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Mon Mar 14, 2016

DuPage united: Meet Your Muslim Neighbor -Pakistan News

Mon Oct 26, 2015

Sen. Schumer Joins Do Not Stand Idly By -Metro IAF

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                CONTACT: Angelo Roefaro

October 23, 2015                                            202-380-5990

SCHUMER STANDS WITH MORE THAN 100 NYC METRO-IAF LEADERS TO PUSH LARGE GUN-PURCHASING FEDERAL AGENCIES, LIKE DOD AND DOJ, TO PRESSURE GUN MAKERS TO MAKE SAFER GUNS AND TO CEASE DISTRIBUTING VIA DEALERS WHO FAIL TO COMPLETE BACKGROUND CHECKS; U.S. GOVERNMENT--LARGEST GUN BUYER--MUST USE GUN CONTRACTS TO PROD GUN MAKERS TO STEM TIDE OF GUN VIOLENCE BY IMPROVING GUN SAFETY AND DISTRIBUTION PRACTICES

Schumer & Metro IAF—Nation’s Largest & Longest-Standing Network Of Local Faith & Community-Based Organizations—Say Federal Government and Other Top Gun Purchasers Can Do More To Stem Gun Violence; Fed Government’s Purchasing Power Must be Leveraged to Change Gun Makers’ Deadly Ways

U.S. Government Makes Up 25% of Gun Market; With DOD/Army Currently Considering Massive $580M Purchase of Small Arms, Now Is The Time To Rewrite Requirements For Federal Contracts

Schumer: By Raising The Standards On Which Gun Manufactures Can Do Business With The Federal Government, We Can Make America Safer 

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, alongside leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF), LICAN and their “Do Not Sit Idly By” gun safety campaign, pushed a plan using the federal government’s leverage as a top purchaser of guns and ammunition to get gun makers to make improvements to their gun distribution and production practices, which contribute greatly to high rates of gun violence in communities across America.

“The massive purchasing power of federal agencies, like the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, can and should be used to hold gun makers accountable for a lack of gun safety and irresponsible gun distribution – and to change those practice for the better,” said Senator Schumer.

Schumer explained that the U.S. government, including the military and law enforcement agencies, makes up 25 percent of the gun market and, as the nation’s number one buyer of guns from major manufacturers, has leverage to change gun makers’ production and distribution practices in ways that can improve safety in American communities. In fact, Schumer and the Metro IAF pointed out, the Department of Defense is soliciting proposals from gun manufacturers for a $580 million contract to replace the current aging handgun models used by service members. Schumer explained that the federal government should use its significant leverage to garner vital information from gun makers and to prod them to improve gun safety features and their distribution practices.                                                                          

“While I respect individual rights on this matter, gun violence in America is far too high and we must take sensible steps to reduce gun violence in all our communities. As the number one buyer of guns, the U.S. government should use its significant leverage to hold gun makers accountable for gun safety and gun distribution,” said Senator Schumer. “Our plan is a smart way to use the federal government’s market power to force gun makers to change and to improve the safety in neighborhoods. Our plan will push the gun makers to make smarter guns – innovations that make it harder for these weapons to be used in crimes – and we will push the gun makers not to distribute through dealers who are supplying guns to people who have not passed a background check. I pledge to work with my friends at Metro IAF and everyone across New York to do all I can to help address the scourge of gun violence in sensible ways.”

Specifically, Schumer is calling on the U.S. Army to amend its currently-open $580 million contract for small arms to include provisions that require bidders to supply information about what they are doing to produce so-called ‘smart guns,’ which are harder for criminals to access and use, and what they are doing to bring those guns to market. Further, Schumer is urging the Army to select a gun contractor that agrees to only sell on the civilian market to gun stores that require completed background checks. Senator Schumer will call on federal agencies to follow the example of the bi-partisan group of police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, county executives, and governors, organized by Metro IAF, by taking two sets of concrete actions:  1) Require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas.  2) Expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.

Further, to jump start better research and development of ‘smart gun’ technology and innovation, Schumer is pushing to triple funding to $6 million for Department of Justice to fund Gun Safety Technology grants. Currently, the National Institute of Justice conducts research on smart guns technology, however, Schumer said that even more needs to be done. This year, the National Institute of Justice received $2 million in DOJ grant funding and Schumer is asking that its federal DOJ funding be tripled. Schumer said that increased funding will help further develop technology that exclusively allows only an authorized user to fire a gun and deactivates when used by unauthorized users. Overall, Schumer explained that his plan will help get crime guns off our streets and help reduce gun violence.

“When it comes to sensible gun policy, the federal government has real market power, but it also has the power of example and it can show many other entities how to positively impact the behavior of the gun makers in ways that reduces violence -- without reducing anyone’s rights,” continued Schumer.

 Schumer was joined by Rabbi Larry Sebert, Reverend Getty Cruz, Rabbi Stef Kolin, Reverend David K. Brawley, Reverend Gawain de Leeuw, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and leaders from Manhattan Today, South Bronx Churches, East Brooklyn Congregations, Westchester United, LI CAN and EQUAL.

“As the murder of Officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem shows, even New York City is awash in illegal guns,” said Reverend Getulio Cruz, pastor of Monte Sion Christian Church and a leader in Metro IAF.  “It’s time for the leading gun manufacturers to sever ties with the nation’s most irresponsible gun dealers.  And it’s time for the federal agencies that buy guns from those manufacturers to use their clout in the marketplace to demand that they do.” 

“Senator Chuck Schumer has been a leader on guns throughout his career,” said Rabbi Larry Sebert, Senior Rabbi at Town and Village Synagogue.  “As well as anyone in America, he knows the limits of what Congress can and will do.  He knows, like all of us do, that gun sanity can’t wait for Congress.  And he knows that the largest gun buyer in America certainly has a powerful voice in the firearms marketplace.”

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:

Dear Secretary McHugh,

I understand that the U.S. Army recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new Modular Handgun System procurement competition requiring that proposals from interested contractors be submitted by January 28, 2016. I am writing today to urge the Army to amend the current RFP to include a deliverable requiring prospective contractors to include gun safety measures and distribution practices in their proposals. 

The Army regularly purchases hundreds of thousands of guns to arm our forces. In fact, the federal government is the largest purchaser of guns in the country – purchasing more than twenty five percent of the guns and ammunition sold in the United States. The manufacturers who sell guns to the military are the same ones who sell guns to civilian men and women across the country through local dealers and sporting goods stores. Unfortunately, because of a loophole in the background check system, not all guns are sold with a completed background check. During the last five years, more than 15,000 guns were sold to prohibited purchasers with incomplete background checks. This dangerous loophole means that people such as the Charleston killer are able to legally purchase a gun despite past prohibitive behavior. 

We know that even a fully functioning background check system cannot prevent all gun violence. We regularly see horrific accidents that could be prevented by smart gun technology, such as an 11 year old boy killing an 8 year old girl in Jefferson County, Tennessee earlier this month, hence the need for better innovations that make weapons workable only for the actual owner.  

As a standard part of the Army’s procurement process, I understand you require firearm manufactures to submit proposals with specific deliverables.  With this in mind, I urge the U.S. Army to include a deliverable in the current and future RFPs that would require gun manufacturers to agree to solely sell their guns in stores that require completed background checks prior to sale.  In addition, I also respectfully request that the amended RFP require all participating bidders to lay out a plan for the development and sale of smart or childproof guns and accessories.  The U.S. Army should do all it can to ensure that companies participating in small arms acquisition procurements are held accountable for their involvement in the civilian market, and are properly incentivized to promote smart gun technology and protections. Ideally, the RFP would require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas, and it would expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.

There is no question that gun violence in America must be immediately addressed. Requiring manufacturers who participate in the procurement process to develop stronger gun safety measures will not improve public safety in the short term by closing background check loopholes, but lead to development of better protective technology for children and families.  

Thank you for your attention to this issue and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Mon Oct 12, 2015

Media Roundup: Metro IAF Press Conference Delivers the Message To President Obama: Act Now on Gun Violence; Hold Gun Manufacturers Accountable -Washington Post

 
 
"As is their way, the community organizers and activists at the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) are pushing the president to use the federal government’s purchasing power to promote safer guns. To do business with the government, companies would have to be willing to “remove the barriers to getting smart guns and gun safety technologies to market” and cooperate with law enforcement to “identify and isolate dealers that provide large numbers of guns used in crimes.” 
 
 
ROUND-UP OF THE NEWS COVERAGE:
 
Columns & opinion pieces by EJ Dionne, Sandy Horwitt and Mike Kelly:
 
 
 
 
 
News coverage from Wash Post, VOA, WSJ, In These Times, Christian Science Monitor:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Fri Aug 14, 2015

NY IAF: NYCHA Repairs Make Leaks Worse -New York Daily News

....Llumi says NYCHA has done nothing but give her the runaround since Memorial Day.  “They send someone who looks at the problem, who says they’re going to send someone else to fix it, and that’s where it stays,” she said.

In her kitchen, water collects in the ceiling, forming a hubcap-sized bubble in the ceiling paint that’s soft to the touch. “You can’t cook,” Llumi told the Daily News. “The water falls on your food.”

She placed buckets in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in both bedrooms. Sometimes the water — which has worked its way through the dirty roof — hits her skin and causes rashes. And gravity has drawn the water down into the apartments below since this problem started 11 weeks ago.

Under that apartment, the stove also sits right below an alarming gash in the ceiling where the recurring drip has eaten away the plaster. Tenant Barbara Solomon says the stove “pops and sizzles” when rain hits the outlet that feeds it juice.

Tenants say NYCHA caused the problem itself when the agency began working on the roof parapets back in the spring. Before that there were no indoor rainstorms.

“They damaged the inside of the building when they were fixing the outside of the building,” said Solomon, who recounts numerous calls in vain to management requesting repairs. Solomon says NYCHA told tenants roof repairs are in the works — but not for the immediate future.

Tenants say NYCHA has done nothing all summer to plug the leak they apparently created. As a result, every time there’s rain in the forecast, tenants in a column of apartments below Llumi’s get out their impressive collection of plastic buckets.

“What’s happening in the King Towers echoes what we are seeing all over the city,” said Michael Stanley, an organizer with Metro Industrial Area Foundation, a housing advocate group that’s been critical of NYCHA for years

“Too often, NYCHA doesn’t show up, but even where they are supposedly fixing things, the repairs are usually so ineffective that nothing is really resolved or  the problem even gets worse,” Stanley said.

 
Wed Jun 17, 2015

Durham CAN -news observer

Hundreds stand up to protect families from the effect of market forces
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nearly five hundred Durham CAN leaders met with 24 elected leaders representing city, county, schools and state government.

What is at stake: Ensuring elected leaders sided with families in their fight against market forces to secure affordable housing and job training. A proposed light rail project has significantly increased property values and rent.

CAN leaders demanded and won support from the Mayor, City Council and County Commissioners for the use of two publicly-owned parcels of land for the construction of affordable housing. Leaders celebrated victory on living wages for thousands of future transit related jobs.

During the action, CAN leaders gained commitments from the Durham Police Chief and the Director of the City of Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development on the implementation of policies to reduce police profiling and the creation of a job training program for thousands of transit related jobs respectively.

Tue Jun 9, 2015

BUILD leads community engagement in Baltimore -NPR

                                                     A Baltimore police officer attempts to secure a crime scene with tape at the scene of a shooting at the intersection of West North Avenue and Druid Hill Avenue in West Baltimore, Md., on May 30. Local media have reported more than 35 murders in the city since the April rioting over the death of 25-year-old resident Freddie Gray.

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/05/412226667/baltimore-community-engagement-e...

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/04/411917414/since-freddie-gray-s-death-viole...

Wed May 27, 2015

GCC Media Roundup: Criminal Justice Reform -Cleveland Plain Dealer

MEDIA ROUNDUP: GREATER CLEVELAND UNITE: WE CAN’T WAIT! CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACTION MAY 26, 2015 (As of 5/27)

NATIONAL:

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/us/cleveland-police-accept-use-of-force-rules-in-justice-dept-deal.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/25/us/71-arrested-in-cleveland-protests-over-officers-acquittal-police-say.html

Rachel Maddow/MSNBC:  http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/watch/doj-issues-reforms-for-cle...

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/videos/justice/2015/05/26/cleveland-doj-police-mclaug...

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/27/cleveland-clergy-michael-brelo_...

The TakeAway/ WNYC/Public Radio International: http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/amid-protests-cleveland-looks-heal/

WCBE (NPR/OH Public Radio): http://wcbe.org/post/hopes-and-expectations-surround-police-reform-agreement

Star Tribune (Minneapolis): http://www.startribune.com/ap-source-cleveland-justice-department-reach-policing-deal/304958701/

WLWT (Cincinnati): http://www.wlwt.com/news/cleveland-us-justice-department-announce-police-settlement/33223910

The Dispatch (Columbus): http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/national_world/2015/05/26/church-leaders-march-for-equal-treatment.html

 

LOCAL:

Cleveland.com http://photos.cleveland.com/4501/gallery/greater_cleveland_congregation_1/index.html#/0

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/05/credit_cleveland_for_...

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/05/greater_cleveland_congregation_2.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/05/cleveland_congregations_march.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/05/letter_writers_urging_police_r.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/05/area_churches_plan_tuesday_ral.html

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/05/cleveland_congregations_set_to.html

WKYC: http://www.wkyc.com/story/news/local/cleveland/2015/05/26/group-to-hold-peaceful-march-in-cleveland-michael-brelo-verdict/27950815/

News 5: http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/cleveland-metro/cleveland-pastors-promote-criminal-justice-reform-voter-empowerment-following-brelo-acquittal

19 Action news: http://www.19actionnews.com/story/29156206/cleveland-area-churches-protest-officer-verdict

Cleveland Jewish News: http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/local_news/hundreds-march-for-change-in-cleveland-division-of-police/article_b11b33ca-03eb-11e5-997f-53bf77e8f033.html

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/local_news/deal-with-the-issues-don-t-mute-the-response/article_86729afa-00b2-11e5-9c90-a3268834cff0.html

News Net 5: http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/cleveland-metro/leon-bibb-cleveland-community-members-and-police-are-all-under-the-same-umbrella-and-it-has-holes

Fri Mar 6, 2015

Greater Cleveland Congregations Leads Momentum for Police Reform -Cleveland Plain Dealer

                                     

Momentum Appears to be Building toward Meaningful Police Reform in Cleveland

For all the anger and mistrust swirling around the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and the release of a critical U.S. Department of Justice report on the use of excessive force by Cleveland police, voices are being raised in clear expectation that meaningful change can be achieved.

These voices come from within the community and from City Hall, where Mayor Frank Jackson has become increasingly forthright about his determination to negotiate a meaningful and -- from his perspective -- fair consent decree with the Justice Department.

The public's input is equally important, and it is heartening to see the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a collection of faith communities, join the dialogue over police reform. They've made a number of recommendations they would like included in a consent decree.

"We see a chance to seize an opportunity, an opportunity to shape changes within the Cleveland police department," Louise McKinney of the Greater Cleveland Congregations said last month during a gathering at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, where her organization handed over its proposals to Jackson and U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach.

Many of the GCC's suggestions make sense, including a greater push toward bias-freepolicing, more diversity on the police force, improved hiring practices and a commitment from both the Justice Department and the city to help pay for the much-needed reforms.

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/03/momentum_appears_to_be_buildin.html

Fri Mar 6, 2015

GBIO on Boston Marathon Bombing Trial -Huffington Post

In the wake of the April 2013 attack, which killed three and injured nearly 300 others, it quickly became public that Tsarnaev had embraced a radicalized strain of Islam -- sparking a national discussion about homegrown terror that has only intensified since the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

The Muslim American community felt a backlash. Anti-Islamic hate crimes made up13.7 percent of all hate crimes in 2013, compared to 11.6 percent in 2012 -- an increase Pew Research blames in part on the Boston marathon bombing.

The Islamic Society of Boston's mosque in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev and his older brother had reportedly attended services, came under fire in the aftermath of the bombing. Some accused the mosque and its affiliated Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center of fostering extremists, an accusation to which local faith leaders have roundly objected.

"ISBCC has responded to allegations," said Burns Stanfield, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian in Boston and president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. "I'm convinced that the charges are not accurate."

Stanfield has built relationships with a wide array of Boston interfaith leaders over the years, he told HuffPost over the phone. After the bombing in 2013, the leaders quickly fell back on these relationships to address the community's need for healing. GBIO hosted an event in a church basement shortly after the bombing, inviting community members to reflect on the ways in which violence of all types affected their lives.

"At the end we turned to our neighbor and prayed with one another," Stanfield said. "That was really powerful."

Almost a year later, GBIO gathered 250 interfaith advocates at the Cambridge mosque to discuss "restrengthening" the community. When the call to prayer sounded, Stanfiend recalled, Muslims and non-Muslims alike took 10 minutes to pray and reflect in their own ways.

"It was a very moving moment of just being quiet and being in respect with the way our partners lived their life of faith," he said. "It speaks to what we consider to be the longterm work of knowing each other and trusting each other and building relationships."

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/06/boston-marathon-trial-muslims_n_6810942.html

Mon Dec 8, 2014

Policing and the Domestic Arms Race -New York Daily News

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

...Low-income communities of color are faced with a long-standing dilemma. At one extreme, we are underpoliced. You call the police, and they take their time arriving — or don’t show up at all, leaving our communities to fend for themselves.

At the other extreme — the one that has now erupted into view — we are overpoliced. We call the police, and they show up primed for battle, uninterested in distinguishing friend from foe. Case in point: Six armed officers confront an unarmed Eric Garner and can’t manage to arrest him without a take-down that proves fatal.

To be fair, most of our experience with the NYPD happens between these extremes. Many of our congregants’ interactions with NYPD officers are positive. But the extremes persist — in parts of New York and nationwide.

...One huge difference between their daily situations and those of their American counterparts: Cops in the U.S. face heavily armed populations. Unlike in Europe, where gun ownership is restricted and carrying a weapon is virtually unheard of, a police officer in the United States never knows when he or she will encounter a person with a gun who is willing to use it to avoid arrest.

Ask any cop about their greatest fear — better yet, ask any cop’s spouse — and you will hear the same answer: getting shot. European cops have no such fears.

For decades, we’ve had a domestic arms race in the U.S., driving police to equip themselves with greater firepower. We must de-escalate this arms race. It’s why we’ve asked Mayor de Blasio to sign onto our campaign and join 67 other jurisdictions to use their combined purchasing power to promote dramatic change in the gun industry.

 

Fri Nov 21, 2014

Durham CAN on Police Policy -The New York Times

…After having initially rejected protesters’ demands, the city abruptly changed course and agreed to require the police, beginning last month, to obtain written consent to search vehicles in cases where they do not have probable cause. The consent forms, in English and Spanish, tell drivers they do not have to allow the searches.

Durham, home to Duke University, has a rich history of civil rights and social movements, a legacy reflected in the well-organized coalition that pushed for changes. Activists agreed not to call for the resignations of any police or city officials, who could be replaced with more politically savvy executives who might still resist changes. They pressed instead for systemic changes no matter who was in charge. Written consent to search, they said, would reduce disparities and end coercive tactics that the police used to search even in the absence of true, willing consent.

In city hearings and at news conferences, the activists paired abuse allegations with the search data.

“We started with the anecdotes, and then added the scholarship,” said the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton, pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church and one of the leaders of a prominent community group, the Durham Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods. “We didn’t allow the conversation to devolve into one person’s job.”

Pastor Middleton said community groups remained prepared to work with the chief of police, Jose L. Lopez Sr. “But he has to understand who runs the city,” he added. “He sure does now.”

Mon Nov 10, 2014

Actions to Deliver RFIs to Gun Manufacturers Across Country -Associated Press

Metro leaders visit seven gun manufacturers and investors in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia to deliver RFIs to some of America’s largest gunmakers, including Colt Manufacturing and Sturm Ruger in Connecticut and Glock’s U.S. headquarters in Georgia. Press roundup below:
 
New York / New Jersey
CBS New York:
 
Bergen Record:
 
News12 Westchester:
 
Talk of the Sound
 
Connecticut
New Haven Register:
 
Fox CT:
 
NBC Connecticut:
 
Eyewitness News 3 (WFSB):
 
NewsTimes / Connecticut Post:
 
Hartford Courant:
 
National
AP Teaser (example below, published on 20-30 sites across country)
Fri Nov 7, 2014

Orange County Justice United: Tenant Organizing -Chapel Hill News

Orange County Justice United Tenant Organizing, Hillsborough NC
 
Orange County Justice United is organizing alongside a team of low income residents and religious leaders to address the substandard living conditions in Gateway Village, a 64 unit Section 8 development in Hillsborough, NC. 
 
Residents and religious leaders have canvassed every unit in the development and held a series of community meetings to identify 13 top concerns - which include serious issues around health, safety, and inadequate management. 
 
A team of leaders presented resident demands to Gateway Village Regional Manager Debra Iafrate on Tuesday, November 2. In the coming weeks Justice United will bring the owner of the development (Robert Diedrich of Bloomfield Hills, MI) to the table for negotiation. 
 
Wed Oct 29, 2014

Durham CAN Action with Schools, Police -Durham News

 — At a gathering of nearly 500 people this week, Durham CAN members applauded changes in Durham Public Schools and the Durham Police Department that the organization has helped negotiate with officials.

The police will now be required to get written consent before searching vehicles, said Mark-Anthony Middleton, pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church and a member of CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods).

“Durham is now a national model for what it looks like when citizens that are informed, committed and organized get together to do something,” said Middleton, who led a CAN coalition to address race in policing in Durham.

CAN also announced at Tuesday night’s assembly that after meetings with new Durham Public Schools Superintendent Bert L’Homme, the district’s universal breakfast program will be expanded to all schools.

CLICK HERE for more news coverage in the Herald Sun.

CLICK HERE for more news coverage in The Triangle Tribune. 

 

Wed Oct 22, 2014

Common Ground Toughens its Stance on Buck's arena funding -Huffington Post

The savvy grassroots organization, Common Ground, an affiliate of the national Industrial Areas Foundation, is taking on wealthy Wall Street hedge fund owners who want several hundred million dollars of tax money to help pay for a new arena for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, a franchise they recently purchased for $550 million.

Common Ground, much to the dismay of Milwaukee's old guard downtown business leaders, has caught the attention of local and national media by fashioning a modern morality play, casting in sharp relief the choice between private greed and public need. I witnessed a scene from the evolving play in Milwaukee on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, Common Ground toughened its stance. After being ignored by the Bucks' new owners who months ago promised to meet with them, the Common Ground delegates voted to fight against any public funding for a new arena.

In Milwaukee, elected officials have been reticent about opposing the use of public funds for a new basketball arena. Nobody wants to be accused of losing the Bucks if it comes to that. Neither do most elected officials want to be on the wrong side of the wealthy leaders of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. So almost single-handedly, the tenacious Common Ground organization is changing the local conversation by forcing the community to consider that maybe its values and priorities are not the same as the values of a couple of Wall Street hedge fund owners and their local counterparts. Common Ground's leaders know what they're up against, but they're hopeful realists. One might say they're practicing the audacity of hope.

Mon Oct 20, 2014

Common Ground calls for Fair Play with Milwaukee Bucks Arena Funding -New York Times


Then there’s another proposal. Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground — a splendid coalition of churches, community groups, mosques and synagogues — stifled the temptation to shout “No!” to the prospect of funneling precious tax dollars to billionaire owners and millionaire players and coaches.

We like pro hoops, they said. But our children’s playing fields and recreation centers and schools are in dreadful shape. (The Milwaukee school system projects a $32 million funding cut this year). If we’re to invest in an arena, let’s insist on a roughly similar amount for our recreation centers and public school playing fields.

Keisha Krumm, an organizer for Common Ground, offered brutal realism. “They are going to get their arena — I don’t have any doubt about that,” she said. “So let’s get something out of it.” “Our children are twisting their ankles, hurting their knees playing here?” Ingram said. “And they want us to build an arena for the N.B.A. athletes even as they say they can’t afford this?”


When Common Ground released its proposal last month — based on a careful study of recreation centers and fields in the city and surrounding suburbs — the owners told the press they would happily talk with the group. That has not happened. Common Ground members spoke of receiving heated phone calls from Ted Kellner, a prominent business leader and minority owner in the Bucks, wondering why they were complaining. In the schools, a woman spoke of having her contract dropped after officials complained she was working with Common Ground.


Wed Sep 24, 2014

Durham CAN: Affordable Housing -INDY Week

Some people came because they were afraid of being uprooted from their homes. Others were concerned about local businesses being run out of their neighborhoods. Other people said they just loved trains.

Although the first train on the Durham and Orange counties’ light rail system won’t leave its station for another 10 to 15 years, “We’re seeing changes in neighborhoods now,” said Selina Mack, director of Durham Community Land Trustees, a nonprofit that preserves and creates affordable housing. “Now is when the planning is happening. Now is when decisions are being made.”

The meeting involved several community groups—Durham CANDurham Community Land Trusteesand the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit—plus the city planning department the Triangle Transit Authority, which is spearheading the 17-mile, $1.8 billion project.

However, to ensure that the system benefits everyone, not just the wealthy, city and county officials and advocacy groups have to establish a bulwark against high-end development run amok. Earlier this year, City Council and County Commissioners passed a resolution setting a goal that 15 percent of housing within a half-mile of transit stops will be affordable. To reach that goal, some housing will need to be created; other will need to be preserved. 

“It’s very difficult to come up with affordable housing once the high-end development is built,” said Ivan Parra of Durham CAN. “Unless we are the table we will lament the same problems that have occurred in Charlotte.”
 

Thu Aug 28, 2014

GCC in Plain Dealer Op-Ed on Illegal Guns -Plain Dealer

Gun-trace data is essential to unlock the DNA of the epidemic of illegal guns in our cities. There is no better way to stop the illicit trafficking in weapons than to make those who manufacture, buy and sell weapons more accountable and those transactions more transparent. How?

Make it easier to trace guns, via technology (serial numbers that can't be erased, for example) and federal laws mandating that gun-trace data be shared with local jurisdictions and, where it won't compromise an ongoing criminal investigation, with the public.

Was a weapon recovered at the crime scene? What type of weapon? Was a gun trace initiated? Did the trace lead to a source – a gun show, a pawnshop, a federally licensed dealer – or did it dead-end in a home burglary or an off-the-books transaction?

"In order to deal with the crisis of gun violence strategically, we have to know where are the guns coming from," Donna Weinberger wrote in an email. Weinberger, a psychotherapist, is co-chair of the Gun Violence Reduction Team of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a nonpartisan coalition of more than 40 churches, synagogues and faith communities that has targeted illegal gun traffickers.......

Wed Aug 6, 2014

German Gun-Maker on Smart Technology in the Washington Post -The Washington Post

UNTERFÖHRING, Germany — In nearly 30 years at Heckler & Koch, a legendary German gunmaker, Ernst Mauch designed some of the world’s most lethal weapons, including the one that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. A state regulator once called him a “rock star” in the industry.

Now the gun world sees him a different way: as a traitor. The target of their fury is the smart gun Mauch designed at Armatix, a start-up near Munich. The very concept of the weapon has been attacked by U.S. gun rights advocates even as it has helped Mauch resolve a sense of guilt that has haunted him his entire career. 

The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a group pushing manufacturers for better gun safety, recently met with Mauch in Germany and hope to bring him to the United States to persuade police chiefs to buy his company’s guns. The idea: If the technology is good enough for police officers, it should be good enough for consumers. Armatix is developing a 9mm smart gun targeted at the law enforcement market. The company hopes to offer other controls besides a watch, including a version that responds to voices.

“The idea of a smart-gun maker who has lots of experience making guns is intriguing because he’s not just some fly-by-night guy trying to do this,” said Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, a member of the group that met with Mauch. “Law enforcement officials have been quietly saying that if he comes over, they’d be willing to meet with him.”

Tue Jul 15, 2014

Manhattan Together Holds NYCHA Accountable to Promises on Mold -City Limits

 

It’s been six months since two community groups and the New York Housing Authority signed a landmark settlement agreement to address mold and moisture problems in public housing units and three months since a federal judge ordered the new rules into effect. Yet, Blanche Moore’s bathroom inside her eighth-floor apartment at the DeWitt Clinton Houses in East Harlem remains a textbook case for how to grow mold....

Community groups are beginning to spread the word about the mold and moisture settlement. Monique George, the NYC organizing director for Community Voices Heard, a group with a long history of working in public housing, says CVH has done “mold surveys” at five buildings in two public housing developments, and plans to conduct hundreds more.

“We’ve been door knocking,” George says. “Step two will be to actually document the cases.” Manhattan Together, South Bronx Churches, along with Metro IAF’s East Brooklyn Congregations, plan to engage thousands of public housing residents across the city on this issue.

“This (settlement) is a tool for us,” says Michael Stanley, lead organizer for Manhattan Together and South Bronx Churches. “It was always clear to us that this settlement by itself would not be enough … We have to make sure the rules are followed.”

 
Mon Jul 7, 2014

EBC Wins Park Improvements -News 12 Brooklyn

East Brooklyn Congregation winning battle for Bushwick playground improvements: A two-year battle for improved parks in Bushwick is finally starting to pay off. 

Several improvement projects are on the way thanks to residents from the East Brooklyn Congregation, a group of churches and nonprofit organizations, who have been rallying local leaders for better playgrounds.  Residents have spent two years lobbying for better park conditions for kids.

Wed Jul 2, 2014

East Brooklyn Congregations Works to Fix Parks -New York Times

    

In the quest for park equity, many residents in poor neighborhoods have seemed to have little recourse for the sorry state of their cracked basketball courts and out-of-service bathrooms.

But a group in Brooklyn has taken its fight to the streets — and playgrounds — using the kind of tactics more often associated with civil rights protests. In lobbying for capital improvements for two parks, East Brooklyn Congregations, a coalition of churches and nonprofit groups, has organized marches and demanded meetings with elected officials.

Last week, the group held a rally on the steps of City Hall. Adriane Williams, a parishioner at St. Barbara’s Church in Bushwick, exhorted Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose central campaign theme was righting inequality, to address the city’s open spaces.

“Mr. Mayor, you talked about a ‘tale of two cities,’ ” she yelled to the small crowd. “Well, let me tell you about a tale of two parks.” She then compared Central Park with Bushwick’s Heckscher Playground, a one-acre park on Linden Street at Central Avenue, which unfurls in the shadow of a housing project, and asked, “The question is: Are you just the mayor of Central Park or are you going to be the mayor of Heckscher Playground also?”

The group began its campaign for park equity by documenting the problems in a half-dozen parks in Bushwick. In spring 2013, representatives from the group met with Kevin Jeffrey, the parks department’s Brooklyn borough commissioner, and handed him a list of 32 items.

Over the past year and a half, two dozen maintenance problems from the list, including a missing toilet seat, burned-out light bulbs and a broken water fountain, were fixed across the six parks.

The remaining issues, however, were too large to be treated as maintenance issues and required capital money. Now East Brooklyn Congregations is seeking commitments for capital improvements for Heckscher Playground and Green Central Knoll Park, including new turf fields for both and, at Green Central Knoll, lights and a new bathroom.

 

Sat Jun 28, 2014

EQUAL Wins Storm Sewers -Times Ledger

Some southeast Queens residents, especially around St. Albans, Laurelton and Springfield Gardens, get the chills every time thunderstorms are looming. Heavy rain, to them, basically means flooding in their homes, lawns and streets.

E. Thomas Oliver, a Laurelton resident for more than 40 years, basically had to pump water out of his basement “24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Rain was bad news.

Thomas added that when it rained, he like his neighbors had to move their cars to higher ground. “I lost a brand new car to flooding. That time the water was up to the hood of the car,” he said. “Every time it rained, I got water in my basement, and the neighborhood looked like a lake.”

To tackle this chronic problem, the city Department of Environmental Protection started work a few years ago to upgrade the sewer system, a targeted solution designed with the collaboration of Empowered Queens United in Action and Leadership.

Thomas is a leader of the group, and he pointed out that the city agency has initiated “three of the five well-thought strategies that we designed and documented.”

In his case, the floods are finally gone, but not before DEP cleaned catch basins filled with debris.

Now the city agency has begun working on a project to install storm sewers and catch basins at 119th Avenue between 192nd and 195th streets in St. Albans. According to DEP, the infrastructure will cost $1 million and should be completed by this fall.

“We are pleased to collaborate with EQUAL on these important projects that will bring new storm sewers to reduce chronic flooding,” DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.

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