thus we find one of the bedrock institutions of the United States actually in danger of disappearing.

Even on DU we find the attack on the Post Office - something that should be on the list of GOP defundables along with PBS, NPR, the NEH, and the EPA if they can get away with it. Yesterday I wrote a reply to one such post to suggest that instead of dismantling the Post Office, we shore it up and add functionality to it. As I see it, the Post Office could be integrated into a revitalized Civic Center that also features the Public Library, Records/Maps/Licensing, Court Houses, Government Offices, Local Museums and Visitor Centers, etc.

Someone encouraged me to offer my ideas for the Post Office as an OP, so here it is:

The Post Office would not just handle mail, but would be offer a number of services central to our way of life.

1) USPS banking. No more extortionate fees for paycheck cashing. (MANY people have offered this idea).

2) USPS to run basic telecommunications. AT&T is always threatening to get out of the landline business. I say we let them! We need to put at least one means of national telecommunications in the public hands. By putting the landline infrastructure in the hands of the USPS we could create a "public option" for both phone service AND DSL to maintain competive prices in both phone and Internet service! We could fully subsidize "lifeline" phone service for the poor instead of that wacky discount service we have going now. ("discounts" for people who have no income? Sense it makes not.). Telecommunications services are a natural partner for mail services. In Europe post offices maintain phone services. I believe Post Offices used to host telegraph services at the turn of the century.

3) Post Offices could co-locate with other public services that travelers need like currency exchange, visitor information centers, hostel reservations, etc.

Over the years our sense of public institutions and public service centers have almost totally collapsed. The Post Office, like the public library, could play a role in rebuilding local civic spirit by re-asserting itself as a vital public space.

Current long lines and poor service at Post Offices could be dealt with by hiring more people and keeping the work conditions healthy so "going postal" never becomes a cultural in-joke again! Otherwise, it seems to me that there is a cycle of government agencies making their own problems with under-staffing and quasi-military structures that lead to people wanting to eliminate said agencies all together. Instead of creating the problem we should be creating employment, which in turn would be creating better customer service.

Also, the idea of "public service" and the ethics/spirit associated with it are practically nil in this country. Perhaps more "public option" style services would be a step toward getting that back.
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