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Kerner Report Set Standard for What a Serious Presidential Candidate Should Champion

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As the Democratic presidential primaries move onto Nevada, South Carolina and the many Super Tuesday states, candidates turn their attention to people of color, and particularly African Americans.

Many candidates find their rhetoric contradicted by their record; their promises conflicting with their performances.

Donald Trump now seeks to woo Black voters by taking credit for the economy, by touting the first steps in reducing mass incarceration, and by hyping so-called “opportunity zones.”

His history—rising to prominence with the vile racist campaign about whether Barack Obama is American, embracing the Nazis at Charlottesville, dedicating his administration to erasing all things Obama, framing his political appeal on race-bait politics—gives the lie to his histrionics.

The same occurs on the Democratic side.

Pete Buttigieg always sounds good, but African American leaders in his town excoriate his record as mayor on race and policing. Amy Klobuchar runs as a moderate, but her brutal record as a prosecutor limits her appeal. Mike Bloomberg has the resources to flood the zone, but he too struggles to explain his harsh, racially-biased stop-and-frisk policies as mayor of New York or his laughable embrace of right-wing nutcase theories that somehow anti-redlining policies triggered the financial crisis.

Bloomberg is joined by Joe Biden on what seems like an endless apology tour.

African American voters are not easily fooled. They have a clear agenda. They suffer structural inequality—more unemployment than whites, lower wages, worse jobs, worse schools, inadequate health care, unaffordable housing, unsafe neighborhoods befouled by pollution and poisons, inadequate childcare, lack of recreational facilities, and the outrages of a criminal justice system that is structurally biased against them. They want what most Americans want, and they have a trained eye about politicians.

Notably absent from the debate is a leader prepared to be as bold and as serious about the challenges facing African Americans as the Kerner Commission was 22 years ago. The commission, chaired by Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner, was created by President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of the devastating urban riots of the late ‘60s. It included leaders from both major parties, as well as representatives of labor, the police, business and civil rights groups.

It became famous for its stark warning: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King pronounced the report a “physician’s warning of approaching death, with a prescription for life.” In many ways, it was the last attempt to address honestly and seriously the structural inequalities that plague African Americans.

It told harsh truths: “What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” It concluded that one main cause of the urban violence was white racism that left too many young African Americans without hope.

It offered not nostrums and pablum but a serious agenda to redress the maladies: new jobs, new housing, an end to de facto segregation, integration of schools, daycare for children, higher wages or income supplementation, greater services, and more diverse and sensitive police forces. It did not blink at the billions that this would cost, suggesting that the cost of not acting would be far greater.

The Kerner Report—and Johnson’s War on Poverty—was lost in the jungles of Vietnam.

The costs of that misbegotten war—in money, in lives and agony, and in political upheaval—torpedoed any serious effort to address our problems at home.

What the Kerner Report did leave was a marker: a measure of what it means to be serious in addressing the problems of our society.

Much has changed over the last half-century, yet too much is the same. Affirmative action has opened closed doors for some people of color. America is more diverse, yet still deeply divided. De facto residential segregation has been largely sustained. Inequality has grown more extreme. Schools are even more divided by class and race. Affordable housing is even less available. Structural racism still stains our criminal justice system.

So, as the politicians come campaigning for African American votes, they will get a hearing.

We appreciate the attention and gestures. But the Kerner Report set the standard for what a serious leader would champion.

We’ll see who comes close, if anyone does, to accepting that challenge.

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Bay Area

Jamie Scardina Appointed Marin County Sheriff

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

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As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.
As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget.

Courtesy of Marin County

Acting Marin County Sheriff Jamie Scardina had the “acting” taken off his title July 19 when the Marin County Board of Supervisors appointed him to the position, becoming the 22nd sheriff in county history. Scardina, a Marin native and 23-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, replaces the retired Robert Doyle. Scardina took the oath of office, administered by Doyle, at a public swearing-in ceremony on July 28.

Scardina was elected as Sheriff in the June primary election, running unopposed, and was to be sworn in when Doyle’s term ended Jan. 2, 2023. However, Doyle retired June 30 after more than 52 years of public safety service to Marin, and Scardina became acting Sheriff. The board’s action July 19 covers the time until Jan. 2.

Scardina grew up in Corte Madera and attended Marin Catholic High School and College of Marin. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology from the University of Montana. After starting his law enforcement career as a Tiburon police officer, Scardina joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2000 and gradually was assigned more responsibilities as he was promoted from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant to captain. Scardina replaced the retired Mike Ridgway as Undersheriff in 2018.

Scardina is only Marin’s third Sheriff since 1983. He thanked Doyle for giving him a “tremendous amount of autonomy” during the past four years as he served as Undersheriff. He pledged to listen to concerns and make decisions together with resident involvement.

“This is not an appointment I take lightly or for granted,” Scardina said at the July 19 Supervisors meeting. “I know it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. … This is something I’m looking forward to, working with staff and working with the community. I know there are a lot of people in the community who want to talk, and we’re looking forward to having those conversations.”

As Sheriff, Scardina will lead a department of 311 full time staff and oversee a $77,735,000 operating budget. His annual salary will be $251,825.60 and benefits will be consistent with those received by other department heads.

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Activism

Marin County Offers Booklet to Parents to Prevent Preteen Substance Abuse

Each middle school teen is different and there is no single right way to address their changes, experiences, and their transition to middle school. But the book endeavors to help parents more objectively understand and support their children.

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Top: Mother and daughter talking (From care.com). Bottom: English and Spanish covers of the booklet “Let’s Start Talking.” Go to letstalkmarin.org for more information, downloadable digital booklets, and video recordings of recent “Let’s Talk” community discussions.
Top: Mother and daughter talking (From care.com). Bottom: English and Spanish covers of the booklet “Let’s Start Talking.” Go to letstalkmarin.org for more information, downloadable digital booklets, and video recordings of recent “Let’s Talk” community discussions.

By Godfrey Lee

Marin County District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli recently distributed an informational booklet “Let’s Start Talking – A Parent’s Toolkit for Understanding Substance Use in Marin County Through the Middle School Years” at the San Rafael Elks Lodge 1108 on Tuesday, July 19.

The toolkit booklet was created with support from the Marin Prevention Network and the Marin County Office of Education. The booklet was also translated and published in Spanish under the title “Hablemos.”

The booklet begins by saying that although drug usage among 7th graders remains low, their substance abuse can increase as they grow older. Parents and caregivers can still lay the foundations to support preteens/teens as they grow and help prevent negative consequence from substances use. This involves knowing the facts, communicate openly, and focus on relationships and resilience.

Each middle school teen is different and there is no single right way to address their changes, experiences, and their transition to middle school. But the book endeavors to help parents more objectively understand and support their children.

The major life experience for middle schoolers is the start of puberty, where their bodies, brains, and social environments rapidly and dramatically change, along with their hormones levels and emotions. The booklet says, don’t joke about or dismiss the child’s puberty process as being unimportant.

Parents are still in charge and should also teach and model healthy coping skills. Accept the child even while they are investigating their own identities and their attraction to the other or their own sex.

Their adolescent brain is not fully developed until about the age 25, and they are still growing in its management of reasoning, decision-making, planning, and impulse control. Their peers become more important, their circle of friends may change, and need to become more independent from their parents.

All teens face a lot of risks. Social media gives a lot of unfiltered information that can be disturbing. Other risk factors include mental health issues, attention deficit disorders, trauma, bullying, family substance and drugs abuse, the family rejection of their same-sex identity and thoughts of suicide.

Teens can still be protected with parental monitoring and involvement, a positive self-image, community and school norms and behavioral expectations, positive coping and self-regulation skills, positive and healthy peer relationships, school and community connections, and a sense of belonging to a healthy group.

Peer pressure and social norms are powerful during the middle school age, and the child’s social relationships can tip the scale toward risk or protection. Parents or caretakers can still meet and know the child’s friends and their parents, and also ask questions concerning the safety of their children. Parents can also spend time with their teens to stretch their minds and find opportunities for their teens to meet and work together with other youths with similar interest in groups and clubs.

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Bay Area

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Lighting Update to Begin

Overseen by the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW), the lighting update project will address street lighting that was installed during the Upgrade the Drake project, completed in November 2021, replacing a selection of lighting poles with shorter, decorative poles, and dimmer fixtures.

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The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.
The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.

Courtesy of Marin County

Work will begin the first week of August to revise street lighting on the median islands along one mile of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, between Manor Road in Kentfield and Eliseo Drive in Greenbrae.

Overseen by the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW), the lighting update project will address street lighting that was installed during the Upgrade the Drake project, completed in November 2021, replacing a selection of lighting poles with shorter, decorative poles, and dimmer fixtures.

The work starting next week will be the first phase of the project and will focus on structural foundations and wiring connections. This phase is expected to take about one month to complete, finishing in time to avoid the influx in traffic expected when the school year starts in late August.

Traffic impacts are expected to be minimal. A 500-foot stretch of one eastbound lane on Drake Boulevard will be closed for the duration of phase one. Traffic is expected to flow normally through the other two lanes. However, during the first week of August, there will be an additional lane closure of a westbound lane for two days to ensure crew safety during some initial work on several poles. The lane closures may cause traffic delays during peak commute hours.

The second phase is expected to begin sometime in the fall. A selection of existing street light poles will be removed and replaced with shorter, decorative light poles. In April 2022, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the new light poles, costing an estimated $300,000. The poles require significant manufacturing lead time, taking approximately six months to be fabricated and delivered. DPW expects the new poles to be available in October.

 In response to community concerns regarding lighting enhancements implemented during the Upgrade the Drake project, the street lighting project is intended to reduce light dispersal on adjacent properties, decrease light intensity, and improve aesthetics while still maintaining the lighting uniformity levels necessary for public safety. The shorter, decorative poles with dimmer fixtures will require closer spacing to achieve sufficient light levels on the roadway, resulting in a net increase in total lights. Statistically, uniform nighttime street lighting improves safety for all modes of transportation.

In January 2022, DPW replaced lighting fixtures at intersections and added backshields to help block light dispersal outside of the roadway and sidewalks. In June, the County replaced all remaining light fixtures on existing poles throughout the 2.2-mile corridor from the Town of Ross to Highway 101, as well as adding more backshields where necessary. The dimmer fixtures have a brightness of 5,000 to 8,000 lumens, depending on the needs of each location. For comparison, the removed fixtures had a brightness of 12,000 lumens.

The street light revisions are being funded by the remaining budget of the Upgrade the Drake project and the Marin County Street Light Fund. To further offset the cost, DPW will explore resell opportunities for the currently installed street light poles, which are a standard pole design used across California.

Learn more about the lighting project, as well as the separate landscaping improvements along Drake Boulevard and all the other various DPW projects, by visiting DPW’s projects webpage.

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