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Hardy L. Brown

“We, The People”… Where Do We Go From Here?

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This past weekend we heard a lot of “we the people” from President Barack Obama during his second inaugural address and people reciting the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “where do we go from here”.

President Obama gave me something to think about as I sat in my chair watching him address the nation. I thought about my upbrining as a child in the segregated south, and my travels over the old route 66 and interstate 40 that we traversed many times from coast to coast. I thought of my marriage of 50 years, on January 26th of this month to my wonderful wife Cheryl. I thought about our wonderful children and their families and the opportunities they now enjoy from the efforts of their ancestors. I thought about how blessed I am to witness the progress of our nation in electing and then re-electing Barack Obama as president of these United States of America. His re-election epitomizes the progress we have made because many wanted to make him a one-term (fluke) president. The nation has turned the corner in including others in the policy making of our government.

I reflected on these things and concluded none of this would not have been possible without “we the people” working together as a government. It was President Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and others that fought to help overcome slavery in this country. It was Rosa Parks, Medger Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and others to help tear down the Jim Crow walls of “separate but un-equal” and enacting basic federal civil right laws of equality in employment, commerce, housing, education and the all important voting rights laws which are under attack today.

As the inaugural program progressed tears came to my eyes as I reflected on how far we have come as people of different races and genders participating in the program. Not only in government but the diversity of people reporting on the event from several news outlets. I know the efforts and strategies required to integrate a staff from my many years at Southern California Edison and Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program with the responsibility of recruiting diversity to break down walls from years of legal discrimination.

It took people like Geneva Hillman, Clifford Gallup, Oliver Roemer of Edison, Jim Vohs, Dr. Ray Kay, Art Forbes, Robert Erickson and Frank Boeckman of Kaiser to bring diversity to these companies.

None of these things would have been possible without “we the people” voting and hiring people of a different races, genders, religions or lifestyles.

Where do we go from here is the question most of us have at the top of our conversation lists? It is clear that in order for people to be elected for a large district or statewide office one must embrace diversity. One has to be mindful of women’s issues as we have more women seeking elected office and being elected. With these two groups being involved in the political process means different policies to deal with equal pay, children, seniors, health care, military and foreign countries will be passed.

It will mean a change in political party’s platforms and inclusion of the same in leadership positions. This will force corporate America to change their boardrooms and how they outreach into the society that buys and consumes their products. It will mean that taxpayers will be expecting more than lip service when it comes to governing a community and people. It will mean dollars will be directed in a different direction to help the least of us while not taking anything away from the successful ones.

With the re-election of President Obama it means our children regardless of race, sex, religion or lifestyle can wake up from a dream and begin the work on making it a reality.

We are getting reports that this shift is causing the Republican Party to re-evaluate their outreach strategies. The question for them is what will the more levelheaded members of the party speak out to silence most conservative members.

It appears at this moment that the Democratic Party has their act together while not allowing the most liberal thinking, anything goes members to have their way. They must govern wisely and not over reach with unproven ideas. They will govern for a long time if they find the good and praise it and involve “we the people.”

California Budget Good for Black and Latino Students

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In Governor Brown’s newly released budget proposal for 2013-14 he suggests that there is a real need to target public education in our urban cities. While there are other areas of the budget I could or should focus on, I will take a look at public education this week and other areas like health care later.

According to a report dated 1/11/13 from the Department of Education, we have 6.2 million students attending public schools where only 27% have passed the math and English language tests of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and a 14.4% statewide cohort dropout rate. We have a 76.3% graduation rate for all students and only 36.9% of those graduating meet UC/CSU required courses for admission. Over 55% of California’s students are enrolled in the Free Meal Program which is an indicator of how many live at or below the poverty level in the state.

Our student demographics by race are: 8.6% Asian; 52.3% Hispanic; 6.5% African American and 26.1% White. They are taught by 286,969 teachers of which 4.9% are Asian, 17.3% Hispanic, 4.0% African American and 67.2% White with a 23.2 per pupil average class size and $67,448 annual salary for our teachers.

When it comes to what is going on in the classroom by race, I found in math, 43% of Asian, 25% of Hispanics, 26% of African Americans and 41% of Whites pass the CAHSEE test. On the ELA Test 25% Asian, 25% Hispanic, 33% African American and 44% White pass the English language test.

We have a graduation rate from high school by race of 89.7% Asian, 70.4% Hispanic, 62.8% African American and 76.3% White.

We have a statewide dropout rate by race of 6.2% Asian, 17.7% Hispanic, 24.7% African American and 8.9% White. These students just disappear from our educational radar screen and appear or show up in our legal or social service system.

Now when it comes to those who do graduate we find only 63% Asian, 26.7% Hispanic, 27.5% African American and 36.9% White graduate with UC/CSU required courses for admission.

As this data indicates the two groups suffering the most live in our urban communities and should get a lot of attention. I want to encourage those school boards and superintendents to evaluate their own best practices and implement them to correct many of their schools’ shortcomings.

For example, in San Bernardino City Unified School District, they have Richardson Prep Hi Middle School that has consistently scored over the state baseline score of 800; their recent score was 939. This is how each racial group scored in proficiency of the English Language Arts and Math tests: Asian ELA 100% and 92% in math; Hispanic 85% in ELA & 85% in math; African American 91% in ELA & 88% in math; and White 96% in ELA & 88% in math.

When it comes to charter schools in the district, I selected Hardy Brown College Prep, which is an elementary school, named in my honor. I did not advocate for the school but was approached by some parents in the community and Margaret Fortune of Fortune Schools in Sacramento to name the school after me. The school happens to be comprised of over 95% African Americans with a majority of them qualifying for Free Meal Programs and where a majority was testing in the failing percentile of their old classrooms. These students currently test at 800+ on the statewide Academic Performance Index testing program as a charter school within the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

The reason I point these two schools out as examples, is to suggest that the district evaluate what these staff members are doing and use the new financial resources to elevate the quality of education for all students in the district.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Riverside Unified School District has formed partnerships with many educational stakeholders and employers to improve the quality of education and skill sets for the workforce of tomorrow. Read the letter to the editor on this page from Cindy Taylor, Director Completion Counts for more details.

I think the budget as proposed by Governor Brown can be beneficial to all stakeholders in our region concerned about education, employment, and retirement.

Southern White Republican Leaders Are Still Fighting The Civil War

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It is a sad state of affairs that our southern congressional political officials are still fighting the Civil War 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that took effect on January 1, 1863. Many people know this but are afraid to say it openly about the actions taken by these officials who believe that “a Black man has no right that he has to respect even if he is president of the United States.”

They will not vote for a financial bill to keep the country from going over a fiscal cliff or provide relief by voting on the Sandy Hurricane Disaster Relief Bill even if it will hurt many White citizens in the process. That is why Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia could not vote for the recent financial crisis bill approved by Congress.

Congress Member John Boehner (R) of Ohio and Speaker of the House is caught in the middle just as Ohio was during the 1800s when many in Ohio fought for slavery to be abolished but many in Cincinnati, just across the river in Kentucky wanted slavery. Boehner voted for the bill to help save the country from a financial crises knowing the president would get the credit but only seconds later he would pull a disaster bill (Sandy Hurricane Relief) that hurts the citizens of all races and political parties in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut just to please southern Republican elected officials.

When Boehner caught the anger of his Northern Republican colleagues and their threats to have campaign contributions withheld, and reminded them how many times they have sent money to help the south during disasters; Boehner said I will have everyone vote. Many southern Republican congressional representatives did not support the Sandy Disaster Relief Bill of $9 billion but Democrats voted to support our fellow citizens in this time of need.

As a teenager growing up in North Carolina under Mr. Jim Crow, Sr. I heard my parents talk about this type of deep seated racial hate taken by White local county commissioners. They would not vote to receive federal programs that would help the poor people in the county regardless of race; because it would help Blacks so their decision was no one would receive help.

I call this the “kill the baby mentality” just as in the biblical story found in Kings 3:5-14, where Solomon uses wisdom to decide who was the real mother of the baby. Remember Solomon said I will cut the baby in half and the real mother said no; give the baby to her but save the baby even if I cannot have him. Some congressional representatives say “kill Obama” is our objective and who cares if others get hurt in the process. They do not care about the country but are wrapped up in old time hate of African Americans and the fact they lost the war.

There are a lot of Republicans who do not like their political party obstructionist attitude but will not speak out against them for fear of retaliation. Like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “you have nothing to fear but fear it self.”

Where Do the Cities of the Inland Empire Go From Here in 2013?

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In 2012 the city of San Bernardino filed for financial protection in the federal bankruptcy court in Riverside and other cities in the Inland Empire are knocking at the door.

The City Council of Rialto will be asking the citizens to vote on raising the utility tax by eight percent to help shore up a budget deficit and the city might revisit seeking a petroleum tax next year.

The City of Fontana is reeling from a decrease in their revenues when the state took away its vehicle license fees while the cities of Grand Terrace and Colton are suffering from the loss of redevelopment funds.

In Riverside County, we have the newly created cities of Wildomar, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley and Menifee all evaluating the possibility of disincorporation because of funds taken away by the state. If they dissolve then the responsibility of governing will revert back to county government.

Then the question becomes where will the county get the dollars to provide the services to these citizens? All of the cities in the state are wrestling with the state’s realignment of prison overcrowding and according to preliminary reports from public safety organizations crime is on the rise. This has put an additional burden on local governments to find solutions as they continue to try to manage their own financial crises.

Within those cities the public education community will have to find solutions to better educate and bring all children’s Academic Performance Levels up to the standard 800 test score benchmark set by the state. Also they will have to reduce the high dropout rate while educating the students for the workforce.

Many employers have complained in the past that many students do not have the skill sets that make them employable. I would encourage all local business owners to have meetings with school board members to assist with curriculum development that will graduate students with employable skills.

So where does these civic leaders go and what should they do? I would suggest they reach out to all elected leaders and forge partnerships that will provide common services to their citizens. Services like public safety, libraries, transportation, parks, waste management should be explored for shared costs. Not all services can be shared but city governments should explore every savings until we are no longer teetering at the edge of fiscal cliffs. I say “cliffs” because the federal, state and some private corporations all have cliffs they are trying to avoid falling off. We are all aware of the financial issues our federal government is currently struggling to address. And closer to home, some private employers are laying people off or consolidating services.

Kaiser Permanente in Fontana has announced they are removing over 200 jobs in Fontana and taking them out of state.

In addition the retirement and pension plans of local governments must be evaluated for reasonable sustainability.

Exactly where we will go in 2013 will be determined by the elected representatives and citizens of each city working together in order for the Inland Empire to thrive.

Government of the People and by the People Trumps Gun Rights to Own Assault Weapons

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The right of an American citizen to bear arms is something that should not in any way be tampered with; however, what type of gun a citizens owns is another right for our collective government of the people, by the people to regulate. When you think of a citizen owning a rocket or grenade launcher under the banner of the second amendment right to bear arms for protection is something our society does not tolerate.

Over the past few years many conversations have taken place over this right to bear arms in the backdrop of several mass shootings and citizens being killed by guns each and every year. Now we find the conversation front and center once again after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

We have the National Rifle Association saying the solution is to put armed guards on every school campus in America. Now while this idea appeals to some in our society, it is rejected by others as an improper solution. What type of gun would the officer be allowed to carry is one question? Would it be a handheld side arm weapon or an assault rifle weapon like the one used by recent shooters? If not, then we will wind up with the officers being killed as well because shooters have access to body armor protection.

To all of those who believe that we should not have any regulations should probably be shown the pictures of the victim’s bodies. In the movie “A Time to Kill” starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel Jackson, McConaughey, played the role of a defense attorney who had an all-White jury close their eyes as he described a young 11-year-old girl being raped by adults while pouring beer over her body. He went into the gory details of her pain and then told the jury, imagine that she was White. The jury members cried because they could identify with that girl being one of their children, so at that point Jackson was justified in killing a White man.

It is too bad that we cannot seek rational decisions some times unless it hits us on a personal level. I listened to some of the first responders on the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School and saw the carnage and bodies of little children with two or more bullet holes in them say they never want to see anything like it.

One reason the American public does not see coffins arrive in America during war is the public will not stomach war too long when they can see the personal damage so clearly.

I think every elected official in Congress should be made to review the coroners report or the pictures of what that assault gun did to those killed. I think NRA leaders would also have a change in perspective if they took a look at the affect of those guns on human bodies especially children.

I also do not see where the average citizen should have firepower greater than that of a peace officer. Federal law should ban all assault or machine guns from personal use and buy back all of them that have been sold to private owners. All legal automatic weapons should be limited to five or six rounds at a time. We must take action on these handheld killing machines period.

Putting armed guards in all schools is not the answer; otherwise, we would need to put them at every public place in America where people congregate. Ultimately it is up to our elected representatives in Congress, so let them know how you feel on this issue.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and get ready for a Happy New Year.

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