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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).

Al Gore: The Greatest Environmental Hustler?

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(NNPA) The subject of the Environment has long been a political football. Many manipulators have used it to gain power, thwart power or to save the world from something that isn’t quite clear. Global warming; global cooling, cancers, flooding, droughts, etc. causes questions and worries about what is going on and how we can bring it under control. The first major politician to finesse this issue was the late President Richard M. Nixon. He elevated the Environmental Protection Agency and started “Earth Day” as a mechanism to divert attention from the anti-war and the civil rights movements that were whirling from Vietnam/Cambodia and the recent assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Before long, more than a few politicians saw the advantage of embracing the issue and rallying the masses for political gain.

The Clinton/Gore administrations brought it to new heights. Vice President Al Gore saw it as the cause celebre going into the 21st century. He brought on the environmental zealot Carol Browner as the Administrator of the EPA and gave Greenpeace, Sierra Club and others a prominent place in environmental matters. Stealing a bit from the Nixon mentality they even brought in a racial theme: Environmental Justice or Environmental Racism. Things were so hot that Vice President Gore decided he was going to ride this matter to the White House and beyond. He latched on to a new concept known as Ethanol. This is an alternative to oil and is also known as “gasohol”. Simply, you process everyday corn into an alternative for gasoline. It was incredibly earth friendly and we could use everyday farming as the source. How sexy: Dump the oil companies and embrace our farmers.

However, Al and the environmentalists didn’t do their homework. This had been tried before. The great Henry Ford licensed Black inventor George Washington Carver to do the same via peanuts. The sales of automobiles were skyrocketing and exceeding the pace of oil exploration. George Washington Carver came up with this conclusion: There are many uses of peanuts, especially peanut oil, but a replacement for gasoline just isn’t feasible. It is too costly and it would disrupt the American agricultural system. Leave oil for energy and peanuts for human consumption and agri-business.

Al Gore saw this as his ticket to the White House. He would preach, advocate, and lobby the virtues of ethanol. By doing so, he would win the hearts of farmers especially in states like Iowa where the presidential primaries would start. He would become known as the Chief Environmentalist and best friend of agriculture. It was like “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead”. The conclusion of George Washington Carver proved true and the ethanol industry grew but at great expense to the American economy.

Corn is used in a myriad of food applications including feed for our cattle and chicken industries. Corn syrup, corn starch, etc. is used throughout the products that make up a typical grocery store. The supply of corn greatly shrunk as the ethanol craze took off and the price of food has caused serious harm to our everyday economy. This “sea change” hurt all of us economically, except Al Gore. He stuck with it even after he realized the ill effects. His hope was to become the next President. He failed and now, in retrospect, he laments his devious activity.

Despite recognizing his mistake, he stuck with it anyway for the sake of big bucks. Al preached and preached the virtues of ethanol as if it was the salvation to Mother Earth. He and others arranged $7 billion in annual subsidies to ethanol producers and, even today, it is out of control. Brazil is the only nation to adequately manage ethanol production as it farms new land in the Amazon and utilizes the less expensive sugar cane. They under price us and we cannot compete with them on the global market.

Al wrote a book about his ventures entitled “An Inconvenient Truth”. His dreams were realized. The book was a great success and the documentary film won an Academy Award. The guy even received a Nobel Peace Prize from the encouragement of the environmentalist community. In the end, he made many millions of dollars and is still rolling. He didn’t become President, but he is filthy rich by anybody’s standards.

The above can become a case study in how to take advantage of half science, fear, and a strong hunger for answers. A good hustler will provide the “answer”; sell it with a vengeance, and reap the cash some kind of way. The old country boy did it. It was all about “an inconvenient lie”.

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

Mid-Terms Elect New African American Members of Congress

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(NNPA) As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, While centrist Democrats bore the brunt of the mid-term election losses, members of the Black and Hispanic caucuses won 56 of 60 re-election bids. The more than 40 returning African American members of Congress and at least five new ones are coming to Washington fired up and determined to beat back the coming attacks on the progressive agenda the country voted for in 2008.

As a result of the elections, seven new African Americans will be sworn-in as new House members on January 5th.

These include two Tea Party endorsed Black Republicans -- Tim Scott, of South Carolina, and Allen West, of Florida, -- and the first Black woman ever to represent the state of Alabama , Terri Sewell.

A native of Selma , Terri Sewell, DAL, comes from a politically active family that placed a strong emphasis on education.

Her mother was the first African American woman elected to the Selma City Council. Sewell is a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard Law School and currently works as a public interest lawyer in Birmingham. High on her legislative priorities list is job creation, health care, and help for Black farmers.

Karen Bass, D-CA, of Los Angeles is the nation’s first Black woman State Assembly Speaker. She will represent California ’s 33rd Congressional District in the U.S. Congress. Congresswoman-elect Bass is a graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills and the University of California School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She credits having led the California state assembly during the state’s historic fiscal crisis for giving her a grassroots understanding of what it will take to cure the nation’s economic woes.

Hansen Clarke, D-MI, of Detroit, assumes the House seat occupied by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick for the past 14 years. A graduate of Cornell University , Clarke formerly served as a member of the Michigan House and State Senate. He brings years of legislative experience and a track record of bi-partisan accomplishment to his new role. He says that helping the people of Detroit navigate the often confusing labyrinth of federal benefits and services available to them will be a major focus in Congress. Cedric Richmond, D-LA, won a landslide victory over one-term Louisiana Congressman Anh Joseph Cao.

A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Richmond is a graduate of Morehouse College , Tulane Law School , and the Harvard University executive program.

He has served as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives since 2000 and created a new markets tax credit, which has steered more than $250 million in investment to the State’s hurricane ravaged areas.

With a personality as bold as her big, stylish Stetsons, Frederica Wilson, D-FL, will be occupying the House seat previously held by Florida ’s Kendrick Meeks. Congresswoman-elect Wilson is a former teacher, principal, and school board member who vows to carry her fight for resource equity to halls of Congress.

All of these new African American members bring fresh ideas and energy to the United States Congress.

For the sake of our nation and our communities, here’s hoping they make the right kind of difference.

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

Rep. Baca's Statement on the Claims Resolution Act of 2010

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Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) spoke on the floor of the House of Representative today in support of H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. The legislation provides funding to settle the Pigford discrimination lawsuit, brought by African American farmers against the USDA. The bill also includes funds to settle the Cobell case, brought by Native American communities whose trust accounts were mishandled by the federal government, and resolutions to water rights claims for other Native tribes.

H.R. 4783 passed the House by a 256 - 152 vote, and a copy of Rep. Baca’s statements to his colleagues on the House floor follows:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my strong support for H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.”

“I want to thank Congressional leadership and the White House for their commitment to ensure justice for those individuals and communities we have wronged in the past. The treatment of minority farmers by the USDA remains a dark stain on our nation’s history.”

“When I first came to Congress, I worked extensively in the Agriculture Committee with my former colleague, Rep. Eva Clayton, to bring justice to African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Female farmers. We hosted several meetings, wrote letters, and chaired numerous Subcommittee hearings on this very issue to address past discrimination.”

“Today, I am pleased to say we are taking an important step forward in righting the past wrongs and injustices carried out by this country. H.R. 4783 provides the additional funding required to settle the Pigford lawsuit, brought by African American farmers. It also includes funds to settle the Cobell case, and finally provide justice to Native Americans communities whose trust accounts were mishandled by the Government.”

“Thousands of people have been affected, and still bear the wounds of the past discriminations. Their wait for justice has been too long.”

“The legislation also includes important measures to settle water rights claims for many Tribes, including: the White Mountain Apache, the Crow Montana, the Navajo Nation, the Taos Pueblo, and other Southwestern Pueblo tribes.”

“We still have a long road ahead before we can bring justice to all groups discriminated by the USDA, including Hispanic farmers and female farmers, but we are moving in the right direction.”

“I urge my colleagues to do the right thing, and vote yes on H.R. 4783. I yield back the balance of my time.”

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