Friday, October 31, 2008

MWRO Utility Summit Success!

Last Thursday and Friday, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization held its 5th Annual Utility Summit at Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD, Downtown Detroit campus). Attendance by the community, supporting organizations and businesses was beyond expectations! On the first day, over 700 people arrived for help with utility bills; nearly 1000 people attended the next day.
Every Fall and Winter in Detroit, thousands of families face shut-offs in electricity, natural gas, and water to heat their homes. MWRO has been leading the fight to protect families and seniors from shut-offs by coordinating efforts with agencies that provide utility bill assistance, and working with utility companies to proactively address cold weather concerns.

At this year's MWRO Utility Summit, over a dozen DTE Energy staff came out to help customers enroll in low-income billing plans. Among them was Jerry Norcia, President and COO of Michigan Consolidated (MichCon) Gas, a subsidiary of DTE. This show of support for the community is a remarkable turn-around from six years ago when MWRO led pickets in front of DTE for its inhumane utility shut-offs against Michigan's poor.

Maureen Taylor, State Chair of MWRO, reported that among other remarkable news at the event was: (1) a report by the Wayne County Treasurers Dept. that it would no longer process foreclosures on homes due to water bills. These cases will be referred back to the City of Detroit for resolution with the homeowner. Another people's victory!, and (2) The City of Detroit Dept of Human Services will provide up to $3000 toward water, electricity, and natural gas utility bills for families in need.

Many other agencies and organizations also came out to help families protect themselves against Winter shut-offs offering information and resources. They include: Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept, Wayne County Treasurer's Office, City of Detroit Dept of Human Services, Michigan Dept of Human Services, The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), WCCCD, Detroit Urban League, Goodwill Foundation, Crossroads, WARM, the Michigan Veterans Foundation, United Community Housing Coalition, MI Legal Services, United Way, Angel Food Ministries, Perfecting Church, Community Energy Solutions Program, Wayne Metro-Community Action Group, Moratorium Now! Coalition, and more! Special thanks are also due to Wayne Co. Community College District for the Subway sandwich lunch meals and bags they provided to low-income voters.

At this year's Utility Summit, nearly 2000 families were helped and, hopefully, spared tragic scenarios from freezing temperatures; and heating from candles, open ovens, and dangerous space heaters. Anyone who needs utility help can call MWRO at (312) 964-0618.

Images: First, community members listen to utility resource presentations, photo by Victor Arbulu; second, community residents wait to speak with DTE Energy representatives, photo by Ann Rall.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Don't "Ride the Fence"!

Sometimes you just gotta let the music do the talking! Watch The Coup's political hip hop video on the "United Snakes." (Note: contains mature language.)

By the way, Boots Riley of The Coup will be doing an acoustic set with Tom Morello, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, in Detroit at the Majestic Theater on November 15--should be live!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Calling an End to Corporate Welfare Queens!

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool announced today that it's cutting 5,000 jobs. These job losses are on top of the 28,300 lost in Michigan during September 2008, and the 77,900 jobs cut over the past year, according to CNN Money.

Meanwhile, Comerica (notorious with Detroit local customers) announced it's taking a $2.25 billion share of the $700 billion bailout from the feds. Not ones to miss out on their share of "corporate welfare," GM and Chrysler are trying to negotiate a Bush-aided bailout (upwards of $10 billion) that will pay for their merger scheme resulting in more job cuts!

But get this: The politicians who voted for this bailout, along with the companies who lobbied for the bailout, who have job-worried employees praying for a bailout...are the same ones who insisted upon welfare reform for low-income people! They argued and ranted that social welfare programs created government dependency and cost tax payers billions of dollars.

They were wrong but their rhetoric and venomous political climate allowed for attacks on poor people. Today, the government is doling out billions in "corporate welfare" for the very same people who called for welfare reform. But you'll hear no cries for "corporate welfare reform" or inflammatory complaints about "corporate welfare queens." Apparently, socialism for corporations is different than socialism for people.

The Corporate Welfare Information Center keeps a large database of U.S. government "corporate welfare" and other tax payer subsidies. They list eight "corporate welfare recipients" who between 1990-1994 received corporate welfare while laying off workers:
"The more corporate welfare received, the more layoffs...

______Welfare received__Employment
AT&T...........35,000,000............-1,077 * #
Amoco.........23,600,000............-8,300 *
Motorola......15,100,000............+9,600 *
* exceptions to the trend
# AT&T layed off 40,000 people shortly after this accounting

Ralph Nader has long-called for stopping corporate welfare, and he's been working to call attention to the latest national scandal. No one wants a lifetime of welfare! It's a terrible way to live but we do need to find ways for everyone to have a guaranteed annual income. Government welfare is a safety-net for all people in times of need--especially when "corporate welfare queens" are squelching basic human needs and rights.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Berrien County Michigan: Social Contrasts and Court Bias

The Berrien Co. Community Development Dept. drafted an August 2008 document that describes Benton Harbor's 2000 Census Bureau demographics (among other things). It reports that Benton Harbor, MI, has a population of 10,641 (based on 2006 estimates); a median family income of $19,250; a total of 28% of residents without a high school diploma; and a young population where 49.2% of its people are under 25 years of age.

What it didn't report is that Benton Harbor is also 92.4% African American, and it's one of eight cities in Michigan with the highest poverty rates (at 42.6%, according to the Census Bureau). Other cities include Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac, Flint, and Saginaw.

Among other facts, Benton Harbor is also home to the community-scorned Whirlpool World Headquarters; and is divided by the St. Joseph River from one of the state's wealthiest cities, St. Joseph. In contrast, the Census Bureau median family income in this city is $51,328 and it's 90.3% white. Of the 8,789 residents, 6.6% live below the poverty line. One website even described St. Joseph this way:
"You could say that the city is a good place if you're looking to marry or date a rich person, with its relatively large population of well-paid single people."

It's these dynamics--harmless on paper but socioeconomically volatile in reality--that caused the June 2003 riot in Benton Harbor. These factors also contributed to the August 2008 prison sentencing of BANCO spokesman, Rev. Pinkney, for quoting the Bible against the community's oppressors.

Today is Rev. Edward Pinkney's 60th birthday. What he needs--what Benton Harbor needs--most is for other activists and people who advocate for their communities to speak up on behalf of him and other Benton Harbor residents! At every opportunity he had, Rev. Pinkney spoke about his concerns for the city's youth and the lack of jobs and educational opportunities to help them get out of poverty.

Rev. Pinkney has continued to speak from behind bars at Ojibway Correctional Facility, in Marinesco, MI--nearly 500 miles and 9 hours from his wife and friends--a decision by the courts and state to further foment the injustice. Rev. Pinkney is also running as a Green Party candidate for the 6th Congressional District in Michigan. The Associated Press recently interviewed him from prison and the story has been picked up by mainstream media.

Rev. Pinkney's attorneys are calling for more public support toward the ACLU appeal case. Please sign the online petition and write a clemency letter of support for Rev. Pinkney.

Image from: Michigan Dept of Corrections. Benton Harbor is in Berrien County near the Indiana and Illinois borders.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Political Prisoner Rev. Pinkney Spends 60th Birthday in Isolated Prison

On Monday, October 27, MWRO comrade and political prisoner, Rev. Edward Pinkney, will be 60 years old. It won't be much of a celebration for our friend as he serves 3-10 years at Ojibway Correctional Facility located in a remote corner of Michigan's Upper Penisula.

In August 2008, Rev. Pinkney erroneously "was found to be in violation of the terms of his probation for “threatening” the trial judge by paraphrasing Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy to the effect that God will punish those who persist in the path of injustice", according to the Rev.'s attorney, Hugh "Buck" Davis.

Prior to this, Rev. Pinkney had been working with Benton Harbor, MI, residents and other state-wide and national supporters to squash efforts by Whirlpool and local officials to acquire prime, public waterfront land for a private golf course and club. Along with the destruction of 90 year old trees and sand dunes for local habitat so that an asphalt parking lot could be laid, local residents and activists have fallen victim to power players.

The poorest city in Michigan with a mostly African-American population, Benton Harbor claimed national attention in June 2003 when a riot ensued after a young man was killed during a police car chase. Rev. Pinkney was among those who publicly commented about the community's angry response, ''I believe this: There's never change without conflict. Read your history,'' according to the New York Times.

Through Rev. Pinkney's work with local grassroots group BANCO, he and other residents exposed political and judicial corruption. The ACLU has taken on Rev. Pinkney's appeal case, and Attorney Davis has filed a Petition for Clemency with Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Read an October 2008 interview with Rev. Pinkney from prison, and learn more about Benton Harbor and Rev. Pinkney at the People's Tribune.

MWRO is asking the public to help! PLEASE take a moment to write two letters.

First letter:

Send a letter or birthday card to Rev. Pinkney and let him know he is not forgotten. Make sure your card has no glitter and no plastic or it will be confiscated by prison authorities. Do not send cash!

Send this card or letter to:
Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671-G46
Ojibway Correctional Facility
N5705 Ojibway Road
Marenisco, MI 49947-9771

Also, please consider a $10 donation to BANCO. (See 10 Reasons to Contribute $10 on the BANCO weblog.) BANCO will make sure that Rev. Pinkney receives a deposit directly in his prison account.

Send a donation to:
1940 Union St
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
(269) 925-0001

or donate to Rev. Pinkney on BANCO's blog using PayPal

Second Letter:
Please write a letter or postcard to Gov. Granholm and ask her for "clemency" for Rev. Edward Pinkney. Include your name and address.

Send letters to:
Honorable Jennifer Granholm
Michigan Department of Corrections
Office of the Parole Board
Pardons and Commutations Coordinator
P.O. Box 30003
Lansing, Michigan, 48909

Thank you!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joblessness and Green Jobs

The latest jobless figures are in for Michigan and the good news is that Michigan is no longer number one. Rhode Island earned the notorious title last month with an unemployment rate of 8.8%, compared to Michigan's 8.7%. The Detroit Free Press also reported that jobless rates were up in 47 states, plus DC.

While the automobile and manufacturing sectors figure out what they're going to do to become 21st century industries, why don't we have more businesses, agencies, and local governments creating necessary "green jobs"?

Detroiters have long complained that curbside recycling is needed, along with more drop-in recycling centers. The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor reports that "Detroit is the only city of the 30 largest cities in the United States without any form of curbside recycling." In addition, the trash incinerator in Detroit is "the largest trash incinerator in the world. The incinerator burns nearly 800,000 tons of trash per year currently at a cost of over $170 per ton to Detroit residents (5-7 times the cost of suburbs that recycle and landfill). Hazardous air pollutants from the facility include mercury, lead and dioxins. Asthma hospitalization rates in Detroit are 3-4 times the average rate of the state of Michigan."

Large and small cities across the country have learned that recycling makes not only good environmental sense, but good business sense. Jobs are created and money is made when communities chose to practice good recycling efforts. Regarding Detroit, the Ecology Center adds: "A broad coalition of community organizations- environmental, civil rights, health, labor, faith-based and social service advocates- have proposed a New Business Model for Solid Waste Management in Detroit, which has been endorsed and supported by the Detroit City Council by a 6-2 majority. This plan would implement a curbside recycling pilot program by January 1, 2009 and close the incinerator at the end of its current contracts on June 30, 2009." MWRO supports this!

Some local businesses are also creating small numbers of jobs by promoting green products and practices--see Michigan Green Jobs. Let's push our elected officials to implement curbside recycling and help create the green jobs we want and need!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tragic Poverty Fires in Highland Park...and the MWRO Utility Summit

The nights have started getting colder in southeast Michigan and low income families are struggling to keep warm. With the socioeconomic crises in Detroit and surrounding areas--no jobs, layoffs, home foreclosures, wide-scale poverty, very low food security, illness--many poor and fixed income households often have to decide between which bills to pay.

Low income families living in large, old, poorly insulated homes in Detroit and Highland Park more often than not are unable to pay altogether for electricity, natural gas, and water. So they make small payments hoping that it will suffice but it doesn't.

Early this morning, another family in Highland Park became victim to poverty fires--dying in one's home because you can't afford to pay for the utility(ies) you need to properly heat it. A beloved grandmother and her three young grandchildren (5, 8, and 10) burned in their home while the children's mother and other relatives luckily managed to escape. According to the Detroit Free Press, the fire department confirmed what neighbors already knew: the fire started from a small space heater used to keep the children warm while they slept.

Yesterday, a neighbor shared information with the grandmother about getting help with her heat bill through THAW, an agency that assists low income families with high bills and getting utilities turned back on. THAW is largely funded through redirected funds from DTE--the Detroit-based utility company that shut-off the family's natural gas in the first place!

Corporations should not be making profits off of the utilities needed for supporting life. We all have the right to shelter, heat, food, water, clothing, and other human rights...and no corporate bottom line should determine who stays warm or who dies. This tragedy, along with neighboring burned homes, never had to happen if low-income families had better assistance, better resources, better information about how to protect their families!

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
is organizing its annual Utility Summit to help families and individuals learn how to avoid utility shut-offs and get assistance. Please encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to attend as we try to put an end to the horror of poverty fires!

Wayne County Community College, Downtown Campus
1001 W. Fort St, Detroit, MI 48226
Thursday, Oct. 23 for surnames beginning A-L
Friday, Oct. 24 for surnames beginning M-Z

Learn how to avoid utility shut-offs and home foreclosures!
Bring your bills...Show your voter registration card and get a free meal!
Register at (313) 258-6826

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Front Movie "Remix" Competition

Among the many community gems in The Water Front film is Joe L. Carter's song, "Mr. Waterman." Set in the background of the Highland Park residents' fight against water shut-offs and high water bills, this little ditty captures the essence of troubled times in Michigan.

Filmmaker Liz Miller is hoping to reinvigorate this classic song by inviting songwriters, DJs, rappers, and other artists to take part in The Water Front Remix Competition. Using online software at, "you can add your own drums, a new bassline and even edit the vocals as you like."

The winner will receive $400 and international acclaim for his or her work. A runner-up chosen by Facebook and MySpace voters will receive $100. Check out The Water Front Remix Competition site for more information!

Listen to "Mr. Waterman" by clicking on the link's blue play button.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't Allow Another "American Blackout"

With only 15 days before the elections, it's time to remember some of the lessons from 2004 and 2000. During every Detroit election cycle, there are wide-scale complaints of ballot irregularities, voter fraud, ballot tampering, and polling site delays. Knowing this, we need to be more alert and more proactive in our vigilance to secure our voting rights. We must make it our personal responsibility not to allow voter disenfranchisement at our polling sites, in our absentee ballots, and across our communities!

American Blackout
, the 2006 film that captured and reported many of these national problems during the last Presidential election, is coming to Detroit. Make sure you see this film here or elsewhere across the country as it tours and reminds us of the calculated efforts to thwart our vote.

See American Blackout FREE in Detroit:
Monday, October 27, 6pm at Marygrove College (Madame Cadillac Hall, 8425 W. McNichols) RSVP; and
Wednesday, October 29, 12pm at Wayne State University Undergraduate Library (off Warren Ave/Anthony Wayne Dr), followed by a discussion.

See the American Blackout trailer:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fight Home Foreclosures In Detroit...and Queens, NY

Everyday there are more tragic stories about home mortgage foreclosures. Democracy Now! reports that today at noon a woman with three children in Queens Village, NY, was scheduled to have her home auctioned after falling victim to predatory lending. This second blow to her family comes after the death of her Navy soldier son in Iraq just a few months ago.

Codepink called a press conference on the steps of the local county courthouse earlier today, and has started taking online donations to help this family keep their home. This house, in fact, is just a few blocks away from where Obama and McCain held their last debate on Wednesday night.

In Detroit, Michigan's Moratorium Now is holding a rally to call a halt to home foreclosures in Detroit:

Demand that Mayor Cockrel Declare a 'State of Economic Emergency' in Detroit

Monday, Oct. 27, Noon
Gather at 'Spirit of Detroit'
Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (Woodward & Jefferson, Detroit)

* Interim Mayor Cockrel Must Appeal to the Governor to Impose a Halt to
* Demand Billions in Federal Funds Required to Address This Crisis.

For more information contact 313-319-0870.

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION demanding the federal government implement an "Immediate Moratorium on Foreclosures and Evictions, NOW!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Food Day and Hunger in Michigan

October 16 is World Food Day. It's a worldwide event founded in 1945 by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization to increase food and hunger awareness. World Food Day is also intended to promote food security by asking communities to develop long-term actions.

In Michigan, there's lots of food insecurity and too few long-term solutions. The New York Times reported in March that 1 in 8 Michigan residents receive Food Stamps. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that from 2004-2006, Michigan ranked 12th in the nation (tied with Kentucky) in the number of households experiencing very low food security, i.e. families and individual who cut back on or skip meals altogether. (By the way, that ranking is behind MS, SC, NM, AR, OK, TX, ME, UT, AK, LA, and GA).

Each year since 2001, the numbers also have increased for people participating in free or discounted school lunch programs, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Just like the irony of water shutoffs in a state surrounded by the Great Lakes, it also makes no sense that there is so much hunger when Michigan's second largest industry is the agri-food sector. See the Michigan Food Policy Council 2006 Report of Recommendations for an indication of the State's non-specific plans to reduce hunger.

For her part this week, Governor Granholm and her family have joined the 1.3 million Michiganders who have a maximum $5.87 per day Food Assistance Program (food stamp) budget. She, along with other corporate leaders and politicians, agreed to Take the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge--a week-long social experiment for anyone who has 'ever wondered what it would be like to survive on Michigan's Food Assistance benefits.' While they may not truly experience food insecurity first hand, perhaps it'll give them impetus to fund and provide greater resources to individuals and families who will remain hungry next week, and the week after, and the rest of this year.

And by the way, on October 1, 2008, the federal Food Stamp program was renamed as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)--we wonder how much that change cost in Food Stamps!

(Image courtesy of Flickr)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day and Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. Since MWRO has a fairly new weblog, we had no idea what that was until today. Apparently, it's a day when everyone who has a blog writes about the same topic to increase the international awareness and (hopefully) action around the issue. And today's theme is poverty, quite appropriate.

On the matter of blogs, we have found that in this election season our Google Alerts have jumped tremendously on searches for "National Welfare Rights Organization," "NWRO," and "welfare rights." It seems that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of conservative bloggers in the U.S. who are writing about Senator Obama's community organizing work with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Alongside that, they are also writing about ACORN's early relationship with the NWRO and George Wiley, a scientist turned poor people's community organizer.

But these weblogs aren't informative or even accurate. They're mostly inflammatory, ignorant, and built upon discrediting Presidential Candidate Obama and ACORN, and assailing welfare recipients. Here are a couple of examples:
Obama the ACORN nut: From little things, Left Liberal Marxist Socialism Grows;

Obama, ACORN, and Connections to Terrorist William Ayers

Now leading in the polls, Senator Obama surely has a lot to worry about and contend with. And once again, some people in this country--this world--in times of economic crisis have chosen to assess it by launching racist and venomous assaults on poor people instead of critiquing the true villain--a failed capitalist system.

The mission of the NWRO then and the National Welfare Rights Union now is to fight for the rights of poor and low-income people, especially those on public assistance. It's well understood that capitalism relies upon a cadre of low-skilled, low-wage workers to move in and out of the workforce, thereby, creating a permanent pool of the unemployed. Welfare recipients are at the bottom of this abyss and know better than anyone that it's not a place you choose to be in!

We invite critics and naysayers to learn more about welfare rights, economic human rights, and the efforts of many other good organizations and people who are trying to fight poverty and build a better world. Check out the links on the MWRO weblog page.

(Image: Courtesy of Kensington Welfare Rights Union)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nestle Theatens Florida Water Dept For Praising Tap Water As Better Than Bottled Water

Following legal threats from Nestle, the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department in Florida has pulled radio ads off the air that asserted the quality of its tap water as being better than bottled water. Reported by the Miami Herald, Nestle threatened legal action because the ad declared 'Miami-Dade's tap water as cheaper, purer and safer than bottled water.' A Nestle spokesperson responded that, ``It's an attack on the product we produce -- and it's blatantly wrong.'' An attack on a product they produce?

Food & Water Watch has blasted this claim and so should we! ''Nestle should be ashamed for harassing Miami for promoting its own water,'' said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Washington-based Food & Water Watch. ``This is just outrageous. It's just a way to scare off other utilities." Interestingly, these legal threats also seem to follow declining sales in the $11.7 billion bottled water industry.

Michigan residents have their own horror stories about the effect of Nestle's water depleting practices across the state. In Mecosta County, local residents and environmentalists sued Nestle (who bottles Ice Mountain water locally) for depleting and damaging aquifers and watersheds. In Detroit, private groups have long-sought to control one of the oldest and largest municipal water departments near the vast Great Lakes.

Read more about the Take Back the Tap Campaign from Food & Water Watch, and Take the Pledge to Take Back the Tap to promote and preserve public water! And see The Water Front film trailer for a snapshot of one Michigan community's effort to preserve its local water department and protect its residents against high costs and shutoffs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Obama's 90 Day Housing Foreclosure Moratorium Is a Beginning

We've finally heard something we can believe in! Today, in wake of the U.S. housing crisis, Presidential Candidate Barack Obama called for a 90 day national moratorium on foreclosures. He presented this proposal as part of a four-part 'economic rescue plan' for middle-class homeowners, according to CNN.

MWRO, along with other groups in Michigan, (particularly, Moratorium Now!,) has also called for a national moratorium on home foreclosures. In Detroit and across the state, thousands of families have lost their homes while national and foreign banks eagerly sought new buyers on the belief that everyone could get rich off of the sufferings of others.

A 90 day moratorium on home foreclosures is a good start and we commend Senator Obama for his proposal but it is not enough! Low-income seniors and families in Michigan and across this country are struggling to survive on a variety of fronts such as housing, jobs, utilities, and food, along with other basic needs and human rights. Foreign wars and defense budgets have drained local communities and states of the resources they need to help us stave off desperation and protect our families.

We believe 90 days is only a starting point. When individuals and families are doing all they can to survive and keep hope alive, the least the federal government can do is provide the basic resources people need to live quality lives. Keeping a roof over everyone's head is the beginning of that. For more on this, see the National Welfare Rights Union's 8 Position Points to Dismantle Poverty in the U.S. (PDF)

(Image: August 2008, Lansing--Detroit residents and Moratorium Now! coalition members rally at the Michigan State Capitol Building in support of a moratorium on housing foreclosures with Senate Bill 1306. Photo courtesy of Daymon J. Hartley.

Friday, October 10, 2008

$100,000 Shipping Container Condos in Detroit Are Not the Solution

In September, MWRO discussed the idea of a new company using shipping containers as low-income housing for poor people. They estimate these refabricated homes to cost about $10,000 each.

Now there's a local development group that presented to the Detroit City Council this week their idea of using these same shipping containers to build condominiums. But get this--they'd cost $100,000-$260,000 each! The units range from 853 sq ft 1 bedroom condos to 1920 sq ft 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath condos. The Detroit Free Press reports that the idea comes from The Power of Green Housing in Detroit, a new Detroit-based company aiming "to become the leader of affordable green and sustainable housing and reduce energy costs by 60% to each consumer."

We applaud this mission but these prices are in no way affordable to the majority of Detroiters! In August 2008, the Census Bureau reported that Detroit had the nation's lowest median household income at $28,097. Moreover, 1 in 3 Detroiters live in poverty. If public and private groups truly want to revitalize Detroit, they must come up with proposals that will build low-income affordable housing, along with outlines for rehabilitating and sustaining current low-income homes and apartments.

Check out the design model of these shipping container condos:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A National Moratorium on Housing Foreclosures and an End to Mortgage-Based Evictions

Rightly so, a Chicago area sheriff has refused to carry out any more evictions against renters suffering the consequences of mortgage-foreclosed landlords. According to CNN, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart blames mortgage companies and banks for not doing the investigative work to determine who actually resides in these homes before proceeding with forced eviction. "These mortgage companies ... don't care who's in the building," Dart said Wednesday. "They simply want their money and don't care who gets hurt along the way."

Eviction practices are consistently abusive (anyone remember Michael Moore's, "Roger & Me"?). In Michigan, a grassroots group, Moratorium Now! is helping residents fight foreclosure and stay in their homes. For instance, Ms. Rubi Curl-Pinkins who lives near the famous Motown Museum in Detroit owned a paid off home but became a victim of predatory lending with Countrywide Mortgage. Unable to keep up with her new mortgage payments and medical expenses, Countrywide (which is owned by Bank of America) began eviction proceedings. At the last minute she was able to obtain a reverse mortgage so that she, a disabled senior, and her bedridden daughter could remain in their house. But Countrywide refused to stop the eviction. Through Moratorium Now! pickets and media reports, the eviction was halted and the family was able to stay.

But why must the halting of these forced evictions be handled one-by-one? Politicians and banks alike know that millions of families are facing similar situations. Michigan Welfare Rights Organization calls for a NATIONAL MORATORIUM ON HOUSING FORECLOSURES AND AN END TO MORTGAGE-BASED EVICTIONS! No community is served by having more of its residents evicted and homeless. We must work to keep people in homes and not allow banks to continue making profits off of the misery of low-income families.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where's the rescue plan for the poor?

As Wall Street banks and U.S. government officials continue to figure out how to dole out billions of taxpayer dollars, we now hear that some of these corporate welfare companies are still lavishing themselves at our expense!

Democracy Now reports that AIG executives treated themselves to a $440,000 luxury week-long vacation with expensive dinners and spa treatments just days after receiving an $85 billion dollar bailout. Maybe they were exhausted from years of making greedy deals and sucking the life out of the retirement accounts of ordinary people.

But in Detroit, there are no such luxuries or extravagances. In Detroit, 1 in 3 residents lives in poverty leaving Detroit as the poorest big city in the nation. According to the Detroit News, the State of Michigan also has the distinction of being the only state in the country to see a rise in poverty with a decline in income. These aren't recognitions that anyone wants to have. For the people who live in these conditions, life is miserable!

If you're a family on public assistance, your circumstances are even more dire as welfare reform cuts and policy limits have pushed families to the brink of desperation. College educated workers are competing with limited skill "work-first" assistance recipients in a state economy without jobs. Furthermore, poor Detroiters face shut-offs in the upcoming winter months on utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and water. The consequences are dire and low-income children and senior citizens are most at risk.

WE NEED ATTENTION AND ACTION BY OUR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO TAKE CARE OF THE BASIC NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE! Congress and the President have rescued big business, now we need them to rescue poor people. Enough is enough!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

MWRO Re-launches Fight for Water Affordability Plan

From the Sep-Oct 2008 issue of Critical Moment

Water is a right!
By Fred Vitale (MWRO Volunteer Coordinator)

The June 22 resignation of Victor Mercado as head of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), coupled with the recent resignation of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who had appointed him, provides an opportunity to re-launch the fight for the Water Affordability Program (WAP), passed by Detroit City Council in 2006 but never implemented.

The WAP was initiated by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) in response to the cutoff of water to tens of thousands of Detroit residents. Those most affected were seniors, people with disabilities, the unemployed, and people receiving state assistance. Those most in need were cutoff from water by a publicly-owned and operated utility! It was, and remains, a scandal.

After many demonstrations, hearings, thousands of phone calls and meetings, City Council passed the program. Within certain limits, it guarantees that every Detroiter will have water. Even though City Council required DWSD to implement the program, it did not. Instead, the Kilpatrick regime passed a vastly underfunded water assistance program that still kept tens of thousands of people without water; it was able to help less than 1,500 people before the money ran out. Money pledged and collected has not been accounted for. While Victor Mercado and Kwame Kilpatrick were in office, City Council did not have the courage or the will to force the department to implement this critical human rights program or request a full accounting of the money spent.

Winning the full implementation of the program in Detroit can help build the struggle to stop shutoffs in all 286 communities serviced by the DWSD. The complete WAP is available from Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, 23 E. Adams, fourth floor, Detroit, MI 48226, for copying and postage costs. To join or support this struggle, please contact MWRO at the address above, phone 313-964-0618 or on the web at

Monday, October 6, 2008

Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign Discusses Poverty Following RNC on Democracy Now!

Early in the US Presidential elections, a few contenders were discussing the plight of the poor and what we must do as a country to change this. Now, a month before national elections, the talk has changed to what we must do to help the wealthy.

At the Republican National Convention in September, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign was working to bring back attention and bring forth policies on addressing poverty in this country. They discussed these ideas and tensions in Minneapolis-St Paul on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

See below the Democracy Now! interview with Amy Goodman and Cheri Honkala, National Coordinator, PPEHRC:

Watch the PPEHRC Poor People's March video at the RNC to learn more about the thousands who participated in delivering to the RNC a "citizens arrest for crimes against humanity."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Can anyone really own water?"

That's the premise behind, FLOW--an award-winning documentary that interviews scientists and activists alike about the growing water privatization crisis and the world's dwindling fresh water supply. FLOW investigates the insidious $425 billion a year private water industry, and the short-sighted decisions by local governments and nations to sell their most basic and precious resource.

Like many others, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization believes water is a human right that no one has the right to profit from or own. In a region with nearly 20% of the world's fresh surface water supply, we know the irony of what it means to be without water in Michigan. In Detroit and Highland Park alone, thousands of families have had their water shut off for days, months, and even years (see The Water Front film on Highland Park, and Detroit Water Dept Pickets). The conditions that these persons have lived under mirror those found in third world nations--yet politicians don't want to tackle the tough questions of human rights, affordability, and infrastructure.

See FLOW's website for a list of cities where the film is screening along with more info on what you can do to protect this precious resource. Here's the FLOW trailer:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

NWRU Board Drafts 8 Position Points to Dismantle Poverty in the U.S.

August 2008

America’s poor and disenfranchised are languishing in the misery of rising poverty, a circumstance mostly ignored across the country. A nation that does not have a concrete plan for the elimination of poverty is a country that is prepared to tolerate poverty, and is doomed to failure.

The National Welfare Rights Union's Eight Position Points to Dismantle Poverty in the U.S. were drafted, discussed, and unanimously voted upon at our recent retreat-conference. As the recognized representatives that speak for the victims of poverty, the NWRU respectfully submits them to the Presidential Candidates as the foundation on which to start addressing poverty in the U.S. The National Welfare Rights Union also believes that “8 is enough.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Cipients Speak: The Margin of Victory!

The strongest and clearest candidate in the Presidential race is by far, the under-dog, Cynthia McKinney, Green Party. That campaign cannot compete with the millions of dollars being spent by the Elephants and Donkeys, so we are calling on the next elected President to do the right thing. Hire Cynthia McKinney as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, and appoint Dennis Kucinich as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This would make a good start.

The survey polls are all over the place, so the question is what do you believe? At Welfare Rights, we know that the margin of victory is found in the ranks of those already marginalized and who, if included, can secure the victory. If the Obama camp wants to win this election, it must engage the low income voter, the homeless voter, the ex-felon voter, and the high school, new voter. We are already spreading out across the city to find, to secure, locate and to sign-up every one of those voters just listed. What would help would be to get these no-good, trifling Democrats on the same page that we are on. A simple thing like securing lawn signs and bumper stickers for those unable to spend the requisite $5 per sign should be a task even they can manage. Not so…

There is great angst in the Detroit Obama camp. Volunteers are rightfully upset about what they perceive as unfair treatment. Many have worked tireless hours to support their candidate and thought they would receive compensation for that labor. They are angry because that didn’t happen, and are even more upset to learn that an out-of-town volunteer committee is being slightly paid for working in the Detroit, Wayne County area.

This is a new day and new strategies are being tried, so we all have to get used to new stuff. What’s not new is that we are still being tricked, bamboozled, and hood-winked by corporate powers. To think that both parties in both houses are even considering making a gift of $1 trillion dollars to banks so that they can make loans to the common people that would generate interest is a sick trick. We don’t need credit, we need jobs that pay livable wages and a guaranteed annual income for those who find themselves in-between jobs. Obama said, “Not that America is perfect, but that America can be perfect.” That can happen if we move to restructure this nation on the basis of what is good for the many, and not on what is good for the few. Make tax-free checks available to low income & middle class families, and watch the economy become highly stimulated! Just like the government found trillions of dollars for these low-down banks, find stimulus checks for the people and we will turn this economy around quick, fast and in a hurry. Post an “800 #” for us to call and tell you NOT to give banks our money so you will know how we feel. Local Democrats, get those lawn signs and bumper stickers delivered to the people so we won’t have to talk anymore about this issue!

Maureen D. Taylor
State Chair, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McKinney-Clemente's 10 Points to Congress on Addressing Financial Crisis

Despite overwhelming odds, the Green Party's Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, have been criss crossing the country meeting with voters and discussing their platform. But you'd never know it given the lack of mainstream media coverage on their "Power to the People" campaign. Regardless, they have put forth 10 points that should be considered by Congress concerning the current Wall Street financial crisis. We believe they are on target and should be fully considered:
  1. Enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM interest rate increases take effect;
  2. Elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year loans;
  3. Establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory practices;
  4. Establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;
  5. Redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory practices are completely eliminated;
  6. Full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in home ownership;
  7. Recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory so that no one sleeps on U.S. streets;
  8. Full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;
  9. Close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of income earners; and
  10. Fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas repeal NAFTA.
Learn more about the Mckinney-Clemente 2008 Campaign.