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NAACP Endorses Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan

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The NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, unanimously endorsed Elena Kagan, President Barak Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, today at their quarterly board meeting.

“After a careful and thorough review of Elena Kagan’s record, we have unanimously voted to endorse her nomination,” stated President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Elena Kagan has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and equal justice under the law throughout her career. Kagan drew her inspiration from NAACP former counsel and Supreme court Justice Thurgood Marshall who she considers a hero and mentor. During her tenure at the White House, Kagan worked on issues such as strengthening hate crimes legislation and civil rights enforcement. As a law school Dean, she worked to ensure a diverse student body and faculty. And as Solicitor General, Kagan has vigorously defended the nation’s equal opportunity and civil rights laws. We look forward to actively supporting her nomination,” Jealous said.

“Elena Kagan has a track record of bringing people together. She is skilled at forging legal consensus on contentious issues,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock. “Civil rights is a bipartisan issue. It is central to the core of our American values. We believe Elena Kagan has the ability to use her fine legal mind, her commitment to diversity and her ability to build bridges to effectively advocate in the Court for the civil rights and democracy enshrined in our constitution.”

The organization reviewed Kagan’s available record on civil rights including her recent authorization for the Department of Justice and the Department of Civil Rights to file an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program in Fisher v. University of Texas and her brief in support of African American firefighters who challenged a hiring test used by the City of Chicago under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Lewis v. City of Chicago).

“Kagan has a keen understanding of the importance of diversity to the strength and advancement of our nation,” added NAACP President and CEO Jealous. “ It is no accident that during her tenure as Dean of the Harvard Law School, the percentage of African American students rose from 9.3 percent to 11.6 percent. The percentage of Hispanics in the entering class was 6.4%, while it had been 4.6% prior to her becoming dean. The number of African American students admitted, particularly black men -- given the national decline in African American males in colleges and universities-- is impressive Her record demonstrates a legal scholar who clearly values the precept of equal opportunity as a right that is protected by our constitution.” Jealous said.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its more than half million members and supporters, throughout the United States and the world, are the premier advocates for civil and human rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and advocating for equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Letter to the Editor: Vote No On Proposition 16

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By Laura Klure –

I have considerable respect for your excellent newspaper, and I enjoy being an occasional contributor to the BVN’s news stories. I have great respect and affection for your publishers, editors, and staff.

However, I must strongly disagree with the editorial which appeared on May 6, in support of Proposition 16. This proposition is bad news for California.

Prop. 16 is totally supported by the Northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), to the tune of up to $35 million approved by their board. This poorly written proposition is definitely a power grab by PG&E, and it is an attempt to preserve their monopoly in the territories they serve. It would enable them to expand, while hamstringing local governments.

Ads by PG&E on TV attempt to portray this measure as protecting voters’ rights, but instead it imposes a 2/3 “super-majority,” which would stall utility up-grades and prevent service to new customers.

Cities and counties already have their own rules governing annexations, and if they have public utilities, there are local rules governing the operations of those utilities.

This would write oppressive rules into the California State Constitution, taking authority away from local governments. Our state constitution is already long and troubled, and this measure would add to the legal tangle.

The power grid in our country is such that utilities sometimes need to “shop around” to find power, since electricity cannot generally be stored like water.

This proposition would prevent local public utilities from finding new power sources in times of need, or when one power source was shut down. This could be a great problem during hot summers or in other emergencies.

In Riverside, we have a local public utility, the Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) Department of the City of Riverside. RPU is governed by the City Council and by a Public Utilities Board composed of local citizens. There are also instances where they would have to go to the people for a majority vote, if they wanted to pass a bond issue. In contrast, a private utility company is run by their own board, which is supposed to operate to serve stockholders, as well as customers.

RPU purchases most of our power from investor-owned utilities, but recently they constructed a small “peaker plant,” to generate extra power in times of great usage. This protected us from having “brown outs” last summer. If Prop. 16 passes, public utilities would be prevented from doing such reasonable things to serve customers.

Whenever a new neighborhood sub-division is built, a public utility could be prohibited to serve it without a “supermajority” vote in the entire city.

Like BVN’s Brown family, I have a family connection to the Southern California Edison Co. (SCE, Edison International, EIX). My late father worked for SCE and its predecessor, California Electric Power Company.

According to the Orange County Register (taxdollars.freedomblogging.com), SCE’s official response to Prop. 16 is as follows:

“An initiative on the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot, known as Proposition 16, would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved. Southern California Edison is not taking a position on the initiative, but encourages Californians to vote to express their views on all important ballot measures.”

SCE obviously did not find it in their company’s best interest to join their northern competitor in pushing this measure. Prop. 16 stifles competition.

Prop. 16 just plain doesn’t make sense. It would be akin to asking the local school board to have an election requiring a “super-majority” every time they wanted to build a new school building.

I strongly urge voters to look at their Official Voter Information Guide regarding Prop. 16. Supporters of Prop. 16 include the Howard Jarvis California Taxpayers’ Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. However, some local Chamber of Commerce groups, particularly in PG&E’s territories, are opposing the measure. Groups in opposition to Prop. 16 include the League of Women Voters, AARP, the Sierra Club, and other organizations. If you look online for the many newspaper editorials that urge NO on Prop. 16, I suspect many thoughtful BVN readers will agree to Vote No.

Laura L. Klure is an independent writer living in Riverside. She is the author of the book, “California Electric Power Company 1904-1964: A Powerful Corporate Family,” 2005.

Protect Taxpayers from Power Grabs – Vote Yes on Prop. 16

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California’s taxpayers deserve transparency when it comes to their money, especially given the current state of California’s economy. The state has racked up $145 billion in debt, and this year’s budget deficit of $20 billion threatens cuts to critical services and jobs on the state, county and local levels. Decisions to take on additional debt or use taxpayer money to fund big programs—such as a government takeover of electricity service—need voter input. That’s why we need to vote yes on Proposition 16 on June 8.

Currently, California law does not require voter approval if local governments want to use public money to develop the complex systems necessary to deliver electric service. Proposition 16 corrects this omission, giving voters a say in the process.

Local leaders who want to take on public debt or spend public money to start up a municipal retail electricity business must get a two-thirds majority vote—the same standard as hundreds of other special tax or bond situations. Ironically, California law does require a two-thirds majority vote to sell a municipal utility. Shouldn’t we use the same standard to start a utility that we use to end one?

As a former mayor of San Francisco, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is critical to involve the voters in big decisions like funding large municipal utility programs. Voters are not only benefiting from such programs by receiving utility services, but they’re also paying for the development of the business itself. And if a municipal utility fails, it is the voters who are on the hook for a bailout.

After years of benefiting from the input of the people during my time as mayor, I can also tell you that California’s voters know a good plan when they see one. They can discern between a well-constructed plan that will work and one that is not well formed or that takes unnecessary risks with their money. And local leaders need the community’s input. Large public programs are always far more visionary—and far more expensive—than expected. Since the voters are paying for it, it makes much more sense to get their approval before the money is spent than to make the decision blindly and have a mess on your hands that the taxpayer has to fix if it fails.

Proposition 16 promotes transparency and ensures that the people have a voice when it comes to how public money is spent. It requires that a local government that wants to run the complicated delivery system necessary to provide electricity must go to the voters to lay out its case and prove it can build a system that works. Then voters can either give their permission to spend their tax dollars or incur additional public debt, or not.

Proposition 16 doesn’t decide on public power or no public power—it just makes sure that the question is in the hands of the voters, where it belongs. Please join me and vote YES on Prop 16 on the June ballot.

Willie L. Brown, Jr. is Former Speaker of the California State Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco.

In Arizona: What Would Dr. Height Do?

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By Nicole C. Lee, NNPA Columnist –

Dr. Dorothy Irene Height was a civil rights giant and we must be knowledgeable about her accomplishments in order to move forward. She received countless number of awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for a lifetime of contributions to fight to eliminate humanity's burdens.

She was refused entry to Barnard College, because it had reached it’s quota for black students (which was two).

Nevertheless, Dr. Height went on to break barriers in national institutions and international arenas. In the early 1950s she became the head of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). In that role she so often found herself to be the "only woman in the room", a weight that she carried with assertiveness, poise and grace.

Dr. Height understood the connection of domestic and international struggles for liberation worldwide. Through NCNW, Dr. Height worked for solutions to the struggles women and their families face all over the world. Her tireless efforts is apparent in many African nations. Under Dr. Height's leadership the NCNW has worked with national women's organizations in Benin, Eritrea, and Senegal on programs which support the improvement of women's social and economic conditions, particularly in the rural areas.

She was a founding Board member of TransAfrica and remained a close advisor of the institution until her death. Our tribute to her reads, in part, "She stood on the front lines at TransAfrica's inception to fight apartheid in South Africa and human injustice in Haiti. Whether it was to support South Africans' struggle to attain freedom, or Nigerians' fight against the military regime of Abacha, or Haitians' opposition to the dictatorship of Duvalier, Dr. Height was there with her passionate, gentle counsel. She was, and is, one of the African World's most noted liberators." We all can see Dr. Height's accomplishments which include desegregation, federal civil rights legislation and a societal shift towards justice and freedom.

Like a charmed grandmother, she attended all the events in support of civil and human rights organizations. Because of her deep abiding commitment to the causes of today, she kept calendar that would have put us all to shame. The last time I saw Dr. Height I was at the NCNW building giving a report on the situation in Haiti post earthquake. Ever the organizer, she was so concerned that we not take our eye off of Haiti, even when the cameras moved on.

As I said, Dr. Height understood the connection of domestic and international struggles for liberation worldwide. As the immigration debate in Arizona is heating up, now in her bodily absence, I find myself using her work as an inspiration as I acknowledge the importance of unity within the black community on this issue. Undocumented immigrants aren't taking our jobs; corporations are.

The Latino and Black communities united could be a positive force for change in our country.

Yet, we have never supported one another the way we could.

Dr. Height spent a lifetime raising these tough issues with the powers that be. Her lesson to us is to take up the struggles even when they seem impossible.

Undoubtedly, Dr. Height would have been in the front for the fight for justice for the most vulnerable. The Arizona law targeting undocumented immigrants is a slap in the face to ALL that we as people of color have gained in this country. A law that allows people to be stopped and harassed by the police because they might "look illegal" is an abomination. The people of this country must condemn this type of measure and work twice as hard to ensure that there is a dignified path to citizenship for those that are undocumented and a new U.S. foreign policy that ensures that the causes of mass migrations are dealt with.

Human and civil rights leaders of all races must lead this fight.

Nicole C. Lee is the president of TransAfrica Forum

Connecting the Dots within the Black Diaspora

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(NNPA) There are more than a billion people of African descent living on this precious earth. There are 800 million in Africa; 140 million in South America; 40 million in the United States and the remaining spread amongst the rest of the globe. No matter which way you look at it, we are at the bottom rung of each economic ladder in each and every nation.

It is time to seriously address this matter and no one is going to do it sincerely but people of African descent themselves.

There are a lot of organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, World Bank, IMF, etc. that give token attention to the needs of the Black Diaspora. There will never be true progress from these groups because it is in their economic interest to exploit the Black Diaspora not nurture it.

Descendents of Africa must do for self.

First we need to get thoroughly organized. We cannot do this with social worker types forming committees and liaisons. The glue that can put us all together is COMMERCE. The best example is that of the Chinese Diaspora. The common thread and link to all people of Chinese descent is commercial interaction. Economic empowerment solidifies the population which is spread throughout the world. This is obviously successful and we, people of African descent, should use this as our new model.

As the nation of China is the center of the Chinese Diaspora commercial activity, the United States should become the commercial center for the Black Diaspora. Our economic status, educational levels and personal wealth are the greatest amongst the Diaspora. It is our destiny to lead this major project and set policy, trade routes, best practices for all of us to follow. It won’t be easy but anything of value never is. Let’s begin working on this. During the next few months I will be working furiously on setting exchange programs with Afro Latinos in the heavily Black populated nations of Colombia and Brazil. They possess the two largest Black populations in South America. We have had interaction in the past and now it is time to pick up the pace in a turbo fashion. African-Americans should get ready to learn a lot about these two nations and many of you should plan on traveling to and from and, also, seek business opportunities amongst all the players.

Both Colombia and Brazil have what we call Historically Black Colleges and Universities. We should develop a Sister Program between them and some of our HBCUs. The business and engineering schools should be in constant interaction and we, the United States, should provide good internship opportunities for students in the South American schools with major US corporations. This would develop capacity and valuable experience that the students can take back to their respective communities.

They could start entrepreneurial ventures that would create significant numbers of jobs and start them on a wealth building journey. My plan is to develop partnerships with at least two US schools and one Colombian campus and one from Brazil.

We will assemble a working group of African American entrepreneurs and go on fact finding missions to these two nations.

We will also host fact finding groups from Brazil and Colombia to likewise see how we do it in America. From there we will organize aggressive trade missions and seek to form joint ventures and other economic collaborations with our entrepreneurial counterparts. Perhaps we can get the World Bank to provide some token financing that could jump start our newly formed ventures. Some way; some how we will find the seed money (even if it comes from our own pockets) and start the long and glorious mission.

Of course, we will have to develop a good political strategy. Nothing gets Congress and the US State Department more nervous than a group of African American entrepreneurs visiting foreign nations on a business trip. This is a “game changer” and will revolutionize the economic order and the place where descendents of Africa will interact.

This will be the start. Soon we should have all of South America connected along with the Caribbean. From there we go for the grand prize – the wonderful continent of Africa. Africa, our motherland with all its treasures and natural resources that exceed any other geography in the world, is the final prize. What if the Black Diaspora had its act together like the Chinese Diaspora? What a wonderful world this would be.

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