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Something is Seriously Wrong with this Picture

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By Kenneth M. Young
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools

On Monday, Governor Brown released his much anticipated 2011-12 state budget proposal. The proposal, which includes closing a roughly $6 billion hole in the current year budget, contains a combination of cuts, extensions of existing taxes set to expire soon, and a complex restructuring plan he hopes will substantially reduce California’s estimated $19 billion state budget deficit in 2011-2012.

However, the proposal would require bipartisan support from California’s deeply divided legislature and success at the polls before it could become a reality—certainly a challenging feat given the state’s economic and political environment.

In unveiling his proposal, the governor noted that “public education has borne a disproportionate share of budget cuts in recent years”. After roughly $18 billion in cuts to education over the past three years this statement seemed to indicate our K-12 public schools might be spared from further loss of funding. But, the “devil is in the details” as they say, and since schools make up roughly 40% of the state budget, the implications of the governor’s comments are tempered by reality. His proposed budget includes over $2 billion in additional funding delays (this comes on top of the roughly $8 billion in school funding that is already being postponed) and requires schools to adopt their budgets by June 30th with complete uncertainty over a highly risky ballot measure. In the unlikely event the measure makes it to the polls, and then in the likely event the voters reject it, further cuts to schools would most likely range between $330 to $615 per student without suspending Proposition 98 — depending where in the overall state budget the governor and legislature ultimately agree they can legally and politically make the cuts needed to adopt a balanced budget.

California’s overall economy, and especially that of the Inland Empire, continues to languish in a deep recession. Since California’s schools are largely funded out of the state budget, the negative impact of the economy has had a disproportionate effect on the financial stability and educational ability of our public school system.

By law, our schools have become overly dependent on funding from a state budget that is subject to increasing demands from diverse sectors of society, extremes in economic cycles and polarized political positions. This is no way to run a modern state or a high-quality education system. We must remove the restraints on local cities and communities that currently prevent them from choosing to make public education among their top priorities. They can legally do so when it comes to building their local schools, but they cannot do so when it comes to the operation of those schools they helped build. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Recent Shooting in Redlands

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By Renea Wickman –

As a parent I cannot think of anything worse than the loss of a child or loved one, murdered. Equally, I cannot imagine my child or loved one murdering another child or any human being.

No parent wishes their child to be murdered or to be a murderer.

The indescribable pain of parents, families and friends that have lost a loved one at the hands of a youth, criminal, racist or the criminally insane can never be mended or ever made whole, the pain never goes away. There is nothing that will ever bring their loved one back, and that is the devastating reality.

Semi-automatic and automatic assault weapons, hand grenades, ammunition that penetrates bulletproof vests and weapons used by peace officers, the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard, that are available to youth, criminals, racists and the criminally insane, will always result in senseless murders like those that very recently happened here in Redlands and Arizona.

I believe in our great Constitution and the second amendment and will protect it with my own life. However, I do not believe our forefathers intended or desired that our civilized society include youth, criminals, racists and the criminally insane the right to bear arms to the same degree of availability as reasonable civilized law abiding and productive citizens, any more than we would allow our underage youth the availability and right to purchase and drink alcohol and blind individuals the privilege of a drivers license.

Moreover, in part of his response to the Redlands shootings, our own Police Chief Bueermann cited that “racial tensions” are running high.

Yet, our fine city has a Human Relations Commission whose mission is “… promoting goodwill and better relations among all people.”

Does this commission plan to involve itself in seeking solutions?

It’s time that we faced the facts that the entire City of Redlands, its leaders, all Redlands citizens need to come together and work with our youth – all of them. We have the talent and leadership right here in our city that can tackle both the combined problems of gang violence and racism.

Oppressive Taxation

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(NNPA) Blacks in America pay their taxes without protest nor demands for equal representation. We do this to a serious fault. We get nothing in exchange for giving our few and precious capital resources. It is, in effect, colonialism. Our federal and local governments tax us in a manner that is supposed to provide services and fair trade. However, the many billions of dollars spent by our federal and local governments are denied to our businesses. Our unemployment doubles or triples that of Whites because of this. Our businesses cannot grow at a representative rate and, thus, we cannot create jobs for our population. Our quality of life does not have a chance under such a system. We must start demanding more and refusing to go along with this economic exploitation.

The Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce has done an analysis of how this system works. The State of Illinois is about to raise its state income tax from 3 percent to 5.25 percent. This will have a greater impact on the exploitive system against a certain segment of the population – us. The following is their take on this and the National Black Chamber of Commerce endorses their analysis.

The effect of an Illinois Income Tax increase on the Black Community Illinois is considering increasing the Income Tax rate from 3 percent to 5.25 percent. This document is an attempt to estimate the effect on this increase on the Illinois Black Economy.

Assumptions
1. Governor’s Estimated 2011 Illinois State Income Tax Receipts: $8.6B
2. Total Illinois Households – 4.8M
3. Total Black Households – 676,000 or 14 percent
4. Total Average Income per Household - $56,000
5. Average Income per Black Household - $35,000
6. Yearly State Income Taxes paid by Black workers @ 3 percent – $774-$860M or 9-10 percent
7. Yearly State Income Taxes paid by Black workers @ 5.25% – $1.35B-$1.50B

Economic Effects of Increased Taxes on the Black Community
If the Illinois State Income Tax rate increases from 3 percent to 5.25 percent, the Black community would pay an additional $580M to $645M in state taxes every year. This means the Black community that is already financially stressed would lose approximately $600M in purchasing power every year or $2.4B in four years.

What are Blacks getting for this investment?
The majority of this $2.4B is going to pay other people’s bills. Even though Blacks contribute approximately 10 percent of State Incomes Taxes, a larger percentage of sales taxes and a much larger percentage of lottery purchases, the State of Illinois does very little business with Blacks likely less than 1 percent of spend.

Conclusion
Martin Luther King once said that “Of the good things in life the Negro has half; of the bad things he has a double share”. That still holds true today for our people.

If jobs come from small business and the State and others are not doing business with our businesses, where are our jobs supposed to come from? Unless the State starts to do business with Blacks in proportion to our population this is a bad financial deal for Blacks. The Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce says that there should be NO TAXATION WITHOUT PARTICIPATION. We urge our Representatives to look at this deal carefully. Taking $2.4B from working Blacks to subsidize others is not going to help us rather it will damage an already fragile community.

Yes, the state legislature should vote against this tax increase unless the state will set aside the $200 million in procurements for Black owned businesses. That is the only way to make this taxation representative of the Black population of Illinois. This is just Illinois. We should do such an analysis for each and every state in the nation. Likewise, we need to do it for the federal government as well. Why are our economic indicators the lowest of all ethnic groups in the nation? A big contributor to that fact is right here. Our levels of government are economically sucking on us like the British did the 13 colonies – that led to a revolution. Let’s correct this so we don’t have to do anything drastic. The change must come or we will continue to just lay in the abyss.

Your legislative Black caucus should start understanding this and hopefully, one day, our Congressional Black Caucus will have a clue about this situation and start progressive action. Kudos go to the Illinois Black Chamber for this analysis. Each Black chamber should do such an analysis and share it throughout their respective state. The time for ECONOMIC EQUITY has come!

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. halford@nationalbcc.org. www.twitter.com/nationalbcc www.nbccbids.com

When the White Press Attacks a Black Voice

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(NNPA) Information is indeed power and one of the most powerful instruments is the press. Manipulators try their best to influence the press and use it for their own advancement and also against their rivals and enemies. Smear campaigns and propaganda are as apparent today as ever. Fox News has a strong conservative bent while MSNBC is strongly liberal with CNN being a little soft towards the left. They deliver the news with no shame and let it be known their political preference. All other stations do the same and the newspapers can even be worst. When race becomes an issue, it gets even uglier.

Such is the case with Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The press is continually attacking him from all sides. The top Democratic operative is Barack Obama, a Black man, and the other side now has a Black man. It is way too much and something has to give. The “bull’s eye” is focused on Mr. Steele and he is criticized for anything they can get their hands on. Actually, he is doing a fantastic job. He has taken the Republican Party to the greatest election victory in history—winning 690 seats--but, still, that isn’t good enough. They want him out because his voice is too strong and happens to be Black. The White press fears a Black who is accumulating power and fame. Mr. Steele has certainly done that in the last two years and they are scared to the max instead of being happy.

I learned this fact early in my career of activism. If you want to become notorious start a movement that forces change. They, the press, will follow you and do their best to find dirt, scandal and any other kind of wrong against you. When we started making changes in the way Indiana did business with Black entrepreneurs, the White Indiana democratic leaders brought out their big weapons – writers at the Indianapolis Star newspaper and a few local newscasters. They jumped on me like white on rice. In the beginning it was kind of shocking to have your picture on the front page of the newspaper and an article about how bad or pitiful you might have been. It would be all lies but they didn’t care because the intent was to smear.

The above assault would have intimidated the average person but to their dismay it was encouraging to me. I wasn’t from Indiana and my wife’s family was free and independent and beyond being hurt by them. In fact, they encouraged me to push on as they had my back. Local Black politicians and church leaders told me they knew the deal and do not let it deter me as they were there to support my efforts. I am forever grateful to them. The abuse from the White press was actually rallying the Black community around my cause and eventually gave birth to the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We could create our own power and depend just on ourselves to get the mission accomplished.

Eventually, it dawned on me to begin to fight back. The weapon I used was there all the time – the Black press. I started interviewing with the six Black newspapers in Indiana on a regular basis and started writing articles attacking the lying, conniving White press. My audience was totally Black and they knew exactly what I was talking about. It got to the point that no matter what the Indianapolis Star or evening news station would report the Black community would not pay it any attention as my word was being delivered properly in the Black newspapers. After a while my White enemies started reading Black newspapers on a continual basis to see what we were saying about them. They went on the defensive and that meant we were going to win. We did!

A few years ago I was in Indianapolis and ran into the reporter who wrote the worst articles about me. Pat Traub was in a bar and was having a few drinks. I sat down by him and struck up a conversation. He was no longer a reporter for the Indianapolis Star so I asked him “Why did you write those ruthless, lying articles about me?” He replied, “That was what I was paid to do. It was just my job – nothing personal”. Yes, my people, it is just a very cruel game and a ploy to gain or maintain power which turns into money.

So, the next time you notice the White press going after a brother or sister who is leading something please understand it is a ruthless game. Take it with a grain of “salt”. Wait and hear the other side of the story.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Happy New Year!

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“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah Winfrey

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2011, Oprah Winfrey made history with the launching of her new television network, OWN. As the first African American woman to launch a major television network, Oprah’s amazing ascension in the broadcast world is emblematic of the progress we have made in Black America and the hopes we all hold for an even brighter future. It is my fervent wish that in 2011 we will all push forward to realize our own dreams, especially those of us who have been struggling to find jobs.

The year 2010 brought us more than our share of challenges – from a horrific earthquake in Haiti to a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We were riveted by the dramatic rescue of 33 men trapped for months in a Chilean mine. We were shocked by the Wikileaks massive dump of secret information. Young Americans continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in two major wars. We saw a dramatic shift in Congress with Republicans capturing control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate. And, we begin this New Year almost like we began the one before; with unemployment in many communities of color nearly double the national rate of 9.8 percent.

Double-digit unemployment rates have been a reality for urban communities -- which also tend to be communities of color -- since August 2008 for African Americans and February 2009 for Latinos. In fact, African-American unemployment has been at or near 10% since December 2001. Last year, the African-American unemployment rate was on average 1.8 times higher than that of Whites. African-American median household income was 62% of that earned by White households and African Americans were more than three times as likely as Whites to live below the poverty line.

Without jobs, families are more likely to lack health insurance and access to affordable health care. Their educational opportunities are also limited, and the possibility of achieving the dream of homeownership grows further out of reach.

President Obama has made repairing our struggling economy his number one New Year’s resolution. While recent data shows our economy is on the rebound, he said “Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going. As President that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class. That’s my resolution for the coming year.”

The National Urban League begins its second century resolved to help the President fulfill that promise.

With the 2012 election now in sight, this year gives the President, the Congress, and all of us, one more chance to get it right.

Congratulations Oprah. Here’s to success and happiness for everyone in the New Year.

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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