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Maxine Waters Works to Shrink Wealth Gap

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Ben Chavis

By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

 

One of leading freedom fighters in the United States Congress is none other than the extraordinarily dynamic Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Congresswoman Waters does not bite her tongue. Not only has she gained the top Democratic seniority position in the House Committee on Financial Services, she also continues to speak truth to power on all the critical public policy issues that affect the quality of life of Black Americans.

It is important to support Congresswoman Waters’ latest courageous act of leadership in the U.S. Congress: introducing the “Wealth Gap Resolution” that addresses the widening wealth gap in America and its devastating impact on Black Americans and other communities of color.

There are serious economic disparities and inequalities between White and Black Americans. During the past decade, these inequities have increased. We are all more than aware of the current declining economic base of the Black American community.

Maxine Waters explained how that gap can fundamentally alter the quality of one’s life.

She said, “Wealth is the difference between sending your children to college or not…. It’s the difference between retiring with a comfortable nest egg or relying on Social Security. And it’s the difference between starting your own business or working at a low-paying job. So when we talk about the wealth gap and economic equality, we’re not just talking about numbers. We’re talking about pulling families out of poverty, keeping them out of poverty, and ensuring that their children and their grandchildren never fall back into poverty again.”

Waters’ resolution should not only be taken seriously by the U.S. Congress, but by President Barack Obama and the White House public policy advocates as well. During the last two years of the Obama administration, we should intensify efforts to end poverty in America. But in Black America, ending poverty through wealth creation and other strategies to create more sustainable economic development in our communities has to be a top priority.

According to research done by Congresswoman Waters’ staffers, the median wealth of White American households is 20 times the median wealth of Black American households and 18 times the median wealth of Latino American households. Other research also documents that income inequality in the U.S. is today the highest of all Western democracies. And of course the racial income inequality gap throughout the country continues to widen. That is why I believe that the national alert that is being issued by Waters is so timely and crucial to understand.

We know that homeownership is a major factor that provides the foundation for fundamental wealth building. We know that Black Americans disproportionately were injured during the last economic recession and housing crisis. Home foreclosures since 2008 have wrecked financial havoc for Black America and our communities still have not recovered from that economic crisis. All of these financial challenges are confronting Black America at a time when there appears to be a resurgence of predatory lending and racial discrimination in the housing sector of the economy.

The “Wealth Gap Resolution” thus far has attracted more than 50 co-sponsors that include members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus. Waters concluded, “Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged just how harmful inequality and the wealth gap are for many middle class families. The time is now to meet words with actions. We have a moral obligation to address this crisis with substantive solutions.”

We thank Maxine Waters for her leadership on this issue. It is time for us to wake up and to take the necessary steps to close the wealth gap in our communities. We must not relent. We cannot afford to stay mired in poverty. Instead of generational poverty, we all should be creating generational wealth. The future is in our own hands. Let’s all work together to close the wealth gap.

 

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.

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Commentary

Opinion: Will Verdicts Help Black Voters See the Truth?

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old. Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34? If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

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CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.
CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

By Emil Guillermo

The news of Trump’s historic 34 guilty verdicts are about a week old.

Has it sunk in that the man who insists on being the Republican nominee for president is the former president known officially as CFDT34?  If the name sounds like a dangerous radioactive isotope, it is — to our democracy.

CFDT34 is my coinage of a new acronym that we all should adopt. It’s shorthand for “Convicted Felon Donald Trump,” with 34 being the number of criminal counts of guilt.

We need to say CFDT34 aloud as a constant reminder. Too many Americans are in denial. Or just lying.

Especially, CFDT34 himself.

Trump insists it’s all a “fascist” witch hunt, but the verdicts were based on an avalanche of evidence. The defense failed to refute the statements of the National Enquirer’s David Pecker who admitted his role in the Trump campaign to catch, then kill, stories that threatened Trump’s candidacy.

The defense didn’t even attempt to explain Hope Hicks, an ally who delivered the damning testimony that Trump knew about the arrangement to pay off Daniels. Hicks was in tears telling the truth. The defense never countered.

And then there were the checks and invoices and ledger entries, that spelled out the whole scheme. The payments were lies, called “lawyer fees” but they really were reimbursements to attorney Michael Cohen who had used his own money to pay off Daniels.

Minor stuff? Not when done with the intent to violate election law. The payoff was intended to influence the election and it became an illegal campaign contribution as well.

And the hero is New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the African American man who led the prosecution. Bragg got justice for all voters denied the truth in 2016.

Contrast Bragg with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla). the key African Americans lying for CFDT34.

Scott and Donalds lack the courage to honor the rule of law. Rigged case, they say.  Never should have been prosecuted. Where was the crime?

All of it baloney.

Prior to the historic verdicts, there was some historic polling.

Black voters were seen as abandoning Democrats, with Biden scoring just 70% of the vote. Four years ago, Biden was at 81%.

CNN called the pre-verdict polling the best results for the GOP among Black voters since Nixon.

The age breakdown is more telling. Black voters aged 50 and up were about 85% for Biden. Those who recalled civil rights battles were holding steady for Democrats.

Among Black voters under age 50, a new divide was revealed.  A reported average of polls showed young Blacks were 27% for Trump, with Biden at 64%.

Nearly a third of young Blacks were for Trump prior to the verdicts. But what would young Blacks think now? Would they back a person like Trump, a man who comes with racist baggage like the Central Park 5 saga, and is now a convicted felon?

I haven’t seen new data yet. But with Biden and Harris stepping up their attention on the Black community, talking about economics and pocketbook issues, I’d expect a turnaround when young Blacks hear the lies and the overall hypocrisy among the GOP.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo, an award-winning journalist, and commentator has covered race and politics in Hawaii, California, and Washington, DC. He has worked in newspapers, TV and on radio was host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

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Commentary

Commentary: Racism? Sexism? Ageism Is Worse. Ask Joe Biden

Don’t worry about President Joe Biden’s age or memory. Worry about how he has to confront ageism. Thanks to a certain Asian American special prosecutor named Robert Hur.

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President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden

By Emil Guillermo

 Don’t worry about President Joe Biden’s age or memory.

Worry about how he has to confront ageism. Thanks to a certain Asian American special prosecutor named Robert Hur.

Hur went beyond and below the call of duty in political slander of the President.

Hur’s investigation concluded: there would be no prosecution against Biden for any mishandling of classified documents. So why wasn’t that the big headline last week?

Once it was determined there was not enough evidence to prosecute the president, Hur’s work was done.

Instead, Hur took a year to finish a nearly 400-page report that many mainstream news outlets have since mischaracterized. For example, CNBC’s headline quoted Hur: “Biden ‘willfully’ kept classified materials, had ‘poor memory’: Special counsel.”

Unfortunately, it’s misleading. By how much? On the Just Security website, two prominent law professors found  Hur’s report actually described Biden’s statements as “innocent explanations.”

“Unrefuted innocent explanations,” say Prof. Andrew Weissmann and Prof. Ryan Goodman, doesn’t just mean the “case does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution — it means innocence.”

But no one walks away from the mainstream headlines about the report thinking Biden is innocent; Only that he “willfully” retained something classified, and he has a “poor memory.”

None of it adds up to a prosecution. Just a public persecution.

Is this the game being played by Hur, a Trump appointee to the Justice Department, who was named special prosecutor last year by Attorney General Merrick Garland?

Garland must have thought it was a stroke of genius to appoint a Trump Republican in a political year to investigate his Democratic boss. That would be a sign of unity in the fight for truth and justice, right?

It wasn’t.

Hur, the son of South Korean immigrants and a Harvard grad, has said all the right things in public statements: that he’d be “fair, impartial and dispassionate,” and would “follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor.”

Right.

Or is that right-wing?

Hur’s speculative comments about Biden’s memory were challenged last Sunday by Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer who witnessed Hur’s deposing of Biden.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Bauer called Hur’s report a “shabby piece of work,” that reached the right legal conclusion, but then was loaded with hundreds of pages of “misstatements of facts and totally inappropriate and pejorative comments that are unfounded and not supported by the record.”

Hur appears to have padded the report to buttress his own standing among Republicans. He makes memory a relevant issue when he uses it as an excuse to not prosecute Biden.

With no basis for a legal prosecution, Hur made sure to go for the political kill and let loose the virus that is ageism.

I once thought ageism would unite us all. We may not all be the same race, ethnicity, or gender, but we all fight time and the aging process.

But how naïve I was. Ageism can also inspire division, creating generation gaps, all charged with emotions that fuel a discrimination harder to fight than racism.

Of course, it cuts both ways. Last weekend, Donald Trump, 77, said Russia should be able to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet their defense spending targets.

The man who wants to be president again is backing our enemy Putin against our allies.

Is that Trump showing off his anti-democracy bent or his senility?

That’s why ageism has become a dominant theme for both parties and is likely to hang around.

It won’t age well, unless we all know the truth about Hur’s misleading report.

The controversy has thrust Vice President Kamala Harris into the limelight, as she defended Biden and called Hur’s report “clearly politically motivated (and) gratuitous.”

Harris’ detractors have been sniping at her from day one with healthy doses of racism and sexism. Now, you can add ageism to the Republican tool set, a nasty political trifecta, as the GOP continues to hammer Biden and the Democrats with the misleading Hur report.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him on YouTube.com/@emilamok1

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Activism

Will New City Leaders End Oakland’s Long-Time Cozy Relationship with Corporate Developers?

Geoffrey Pete’s building at 410 14th St. is a Registered National Resource Building on the State of California Register as well as a contributing building to the Historic Downtown Oakland District on the State of California Register and the National Department of Interior historic registers.

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Rendering of Tidewater Capital’s 40-story residential tower at 1431 Franklin St., next to Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Courtesy Tidewater Capital.
Rendering of Tidewater Capital’s 40-story residential tower at 1431 Franklin St., next to Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Courtesy Tidewater Capital.

By Ken Epstein

New research, produced by supporters of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle and the Black Arts Movement and Business District, has provided powerful evidence against giving a greenlight to Tidewater Capital’s 40-story luxury apartment building at 1431 Franklin St., inches from owner Geoffrey Pete’s historic venue.

According to the research, which has been shared with Mayor Sheng Thao, arguments in favor of Tidewater Capital’s proposal seem to be based on inaccurate facts, which some believe have their origin among past mayoral administrations and city administrators, the planning commission and city staff who for years allowed corporate development to ravage Oakland’s diverse communities while trying to convince residents that there is no alternative to gentrification.

State does not require project’s approval

Some who support allowing Tidewater’s project to be built have maintained that the state would likely revoke Oakland’s affordable housing funds if the city does not approve this high-end real estate project.

However, this interpretation does not seem to be based on an accurate reading of the law. The state’s “Prohousing Designation Program is what is believed by city officials to prevent Oakland from denying new residential development at the risk of losing their designation” and related funding, according to the research document.

The new research has found instead that “Oakland’s housing element is considered to be in ‘full compliance’ with state law, (and) the city no longer has to worry about losing important revenue, such as the Prohousing Designation Program or triggering rules that could have limited its ability to regulate development.”

The mission statement of the state pro-housing program says it is not designed to force cities to build more high-end housing but is meant to pressure cities and counties that are not building sufficient housing for very low and extremely low-income families. The goal is “creating more affordable homes in places that historically or currently exclude households earning lower incomes and households of color,” the mission statement of the state’s program said.

“This (Tidewater) proposal isn’t remotely connected” to a low-income development and, therefore, would not be impacted by state regulations protecting low-income projects, says the new research.

City failed to seek historical preservation funds

The second major point is that Oakland, unlike neighboring cities, has failed to apply for funding that would have protected its national resource buildings and districts from luxury developers like Tidewater.

Geoffrey Pete’s building at 410 14th St. is a Registered National Resource Building on the State of California Register and a contributing building to the Historic Downtown Oakland District on the State of California Register and the National Department of Interior historic registers.

If Oakland had applied for available grants from the state’s Office of Historic Preservation, it could have received millions of dollars. For example, the city and county of San Francisco applied and received millions of dollars more than six times since 2012.

“The City of Oakland has never even applied for this grant once,” the research said. “Our neighboring and surrounding cities in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Richmond have all applied and been awarded. Just not Oakland.”

“If Oakland had applied and received these funds, then Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a National Registered Resource Building, would have been protected. There would be zero conversation with Tidewater Capital. This situation would not exist.”

Because the Black Arts Movement & Business District is a registered cultural district, Tidewater Capital’s proposal is in a geographic area with cultural affiliations, and the proposed development will, in fact, cause harm to a cultural resource, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

Project designed for luxury housing

The third major point in the research holds that, while the project’s backers claim that many units would be reserved for very low-income residents, the city’s staff report says that only 38 units (10%) out of a total of 381 units would be reserved for low-income residents. Further, there is evidence that none of the units would be available to those whose incomes do not put them among the affluent.

The City of Oakland considers “low-income” to be $112,150 a year for a family of four. What this means is MOST Oakland families do not earn enough to live in the Tidewater Capital’s building. Current data shows that median income for a family of four in Oakland is $85,628, well below the $112,150 that is considered low-income by the city’s unusual standard.

The research shows that the planning commission and city staff’s systematic bias toward high end development has resulted in massive overbuilding of market rate housing, while the city is way behind its goals to build affordable housing.

City statistics show that between 2015 and 2022, the city pledged to build 14,765 units at various income levels. In fact, the city created many more — 18,880 units. Of these, they had pledged to build 4,134 units for residents at the lowest income levels but failed to reach their goal by 1,776 units.

Yet at the same, time, the city built 16,522 high end units, though officials had only pledged 10,631 units for affluent tenants.

“The Oakland Planning Commission catered to developers, such as Tidewater Capital, who solely created luxury housing, so aggressively that they overshot their obligation by 5,891 extra and unnecessary (luxury) units approved,” according to Geoffrey’s supporters’ research.

“Yet low-income housing goals are nearly two thousand units in arrears with no clear remedy or solution at hand,” the research said.

“For the eighth year in a row, Oakland’s Housing Element progress report shows that while the city has permitted an abundance of market rate housing, we are not building enough affordable homes,” said Jeff Levin of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), quoted in Oaklandside.

“The trend in Oakland has been to build high-end units that attract new, higher-income residents,” doing little for low-income residents and Oakland natives, he said.

Project does not fit the landscape

Finally, the real facts show that Tidewater’s market-rate luxury skyscraper, doggedly supported by city staff, does not fit the landscape, dramatically overshadowing surrounding buildings in the downtown Black Arts Movement and Business District.

Tidewater’s design would become the tallest building in Oakland at 413 feet tall (40 stories), taller than the Atlas building at 400 feet, which was built several years ago directly across the street from Geoffrey’s.

The Post gave council members supporting the Tidewater project an opportunity to be interviewed for this article.

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