Friday, June 26, 2015

Now, it's just marriage

As a friend of mine says, he's not for gay marriage ... just like he's not for gay parking, gay grocery shopping or other things made controversial by a prefix.  We're for marriage. Period.

As I've written so often, the argument here is about a simple question. Are all Americans entitled to get married - a contract of monogamy and devotion for life and extending beyond death (inheritance, notice on public records, etc) or not?  If some Americans are deprived of that right -- a natural right -- what is the state's compelling interest in that deprivation?

There is none, of course, and logic has had its way. And the arc of history bends once more. Now, it's just marriage, as it should be.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Supremes

It seems that Chief Justice John Roberts actually does care about whether or not the Supreme Court considers cases of substance. Lately, it has felt like his court was being used as a bonus bite at the apple for GOP lawsuits that failed in the system. The ACA case prompted Roberts to instruct on the role of the Court. His interpretation is a conservative one: “Our duty, after all, is ‘to construe statutes, not isolated provisions.’”
And thus, health insurance made affordable for millions of Americans will remain so. Unfortunately, this also allows the GOP to continue to demagogue on the topic, crying for the repeal and reform of the law that is saving lives for some and improving its quality for all.
That's right--ALL. When the rise in health care costs and the accountability that comes with the ACA holds down costs, it benefits all Americans. If you're employer provides your coverage, the benefit costs are less, relative to the total cost of employing you. That means more cash is available for that raise you haven't had for years.
The dissent in the King v. Burwell case is what really tells the story. It says that Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito are making up their minds on a political basis, not on the merits of the case or on strict interpretation of the law.  What a shame.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Scar of American Slavery

I have bad knees. Because of this I've had a lot of knee surgery which has led to scars.
Without a doubt, each time my knees were better after the procedure, but one of the surgeries was to remove scar tissue from the previous procedure.
Sometimes in the healing process, the body overcorrects, creating too much scar tissue and that's a problem in itself.
In healing our uniquely American wound from slavery's assault, our scar tissue of political correctness may be obscuring our view of today's real problem: white supremacy, white privilege and the hardwired sense of entitlement that white citizens seem to possess.
In deflecting this, white conservatives project criticisms of entitlement onto the African-American community with talk of a welfare state and laziness. Centuries-old racist arguments demonstrate clearly the lack of intellectual work on the problem. In fact, an outright rejection of there being a problem. So many believe that if they didn't personally enslave anyone, they're not in this problem.
There's no denying that all Caucasian Americans have benefitted from their accident of birth. We're less likely to be incarcerated. We live longer. We live better. And we're simply more free. All because we were born with this skin color.
And that's wrong.
Until and unless Caucasians reject these structures of unfairness in our justice system, our politics, our schools and our hearts, the poison of white supremacy will continue its attack on America's collective body.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Take a Hike

No, seriously, take a hike ... along the Eno in Hillsborough on the newly completed Riverwalk. Read all about it:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Carrboro Honors Music Festival Organizers

Here's my story (and I'm sticking with it) on the Chapel Hill News | News Observer:

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Calling Orange County “Home”

We came to Orange County in the autumn of 1978. Though we lived in Durham for a few years, we moved back to Chapel Hill in the mid-80s and have called it home ever since. We made a choice to live in this community.

This year, I am proud to serve as the 2014 Chair of the Orange County Housing Authority, a relatively new community board appointed by the County Commissioners. We provide citizen oversight of the County’s Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly known as “Section 8.” Just under 600 families in this community are the direct beneficiaries of this rental subsidy, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program brings about $3.5 million into our community every year.

That support is vital for those families, but did you know that you benefit from it too? The effect on you and your family or your business may be indirect, but it’s right in front of you. Keeping housing affordable leads directly to spending money in the Orange County economy.

Because their housing is affordable, voucher holders can spend their limited income in a more diverse, balanced way. They can shop for back-to-school clothes for the kids, go to a concert or eat in a restaurant occasionally and manage the cost of their healthcare.

If participants cannot locate housing that accepts an HCV voucher and they have to leave the program, they may remain in Orange County, they may live in the same apartment.  If they have to spend 50-60% of their income on their rent, it will not be spent in restaurants, in retail shops or entertainment venues. For elderly and disabled citizens, medicines may have to last longer, putting their health at risk.

Disproportionate rent burden for low income families has a negative ripple effect in the local economy – it hurts all of us in lost tax revenues and sales to local businesses.

Who are these people? They are people who work all over the county and serve you directly every day. They are hospital staff, restaurant workers, entrepreneurs, artists, first responders (police, fire and emergency response), bus drivers, home health aides, daycare workers, public school and University support staff.  Our community needs these people in order to thrive and we are losing our capacity to make housing affordable for them.

The Mayors of Carrboro and Chapel Hill have made clear that they are committed to supporting the stability of affordable housing and the awareness of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. We are grateful for their leadership in this effort.

That said, the local governments are limited in what they can do in holding down pricing in the rental housing market. Mayor Kleinschmidt correctly points to state laws that prohibit measures that would be considered “rent control.”  

There is direct action available to all of us. If you own a property that you’d like to make available to rent, you may be eligible to do so through the Housing Choice Voucher Program. We need more participation from local landlords, providing a strong portfolio of choices for voucher holders. We need local government incentives and new ideas. Speak up. Demand solutions to this long term problem.

We will be announcing information sessions (sponsored by the housing authority) for prospective landlords sometime in September. Meanwhile, keep your mind and your heart open to the knock on the door that comes from a voucher holder looking for a place for his or her family to live. These families choose to live here. They work here, spend their money here and they vote here. We depend on them for many vital services and they’re counting on us to keep Orange County an affordable place to call home.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Power Politics

A few days of no electricity restores the ability to think in complete sentences ... dare I suggest - even paragraphs?
My street - a mile-long cut-in near Camp New Hope- suffered a downed power line across the road. Very dangerous. Not only was the line down, the pole from whence it came was jutting out at about 45 degrees, as though it wanted to fall but lacked the nerve. It was falling not from ice, but from mud. The ground it sits on just off the road and up a few feet in elevation was giving way. Nerve wracking to drive under and scary to imagine it coming down. From Friday morning until yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, we watched and waited. Though Piedmont trucks were often nearby, we didn't see them in the neighborhood until yesterday afternoon. Not even to evaluate. No cones - nothing.
A couple of our neighbors (I don't know who, but they SHOULDN'T HAVE) freed the lines somewhat by cutting away trees that were laying on them. With the nice weather on Saturday and Sunday, we were outside here and their and encountering many of our neighbors, comparing notes.
Indeed, we had ALL called Piedmont Electric and reported the downed lines. I posted pictures on WTVD's website and then linked to that via Piedmont's Facebook page --- expressing my unhappiness. I can understand that we have to wait out turn and, compared to post-Fran, these were NOT the worst of times. What bothered me was Piedmont's lack of information systems both for managing incoming reports of outages and for updating the public on status. Their "outage viewer" online is a piece of crap on a smart phone - which is all many of us have (with gratitude) for getting information. I called at least twice and it seemed each time that the person I spoke to had no idea there was a pole about to fall onto the street.
And, of course, I saw no sign of good old Governor McNugget during any of this storm. Perhaps he was working on the coal ash problem, but I thought that even if I saw him on TV or heard him on the radio, what would he say that would help me in any way? Nothing. He, like Piedmont Electric at this point, doesn't have much credibility with many of us. That's an enormous problem during an emergency. I need to feel confident that my governor is on top of things on a simple human level -- looking out for us, whether we voted for him or not. Perhaps I'm sentimental, but that's the standard I look to and nearly never like what I see.