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Medicaid Cuts Hurt African-Americans, Latinos Most of All

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer –

Major cuts to Medicaid would have a disproportionately harsh effect on African-Americans and Latinos, according to a new report released recently by a coalition of major health, civil rights and consumer groups.

The report, "Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs," reveals that making cuts to Medicaid fails to reduce costs, instead it shifts the burden to states, families, hospitals and the uninsured. In fact, in some cases, the report notes, cutting assistance for treatment can actually increase costs over the long run.

"As policymakers consider sharp cutbacks in the Medicaid program, this report brings an important potential consequence of their actions to the table – that cutting Medicaid will likely hit hardest at communities of color and, in particular, those who depend on the program to manage and treat their chronic illnesses," said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Among African -Americans, according to the report's findings, those relying on Medicaid for ongoing medical treatment amount to more than one in five individuals with cancer (21.9 percent, an estimated 141,000 people), nearly one in four diabetics (24.4 percent, 778,000), well over a third of chronic lung disease sufferers (37.0 percent, 1.4 million), and more than one in five who suffer from heart disease or have had a stroke (21.6 percent, 1.9 million).

For Latinos, those relying on Medicaid include nearly one in four who have cancer (24.5 percent, or nearly 105,000 people) , more than one-quarter of diabetics (25.6 percent, 692,000), nearly two in five chronic lung disease patients (39.8 percent, 1.4 million), and nearly a quarter of those being treated for heart disease or stroke (23.2 percent, 1.4 million).

"There are critical disparities in the delivery of health care to black and Latino communities, which contributes to a higher incidence and greater severity of chronic and serious health conditions in those communities," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. "That medical reality, combined with the fact that these communities tend to have lower incomes, means that Medicaid is a vital lifeline in protecting the health and well-being of these Americans."

Families USA, The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza, the National Medical Association, and the National Urban League Policy Institute collaborated to produce the report.

New NAACP Program Targets Childhood Obesity

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By Ben Wrobel, Guest Writer, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Voice –

WASHINGTON — With a few steps to the left and a few steps to the right, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin recently demonstrated the NAACP's renewed focus on healthy living and childhood obesity. Benjamin danced the "Cupid Shuffle" with students from Washington, D.C.'s Ward 7 and Ward 8, two areas with the highest obesity rates in the city.

The exercise took place during the NAACP's launch event for its Childhood Obesity Advocacy Guide at the historic Thurgood Marshall Center.

"It is no secret that if not eradicated, childhood obesity will be one of the many causes of premature deaths and chronic disease for our children," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

"The NAACP treasures the lives of our children and will stand with communities to fight against any systemic or environmental barriers that inhibit one's opportunity to live a healthy life."

Jealous and NAACP Director of Health Programs Shavon Arline introduced the guide along with a panel of health experts, including Benjamin. The guide provides direction for combating childhood obesity in three highlighted policy areas: external environment, food environments and school-based policies.

It calls for more recreational areas, increased access to healthy, affordable food in order to combat "food deserts" and a renewed focus on healthy policies in schools, such as more physical activity and nutritious food options.

"The three advocacy approaches were chosen for the guide because they are the primary policy areas that affect childhood obesity," Arline said.

"They also serve as some of the most appealing causes around which to mobilize communities, particularly because the issues are easy to identify and affect community members in tangible and direct ways."

"With active units in every state throughout the United States, we believe we are well equipped to engage community and state leaders in this fight to save this and the next generation," Arline added.

Childhood obesity is a major issue in communities of color, where children are more likely to be obese and live in unsafe communities where there are few opportunities for physical activity and limited access to healthy food.

In the United States today, 38 percent of Latino children and 34.9 percent of African-American children are overweight or obese, compared with 30.7 percent of white children.

"We are emphasizing good eating habits, lots of exercise, lots of play. We want Americans to have fun, and to enjoy being active," Benjamin said. "We are intending to create communities and environments where the healthy choices are the easy choices, and the affordable choices."

Joining the NAACP leaders were CommonHealth Action President and co-founder Natalie S. Burke, whose organization co-wrote the report, and John Govea, senior program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the report.

Democratic National Committee Names Hinton Diversity Chief

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By Herbert L. White, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

The Democratic National Committee has a new diversity chief.

Greg Hinton will become chief diversity officer of the organizations starting Oct. 24, making him the first ever for the national party. Hinton, chief diversity officer of US Cellular and a Chicago native, will advise the Democratic National Convention Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on diversity staffing and minority procurement for the 2012 convention in Charlotte.

“Diversity in hiring, contracting and procurement has always been of utmost importance to the Democratic Party and I’m proud to serve in this role to help maintain that commitment,” Hinton said in a statement. “Our party is stronger because of our diversity, and in this new role I will be working to make sure we are harnessing our diverse experiences and points of view in the most effective way possible. I am honored to be doing this work on behalf of the President (Barack Obama) and the Democratic Party and believe this new position is a reflection of the party’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Hinton’s appointment was made at the recommendation of the DNC’s Budget and Finance Committee. The DNCC and DCCC also took roles to fill the position after controversy over the role of minority vendors at the convention. Hinton’s job will be developing diversity goals and implementation.

“We’re thrilled to have Greg Hinton join the DNC as the chief diversity officer,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “The Democratic Party has long been dedicated to including talented people who reflect the diversity of our great country, and Greg will bring his talents to bear as we make sure we are living up to that commitment. I’m proud we’re taking this critical step forward and look forward to working closely with Greg as we strive to take our values of inclusion and strength through diversity to the next level.”

In addition to US Cellular, Hinton has worked at Abbott Labs and Pepsi General Bottlers as well as the health care and nonprofit fields, developing and implementing inclusion programs for supplier diversity and human resources.

“Our whole team at the DCCC is excited to have Greg Hinton join us and continue our strong commitment to diversity,” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said. This new position is a reflection of the Democratic Party’s continuing and unyielding belief that diversity is a strength and we look forward to Greg’s work to help us honor that tradition.”

White Candidate Set to Battle for Black Votes in Illinois

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By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –

It came as no surprise last week when former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson announced she would challenge Democratic incumbent Jesse Jackson, Jr. for the congressional seat he has held for the last 15 years. But what was surprising was when Halvorson, a white Democrat, said she is confident she can win enough Black votes to unseat Jackson in the March 2012 primary although the district has a 50 percent Black population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I realize that the population in the Second Congressional District is half Black and historically has supported Jackson throughout his tenure,” explained Halvorson. “But I don’t think race will matter to the voters who are hurting for jobs and economic growth in their district. They want a congressman who can deliver and is not preoccupied with ethnical problems.”

Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Chicago-based civil rights organization Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, earlier this year publically admitted to having a one-time affair with a white woman in Washington, D.C. He was also suspected by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but never charged, with offering former Governor Rod Blagojevich a campaign contribution in exchange for him appointing him to President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. Jackson has maintained that he never offered Blagojevich anything nor did he authorize anyone else to make offers to the governor for a Senate appointment. Ultimately, Blagojevich appointed former Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat, after U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL) turned down the appointment.

Jackson’s wife, Sandi, is a Chicago alderman representing the 7th Ward, which is also part of her husband’s congressional district. Halvorson spent one term representing the 11th Congressional District before she lost to Republican Adam Kinzinger in the 2010 election. While serving as a State Senator the one-term congresswoman was mentored by retired Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D-Chicago), who ran against Jackson and lost in 1995. The Second District, which borders the 11th District, has been redrawn since the last election. And it begins at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive (Museum of Science & Industry) and stretches to the south suburbs. Among the south suburbs located in Jackson’s district whose population is majority Black, are Riverdale, Dolton, Harvey, Markham, Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, and Robbins.

Rather than answer allegations by Halvorson, Jackson said he would let the voters decide if he deserves another term. He has not yet officially announced he is running for re-election but is expected to do so this month. “I’ve secured more than $900 million in federal investments in the Second Congressional District - more than any other congressman in the state during that period,” he said. “I’ve also worked with local communities to secure $700 million in private funds to build a new airport that will create 15,000 new jobs.” One community activist cautioned those who think Jackson would win re-election with no problem.

“Jackson has some baggage that could come back to hurt him so it is not a safe bet he will easily win re-election,” said Neal Foster, 59. “(But) I don’t see Halvorson or any other white candidate beating Jackson without the support of Blacks or unless another Black candidate were to enter the race and split the Black vote.” One Black, elected official who will not be running for Congress is Alderman Anthony Beale, whose ninth ward is within Jackson’s district. The chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee said he is happy representing the 9th Ward in City Hall and has his hands full working to boost economic development, affordable housing and lowering crime in his far South Side ward, which includes the Roseland community. Beale’s name had surfaced on the rumor mill as potential Jackson opponent.

“I am absolutely not interested in running for that office,” Beale told the Crusader. He added that he is not yet ready to make an endorsement to Jackson or Halvorson because “I have not met with them yet. But I do know that whoever I support it would have to be someone who has the ninth ward’s best interest at heart.” Absent from Halvorson’s Oct. 7 news conference in Chicago Heights where she announced her candidacy were any Democratic elected officials.

“My campaign is not about politics but helping the residents of the Second Congressional District,” said Halvorson, who currently works as a lobbyist. “I do not need the heavy political hitters to stand here with me as long as I have the support of the people.”

Prior to serving in Congress, Halvorson served as clerk for the township of Crete, a south suburb in Jackson’s district, and a State Senator where she was majority leader.

Businesses Outside of Black Community in Daytona not Charged Same Special Event Fees

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By James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –

Some members of the Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA) say Daytona Beach has been discriminatory when it comes to charging the organization fees for special events such as the upcoming Biketoberfest. SAMA members argue that some of the fees, such as clean-up and security, are not charged to other merchant associations.

SAMA members expressed their concerns to city commissioners recently while asking for control over vendors who use Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard during special events.

Hardy Smith, Daytona Beach’s Government Relations administrator, told the Times that the effort 20 years ago to make Second Avenue part of Bike Week "was not to discriminate but to provide (them an) opportunity in Bike Week with more favorable circumstances.’’

Vendor charges

Vendors who participate with SAMA pay the association directly. For Biketoberfest, it’s $300 to sell non-food items and $450 to sell food. SAMA keeps the fees collected and in turn provides services such as security and portable toilets.

Smith said discrimination charges can go both ways, noting that SAMA pays the city $400 for use of the entire boulevard from Ridgewood Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Individual vendors on Main Street and Beach Street pay $600 each to participate during special events such as Biketoberfest.

Although the vendor charge directly to the city is $600 each, property owners can charge vendors whatever he or she wants to make their profits, with the vendors charging what they need to on their wares or food items to get a return on their investment and make a profit, Smith pointed out.

Even though there is a Main Street Merchant Association and Downtown Daytona Beach Partnership Association, which are similar to SAMA, the first two associations "pay nothing" to the city for police, clean-up, public toilets on public property such as streets, sidewalks or the park, Smith said.

Smith said he believes everything works out the same with the extra charged to each vendor on Main Street and Beach Street.

No potty fee

Smith said SAMA charges each vendor enough to cover the charges they will incur by the city for police, clean up, etc. He explained that one of the main reasons for the arrangement with SAMA is because of the two parks in the area – Joe Harris Park and Daisy Stocking Park.

"If you left out the parks, it would be a different situation, he said.

At the recent meeting, SAMA officer Perman Shepard, told commissioners: "We have been taking care of Bike Week for 15 years. We have run into a problem. We take care of all the fees. We pay for the garbage, all the city money, fire department and police department.’’

Shepard is upset that there are some property owners and vendors who do not go through them and pay the city a one-time fee, but pay nothing to SAMA. However, they are allowed to take advantage of the port-o-lets in the area and contribute nothing to clean-up or security.

"These fees come out of our budget, which is low at this time. We are requesting SAMA take care all of the permits on MMB (Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard). We were responsible for all permits; sometime down the line it was changed," added Shepard.

Fees questioned

Commissioner Edith Shelley said she is concerned that SAMA has been charged for garbage pickup and police while the merchant associations on Main and Beach aren’t charged.

Added Commissioner Pam Woods: "Fees need to be in line with what others are paying. Let’s look at that. This could be a problem. Everybody’s independent but nobody is accountable. SAMA is the one left holding the bag. In other parts of the city, not one is left holding the bag.”

Commissioner Cassandra Reynolds became upset after learning SAMA was being billed for certain issues that other merchant associations weren’t paying.

"For whatever reason, for Main Street, we eat the issues. SAMA is being billed for the issues. We need to say they need to not be billed anymore; we’ll eat the issues on Second Avenue (Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard) as well," added Reynolds.

Commissioner Robert Gilliland stated: "If somebody commits a crime on public property, how can we bill them (SAMA)? That money needs to be refunded to SAMA unless they have evidence SAMA did this.’’

Woods, citing information she obtained that SAMA is charged $17,000 for Bike Week and $9,000 for Biketoberfest: "It’s not to say we are eating it. You can’t go out and pick somebody arbitrarily. That needs to change.’’

Issue of sewers

Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick said SAMA represents businesses from Ridgewood to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

"There has always been one, two or three independents. We permit the independents separately and they pay the appropriate fees. But SAMA, because they represent the area, has always paid for police fire, traffic, garbage and they always made arrangements for port-a-lets," he explained.

McKitrick said the reason SAMA event coordinator Barbara Turner-Hymes is complaining is "recently our utilities department has been much stricter about the greases and materials put down storm sewers. Not knowing who else to charge, they charged SAMA."

Main Street and Beach Streets are the exact opposite of Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard, said McKitrick.

"We have no Main Street Association and Downtown Merchants Association who steps forward and puts together the festival. We have an aggregation of packages of individuals of applications," added McKitrick.

"If someone pours grease down the sewer, who do you bill?" asked Woods.

Answered McKitrick: "To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never had that problem. Never had to figure it out.’’

"What if it’s another kind of problem. Who do you bill on Main Street?’ asked Woods.

"I don’t know," McKitrick said.

Woods countered: "Paul, unless we can identify the property owner we’re left holding the bag.’’

City to SAMA: Work it out

About the vendor control issue, Commissioner Patrick Henry and other city officials believe SAMA needs to work the vendor issues out without their involvement.

"If I was a business owner and I don’t want to be part of an organization, I have the right to apply for a permit and do what I want to do on my property. There is no law that says they have to be a part of SAMA," Henry said.

"We’re sitting here tonight because they are at an impasse and there is no way they can work it out among themselves," said McKitrick, adding that SAMA needs to sit down and work it out among themselves.

"I don’t want to get involved," said Shelley about requiring vendors to come under SAMA but reiterating she is concerned about SAMA being charged for fees that other streets such as Main and Beach Street are not being charged.

Mayor Glenn Ritchey added: "This commission is not interested in getting involved with individual merchants. They need to work it out themselves. Properties need to come in compliance year-round so they can have Bike Week activities.’’

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