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Letter to the Editor: Response to Moreno Valley's Validation Lawsuit

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I object to the city's financing plan, as do others. Our objections are based on several different things. We intend to present all the arguments we collectively have to the court. We are confident the court will decide which arguments it will entertain not the city's contracted attorney.

If the city isn't suing its citizens, the summons shouldn't have threatened "NOTICE!"YOU HAVE BEEN SUED." The city was hoping for a default judgment that would terminate any future objections. That isn't going to happen.

One of the objections to this Validation Lawsuit is the claim to "low cost". The resolution states this $15 million project was going to cost $38 million in re-payments over a period of 30 years. The court complaint now shows a $20 million principal and forty years of payments, with no stated total for those repayments. The citizens of the City of Moreno Valley shouldn't be expected to write a blank check! No taxpayer should knowingly permit such a travesty.

Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and Caltrans both approved the $17 million for the Menifee HWY 215 project. All Measure A funded projects in Riverside County require RCTC approval. RCTC has not approved the funding for Nason St improvements between Fir and Cactus. Riverside County voters approved a process for expending Measure A funds when they voted for the measure. The City of Moreno Valley cannot unilaterally replace RCTC's authority with their own.

One has only to drive through the streets of Moreno Valley to understand the need for regular street maintenance provided by Measure A funds. This very short street expansion is not in the best interests of the entire community.

The economic development action plan introduced by Moreno Valley's newly hired city manager proposes to spend $23 million to improve the property known as Aquabella. The Aquabella property is only approved and entitled for a senior master planned residential community. This money has been approved even though the development agreement requires the developer of this property (Iddo Benzeevi) to pay for this street improvement.

The $38 million, along with a previously committed sum of $23 million, means the Moreno Valley City Council is committing over $60 million to a project that hasn't been approved or entitled. In fact this $60 million is for a medical campus/corridor that is currently only approved and entitled for a senior master planned community. No signed occupants. There is no way to make sense of spending $60 million for nothing more than an artists rendering without asking some questions that I trust will serve as food for thought. As you read these questions there is one question I really want you to think about. What else don't you know?

Did you know the Moreno Valley City Council kept the city manager vetting committee secret from the public for months in violation of the Brown Act? Did you know that each council member picked one person to be on that committee? Do you know which city council member picked which committee member? Did you know the only reason the public learned about the vetting committee is when Iddo Benzeevi thought his choice wasn't going to be picked so he went to the reporter? Did you know that three of the members of the city manager vetting committee were on the Board of Directors of the Rancho Belago Economic Council (Jamil Dada, Dave Slawson & Iddo Benzeevi)? Did you know it was the Rancho Belago Economic Council Board of Directors that asked the city to change the name of the east end to Rancho Belago? Did you know that vetting committee member Carl Rowe owns Integrated Care Communities which is right in the area of Nason to be improved with the new city managers' economic development plan? Did a very narrow group of hand picked individuals get to pick the new city manager who in turn proposed an economic development plan that boosted that personnel interests? Did you know the city manager is proposing a $100,000. bonus to the bid awarded contractor that can complete the Nason Street project through an empty lot? The businesses at Stoneridge Towne Centre are really suffering, so why isn't there an incentive to complete these improvements early?

Deanna Reeder
Moreno Valley, CA

Obama's Solution to Minority Business – Kill it: Part I

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(NNPA) I never thought it would get this low. Here we are with the first “Black” president and the first Black attorney general and they move to kill enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The shock is that they dare do it. The reality is they can’t win at this as this is the law. But still they work to hurt small business per se and Black, Hispanic and Asian business specifically. This sinister action is to promote their socialistic pro union manifesto.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the prize of the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and totally supported by people like Whitney Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Benjamin Chavis, Julian Bond and legions of other committed heroes. We won and President Lyndon B. Johnson ran the “N___ Bill” (as he off the record called it) through. This bill ended institutional discrimination in fact. But the key was to get the bill implemented.

President Johnson was distracted with the Vietnam War debacle. It would be his successor, Richard M. Nixon, who began the implementation in 1968. My mentor, Arthur A. Fletcher, was working in the Department of Labor and saw the great opportunity. He implemented the Philadelphia Plan, which brought affirmative action to hiring in federal contracting. The vehicle was Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which stated that if you do business with the federal government or benefit from a federal program you cannot use discriminatory practices in your business interaction. The way to prove that you don’t is to have a formal program of inclusion, such as affirmative action. Some of the labor unions were very racist and they protested to the max. Art had a union/mob contract put on his life and as he integrated federal jobs and contracting across the nation he had to have two secret service agents shadow him for his protection.

The biggest example of the intensity was in Chicago where a direct attempt of mob action against Dr. Fletcher was enacted at the Palmer Hotel. A mob made various attempts to break into his room and kill him. He contacted the White House and that led to a call from President Richard Nixon to Chicago Mayor Richard “Dick” Daley. The President told the Mayor that “if my guy doesn’t arrive in D.C. this evening or is harmed the 101st Airborne will be marching down Michigan Avenue tomorrow morning and take your city over”. The Mayor backed the goons off and affirmative action proceeded on.

On the direct contracting front was another giant to emerge, the Honorable Congressman Parren J. Mitchell (D-MD). Parren used the bully pulpit of the Chair of the House Small Business Committee and wrote various programs for minority business development with federal dollars. The Small Disadvantaged Business Program (SDB), the 8(a) program, the Disabled Veteran Program, the Disadvantaged Business Program (DBE) at the Department of Transportation and others were implemented by this giant. The number of Black millionaires and new jobs in the Black community created by Congressman Mitchell exceeds all other programs combined. Most of this growth came during the Ronald Reagan Administration.

As we improved and benefited from these programs, adversaries tried to stop the programs. There was the Croson Decision and the Adarand Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which caused a pause in the programs. But the reality of it was that it was the law and all we had to do was strictly abide by the law. We did and the programs proceeded. We still get nuisance lawsuits opposing these programs by entities such as the Associated General Contractors, US Road Builders and a few ultra right wing think tanks. Still, we prevail and move on.

The Black percentage of federal business peaked during the Reagan Administration at six percent of the total. It started to decline during the Clinton Administration but then leveled off and began an upswing during the George W. Bush Administration (HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson was the Most Valuable Player in this up tic). Then, as the Obama Administration moved in, and to the shock of all of us watching, the “rug” was pulled from under us. The new movement was to put unions back into power and eliminate small business, inclusive of minority business, from federal procurement. Today, Black business is at 0.3 percent and falling. It is a direct assault and a disaster. Keep in mind that 70 percent of all jobs are created by small business. This administration is killing small business and that is the reason for Black unemployment to be at record levels.

This administration is killing us and it is time for the Congressional Black Caucus and all Black concerned associations and citizens to say “enough”. This Obama experiment has failed us miserably and a real change is drastically needed. We will get through this but big decisions lay in front of us.

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

The Problem with Assassinating U.S. Citizens

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By Bill Fletcher, Jr., NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) To be clear, I have no love for anyone connected with Al Qaeda. If they all dropped into a black hole tomorrow I would rest easy. But I must confess that I have been left very unsettled by the White House's approval of the assassination of a U.S. citizen, one Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Various reports have indicated that the White House received a legal opinion approving the killing. Opponents of the killing have pointed out that there are some serious Constitutional issues at stake. I suppose that I look at it in simple terms.

A U.S. citizen is accused--but not formally charged--with being connected with a terrorist organization. They are living outside of the USA. The U.S. claims that it has intelligence data supporting their allegation. They then go about eliminating this individual.

You need to step back from your feelings about Al Qaeda and your memories of 11 September. Instead, you need to think about what doors are now open to the government. If Al-Awlaki was connected with Al Qaeda--and I am prepared to believe that he was--why was there no formal charge against him? Why not indict him?

Let's go to the next point. If Al-Awlaki was not to be indicted, why does anyone else need to be indicted in the future? Think about it for a moment. If there was no indictment against a U.S. citizen, are we left with execution-based-on-allegations? Can the government decide one day on the basis of whatever information, reliable or unreliable, that an individual is connected with a terrorist organization and then...bang? Does this mean, for instance, that someone who might be doing human rights work in Palestine who is alleged by persons unknown, to be connected with Hamas is now subject to being whacked?

This is more than a slippery slope. In the name of fighting terrorism a door has been opened. This is a door into a house of horrors that may be very difficult to shut. One can understand and share the hatred that is felt against someone--Al-Awlaki--who would knowingly kill or support the killing of civilians. Yet, as citizens we are supposed to have rights and not be tried, let alone executed, based on secret or semi-secret allegations. After all, the allegations may be based on anything including payback, revenge, mischievousness, or personal gain. Is that the basis upon which we want to accept extra-judicial, formally approved, executions?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided." He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

A Time for Black Business Cohesion

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(NNPA) My wife, Kay, and I started a local Black chamber of commerce back in Indianapolis in 1991. People said we were crazy and would end up with immediate failure. They just didn’t understand that the time had come for the business interactions of Indianapolis to transform into complete integration. There were battles but in the end Indy has become a very progressive city. We are proud of what we accomplished.

Soon after, as my late mentor Dr. Arthur Fletcher would always say of us, “The slope isn’t slippery enough anymore for you two.” He would be amazed as to how much we would take on and when completed we would look for more to do. We started the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc., in Washington, D.C., on May, 1993. Next year we will be having our 20th Annual Convention, July 19 – 21, 2012 in Atlanta, GA. We started with 12 local chapters and have exceeded 160 today with more under construction. Our journeys have taken us to Europe, Caribbean, South America and, of course, the continent of Africa. We have generated billions of new dollars for our communities.

It is the increased interaction with business associations and direct contact with foreign Black entrepreneurs that is now leading us to a new “slippery slope”. Pan Africanism is not a new theory. It was first popularized by champions such as Marcus Garvey, Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Henry Highland Garnet. Uniting Black business as one big organization was first implemented by the great Booker T. Washington (National Negro Business League). Washington and Garvey started collaborating together and the established power bases of America and various European nations provided serious pushback. They even formed rival organizations that mellowed the focus of most Black Americans.

Well, Brothers Washington, Garvey and the others; we still hear you! Last week, as I was meeting with a group of visiting French entrepreneurs the idea hit me. They were complaining that they have had many meetings with Black businesses in Brazil, the Caribbean and many of the 23 Francophone nations in Africa but it appears that they are just going in circles. Then the leader of the group made a sincere request, “Harry, will you bring cohesion to us. Can you form an international organization for businesses of the African Diaspora.?” I paused for about a half a minute and said “Yes!”. They responded with “When?” I retorted with “Now.” I left the meeting with full blown commitment and informed Kay when she picked me up that we have a new big assignment. She welcomed it (as she always does).

We came up with the name PanAfrican Entrepreneurs Conference, Inc. We have secured the Federal Tax ID number, the proper website URL and have reserved the name with the D.C. government. Our formal incorporation and application for 501©3 status will be completed during October. The website will go up first week in November and we will begin collecting a massive database of Pan African entrepreneurs within the Diaspora. We and the organizing principals will have a worldwide teleconference in early December. Oh yes, it is going down.

Seed money for organizing will come from a chamber subsidiary, NBCC – Free Trade Initiative. We will have one giant conference per year beginning in the fall of 2013 with the intention of setting an agenda for the next twelve months (accountability of the agenda will be reported at the next conference and so on). The first venue will be in Miami, Houston or Atlanta. We will move it to another nation each year.

We will begin taking memberships this December. There will be only one type of membership – business owner. Each member will have one vote at the conference as we vote on which issues to focus on the next year. There will be no political or social initiatives whatsoever. It will be straight out business. If we do it right, each member will have an international network for market expansion, joint venturing, capital infusion and effective marketing. Best practices will be shared for the benefit of up and coming business owners and to take successful businesses to the next level.

If we do it right, and we always do, this will have a big, positive effect on the quality of life and economic well being for all descendents of the African Diaspora. Seventy percent of all new jobs come from small business ventures and we are about to multiply exponentially the number of successful businesses within the Diaspora. The more businesses, the more jobs and greater economic vitality for our people in a global fashion. In other words, the NBCC will grow, our chapters will grow and our people will benefit from our efforts.

It has been a long time coming but the time is now. Look out world, Black business is about to take off to another level!

Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

A Long Shadow of Doubt: The Execution of Troy Davis

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“When ... the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue.” -Former United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

(NNPA) Last Wednesday, September 21, 2011 was a sad day for American justice. On that date at 11:08 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, the State of Georgia administered a lethal injection into the body of 42-year-old Troy Davis and put him to death. With his dying breath, Troy Davis maintained his innocence in the 1989 shooting death of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. For 20 years, the shadow of doubt that hung over Davis’ conviction grew so large that it galvanized anti-death penalty advocates around the world, including hundreds of citizens wearing “I am Troy Davis” T-shirts who kept a solemn vigil outside the Jackson, Georgia prison until the final hour.

Over the last 20 years, the National Urban League and dozens of other prominent organizations and leaders argued that Davis’s conviction was in serious doubt. Seven of the nine witnesses who originally identified Troy Davis as the murderer, later recanted their testimony. And no murder weapon or other physical evidence was ever found linking Davis to the crime. That is why we joined the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, Amnesty International, former president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Al Sharpton, former FBI Director William Sessions, Pope Benedict, former Georgia Congressman, Bob Barr and others in calling for Davis’ exoneration or at least further investigation.

The racial subtext of this case cannot be ignored. Davis, a Black man, was convicted of killing MacPhail, a white police officer. While African Americans make up only 13 percent of the population, more than 42 percent of death row inmates are Black. Over 75 percent of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally, only 50 percent of murder victims were white.

Since 1973, a total of 138 man and women have been exonerated or had their death sentences commuted based on post-conviction findings that proved their innocence -- five of them in the state of Georgia. And, according to the Innocence Project, “Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit.” These disparities and problems cast a long shadow of doubt over our criminal justice system.

People of conscience can disagree on the death penalty, but it is unconscionable by every standard to execute someone who very well might be innocent. Our hearts go out not only to Mr. Davis’ family, but also to the family of Mark MacPhail who will never know for sure that his killer was brought to justice.

Legendary Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was unequivocally against the death penalty and would have been a dissenter in last week’s 11th-hour Supreme Court decision allowing the execution of Troy Davis. Justice Marshall felt, as we do, that as long as questions of equity, fairness and fallibility persist, we must stop executions and give death row inmates every chance to prove their innocence.

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

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