Newswire: Studies indicate reparations must include costs of predatory lending

New University Studies Track High Costs of Discriminatory Housing

By Charlene Crowell

Charts showing impact of housing discrimination

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In recent years, the spate of homicides linked to questionable uses of deadly weapons and/or force, have prompted many activist organizations to call for racial reparations. From Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida, to Michael Brown’s in Missouri, Eric Garner’s in New York and many other deaths — a chorus of calls for reparations has mounted, even attracting interest among presidential candidates.

While no amount of money could ever compensate for the loss of Black lives to violent deaths, a growing body of research is delving into the underlying causes for high poverty, low academic performance and — lost wealth. Public policy institutes as well as university-based research from the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University are connecting America’s racial wealth gap to remaining discriminatory policies and predatory lending.

This unfortunate combination has plagued Black America over multiple decades. And a large part of that financial exploitation is due to more than 70 years of documented discriminatory housing.

The Road Not Taken: Housing and Criminal Justice 50 Years After the Kerner Commission Report, returns to the findings of the now-famous report commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson. In the summer of 1967, over 150 race-related riots occurred. After reviewing the 1968 report’s recommendations and comparing them to how few were ever enacted, the Haas Institute tracks the consequences of recommendations that were either ignored, diluted, or in a few cases pursued. Published by Berkeley’s Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Communities, it weaves connections between education, housing, criminal justice – or the lack thereof.

“Although in some respects racial equality has improved in the intervening years,” states the report, “in other respects today’s Black citizens remain sharply disadvantaged in the criminal justice system, as well as in neighborhood resources, employment, and education, in ways that seem barely distinguishable from those of 1968.”

In 1968, the Kerner Commission report found that in cities where riots occurred, nearly 40% of non-white residents lived in housing that was substandard, sometimes without full plumbing. Further, because Black families were not allowed to live wherever they could afford, financial exploitation occurred whether families were renting or buying a home.

As many banks and insurance companies redlined Black neighborhoods, access to federally-insured mortgages were extremely limited. At the same time, few banks loaned mortgages to Blacks either.This lack of access to credit created a ripe market for investors to sell or rent properties to Black families, usually in need of multiple needed repairs. Even so, the costs of these homes came at highly inflated prices.

In nearly all instances, home sales purchased “on contract” came with high down payments and higher interest rates than those in the general market. The result for many of these families was an eventual inability to make both the repairs and the high monthly cost of the contract. One late or missed payment led to evictions that again further drained dollars from consumers due to a lack of home equity. For the absentee owner, however, the property was free to sell again, as another round of predatory lending. As the exploitive costs continued, the only difference in a subsequent sale would be a home in even worse physical condition.

The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago: New Findings on the Lasting Toll of Predatory Housing Contracts, also published this May, substantiates recent calls for reparations, as it focuses on predatory housing contracts in Illinois’ largest city. Published by Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, this report analyzed over 50,000 documents of contract home sales on the Windy City’s South and West Sides and found disturbing costs of discriminatory housing in one of the nation’s largest cities, as well as one of the largest Black population centers in the nation. Among its key findings:

During the 1950s and 1960s, 75-95% of Black families bought homes on contract;

These families paid an average contract price that was 84% more than the homes were worth;

Consumers purchasing these homes paid an additional $587 each month above the home’s fair market value;

Lost Black Chicago wealth, due to this predatory lending ranged between $3.2-$4 billion.

“The curse of contract sales still reverberates through Chicago’s Black neighborhoods (and their urban counterparts nationwide,” states the Duke report, “and helps explain the vast wealth divide between Blacks and Whites.”

Now fast forward to the additional $2.2 trillion of lost wealth associated with the spillover costs from the foreclosure crisis of 2007-2012. During these years, 12.5 million homes went into foreclosure. Black consumers were often targeted for high-cost, unsustainable mortgages even when they qualified for cheaper ones. With mortgage characteristics like prepayment penalties and low teaser interest rates that later ballooned to frequent and eventually unaffordable adjustable interest rates, a second and even worse housing financial exploitation occurred.

A 2013 policy brief by the Center for Responsible Lending, found that consumers of color – mostly Black and Latinx – lost half of that figure, $1.1 trillion in home equity during the foreclosure crisis. These monies include households who managed to keep their homes but lost value due to nearby foreclosures. Households who lost their homes to foreclosures also suffered from plummeting credit scores that made future credit more costly. And families who managed to hold on to their homes lost equity and became upside down on their mortgages – owing more than the property is worth. Both types of experiences were widespread in neighborhoods of color.

In terms of lost household wealth, nationally foreclosures took $23,150. But for families of color, the household loss was nearly double — $40,297.

CRL’s policy brief also states. “We do not include in our estimate the total loss in home equity that has resulted from the crisis (estimated at $7 trillion), the negative impact on local governments (in the form of lost tax revenue and increased costs of managing vacant and abandoned properties) or the non-financial spillover costs, such as increased crime, reduced school performance and neighborhood blight.”

As reparation proposals are discussed and debated, the sum of these financial tolls should rightly be a key part. While the Kerner Commission recommendations remain viable even in 2019, it will take an enormous display of public will for them to be embraced and put into action.

“The Kerner Report was the ‘road not taken’, but the road is still there,” noted john a. powell, the Hass Institute’s Director.

Charlene Crowell is the Communications Deputy Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached atcharlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

ANSC Spring Convention features workshops on voting issues

The Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) Spring Convention featured workshops on a variety of voting issues.
This was in keeping with the convention theme that Every Issue Is A Voting Issue.
In the morning, prior to lunch, there were three workshops. The first was on Education with Dr. Daniel Boyd, State Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and former Lowndes County Superintendent of Education and Dr. Carol P. Zippert, Greene County School Board member and Chair of the Greene County ANSC Chapter.
Dr. Zippert mentioned her concerns with the recently passed Alabama Literacy Act, which requires that third graders not reading on a third grade level, not be promoted to the next grade, but held back until their reading meets the proper standard. Dr. Zippert expressed concerns about whether the state would provide resources for reading tutors, coaches and other support necessary for third graders to meet these goals.
Dr. Boyd commented on his work at the State Department of Education, saying, “Education is based on three pillars – the school, the home and the community – all three are important to the full development of the child. In some cases the schools will have to supplement what the parents can do and motivate the community to do more for the education of our young people.”
The second workshop was on Medicare Expansion and its critical impact on health care for people, hospitals, especially small rural hospitals and the general welfare and economic development of the state. John Zippert, who is the current ANSC President and Chair of the Greene County Health System reflected on the importance of expanding Medicaid to provide insurance coverage for 300,000 working poor Alabamians who currently lack health care insurance coverage.
Presdelane Harris, Organizing Director for Alabama Arise pointed out that despite claims by Governor Ivey and legislative leaders that funds were unavailable for Medicaid expansion, there was a source to fund Medicaid Expansion, prison reform and taking the sales tax off groceries. This would require Alabama, which is one of a small number of states that allows the deduction of Federal taxes paid from State income taxes, to end this deduction, which mostly benefits the richest taxpayers.
Harris said closing this tax loophole would generate over $700 million a year in new revenues for the state of Alabama, which would pay for Medicaid Expansion ($168 million first year, decreasing thereafter), prison reform and allow for taking the state sales tax off groceries.
Martha Morgan reported on the work of ANSC, SOS, Poor Peoples Campaign and other organizations rallying each week at the Legislature to urge the adoption of Medicaid Expansion. Zippert suggested that ANSC chapters and other groups may need to meet with their state legislative delegations to educate them and advocate with them on eliminating this regressive tax deduction to allow for progressive changes.
The third workshop was on voting rights. The presenters included Faya Rose Toure of Selma, Robert Avery of Gadsden and Jessica Barker of Huntsville. They spoke on a variety of concerns to register, educate and prepare voters for the 2020 elections, the Presidential Primary on March 3 and the general election on November 3, 2020. The group is planning a “Freedom Ride to Revive Section 5 of the VRA” from August 3 to 7, 2019 to push for restoration of the Voting Rights Act and ending voter suppression tactics across the nation.
At the luncheon in place of a guest speaker, twenty ANSC members spoke, each for a minute, about the voting issue that most concerned them. These issues included: gerrymandering, police misconduct, climate change, voter apathy, substance abuse, waste water treatment, involvement of young people and many others. This was a very spirited discussion.
After lunch, ANSC members held Congressional District meetings to elect members to the ANSC Board and to discuss local priorities.

Newswire : Ava DuVernay’s Central Park Five Documentary debuts on Netflix

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent@StacyBrownMedia

Scene from ‘Central Park Five’


The morning after Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix miniseries about the Central Park Five, “When They See Us,” premiered at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, she was in a daze. “I don’t drink, and I don’t do any other kinds of substances,” she told Rolling Stone, “but I think I have a hangover.”
She had the headache, but also the hazy memory of the community she’d felt the previous night, screening her labor of love in the neighborhood that raised the five teenagers wrongfully convicted of brutally raping jogger Trisha Meili on April 19, 1989.
It was a whirlwind of fellowship that involved “a lot of smiles, hugs, and a lot of tears,” DuVernay said.
“When They See Us,” debuts on Netflix on Friday, May 31.
The true and gripping tale of five boys of color between the ages of 14 and 16 who were forced to falsely confess to the rape of a white woman in New York’s Central Park, has received critical acclaim with reviewers noting that it’s “impassioned,” and “moving.”
One critic said it’s “must-see TV.”
We already have a category of movies that we expect to artfully, if painfully edify – think of 12 Years a Slave, or Schindler’s List – but we’re not acculturated to it on television, said Willa Paskin of Slate Magazine.
On April 19, 1989, the lives of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise changed forever.
News media described them as “a wolf pack,” and “animals,” and then-citizen Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in four New York City area newspapers attacking the youth and calling for the return of the death penalty.
Decades after they’d been exonerated, Trump still has refused to rescind his damning words against the men and he even denounced a multi-million civil settlement reached between New York City and the five men.
“Trump was the fire starter,” Salaam said. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.”
The police-coerced confessions were the only evidence against them, but racism made the boys convenient scapegoats and metaphors for all that had gone wrong in a stratified, corrupt, crime-ridden, rape-infested, and fearful New York City, according to Slate.
DuVernay, who took on the project after Santana suggested it to her via tweet, wants to dramatize what the criminal justice system and New York City stole from these innocent teenagers.
The series begins on the day of the rape. Antron (Caleel Harris and, as an adult, Jovan Adepo), Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez and Freddy Miyares), Kevin (Asante Blackk and Justin Cunningham) , Yusef (Ethan Herisse and Chris Chalk), and Korey (Jharrel Jerome) are going about their regular lives: talking about the Yankees with a father and dreaming of becoming a shortstop; kissing a girlfriend; lugging an instrument around after school.
Though they don’t know each other particularly well, they all wind up in a group of about 25 boys who head into the park that night, where some goof around, while others harass bikers or a homeless guy.
The police descend, arresting a handful of them, but the cops don’t consider any of them suspects in anything particularly serious.
That changes after the rape victim is discovered in the early hours of the morning and Assistant District Attorney Linda Fairstein decides the boys’ presence in the park that night can’t be a coincidence.
Despite there being no physical evidence that the boys were involved, the police set out to make the facts fit the theory of the case. They start trying to get confessions and names, which they use to pick up additional suspects.
Korey Wise, whose name is not on the police’s list, goes down to the precinct with Yusef just to be a good friend. He won’t leave police custody for more than a decade.
For his act of kindness, he will spend years at Rikers Island awaiting trial and then 13 years in an adult prison, the only one of the five who was 16 and so sentenced as an adult.
When Rolling Stone noted that this story had never been told from the perspective of the five men, DuVernay said she started just speaking with the men first.
“That was my first way in. And from there I folded in all of the court transcripts, different records and files that we were able to get a hold of through public means or private transfer,” DuVernay said.
“We then read every single stitch of press coverage to really get an understanding of the ways in which this was being reported, to understand the propaganda around this case. You know, there was a study done that 89 percent of the articles that were written at the time, by the New York papers, didn’t even use the word ‘alleged,’” DuVernay said.
She continued:
“I also talked with academics to get underneath the state of New York City at the time. What were the political motivations?
“But it always came back to the men and then their families. Over a four-year period, it was just exhaustive. Interviews, but sometimes just spending time. Lunches, dinners, just getting to know them. Sometimes it’s the little things more than just the core stories.”

Bingo entities provide $373,380 to county recipients for April

Shown above Boligee City Councilwoman Ernestine Wade, Greene County School Board CSFO Lavanda Blair, Chief of Police Derick Coleman representing the City of Eutaw, Rhonda French representing Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Mayor of Union James Gaines, Greene County Heath System JoAnn Cameron, Forkland Clerk Lynette Woods and Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd

On Friday, May 24, 2019, prior to distributing the bingo receipts for the designated county entities, Sheriff Jonathan Benison held a short press conference stating that the citizens of Greene County voted for Amendment 743 and that’s the law he will stand by. “The late Thomas E. Gilmore instilled in me to provide for and protect my officers and the citizens of Greene County,” he stated.
The Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $373,380 for the month of April, 2019 from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $72,050 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,050
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

Eutaw City Council postpones decision on new fire truck

Police Chief Derrick Coleman with
new officer William Walker

The Eutaw City Council postponed action at the Tuesday May 28 regular meeting on applying for CDBG funding to purchase a new fire truck for the city.
The acquisition of a new fire truck has been the subject of the past two meetings of the City Council. Fire Chief Benny Abrams, who also represents District 5 on the City Council, said that the city had only one fully functional fire engine and was in need of another.
At the May 14 City Council meeting, the Mayor proposed applying to ADECA for $350,000 of competitive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to purchase a new fire truck. At the work session on May 21, Cory Johnson, with West Alabama Planning and Development Commission (WAPDC) explained that ADECA had several funds and that the most appropriate one was the ADECA Enhancement Fund that provides funding for up to $250,000 specifically for fire trucks.The City would have to provide matching funds for the remaining cost of the fire truck, above $250,000, and some administrative fees ($20,000) for WAPDC. Some of the Council members voiced their continuing concern with approving projects that require matching funds, without a city financial report and budget, which would help them to determine if they could afford major capital expenses.
The Eutaw City Council postponed action on approving the grant request for the fire truck at the request of Benny Abrams. No explanations of the reasons for the postponement were given in the meeting. After the meeting, Mayor Steele said, “Chief Abrams was concerned about the significant reduction in the available grant funds and the need to explore other funding sources as well.”
The Council approved spending $4,250 for a digital SCADA Control and Acquisition System for the Well No. 3 and the landfill water tanks. This system will allow the tanks to communicate and report problems with the water system to the operators to detect leaks in the system and save money in the operation of the system. Stone and Sons Electrical Contractors will be doing the installation work. Eventually the system will need to be expanded to all water tanks in the city system.
The Council approved a salary of $500 a month for Attorney Joshua Swords to serve as City Judge.
The City Council discussed seeking bids to repair roads in King Village. Mayor Steele said he did not agree with a major repaving of the roads in King Village since they were not as damaged as the roads in Branch Heights. The Mayor suggested patching the roads in King Village at this time. This led to a larger discussion of the funds used to pave roads in Branch Heights and how this related to the Sheriff setting aside bingo funds for paving Branch Heights roads. The Council agreed to suspend paving of King Village until a meeting could be scheduled with the Sheriff to discuss the earmarked bingo funds.
There was a discussion of authorized signatures on Certificates of Deposit and a Safety Deposit Box for the city. The Council has already moved to remove the Mayor as a signatory on most city accounts. Mayor Steele said this action was “unprecedented and hampered his ability to do the day-to-day business of the city. The Council said they had to take action to prevent the Mayor from making decisions that involved spending money without the Council’s approval and support. There was a tie vote and no action was taken.
On another controversial issue which separates the Mayor and the council, on a 4 to 1 vote, the council approved publication of an ordinance that deals with declaring the shed at the National Guard Armory surplus and vacant so it can be rented to other interested parties. The Mayor says the shed is in use for storing city materials, including Christmas lights and other supplies.
The Council approved travel for the Chief of Police and Assistant Chief to attend the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police Summer Conference in Orange Beach.
Police Chief Derrick Coleman introduced new police officer, William Walker of Northport, who will be attending the State Police Academy in August and joining the Eutaw city police force.

Rev. William Barber says Alabama abortion ban is hypocrisy in claiming to be pro-life while disregarding the lives of poor people

Rev. William Barber, Co-Director of the Poor People’s Campaign joined the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy at its weekly Tuesday rally on the steps of the Alabama State House to urge Governor Kaye Ivey and the Alabama Legislature to support Medicaid Expansion, under the Affordable Care Act, for working poor people in the state.“I have come here today as a bishop of the church to expose the distorted moral narrative of the Governor and the Alabama State Legislature in claiming they are pro-life in adopting a mean spirited ban on all abortions, with no exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother. They are forcing women in Alabama back to back alleys to seek reproductive health care services,” said Rev. Barber.
“ A number of states including, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio and Missouri are adopting these total abortion bans while at the same time having the highest rates of infant mortality, maternal death rates, food stamp utilization and failing to expand Medicare Expansion,” said Barber.
Rev. Barber indicated, “It is the height of hypocrisy for the Alabama Governor and the Legislature to say they are pro-life when 948,000 people in the state make under $15 hour. These are the very mothers who cannot get health care insurance coverage because the state has not extended Medicaid to the working poor. To be more concerned about the unborn, than with people after they are born, makes little sense.”
A grandmother from Birmingham, who had reunited her five grandchildren from foster homes, testified that she was working two jobs and still could not qualify for health insurance coverage because her income was still too low. She also indicated that she was struggling to keep her food stamps and other government support.
John Zippert, Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System testified, “Our small rural 20 bed hospital is seriously challenged with providing $100,000 a month in uncompensated care to people who would have some health insurance to pay for their care if the State of Alabama expanded Medicaid. Our hospital, like most of those in the state, is operating with a financial deficit. We cannot continue operating this way very much longer.”
Sandy Fox, Southeast Regional Director for Planned Parenthood said, “My organization plans to sue the State of Alabama to prevent this abortion ban from going into effect.
We are continuing to offer reproductive health services to women in Alabama as we have since 1930. Black women in the South have a rate of cervical cancer six times higher than whites, and the Legislature and the Governor are trying to cut and stop health care services for poor women.
Zippert also said, “The SOS has developed a Citizens Arrest Warrant for Governor Kay Ivey. We want to arrest her for the crime of failing to expand Medicaid, which has lead to 500+ people a year dying unnecessarily without heath care; signing the draconian abortion ban, which hurts women; failing to act on prison reform and criminal justice; and continuing to suppress the votes of African-American, Latino and other voters.”
Rev. Barber pointed out that there was a statute in front of the Alabama State Capitol of Dr. Marion Sims, a medical doctor who practiced surgery on Black women during slavery without anesthesia to learn new gynecological procedures and that the Alabama abortion ban was following his brutal and misguided legacy.
“The most dangerous thing about the pro-life people is that they anchor these beliefs in their religious faith. But Jesus says nothing in the Bible about abortion but he does say a lot about treating the poor well and as you would want to be treated,” said Rev. Barber.

SOS continues campaign for Medicaid Expansion linking the campaign to other critical issues in Alabama 

 

The Save Ourselves (SOS) Coalition for Justice and Democracy continued its campaign for Medicaid Expansion with a rally today (May 21, 2019) at Noon on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama.
  John Zippert, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee declared, “ We came to the steps of the Alabama State House last Tuesday and said we would be back each Tuesday that the Alabama Legislature is in session until the Governor and the State Legislature approves Medicaid Expansion. We also agreed to link this critical health care issue to other important issues facing the people of Alabama, such as the fight to defeat Alabama’s new draconian law against women’s right to an abortion, inaction on prison reform and the suppression of voting rights.”
  “SOS brought a “Citizens Arrest Petition for Governor Kay Ivey” to the Capitol steps and we attempted to serve it on her at the end of the rally, “ said Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee. 
  The Citizens arrest writ simply says that the people of Alabama condemn the actions of Governor Ivey in failing to Expand Medicaid, to save the lives of 500 or more Alabamians each year; in signing the bill making it a crime for women to have an abortion in Alabama, which will result in hundreds of additional deaths; and the failure to enact prison reforms, required by a government report of atrocities in Alabama’s prison system.Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will provide health care coverage to 300,000 low-income working people in the State of Alabama. These people are caught in a payment gap where they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid ($4,600/year) and too little to qualify for subsidized health insurance on the ACA health insurance marketplace. The Federal government will be responsible for 90% of the cost of this health care with Alabama paying 10%.
  Beyond the moral issue of failing to provide health care for all of its citizens, Alabama has lost more than $10 billion by not expanding Medicaid over the past decade that it was available. The state has also lost 30,000 good jobs in the medical field by not expanding Medicaid. The tax revenues from these new taxpayers would help to pay the 10% burden on the state of Alabama. The economic development impacts of expanding Medicaid would be shared in every county of the state.
 Expanding Medicaid would help our financially troubled hospitals in Alabama, especially those in rural economically depressed areas, by providing a payer source for the working poor who need medical care the most.  
  Faya Rose Toure, SOS Steering Committee member said,
“SOS must join forces with other groups Alabama to fight for justice. The recently passed legislation, which Governor Ivey signed without hesitation, would criminalize abortion in the state. This will make it harder especially for younger poor women, Black and white, to have access to abortion. This law must be challenged and reversed. Why would you consider life so scared for the unborn and then deny life-saving healthcare to those same children and their parents for the rest of their lives.
 “ We invite women who feel that their health care during pregnancy and beyond is being challenged by the Legislature and Governor Ivey to join with SOS in fighting for Medicaid Expansion and against draconian abortion restrictions, which do not include exceptions for rape and incest,” said Faya Rose Toure.
 Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, the SOS Justice Committee Co-Chair points out that the state’s failure to act on prison reform is linked to Medicaid Expansion. “The Legislature and Gov. Ivey have not acted on the Department of Justice report on devastating conditions in Alabama prisons, including the lack of medical care and services for the incarcerated. We must join together to fight for Medicaid Expansion, criminal justice reform, and abortion rights.”
“We will be back next Tuesday, May 28, 2019 to continue to push for Medicaid Expansion, “ said Johnny Ford.
  SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy is a coalition of forty social justice organizations in the state who are working to improve conditions for poor and people of color in the State of Alabama.
 For more information contact: Shelley Fearson – SOS Office – 334/262-0932.

State House Committee holds hearing on bill to change Amendment 743 for bingo in Greene County

News Analysis
by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Twenty persons, mostly from Greene County, testified at Tuesday’s hearing before the Alabama House Committee on Economic and Tourism Development in Montgomery. The hearing room was packed with Mayors, County Commissioners and community leaders from Greene County.
The hearing was chaired by Representative Becky Nordgren of Calhoun County, north of Anniston. About half of the seats for the committee were filled.
The public hearing was to get input from people concerning SB321, proposed by Senator Bobby Singleton, and HB545, proposed by Rep. A. J. McCampbell, which would repeal Greene County’s current Constitutional Amendment 743 and replace it with a new system to regulate and administer gaming in Greene County. These bills would substitute a five member racing commission, named by the Legislative Delegation, for the Sheriff who currently regulates bingo in Greene County.
These bills would also change electronic bingo from charitable sponsors to allow any entity, including for-profit businesses, to qualify to be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County. The bill would establish a tax based on the gaming gross revenues as a means of supporting municipalities, government agencies, education, the hospital and other agencies currently receiving distributions from electronic bingo in Greene County. There would be a 2% tax to the State of Alabama and a 10% tax to the Greene County Gaming Commission and a formula for the distribution of those funds.
The legislation does not indicate how many bingo licenses could be issued by the new Greene County Gaming Commission and no guarantee that the current license holders would receive priority or automatic consideration for renewal under these bills. There is an unstated belief that this entire effort to rewrite the Greene County gaming Constitutional Amendment is designed to allow for only one license to be issued by the new commission to Greenetrack, which was the situation prior to the election of Sheriff Joe Benison in 2010. One positive result of adopting these changes would be to create more transparency about the ownership of the bingo licenses granted in Greene County and the gross amount of money coming through electronic bingo in Greene County. The tax provisions of the new bills would reveal the gross revenues generated by gaming in the county. We currently do not know the actual and accurate amount of funds generated in Greene County by electronic bingo.
The publishers of the Greene County Democrat have been interested in publishing this information for the public since the onset of bingo in the county. We have been denied this information as being proprietary (a private secret) of bingo operators. In the materials issued on both sides of the debate on these bills, the estimated gross gaming revenues have been cited as between $30 and $99 million annually.
Speakers at Hearing
At the hearing four speakers spoke in favor of passing the SB321 and HB545 including Representative A. J. McCampbell,
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack, Beverly Gordon of Greenetrack and former Probate Judge Julia Spree.
Rep. McCampbell said that his bill, HB545, would provide more “permanency for bingo in Greene County and better define electronic bingo under the laws of Alabama. It also provides for a five member gaming commission which would be better than one person making all the decisions.”
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack spent most of his remarks questioning a postcard that was sent to Greene County residents opposing the bills. Winn said the Sheriff was not truthful about the funds from bingo and said based on marketing studies he had reviewed that $62 million would be available and all of the current recipients of funds would receive the same or more funds.
Beverly Gordon echoed these remarks and said, “We are trying to help Greene County not hurt Greene County. We are not against the Sheriff but we are trying to help him do his job better. Former Judge Spree said having a five-member commission would be more efficient, offer more transparency about revenue generation and allow the Sheriff to devote full time to law enforcement and not divide his time as the bingo regulator.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee, a local businessman and former Commissioner, questioned, “whether SB321 or HB545 were ever local bills since they have never been discussed at public meetings or were run in the newspaper, before they were introduced in Montgomery. While I do not see eye to eye with Sheriff Benison on every issue, he was elected three times overwhelmingly by the people of Greene County to operate bingo in the county among his many duties.”
Mayors and council members from various Greene County communities spoke on the benefits of Constitutional Amendment 743 to their municipalities and were opposed to making any changes. Mayor Charlie McCalpine of Forkland said,
“This is not a local bill, it seems to be a private bill. We have enjoyed the benefits of 743 and done many things for the people in our community.”
Mayor James Gaines of Union said until the Sheriff instituted new rules the Town of Union was not getting funding from bingo on a regular basis but since the changes the city has had matching funds for a storm shelter and a housing rehab program for senior citizens. “ We know what we have but we don’t know what we are going to get with these new bills,” said the Mayor.
Sharon Washington, speaking for the Town of Boligee said, “We opposes these bills because they were not discussed in Greene County before they were introduced in Montgomery.”
County Commissioner Cockrell, who is connected with one of the charities at Rivers Edge Bingo, said “These bills will cripple Greene County Commission and the municipalities because it does not guarantee Bingo the same amount of funds as Amendment 743. Why fix something that is not broken.”
County Commissioner Turner, who is also, connected to Rivers Edge Bingo, said, “The County Commission has earmarked funds from bingo for infrastructure and we have given scholarships in my District. We oppose these bills because we do not know how this will turn out.”
Sandra Walker of Greene County said, “We support the Sheriff. We voted for him and elected him to oversee bingo. We do not know who will be appointed to this new gaming commission, so we do not support these bills.”
John Zippert, speaking as Chair of the Hospital Board, said that he is concerned about the impact of the two bills. “We could support these bills if they were amended to provide more protection for electronic bingo in Greene County, if the current bingo licensees were ‘grand-farther –in’ and protected to continue and if there were provisions to guarantee that the current beneficiaries of bingo received the same or greater payments, under these bills.”
Former Governor Jim Folsom said he was concerned about the impact of these bills on Greene County’s finances. In his remarks, he said, “None of the Legislators who represent Greene County and would pick the new gaming commission actually live in Greene County. The potential that for profit entities could be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County is a major change that has statewide implications. You might want to leave the existing charitable agencies operating bingo in place.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, Rep. Nordgren said, “We will not vote on this today. We also need to see how other related legislation on the statewide lottery and bingo in Macon County work out before we make a decision on these bills.”

Newswire: Germany agrees to return ancient stone cross taken from Namibia

Namibia Stone Cross

May 20, 2019 (GIN) – The German Historical Museum in Berlin has announced the return to Namibia of a 15th century artifact known as the Stone Cross of Cape Cross. Namibia has demanded the object’s return since June 2017.

Germany’s State Secretary for Culture and Media, Monika Grьtters, admitted that dealing with the country’s colonial legacy in Namibia had been a “blind spot” for Germany for too long.

The restitution, planned for August, was sparked in part by a 2018 symposium the museum held on the history of the object.

The 11 foot, 1.1 ton cross had been placed on Namibia’s coast by Portuguese explorers in 1486 and was seen as a symbol of the country’s colonial past.

It came into Germany’s possession in 1893, when a sailor discovered it and ordered it removed and returned with it to Germany.

The object was presented to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who used it to serve his propaganda purposes regarding the empire’s naval superiority. The Kaiser also ordered a new cross, emblazoned this time with the German imperial eagle and a German inscription, to replace the original.

The object entered the collection of East Germany’s Museum of German History in 1953, and then the German Historical Museum after reunification. It has been part of the museum’s permanent exhibition since 2006.

The museum acknowledged the “outstanding significance which an artifact like this pillar has to the people of Namibia and the special contribution it can make on site in the future to understanding Namibia’s history.”

The artifact was originally erected by explorer Diogo Cao in 1486 on the coastline of present-day Namibia to signify Portuguese territorial claims, as well as serve as a navigational marker.

Namibia, which was previously known as German South-West Africa, was a German colony from 1884 to 1915.

Germany has been slow to fully acknowledge the darkest chapters of its colonial past, but has recently made steps in that direction. Though the German government announced a planned apology for the genocide of tens of thousands of Herero and Nama men, women, and children between 1904 and 1908, it has refused to pay reparations, pointing to the millions that it has given Namibia in development aid over the years.

Newswire: Obamas go Hollywood, set to launch films with Netflix

Michelle and Barack Obama

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

When Former President Barack Obama occupied the White House, it wasn’t uncommon to see a myriad of celebrities meeting with the Commander in Chief and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Some even called Washington, D.C., “Hollywood East,” because of the popularity of the Obamas even among superstars.
Now, one year after launching their production company, “Higher Ground Productions,” the Obamas have officially gone Hollywood.
The former president and First Lady have announced seven projects that are scheduled to be developed and released in the years to come.
The projects include “American Factory,” a documentary from this year’s Sundance Film Festival that examines the clash of cultures in Ohio when a Chinese billionaire sets up a new factory in the old General Motors plant and hires some 2,000 blue-collar Americans.
The film was acquired by Higher Ground Productions in partnership with Netflix, where the Obamas have a content deal.
“Crip Camp” is also a documentary acquired by Higher Ground and Netflix, currently in production with support from the Sundance Institute, according to Entertainment Weekly which reported that the film will follow a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers in the early 1970s that helped set in motion the disability rights movement in America.
“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said in a statement from Higher Ground.
“Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”
Michelle Obama added: “We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives.”
According to Entertainment Weekly, other projects include a non-fiction series based on Michael Lewis’ best-selling book “Fifth Risk,”a damning examination of the Trump administration’s impacton America’s key government agencies; “Bloom,” a period drama exploring the upstairs-downstairs worlds of women and people of color in a post-WWII New York; a scripted anthology series called “Overlooked,” based on the New York Times’ obituary column about people whose deaths were not initially reported by the paper; and a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”
There is also a preschool series with the title, “Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents.”
That series is described as taking young children and their families on a global adventure to learn where their food comes from.
It’s a project that’s reportedly closely connected with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative that she spearheaded during her tenure as First Lady to get all Americans more access and education to eating and living healthily.