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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.

Thank You Letter from Supervisor Josie Gonzales

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Dear Hardy Brown
I open this letter thanking you for your most kind and encouraging support of my efforts to become Chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 2011 (posted Dec. 1, 2010).

I was raised to believe that hard work and public service are simple elements of a decent life – one that I have been blessed to live. All of us search for ways to give our time and answer the call to serve and help others, no matter how great or how small. I admit, becoming an elected official was not part of my original plan; however, I embraced this new direction after realizing that I might better serve the people of San Bernardino County as part of a bigger plan.

As I took the oath of office in 1998 to become Councilwoman in the City of Fontana, I pledged then, as I do now, to maintain the highest ethical standards – to work with honesty and integrity – in order to best represent the people who have placed their vote of confidence in me. As Supervisor, I believe that the same expectation of representation extends to all who live in the county, not just those who reside in my district. This 13-year journey has taken me from the City of Fontana’s Planning Commission, to its City Council, and now to the County Board of Supervisors – a position in which I have had the honor to serve for the past six years. As we look to the new year, the Board of Supervisors will once again select a Chair to lead the county for the next two years. As a matter of equity to the Districts, county policy states that “…selection of nominees for the position of Chairman shall be on the basis of seniority of members who have not served as Chairman…” (No. 01-07) As the current Vice Chair, and most tenured member of the Board, I stand ready to be the next Chair.

The Chairmanship is a profoundly unique position that carries with it a great deal of responsibility, as well as challenges. The Chair must find ways to balance the needs of the entire county – which is no small feat considering our vast geographical breadth and diversity. Yet, I see these challenges as opportunities to build consensus and unify our communities under a shared vision.

Through a collective effort, my colleagues and I will put the people’s interests first as we resolve matters, while exemplifying a dignified political strength and unity. This effort will get us through today’s difficult times, as well as prepare us for tomorrow’s promising future.

My tenure as a public servant has garnered within me the true meaning of public service. It is with this knowledge and experience that I denounce those whose only intent is to tear down and impair a government that is working to promote and strengthen the economic viability of its people. Together, we can prevail against the obstacles and rightfully uphold the ideal of what is good and decent.

With God’s grace, and my colleagues’ support for my Chairmanship, I pledge to work with the Board to preserve the process by which we at the county deliver our mandates.

A new chapter has begun in San Bernardino County. I look forward to the promise of working with Supervisors Mitzelfelt, Rutherford, Derry, and Ovitt as we lead this county towards new horizons.

Josie Gonzales, Vice Chair San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, 5th District

FCC Appears to Find Middle Road to Hope

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Our nation certainly turned a corner two years ago with the election of our first Black President. Aside from the obvious historical progress made, for the first time in a long time Americans overwhelmingly expressed feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope about the future. We were looking for positive change that would drive us forward and President Obama was determined to deliver.

His vision for the future included a number of noble goals to get this country back on track -- including the 21st Century promise of opportunity made possible through universal broadband connectivity.

Getting connected online would provide a much-needed lifeline for struggling communities of color while empowering all Americans to survive and thrive in the new millennium and beyond. President Obama announced this priority on the campaign trail and received an excited and approving nod from Americans when he reaffirmed the goal once elected. He distributed marching orders, and it seemed that we were well on our way toward achieving an historic technological advancement that would strengthen our great nation from the bottom up.

Unfortunately, the road to becoming a connected nation has not been without potholes.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its National Broadband Plan, providing a roadmap to get everyone online as the President had directed. However, the months that followed have been absorbed by the highly contentious net neutrality debate, preventing any real progress. This effort has largely been driven by extremist groups that appear to have interests other than those of the greater public in mind.

The resulting gridlock has needlessly delayed and distracted from making positive change that would benefit all Americans -- and minority Americans in particular -- in the classroom, in the work place, in the home, and far beyond. It has stood in the way of job creation and investment that is essential to turning things around for us all. And, as weeks and months pass without clarity or forward progress, it seems that we see and hear less and less of the excitement, optimism, and hope that overflowed two years ago.

It looks like things may change, though, and not a moment too soon.

Chairman Genachowski announced this week that the FCC will address proposed rules to preserve the open Internet at its December 21 open meeting. The proposal on the table appears to reflect a mainstream compromise on net neutrality, which aims to ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation, job creation, and economic opportunity without overregulation that could harm internet deployment and costs. My hope is that this compromise will provide closure to this debate that is absolutely necessary in order to move forward to achieve the Chairman's stated goal of increasing "certainty in the marketplace and spurring investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks" -- things that must happen for the broadband marketplace to fully participate in our economic recovery efforts. As the Chairman said this week, the Internet has allowed for "wondrous contributions to our economy and our way of life."

As publisher of the LA Sentinel and Chairman of National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing more than 200 African American newspapers -- giving voice and providing information to 19.8 million households who read the Black Press of American weekly -- I applaud the efforts of the FCC. However, I encourage Chairman Genachowski, and in particular Commissioner Clyburn, to swing wide inclusion's door and make real the economic empowerment equalizer broadband access pledges, especially where it concerns the full participation of minority owned media enterprises, technology firms, advertising, and other Black-owned businesses.

Universal connectivity holds even greater promise of opportunity and possibility today thanks to new and evolving technological innovations. It is because of this investment in innovation that millions of Americans have already adopted broadband -- and African Americans lead in wireless mobile device adoption. But, this isn't good enough -- we need to connect every American. I realize the idea isn't new -- but even though we have the technology as well as a solid plan to connect everyone to the technology, we still have a long way to go before we get where we need to be. As we put the net neutrality debate behind us we need to focus on implementing the National Broadband Plan that will enable us to move forward once and for all.

It's not too late. We can restore those good feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope that I mentioned -- but we have got to shift our focus to efforts that will make a real difference... right now.

Letter to the Editor from Emil Marzullo, Director EDA

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Dear Community Resident and Leader,

A petition is circulating throughout the community that contains an errorfilled memorandum regarding the reopening of the downtown movie theater.

On January 10, 2011 the mayor and common council will conduct a public hearing to consider a 34 year lease agreement with the Regal Entertainment Group (operator of Edwards Cinemas, United Artists, and Regal Cinemas). It is apparent from the information contained in these memoranda, that legally confidential information is being disseminated to advance certain private and political agendas. More troubling, is the fact that this information is so factually inaccurate that its purpose is clearly to misinform the public about the proposed reopening of the movie theaters.

I am writing this letter to provide you the facts, in the hope our City does not once-again “shoot itself in the foot” because of self-interests, as we have done so often in the past. It is time for San Bernardino to make decisions guided by professionals and experts, not politics and self-interest.

Our residents deserve this and our businesses need this.

Historically, public investment in downtown San Bernardino intended to create economic growth has often failed to produce results because the plans and decisions did not give sufficient consideration to ensure that the public investment was a true catalyst for private investment. Past public investments have been made with insufficient plans to ensure it encouraged private investment. The original movie theater and the baseball stadium built during the mid-1990’s are good examples. Neither public investment was tied to plans for additional private investment. As a result, both have sat for 15 years in isolation doing very little to spur private investment and economic growth.

Thus, if our City is to reopen the downtown movie theater, the only measure of success should be whether the reopening of the movie theater spurs additional private investment and business in downtown restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Merely reopening the movie theater and hoping it stays open would not be a success – that would simply repeat the failures of the past.

To ensure success, the City retained several expert consultants to evaluate options for reopening the movie theaters.

These consultants have proven track-records in the disciplines of theater development and operations, retail development and modern urban planning and design principles. These consultants have assisted other cities in our state and nation in making decisions that ensure targeted public investments are a catalyst for private investment.

I attach and share with you, comments received from the Fransen Company, one of our retained retail and entertainment experts for this project. John Fransen, principal of the firm has successfully aided communities across the nation in these types of projects.

The City solicited proposals from cinema operators to reopen the movie theater and asked these experts to evaluate not only viability of the proposals to successfully reopen the theaters, but also to evaluate which proposals had the best chance to succeed on the only measure of success that counts – the ability to immediately attract additional private investment and business to the city.

The consultants’ concluded that of the 8 proposals received, Regal Cinemas not only created the greatest return on investment of the public dollars, but also had the greatest chance of attracting additional private investment and business in and around the movie theater complex. In fact, once it became known the City was negotiating with Regal Cinemas, development groups and businesses began contacting the City regarding the opportunities adjacent to the Regaloperated movie theater.

Why? Very simply, Regal Cinemas is a known commodity that other investors trust and are willing to assume that if Regal believes there is a good market in downtown San Bernardino, then they are willing to make their own investment. It is very similar to an “anchor tenant” in a shopping center. The type of anchor tenant largely dictates what secondary tenants sign leases. If you attract a strong anchor, you attract strong secondary tenants.

Does that mean only Regal Cinema could be successful in reopening the downtown movie theater? No. Other theater operators could certainly operate the cinema. The fact that the City received eight proposals is evidence of the market for a theater complex in downtown. Merely reopening the movie theaters is absolutely the wrong measure of success. Success will only be achieved by movie theaters that attract additional private investment and business into downtown.

It is unfortunate the error-filled memorandum being circulated by certain local self-interests ignores these basic principles of commercial real estate and economic development. The memorandum advocates the City immediately sell the theater property to a northern California real estate speculator, so this company can profit from leasing the theater to an operator like Regal Cinema or worse, a small unknown theater franchise. Does anyone remember the name Cinemastar?

The problem in selling the property without a well capitalized operator, is that the City has no ability to ensure the theater actually reopens; the City has no ability to ensure the theater is operated by a company that will attract other private investment and businesses to downtown; in fact, once the City sells the property, it has no ability to ensure it’s even reused for movie theater at all.

If we are committed to having a movie theater in downtown San Bernardino (which the market indicates strong support for), then let’s make sure this time around our efforts result in spurring other economic development around the theater.

Experts with a proven track record of success have advised the City that Regal Cinemas provides the best opportunity of ensuring a successful outcome.

I am hopeful that City will follow the professional advice and recommendations it has received to best ensure that our limited public investment spurs economic development – a formula for success seen in other cities like Ontario, Riverside, and Rancho Cucamonga, but rarely in San Bernardino. To do otherwise would be to once again follow the mistakes of the past and let self-interest prevail over the collective and long-term economic health of this City.

Emil Marzullo, EDA, Director, City of San Bernardino

FCC Appears to Find Middle Road to Hope

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(NNPA) Our nation certainly turned a corner two years ago with the election of our first Black President. Aside from the obvious historical progress made, for the first time in a long time Americans overwhelmingly expressed feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope about the future. We were looking for positive change that would drive us forward and President Obama was determined to deliver.

His vision for the future included a number of noble goals to get this country back on track -- including the 21st Century promise of opportunity made possible through universal broadband connectivity. Getting connected online would provide a much-needed lifeline for struggling communities of color while empowering all Americans to survive and thrive in the new millennium and beyond. President Obama announced this priority on the campaign trail and received an excited and approving nod from Americans when he reaffirmed the goal once elected. He distributed marching orders, and it seemed that we were well on our way toward achieving an historic technological advancement that would strengthen our great nation from the bottom up.

Unfortunately, the road to becoming a connected nation has not been without potholes.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its National Broadband Plan, providing a roadmap to get everyone online as the President had directed. However, the months that followed have been absorbed by the highly contentious net neutrality debate, preventing any real progress. This effort has largely been driven by extremist groups that appear to have interests other than those of the greater public in mind. The resulting gridlock has needlessly delayed and distracted from making positive change that would benefit all Americans -- and minority Americans in particular -- in the classroom, in the work place, in the home, and far beyond. It has stood in the way of job creation and investment that is essential to turning things around for us all. And, as weeks and months pass without clarity or forward progress, it seems that we see and hear less and less of the excitement, optimism, and hope that overflowed two years ago.

It looks like things may change, though, and not a moment too soon. Chairman Genachowski announced this week that the FCC will address proposed rules to preserve the open Internet at its December 21 open meeting. The proposal on the table appears to reflect a mainstream compromise on net neutrality, which aims to ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation, job creation, and economic opportunity without over-regulation that could harm internet deployment and costs. My hope is that this compromise will provide closure to this debate that is absolutely necessary in order to move forward to achieve the Chairman's stated goal of increasing "certainty in the marketplace and spurring investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks" -- things that must happen for the broadband marketplace to fully participate in our economic recovery efforts. As the Chairman said this week, the Internet has allowed for "wondrous contributions to our economy and our way of life."

As publisher of the LA Sentinel and Chairman of National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing more than 200 African American newspapers -- giving voice and providing information to 19.8 million households who read the Black Press of American weekly -- I applaud the efforts of the FCC. However, I encourage Chairman Genachowski, and in particular Commissioner Clyburn, to swing wide inclusion's door and make real the economic empowerment equalizer broadband access pledges, especially where it concerns the full participation of minority owned media enterprises, technology firms, advertising, and other Black-owned businesses.

Universal connectivity holds even greater promise of opportunity and possibility today thanks to new and evolving technological innovations. It is because of this investment in innovation that millions of Americans have already adopted broadband -- and African Americans lead in wireless mobile device adoption. But, this isn't good enough -- we need to connect every American. I realize the idea isn't new -- but even though we have the technology as well as a solid plan to connect everyone to the technology, we still have a long way to go before we get where we need to be. As we put the net neutrality debate behind us we need to focus on implementing the National Broadband Plan that will enable us to move forward once and for all.

It's not too late. We can restore those good feelings of excitement, optimism, and hope that I mentioned -- but we have got to shift our focus to efforts that will make a real difference... right now.

Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. is Chairman of the National Newspaper Publisher's Association (NNPA).

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