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Blacks in California Split Over Vote That Could Raise Some Property Taxes

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Proposition 15, the “Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative,” is on the Nov. 3 ballot in California. 

If Californians vote yes on “Split Roll” — shorthand for the proposition’s title — the state will come up with a new taxation formula. The constitutional amendment would require counties to levy higher real estate taxes on businesses and industrial buildings than it does on residential homes. 

The initiative has caused proponents and opponents in the Black community to draw battle lines. Each side has dug in, pointing to the benefits or the dangers of Prop 15 in opposing efforts to win the hearts, minds and votes of African Americans and other Californians. If passed, Prop 15 would overturn Prop 13, a provision that has for 42 years now placed a hard limit on how much tax can be assessed on any property in the state. 

“The property tax hike on the November ballot will hurt minority communities — causing more gentrification, killing jobs, and increasing the cost of living for working families. We are proud to stand in opposition to the largest property tax increase in state history,” said Alice Huffman, President of the California-Hawaii Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

“Despite the grand illusion presented by the initiative’s proponents, no protections exist to ensure a dime of these tax dollars is actually spent on helping lift our communities out of poverty,” Huffman continued. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the first Black female and second African American elected to the position, supports Prop 15, which would fund local governments in the state as well as provide more cash for public schools and community colleges. 

“When I look at our dire budget deficits over the next couple of years, and then I see these revenue estimates showing how much we can invest in our community without having to raise any taxes on residents, it makes it more important for me to give my full support on this initiative,” Breed said. 

The California Legislative Analyst Office estimates that, upon full implementation, the ballot initiative would generate between $8 billion and $12.5 billion in revenue per year. Of that projected revenue, 40% would be allocated to schools. The other 60% would fund local government. 

At the state level, some of the Black policymakers who support Prop 15 are Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), and State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond. 

A few prominent African American opponents of the initiative are Huffman; former state Assemblymember Gwen Moore; former state Senator Roderick Wright; former state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who was also a former mayor of San Francisco; and the Rev. Amos C. Brown, President of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP. 

The politicians, former and current, have picked their sides. But the power to decide whether or not commercial and industrial properties should be shielded like residential properties are by Prop 13 lies in the hands of California’s voters. 

In 1978, voters in the state approved Prop 13, which required that residential, commercial and industrial properties be taxed based on their purchase price. Under that constitutional amendment, taxes are limited to no more than 1% of the purchase price (at the time of purchase), with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2%, whichever is lower. 

In California, market values tend to increase faster than 2% per year, meaning the taxable value of commercial and industrial properties is often lower than the market value, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. 

The change from the purchase price to market value would be phased-in beginning in the fiscal year 2022-2023. Properties, such as retail centers, whose occupants are 50 percent or more small businesses would be taxed based on market value beginning in the fiscal year 2025-2026 (or at a later date that the legislature decides). 

The ballot initiative would make an exception for properties whose business owners have $3 million or less in holdings within California. These properties would continue to be taxed based on their purchase price. 

The ballot initiative would also exempt a small business’s tangible personal property from taxes — that’s material assets like furniture, fixtures, tools and signs. For larger businesses, there would also be an exemption for tangible personal property up to a value of $500,000. 

Former state Assemblymember Gwen Moore told California Black Media that Prop 15 is a “bad idea,” and that African American proprietorship will falter under the “tax burden” it imposes. 

Moore is currently the founder and Chief Executive Officer of GeM Communications Group, a Los Angeles-based firm that works with clients to develop and implement public affairs, legislative strategies, and community outreach programs. 

“Black-owned companies will be some of the hardest hit by eliminating Prop 13 protections for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Moore said. “They are certain to face higher rents and skyrocketing property taxes that many cannot afford. At a time when we should be supporting small businesses, this massive property tax increase is a bad idea.” 

Rex Hime, President of the California Business Properties Association, also stated his resistance to Prop 15, saying, “California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country. A split roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.” 

On the contrary, proponents contend that top corporations in the state benefit unfairly from Prop 13 and that Prop 15 would force them to pay taxes that correspond with the market value of their properties. 

“We’re asking for companies like Disneyland or Universal Studios that make huge amounts of money to pay property taxes based on fair market value — the same thing that homeowners and, frankly, most businesses have to do,” said Josh Pechthalt, President of the California Federation of Teachers. 

Prop 15 could not only affect small Black businesses in the state that mainly rely on renting or leasing, opponents argue. There could be a spike in home prices, too, according to building industry insiders. 

Developers across the state, including the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), recently announced their opposition to Prop 15. CBIA says that Prop 15 will reduce the supply of housing for Californians, especially the state’s most needy, and lead to higher rents and home prices. 

“California is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. Millions of families are recently unemployed and at risk of being homeless. Proposition 15 makes the current crisis worse by discouraging new home construction at the worst possible time,” said Dan Dunmoyer, president and CEO of CBIA. “If California wants to resolve the state’s housing affordability crisis, the first step must be to reject Prop 15.”

 

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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