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Letter to the Editor

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Mayor and City Council Members, Our Charter Review Commission Does Not Reflect Our City

A key item at our March 3, 2011 meeting was a discussion of the charter review process and the work of the commission. In reviewing the makeup of the members of the Charter Review Commission it became apparent that the members were primarily all White.

Members of The Group expressed concerns regarding how this could happen, especially in a city where Mayor Ron Loveridge is constantly speaking about how Riverside promotes diversity and inclusiveness.

Our concern is not directed at the individuals appointed commissioners. They are to be commended for their offer of service to our city. Our concern is the insensitivity and lack of respect shown by you when it turned out that the members of the commission reflected only one segment of our community.

Our members, by majority vote, directed that a letter be sent to the mayor and city council requesting that you expand the membership of the Charter Review Commission to reflect the city’s ethnic diversity, young adult population and geographic representation. One way to accomplish this would be to appoint a similar size group as the previous commission.

If there were a lack of qualified candidates to serve, you could have: A) responded by extending the application period; B) worked with established community groups such as Latino Network, The Pick Group, Riverside African American Historical Society, Riverside Branch NAACP, League of Women Voters and The Group.

We are requesting that you take the preceding concerns under consideration and seek to remedy this issue.

Jennifer Vaughn Blakely
Chair, The Group

A Federal Government Too Big to Manage

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(NNPA) We have a big problem. Our deficit (total debt) is approaching $14 trillion and it is still growing by the interest it accrues alone. Worse yet, the debt holders are nations such as China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, who have no interest in a “happy landing” for our future. Our nation is running on risky business and the future for our children and grandchildren does not look bright at all. It is imperative that we begin to address this problem straight up and not try to ignore or go into denial as Congress and the White House appear to be doing. We don’t address a federal deficit with a budget that goes into the red itself. Increasing the deficit does not improve the deficit. Any third grader could figure that out. We need leadership that will take us through the pain of shrinking our spending and correcting our economic plight.

Where do we go? That is rather obvious. We have to cut our annual spending. The federal government is too big and wasteful,--no debate there. We have been talking about it for decades. Let us start doing something about it. The solution lies in shrinking the federal government. The so called “good government job” is quite expendable, as we correct our economic dilemma. As President Thomas Jefferson stated, “the government that governs least, governs best”. This nation was built on four federal agencies: The Departments of Justice, Treasury, Defense and State. Anything else should be evaluated for its actual effectiveness and the original four should be shrunk to necessity and remove the largesse.

The prime candidate for cutting is the U.S. Department of Education, which is the most wasteful and ignorant agency the federal government has. Those of us who were educated before this agency was established in 1979 did all right. Those of us who came afterwards have been damaged on a global competitive level. The irony is that a federalized education authority has come into our local communities and trumped the advice and management of our education delivery system and destroyed what was once the pride of America: A great education system. It just doesn’t work.

The ED is weak in structure to begin with. There are only 5,000 employees, which makes it the smallest federal agency. However, it is gobbling up a “lion’s share” of the annual budget. In 2009 it spent $32 billion and $56 billion in 2010 and the estimated portion for 2011 will be $71 billion. But wait, it gets worse! The Stimulus Bill (the biggest boondoggle in American history) added $102 billion in 2009; $51 billion in 2010, and $23 billion in 2011. That is $335 billion in three years. What do we get for it? A third world educational system. Obviously, this should be the first agency to receive a big cut, in fact, ax the whole agency. That will cut our deficit by $1 trillion dollars during the next 10 years.

As we start to look at cutting our superfluous agencies that do nothing to progress us forward but drain our money we should evaluate the four original agencies. The Department of Defense should certainly be looked at as it accounts for almost half of our total budget. We take too many things for granted with this agency.

World War II ended 66 years ago and the Korean War ended 57 years ago. So, why do we still have 36,000 military personnel in Japan, 52,000 in Germany, and 29,000 in Korea? Let’s not forget the 9,000 in Italy and another 9,000 in Britain. The need for these personnel is nonexistent and we should bring them home and save the billions of dollars we spend on it. We must conclude the never ending struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan and cut hundreds of billion dollars from our annual budget.

As I sit here at my home work desk and come up with viable solutions to our deficit crisis, it appears to me that people, who are certainly capable of addressing this solution, for some reason, do not. Are they in denial or are they “chicken feathers without one gut”? Now is the time for true leaders to come forward and address this very critical situation we find ourselves in. It is not going to go away until we kill it. The sooner we kill it, the better the future will be for our great country. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to correct it. This world has proven to be a place for the strong. The weak will suffer and die away. I think we should decide to remain the strong. Let’s get out of this mess y’all.

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

Toyota Motor Company Disrespects and Devalues Patronage of their Black Consumer

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(NNPA) I have recently been shocked and appalled by ads that I and other Black publishers saw in several major newspapers (The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) confirming that Toyota spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertise in white mainstream daily newspapers “THANKING” their general market consumers for their loyalty and patronage to Toyota during their time of major controversy and concerns over the safety of Toyota’s vehicles.

Thanking their customers is a smart move on Toyota’s behalf and one that I applaud. However, we can’t overlook the fact that Black people represent almost 10% of Toyota’s American market share, and with a $1.2 billion annual advertising budget it is not unreasonable for the Black Press to always expect to have a stake in Toyota’s advertising (including Black advertising agencies). Nevertheless, Black newspapers were left off Toyota’s latest marketing campaign, sending a clear and direct message that the Black consumer is still being taken for granted and Black people are still being disrespected and undervalued.

This is disappointing behavior from a company who was all too eager to send us their press releases and ask us to write stories and editorials to influence Black America to stay with them in their time of trouble. But now that Toyota’s pain has been essentially eased (for now) by a report issued by the Federal Transportation Department and NASA that found no faults with Toyota’s electronic accelerator controls, the Black press has once again been forgotten along with the Black consumer.

Toyota should note that it is going to take more than a passing grade on a Federal Transportation report card to bring back the consumer safety confidence enjoyed (for years) by Toyota from American consumers prior to one of the largest vehicle recalls in U.S. history.

So when the decision was made to advertise in mainstream newspapers from coast to coast “THANKING” their customers for their loyalty, where was Toyota’s loyalty to the 10% of African- American consumers? DON’T WE ALSO DESERVE A GREAT BIG THANK YOU?

Historically, there has always been an imbalance between what goes out of the Black community and what comes into the Black community relative to retail goods, services and representation. Despite the fact that the buying power of America’s Blacks is reported to be roughly $1 trillion this year! And it is highly doubtful that Black-owned businesses will report revenue numbers that are the same and/or reap any of the benefits proportionate to our buying power.

However, the question still remains, why is Toyota undervaluing the Black consumer and showing our community such blatant disrespect?

Tried, True, and Tested — the NNPA (Black Press of America) remains the gatekeeper for reaching the Black community. Corporations and advertising agencies wanting and needing to reach the African-American consumer must understand the relationship of the Black Press with Black people. They must remember to place their advertising messages on the pages of Black newspapers throughout America, and Black consumers will respond in kind (Black advertising agencies could help them with this).

The days of being silent and complaining among ourselves regarding these unethical and immoral business practices are over.

When Toyota wanted our help, it had no problem seeking all 200 Black newspapers in America to do just that. Their message to Black people was — PLEASE HELP US, WE VALUE YOUR BUSINESS. We do not want Toyota to use us for editorial coverage and then overlook us with their advertising dollars.

Black newspapers are not afraid to demand fair representation and a seat to dine at Toyota’s table, especially when their food is purchased with approximately 10% of Black consumer dollars.

We are not interested in fighting with Toyota however, Toyota has enjoyed healthy African- American consumer support, and despite last year’s set back we have remained loyal. If you want to thank Black consumers for our loyalty and keep our business, do it on the pages of the Black newspapers that Black people READ, RESPECT, TRUST AND OWN!!

As Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, I represent 200 Black publishers throughout America. I am challenging Toyota’s Chairman and CEO to do the right thing and meet with me to discuss the future of their relationship with Black consumers and whether or not we, as Black newspaper publishers, should continue supporting Toyota or should organize a campaign to take the African American’s brand loyalty to Toyota elsewhere. WE WILL NOT BUY WHERE WE ARE DISRESPECTED….THAT IS A PROMISE!

Danny Bakewell Sr. is the Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, parent organization to more than 200 independently owned Black newspapers.

Stop the Lies about the Financial Meltdown

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(NNPA) “I pledge…Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable, and energy efficient housing on fair terms.” One of the National Urban League’s four I AM EMPOWERED goals.

No, President Obama was not born in Kenya. Superman is not real. And, there is no Monkey-man roaming the streets of Hoboken scaring the daylights out of little children. Some urban myths are nutty. Some are funny. But some, like the one about mortgage loans in low and middle income urban neighborhoods being the cause of the financial meltdown can be downright dangerous.

Since this assertion was first made several years ago, the National Urban League has called it for what it is – a weapon of mass deception, shifting blame for the economic crisis from Wall Street where it rightfully belongs onto the backs of hard working African American and Hispanic homeowners, who for decades were routinely refused home loans and a fair shot at the American Dream. Leading economists have agreed with us, including Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke; FDIC chairman, Sheila Bair; and Nobel Prize columnist, Paul Krugman. And now, a new study by the congressionally established Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission conclusively states that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), established in 1977 to prevent redlining and spur homeownership in urban neighborhoods “was not a significant factor in subprime lending or the crisis.”

Undergirding this myth is the claim by some that the CRA requires banks and thrifts to make loans to unqualified low-income and minority borrowers. They contend that a higher default rate by those borrowers caused the housing meltdown. Aside from the fact that the law clearly states that CRA lending must be consistent with safe and sound banking practices, there is no evidence that CRA caused lenders to make risky subprime loans that contributed to the crisis. In fact, most subprime loans are not made to minorities or low income borrowers. Between 2005 and 2007, 58% of higher costs loans were made to White borrowers, and fewer than 30% of subprime loans in 2006 were made to low and moderate-income borrowers.

According to Commission chairman, Phil Angelides, “The debate about the role of the CRA should now be over…We found that this crisis was avoidable and was caused by widespread failures in financial regulation, dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance, excessive risk and borrowing, government officials ill prepared for the crisis, and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.” In short, Black, brown and poor people, aggressively spurred on by the CRA did not cause our economic meltdown. This has been a yarn spun by some who wish to shift the blame from Wall Street to Main Street.

The latest to use this as a weapon of mass deception is Florida freshman congressman, Allen West who, speaking at a February Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, singled out the CRA as the cause of the housing crisis. He added, “If government gets out of the way of the private sector, it would not have happened in 2008.”

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission disagrees and so do we. With millions of people out of work, instead of clinging to discredited ideological theories, our policymakers should be focused on creating jobs and making sure that more citizens are able to realize the American Dream of homeownership.

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

Unexpected Consequences Can Hurt Black America

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(NNPA) As the saying goes, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. This has been the plight of Black America since our emancipation from slavery. Big policy is decided without adequate consideration of our situation or positive inclusiveness of the outcomes. Allow me to journey back into history and also current activity to explain my point.

Social Security Program: It sounded so good. An employee will have a part of his income deducted and put into a retirement investment program and the employer would put up a portion also. The money would be there at the time of retirement (age 65) and disbursed monthly to the retiree. The very big problem is this: Blacks’ life spans are much shorter than Whites. This means that Blacks will receive much less of the money they put in and Whites will receive a disproportionately greater amount. A great amount of Blacks will not receive any benefits at all as they will die before they are eligible to retire. Much of this sinister formula was known to the architects of the Social Security program and most Blacks were void of the knowledge. It was a major transfer of wealth in a very subtle manner. A very big hustle indeed!

The Interstate Infrastructure Program: During World War II, General Eisenhower marveled at the German Autobahn (their freeway system). He emulated it with the interstate freeway system for the United States. When the freeways came to urban areas they went to the line of least resistance – the Black neighborhoods. Black retail establishments everywhere were subject to eminent domain and bulldozed over for infrastructure improvement. From the Fillmore in San Francisco to Black Bottom in Detroit they were done in forever in the name of freeways and new development. Some of our greatest neighborhoods and cultural centers were lost forever.

The Great Society: There was nothing “great” about this. In fact, our deficit and annual budgets are suffering from the largesse of charity. It was a great narcotic to our victims of poverty rather than a solution. It told the masses to sit down and be taken care of rather than rising up and empowering themselves. The end result has been a trans-generational dependency on welfare and public housing living rather than a positive transition from poverty to self sufficiency. African Americans as a people are burdened by the weight of helplessness and dependency to the point of distinction. Somehow we must throw this “yolk” from our “neck” and begin to stand tall and strong.

Ethanol Promotion: They should have done their historical perspective on this. Henry Ford commissioned George Washington Carver to develop ethanol from peanuts to relieve our dependence on oil (manipulated by John D. Rockefeller) for our cars. The great scientist Carver worked diligently on it at Tuskegee University but went to his grave without successfully mass producing it. Yet, here we are in the 21st century trying it again. It just doesn’t work and what is worse it adversely impacts the rest of our economy. The subsidies (billions of dollars) given for ethanol production has caused a great shortage in corn production for the rest of our agricultural markets. The end result is that groceries, fuel and energy prices are going through the roof and there is no significant improvement on our carbon emission footprint. This is a supreme mistake and failure that causes Black families/consumers more harm than others in that we have fewer dollars to waste and to be exploited. When they catch a cold we will get pneumonia. Ethanol has been a direct assault on Black families.

Higher Energy Costs / Less Energy Consumption: This assumption by environmentalists and progressive politicians is very flawed. It does not take into account that staying warm, air conditioned, cooking, and traveling to essential places is necessary and basic to common living. There are many who feel that if we skyrocket energy prices, i.e. $8.00 per gallon gasoline and triple the average household energy bill people will lower their consumption levels. They don’t take into account that you must travel to work, eat every day and protect your family from ill health. While Whites may sell their summer cabins, Blacks cannot afford a home at all and move into shelters or the streets. While Whites may sell one of the family cars, Blacks will not be able to buy a car at all. This strategy is totally out of touch but yet it exists. That is why they have the oil moratorium in the Gulf Coast while the world cost of oil is rapidly increasing. That is why they have onerous EPA regulations without justification. That is why they are proposing to cut energy assistance (LIHEAP) in the new budget.

This is why the National Black Chamber of Commerce is forming a new division to be a watchdog on such policy and measure the impact on Black America.

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

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