Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Step In the Right Direction . . .

Affordable housing advocates in Long Beach (this would include me) are in a celebratory mood!

Yes, after a little over three years, Long Beach finally passed a Housing Trust Fund. The HTF wasn’t everything I wanted, but politics, you don’t often do. I got enough of what I wanted that I’m happy with the results. To be anything less would be ungrateful. So, needless to say, I had a great week last week. And, to be honest I’m not sure things have entirely sunk in.

Last week the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve the Housing Trust Fund, but with a major amendment to the original proposal. The City Council voted to allocate 50% of the Housing Trust Fund towards extremely-low income housing. This is a 30% increase from the original motion passed in October 2005

The Council voted to adopt the targeting recommended in the original staff proposal – 50/50 – 50% for extremely-low income, and 50% for above-moderate. Last October, the Council stunned and angered Housing Long Beach by voting to allocate 80% of the Housing Trust Fund for above-moderate income housing.

I owe a special thanks to Council Member Tonia Reyes-Uranga for seemingly reviving the staff proposal from the dead. The afternoon prior to the vote, I didn’t think this was a possibility. I also owe a special thanks also to Council Member Bonnie Lowenthal for her support throughout. She had the idea for a Housing Trust Fund in Long Beach. As long as the City Council votes for the ordinance one more time tomorrow night (upon what is known as the second reading), her dream will be fulfilled.

The Housing Trust Fund will have $500,000 allocated from the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel/Motel Tax), and $3,000,000 (in installments) from Boeing's Douglas Park project. On the horizon is a condo-conversion fee that could generate up to $1,000,000 a year.

The City of Long Beach has taken a big step in the right direction by dedicating half of the Housing Trust Funds to our residents who find an affordable place to live, most out of reach. I would like to thank everybody who has been involved in this effort in some way, shape, or form! A special thanks, goes to my friend, Susanne Browne, for her tireless and heroic effort . . .

Kosher Ham

Monday, June 12, 2006

What Would Be Different . . .

I’m often asked, “What would be different if Democrats were in control?”

Well, I could go on for a long time about that, but let me just point out one example here. I believe if Democrats were in charge that the genocide in Darfur would not be happening (to the degree that it is, if at all). I believe the passion, and the vigor that Democrats have shown, support the theory that the United States would have done more this point to stop the atrocities.

As Clarence Lusane states in his editorial, “The US response to Darfur has been one of immoral neglect.” He does note the fact that, “the United States has contributed $188 million to the U.N. World Food Program to help feed the people of Darfur.” Mr. Lusane also notes that, “any peace talks between the Bush administration and Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir's murderous regime have done little to stop the torture, rape and killing of innocent Sudanese people.”

If the Democrats were in charge, I believe they would be doing more. They would be doing the things that Mr. Lusane is calling upon the Bush Administration to do:

  1. Pressure the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjaweed. The Janjaweed have killed between an estimated 200,000 and 400,000 over the last three years, and displaced millions.
  2. Back stronger economic sanctions.
  3. Increase support for the valiant but inadequate efforts of the African Union and support a serious effort to construct an international peacekeeping force that can get the job done.

To show where they stand on this issue, seven Democratic Members of the House of Representatives were arrested at the Embassy of Sudan, while protesting conditions in Dafur. This wasn’t the first time, as the month prior, five other Democrat’s were arrested in front of the embassy. If twelve people are willing to get arrested for something they believe in, then twelve people would be willing to make sure that our country plays a greater role in ending the genocide in Darfur.

Not that we should make this the number one issue, but this is where we should challenge the Bush Administration. Evangelical’s have been urging the President to do more, and while Evangelical’s might not support Democrats in even modest numbers, this would give them another reason to stay home.

Darfur is a weak spot for the Republicans. When we look back, people will ask, why didn’t we do more? Democrat’s should be asking why aren’t doing more now?

Kosher Ham

Friday, June 09, 2006

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez

Speech at Fair Housing Foundation Reception, Long Beach, CA


Thank you for inviting me to participate in today’s event. It is a pleasure to be here with you to celebrate the 38th Anniversary of the Civil Right’s Act of 1968. I want to especially thank the Board of Directors of the Fair Housing Foundation. Your work covers a large chunk of the 39th District and your service helps constituents in many of my cities, including: Paramount and Lynwood. Your service on this board and the work the staff does makes this foundation successful. I thank this foundation for its commitment and dedication to fair housing since 1964. It took a lot of courage to advocate for and build multi-ethnic communities at the time you started your efforts. And as we look to the future, there are new challenges that we face when it comes to realizing the dream of fair housing for all. But first, I would like to reflect a little bit on the topic of today’s celebration.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Although the first series of civil rights acts passed in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 made the promise of housing equality a reality. As you know, the 1968 Act prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap and family status. Back in 1968 these were TRULY radical ideas. Refusing to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his race, color, religion or national origin was completely commonplace. Restrictive covenants even prohibited selling to certain people. In addition, when you advertised the sale or rental housing unit you could indicate your preference based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The provisions contained in The Civil Rights Act of 1968 truly changed history in a very personal way for Americans.

Our lives and family histories are tied up and interconnected to the places we call ‘home’. That’s what makes housing so personal. No matter how far I travel or how much time I spend in Washington, one thing is true for me; Lakewood and California’s 39th District are my home. Every time I turn down my street and see my house, I am thankful that it is my home. I am grateful that I won my own piece of the American Dream. That my family can gather together under my roof. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 ensured that as a Mexican American, I could purchase a home in whatever neighborhood I wanted to. The Act truly turned houses into homes for families across America. It was also the first time the federal government acknowledged its responsibility in giving every American a fair chance at owning a piece of the American Dream.

The 1968 Act was the first time that the government stepped up and provided real solutions to unfair housing practices. The Act gave us the legal tools to protect and ensure fair housing for all. As you know from working in this field, community based organizations, like yours, social service agencies and the government must remain vigilant and dedicated to fighting housing discrimination. Despite decades of civil right activism by your organization, and others, housing discrimination still persists.

Just the other day I was reading the LA Times and came across a very interesting article about housing discrimination. The article talked about how federal housing regulators are fielding more and more complaints about discriminatory ads. Currently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee is taking on the popular Internet site Craig’s List. As you may know, this web site is popular among young people when they look for housing. Yet the fair housing group compiled over 100 discriminatory ads over a 6 month period. According to the article, two of the most egregious ads stated: “No minorities.” And another read: “African-Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won’t work out.” These are some of the most over examples but there are also more subtle forms of discrimination as well.

HUD and Lawyer’s Committee are arguing that the same standards of the fair housing act that we apply to print housing ads should be applied to Internet housing ads. To be fair to Craig’s List they have stated that they are concerned about these discriminatory housing ads. I think this case is a great example of the new challenges we face. New technologies, like the Internet have changed the way people search for housing, but the fair housing laws are still in the process of catching up. Often times, congressional action lags behind advances in technology. As more and more people are migrating to the Internet to find housing classifieds, it is imperative that we meet the new fair housing challenges head on.

Congress must reconcile Internet freedoms with fair housing rights and civil rights, and balance both interests. I know this is an issue that Congress will have to revisit soon. Let me tell you that under the current Republican Administration, I’m a bit afraid to tackle civil rights issues. I am currently working on the Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and I’m afraid we may lose ground where civil rights are concerned. We cannot afford to go backwards, so you have my commitment to fighting for civil rights and fair housing protections in Congress.

And I must conclude by saying, the work you do everyday celebrates the spirit of this civil rights act and inspires me. You are the warriors in the trenches, on the front line, delivering the promises of the American Dream to all families.

Thank you for your work! Again, thank you for inviting me to share this special day with you. Keep up the wonderful work!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Good Results . . .

Some fine people were elected to the Long Beach City Council yesterday. Suja Lowenthal (pictured to the left), and Gerrie Schipske will some much needed perspective to the City Council. Both women are intelligent, and have the best for Long Beach set in their intentions.

I know both women. Suja is graceful, charming, and an excellent speaker. If she keeps playing her cards right, she'll have a long political future. I know I'm gushing a bit here, but I think she serves as a great role model for women.

Same goes for Gerrie Schipske. In the interest of disclosure, I'll let you know that I worked for Gerrie on two occasions. This win has been a long time coming, and I'm sure she'd tell you this win is for everybody that's ever served in the trenches with Gerrie. She's a good woman, and she'll make Long Beach proud.

Kosher Ham

Monday, June 05, 2006

In Case You Were Wondering . . .

In Case You Were Wondering . . .

Mayor: Bob Foster. I seriously hope this guy wins. I’ve given a few reasons over the weeks, so I won’t repeat them again. This is an important you could cast at the local level. With the low turnout, you vote could have a big impact.

Governor: I’m voting for Phil Angelides. I’m willing to play the Democratic dupe one more time, and I’ll 100% behind him as we head towards the November election. But if he tanks it . . . next time I might be willing to vote for the guy who can afford to buyout the Democratic establishment . . . barring he comes along again.

Lieutenant Governor: I got a call from Al Gore telling me to vote for John Garamendi . . . and so it shall be.

Secretary of State: This was a tough one, as I don’t have an impression of either candidate . . . so in the ‘Battle of the Deborah’s” I’ve randomly chosen Deborah Ortiz . . . this is an important office for us to retake after Kevin Shelly tanked it for us.

Controller: Joe Dunn. Dude! He took down Enron!

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer.

Attorney General: No question . . . Jerry Brown.

Insurance Commissioner: John Kraft. Who’s John Kraft? He’s not Cruz Bustamante, who just further goes to show that term limits don’t work . . . these guys just find a way to keep bouncing around. I mean does Cruz Bustamante really want/need to be Insurance Commissioner? Really?

State Board of Equalization (4th District): Judy Chu! Judy Chu! Judy Chu! Always standing with the people without having to be cajoled and prodded. Do not to vote for Jerome Horton under any circumstances . . . his is a political career that needs to end before it does any more damage.

US Senate: Martin Luther Church. I just haven’t been impressed with DiFi. I could start with vote for the Iraq War and go from there . . . but that’s I’ll I need to vote for MLC.

US Representative: I’m not thrilled with Juanita Millender-McDonald, but Peter Mathews is horrible.

State Assembly: Happily, I’ll be voting for Betty Karnette.

Judge (Office 122): Daniel Lowenthal.

Sheriff: Ray Leyva. He called and told me he was the only Democrat running for Sheriff.

Prop 81 & 82: Yes.

Kosher Ham

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Walk The Line . . .

I’m so tired of people sighting Arizona Senator John McCain as the ideal politician. Usually, his moderate conservatism, and his ‘straight talk’ style lead the dinner conversation (though not at my house) as to why he should be the 2008 presidential nominee for the Republican Party. I guess, in America, if you say you are a ‘straight talker’ enough times, the media will eventually eat it up like a piece of candy and repeat the term over and over. So, Mr. McCain is now known as a ‘straight talker’, though there’s much to suggest the only thing straight about John McCain is the pole that the Republican Party shoved up his ass and uses to control him.

This Washington Post editorial, which essentially amounts to a defense of Mr. McCain’s flip-flops, actually does a great job of illustrating those flip-flops for us.

Mr. McCain “accepted a speaking invitation from Jerry Falwell, the polarizing prince of the Christian right.” This is the same man that Mr. McCain once referred to as an ‘agent of intolerance’. I guess when you think you’re the front runner for the Republican nomination all that “agent of intolerance’ stuff goes out the window. Now, Mr. McCain thinks, “the ‘Christian Right’ has a major role to play in the Republican Party.” Remember that.

The Post’s David Ignatius, tells us that, “When he voted to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, despite his own past warnings about the country's fiscal mess, budget balancers attacked him as a hypocrite.” Well, slap my ass and call me Nancy . . . How dare they!

McCain says, "I haven't changed. My record is the same on all issues, which is that of a conservative Republican. Not a liberal Republican, not a moderate Republican.” Conservative Republican . . . Remember that.

You really need to read the editorial, as Mr. Ignatius actually attempts to defend these actions, but before he does, he further opines, that Senator McCain, “has been one of the sharpest critics of the administration's strategy in Iraq, arguing loudly since 2003 that there weren't enough U.S. troops to stabilize the country. He voiced the generals' anger at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld long before they went public with their dissent. But at the same time, McCain has backed President Bush and the basic U.S. mission in Iraq.”

So, at the end of the day, when it all matters, John McCain backed the President, and not the Generals, even though he knew the Generals were in the right. I guess John McCain lacks principle . . . I mean I’m not sure what Mr. Ignatius is trying to say here?

I’ll save you the trouble and tell you that what he’s saying is that to become the President, you have to lie. It doesn’t have to be that way . . . we don’t have to keep voting for flip-floppers like John McCain. Remember that.

Kosher Ham

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Good Man Indeed . . .

I went to a conference last week for an organization that I’m on the Board of Directors for . . . Housing California. Naturally, the conference was on affordable housing. I’m not a big fan of conferences, but this conference was very good (and that has nothing to do with me being on the planning committee).

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing Andy Goodman speak to a general session of the conference. He spoke about the power of story telling, and along the way, told some amazing stories himself. I highly recommend checking out his website, which you can find at www.agoodmanonline.com. Mr. Goodman told illustrated to the audience how simply telling a story can be more powerful than any stats, numbers, or figures. People can relate to stories better than they can relate to stats. Based on my experience, Mr. Goodman speaks the gospel.

Mr. Goodman was the writer and co-producer the ABC-TV show "Dinosaurs". If you don’t remember the show, you’ll be interested to know the series was just released on DVD. If you’re like me, and were a fan of the show, you’ll be interested to know the series was just released on DVD.

Mr. Goodman helps non-profit organizations develop their message and their stories, so they can more effectively communicate with the public. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the resources on Mr. Goodman’s website.

Kosher Ham