community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On this week's show... * We examine the battle against gentrification in three different US cities * The Pittsburgh School board may be close to passing a resolution on military recruitment in schools * Mayview State Hospital Mental Institution is closing * and more in our local and global headlines
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Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio airs live every Monday from 6-7 PM on WRCT 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, PA, and again on Tuesday mornings 9-10 AM. We're also on Pacifica affiliate WVJW Benwood, 94.1 FM in the Wheeling, West Virginia area, on Thursdays from 6-7 PM. And we're on WPTS, 10-11AM on Wednesday mornings at 92.1 FM from the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
We're also available on the internet, both on WRCT's live webstream at W-R-C-T dot ORG and for download, stream or podcast at radio dot I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot org.
We turn now to local stories.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare has announced plans to close Mayview State Hospital, a treatment facility for the mentally ill and individuals requiring psychiatric care. The hospital will move its 225 patients into community homes in Allegheny, Beaver, Lawrence, Greene, and Washington counties where they will continue to receive treatment. Patients at the hospital have diagnoses which include: major depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders and substance abuse disorders as part of a “co-occurring” condition.
The hospital also plans to move their 502 staff members into alternative employment by the closure date of December 31, 2008.
Stacey Witalec, of Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, explains the process that patients and employees will go through as the hospital prepares to close:
* WClosing.ogg: [0:52]
This recent decision follows Pennsylvania’s ongoing goal to decrease the amount of individuals in state institutional care and provide them with community-based living and treatment. Many nationwide closings of mental health facilities have been influenced by the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision made in 1999, which establishes the right of those with disabilities to live in their community as opposed to institutionalized care.
Rachel Freund, from the Mental Health Association of Allegheny County, discusses the Olmstead Decision and how it has influenced deinstitutionalization:
* FOlmstead.ogg: [1:10]
In addition to moving current patients to community homes, Mayview’s forensic service division, which supplies evaluation and treatment to individuals in the criminal justice system, will now be taken over by private companies. The state’s forensic unit serves over 200 people in three locations; however, the transition away from state ownership will create two privately owned forensic facilities that will advise those going through the justice system in Pennsylvania.
Here, Witalec explains the process that will occur as they evaluate private companies
* WPrivate.ogg: [0:23]
However, there is concern whether individuals will receive fair and adequate treatment as the transition takes place. In 1998, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported an estimated 283,000 prison and jail inmates who suffered from mental health problems. That number had jumped to 1.25 million by 2006.
A priority concern for Allegheny County’s Mental Health Association is the care and support that Mayview's current patients will receive as they begin to establish lives outside of the hospital. Here, Freund discusses some of the support and services that those with disabilities need in order to decrease the likelihood of homelessness or a deterioration of their condition and to increase the chance of forming successful lives in the community.
* FSupport.ogg: [1:32]
Witalec has confirmed that there will be a tracking system set up to monitor patient progress. A public hearing will be held about the closing of Mayview hospital will be held on September 10 at the Crown Plaza Pittsburgh South from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to register by contacting Dorothy Owens at 412-257-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weed and Seed is a Justice Department program; its website says the program aims to (quote) reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in designated high-crime neighborhoods across the country. The strategy involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in "weeding out" violent criminals and drug abusers, and public agencies and community-based private organizations collaborate to "seed" much-needed human services, including prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood restoration programs. (end quote)
Weed and Seed began in 1992, and in Pittsburgh it was implemented in the Hill District, East Liberty, Homewood, and Hazelwood. There are currently active projects in East Liberty and Lawrenceville. According to federal budget reports, the majority of “weed” money was spent on drug enforcement. The majority of “seed” money was spent on drug treatment and social services. Community reaction has been mixed. Some applaud the closing down of drug houses, and the social agencies receiving “seed” funding find the money useful. However, others decry the focus on drug enforcement as misguided in truly stopping crime, and oppose the tight linkage between acceptance of Justice Department drug enforcement policies and funding for essential social services. For example, a 1999 government report on Pittsburgh Weed and Seed stated that the City Housing Authority is (quote) predisposed to invest only in neighborhoods that are likely to adopt a weed-and-seed approach (endquote). In the words of african-american community activist Paradise Gray (quote) It has not deterred crime in any kind of way. It just floods money into creating a Police State as the police receive the bulk of the resources and the targets of the Weeding out are always young black males. It is another program to funnel funds into sell-out so-called community groups who take the hush money and shut up about police brutality and police misconduct."
The new funding comes at a time when the program’s administration is in shambles after several years of neglect. Under Mayor Tom Murphy the program was staffed by the same team for 12 years. However, Bob O’Connor fired those three staff members when he became mayor. High staff turnover has continued in the last two years. Funding for East Liberty was cut because the money went unspent, then re-instated. Recently the Justice Department sent a written reprimand to the city for failing to track staff time or monitor equipment and inventory, and for making unauthorized expenditures.
Providing computer equipment for neighborhood groups is a common use of the “seed” portion of the money. At the end of Tom Murphy’s last term the city had purchased almost 300,000 dollars worth of computer equipment; but with the firing of Murhpy’s staff, no one knew where the equipment was intended to go. City officials say much of it was eventually distributed haphazardly among community groups- but record keeping was poor. There remains over fifty thousand dollars of equipment that the city cannot now account for.
Luke Ravenstahl has now appointed three new staff to administer the Weed and Seed program. The eight western neighborhoods that will receive the new funds are: Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Elliot, Esplen, Fairywood, Sheraden, West End and Windgap
Like many districts across the country, The Pittsburgh Public School board has been faced with the issue of military recruitment in schools. Recruiters have been accused of targeting students from low-income, minority or working-class schools; of making false promises to prospective recruits; and of sneaking into schools when they don't have permission to be there. As the war in Iraq worsens, and the death toll rises, a growing movement comprised of community organizations and concerned parents is working to place tighter limits on recruiters’ access to students across the country.
Locally, the American Friends Service Committee and Conscience Pittsburgh introduced a resolution to the school board in September of last year. It has been supported by District 8 School Board rep Mark Brentley Sr., who represents the Uptown, Downtown, and Northside neighborhoods.
The proposal includes limiting the number of visits by recruiters each year, banning impromptu recruiting in hallways, and standardizing the new policy so that recruiters are treated the same in every high school. The proposed resolution does not call for an all-out ban on military recruitment in schools, however it does seek to limit the special privileges that recruiters are currently afforded. These may include access to guest-teaching a gym class, or being present in cafeterias. Jon Webb, a Conscience Pittsburgh member who has twin sons at Allderdice High School, describes some of the contents of the resolution.
The board has discussed the proposals at Education Committee meetings as recently as July 10 August 7th, but still hasn't reached consensus on how tough the policy should be.
So far, the board has discussed the possibility of limiting the number of times per school year that a recruiter from any organization may visit a school. Under that scenario, each branch of the military would be treated as a separate organization. The board has also discussed the possibility of banning recruiting in cafeterias and hallways, restricting the practice to places such as a counselor's office.
Additionally, they have debated a proposal which would bar recruiters—including those from colleges and the military-- from serving as mentors, tutors or athletic coaches, unless they are parents or guardians of students. Members also discussed the possibility of establishing a process for logging and investigating complaints about recruiters, of requiring criminal background checks for recruiters and for banning military recruiters from elementary and middle-grade buildings.
Although the board has been discussing these issues just recently, members of Conscience and the American Friends Service Committee have been attending school board hearings since they introduced the resolution in September 2006. Jon seems hopeful that the board is finally ready to make a decision at a Legislative hearing this Wednesday. However, their decision still remains to be seen:
Conscience and the AFSC hope that if this resolution passes, it will inspire other school boards to adopt similar measures. They also urge the public to contact their school board representatives before the legislative hearing this Wednesday the 22nd. A final decision may be made at this meeting. To find out who your representative is, and to read the proposed resolution in full, go to www. conscience pgh. org (say PGH not Pittsburgh!)
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
* One_of_the_Politics_of_Promises.mp3: Mumia [2:33]
That was Mumia Abu Jamal. Thanks to Prison Radio for audio. To hear more radio essays by Mumia, visit prisonradio.org.
A Honduran agricultural worker is suing Dole Fresh Fruit Company and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, claiming that the pesticide DBCP that he used on the job made him sterile. As one of the 11 out of 12 plantiffs that have no sperm in their bodies, Benancio Lizandro Espinoza claims he and his wife tried for 10 years to have a child but could not.
DBCP is a pesticide used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants. The pesticide was outlawed in the U.S. in 1979. Although illegal in this country, the producers, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil, continue to export DBCP to other countries’ plantations. In Nicaragua, DBCP was legal only from 1973 until 1993.
The former worker’s attorney, Duane Miller, says that Dole used the pesticide in amounts exceeding guidelines and applied it improperly. It was also revealed that Dole workers in Costa Rica were suffering infertility problems caused by DBCP, but Dole never developed a program to test its employees in Nicaragua.
One worker claimed that Dole did not always have enough face masks to go around.
The fruit company is telling a different story claiming that the workers were not exposed to enough of the pesticide to cause sterilization. They say that DBCP was diluted with water, sprayed at night for 15 minutes and then the plants were washed with 56,000 gallons of water for more than an hour afterward. They have also focused their attention on discrepancies between Espinoza's court testimony and his 2005 video deposition, where he says he and his wife tried to conceive for a decade before he was ever exposed to DBCP.
The is one of five cases filed in Los Angeles County by at least 5,000 agricultural workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama
On Sunday afternoon, federal authorities arrested immigration activist Elvira Arellano and deported her to Tijuana, Mexico, a few hours later. Arellano is famous for resisting deportation by seeking sanctuary, with her nine-year-old American born son, in a Chicago church. Last week on August 15th, one year after Arellano took up residence in the Adalberto United Methodist Church, she decided to take her campaign on the road, embarking on a risky trip to Los Angeles to participate in a local immigration march there. She planned to build national momentum for an 8-hour prayer and fast vigil scheduled for September 12th in Washington D.C.
Emma Lozano, close friend of Elivra Arellano and now guardian of her son, Saulito, tells us what hapened:
* EmmaLozano.wav (3:32)
Recently Federal authorities have stepped up arrests of undocumented people, taking as many as 675 people into custody each week. Workplace raids and other means of immigration enforcement have become increasingly commonplace. Before she was apprehended, Arellano spent much of Sunday encouraging Los Angeles parishioners to write Nancy Pelosi and other California representatives about immigration reform. For more information on Elvira Arellano and about how you can help prevent the separation of more families see www.familialatinaunida.com. (that's familia latina unida .com)
"use speech_simon.ogg that is listed in the attachments and says use this one"
Many of the delegates gathered at a restaurant down the street from the Mexican Embassy before their scheduled press conference at the Embassy. Due to the massive amounts of protestors, the street in front of the restaurant was closed off by the police, so that the governors could escape from their dinner and their press conference was called off. Organizers of the protest said the action was a success since Ulisez Ruiz and his representatives are now fearful of appearing in the United States. The following day the CONAGO delegation was scheduled for an event in Dallas, Texas and Ulises Ruiz failed to appear at it.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Gentrification is a phenomenon in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods undergo physical renovation by upper- or middle-income individuals and corporations. This process brings an increase in property values, along with an influx of wealthier residents who displace the low-income families and small businesses who originally populated the area. In American gentrification tends to be strongly linked to race, with lower income communities of color displaced by whites.
Artists and those with a high cultural capital are often seen as the first group that paves the way for gentrification by the urban middle-class. Often seen as "trend-setters"— these individuals move into low-income neighborhoods attracted by cheap property values and a desire to break with their own cultural establishment. In many cases, these individuals are young and live in non-family households.
The "trend-setters" have the effect of attracting others from their own socio-economic and racial origins. As their numbers grow, they create features in the neighborhood valued by the middle and upper class. These include service establishments such as new bars, restaurants, and art galleries that serve the gentrifying group's interests and cater to their cultural outlook. As these trends continue, local property values increase, and eventually the changes attract more risk-averse investors and residents. The original lower-income residents of the neighborhood are forced out by high property taxes, rent increases, and redevelopment projects that replace low-income housing with upscale condomineums. The process is strongly driven by speculative investors, who buy homes and properties while property values are still low, and redevelop with the intention of attracting a more affluent demographic and selling high to profit hugely. This group often views the existence of communities of color, low income housing, and non-white cultural amenities as obstacles to their vision of neighborhood improvement, and deliberately sets out to remove them.
Since the 1990's many US cities have experienced a new wave of gentrification. Today we will take a look at three different US cities where this is occurring, and the community residents that are organizing against it.
First we go to Brooklyn, New York, where the gentrification process has caused rents to double in certain neighborhoods over the past 10 years.
One such neighborhood is Bushwick, a neighborhood formerly inhabited by mostly low income Latino immigrants. In response to the construction of a new 14 story luxury condo, hundreds of Bushwick residents gathered on August 15th to voice their opposition to gentrification and advocate for affordable housing. They gathered next to the condo, which is just one of many being built in the area.
The rally was organized by the Youth Power Project of the organization Make the Road by Walking. Janelly Lahoz, an organizer with the Youth Power Project and BRAG (Bushwick Research and Action on Gentrification) says they found that many longterm residents are being priced out of their neighborhood.
Jose Lopez, another organizer with the Youth Power project, says that landlords don't maintain their properties, because they know that they can kick out current residents and rent to people who can afford to pay more.
Janelly further explained the process by which landlords increase their rent.
The Youth Power Project also believes that the city needs to hire more inspectors to improve housing conditions.
Rosalie, a participant in the Youth Power Project, fears that she will be kicked out of her home because of a greedy landlord, skyrocketing rents and bad living conditions.
Rosa Vera, a Bushwick resident who spoke at the rally, fears that her children and grandchildren will be forced to leave New York City.
While newspapers continue to describe Bushwick as the “undesirable neighborhood” that has become the “next hot spot” long time residents assert their love and devotion to their community. In the coming months the Youth Power Project will be working with Bushwick high schools students to see how they can improve housing conditions and prevent the displacement that goes hand in hand with gentrification.
Next we take a look at San Francisco, which is also one of the most expensive cities in the US, along with New York. The dot-com boom of the late 1990s paved the way for gentrification in many parts of the city. One such neighborhood that is now being heavily gentrified is the Mission District, a predominantly working-class neighborhood populated by immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
Jose Morales is a long time Mission District resident being pushed out by gentrification. The 78 year old Mission District resident faces eviction from his landlord, who is trying to displace the current residents for more profitable ventures. Community activists and tenants' rights advocates have been fighting alongside Morales to keep him in his home.
Rezz Sacharoff brings us this report:
Jose’s hearing, originally scheduled for last Friday, is now set to be held Wednesday, August 22nd. For more updates on this story, please visit www.indybay.org
Lastly we bring you this story from Miami.
Miami has one of the highest levels of vacant public housing in the nation, yet despite a pressing need for low-cost housing, the City has done little to fill these vacancies. This suggests that the city would rather allow the empty units to fall into disrepair, condemn them and then “redevelop” them. In response, the grassroots Miami Workers Center led a “Fill the Vacancies” campaign that began in 2004. In February, as part of that campaign, Power U and another group, Take Back the Land, seized vacant public housing units and moved in two families.
Bernadette Armand, an organizer with Power U, stated, “There are over 41,000 people on Miami-Dade's housing assistance wait list…Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners is allowing many of these public housing units to remain vacant for five years or more. They do not want to address or solve this gentrification and housing crisis.”
In another direct action against gentrification and the Miami housing crisis, 50 homeless people constructed a shanty town on a public lot in October of 2006. The lot had been abandoned for 8 years. The site was named 'Umoja Village', and the formerly-homeless occupied the residencies for 6 months.
Just 2 days after their 6-month anniversary, the Umoja Village met with a tragic end. This piece originally aired on Rustbelt Radio's April 30th show:
While trying to gather their possessions from the ashes of the burnt Umoja Village, 11 people were arrested. Arrestee John Cata went to trial last Monday. The trials of village organizers Max Rameau and Amanda Seaton are set for later in August. Other arrestees have settled their cases.
Since the burning of Umoja Village, the organizers and residents have pressured the city to transfer the lots to Take Back the Land for the construction of affordable housing units. On August 1st, after months of planning, the city of Miami Commission voted four to zero in support of the conveyance of the land to the residents and organizers. Less than one week after the vote, city of Miami officials reversed their decision. Ron Book, a wealthy, high-powered lobbyist, killed the entire deal when he pulled the funding sources for the 20 million dollar development.
These three stories are just a few examples of patterns of displacement that are growing in cities throughout the U.S. Recognizing the need to form a national campaign to fight gentrification, 30 community-based groups banded together at a conference in Los Angeles this past January. The groups formed an alliance called Right to the City. Leaders of the groups want to link the struggles against gentrification in New York, San Francisco and Miami to those in Detroit, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and abroad. After decades of white flight to the suburbs, and neglect of urban areas with low income communities of color, affluent populations are looking inwards again to the cities. According to alliance members, Americans are facing a new urban politics, wherein the word “redevelopment” has come to mean tailoring every aspect of city life for corporations and affluent consumers. Those who advocate for the “right to the city” aim to counter this assumption that economic might means right with the idea that cities should exist to serve people, not capital.
For more information on this national campaign, visit the website "right to the city dot org"
Young people within the LGBT community often have a difficult time finding terms that describe their diverse identities. LGBT youth of color not only struggle with identity across sexuality and race but also must find organizations that will support both aspects of their lives. Now we present a story, courtesy of the Making Contact radio program, which follows several LGBT young people as they struggle to find support within their communities and change the way society thinks about sexual identity. Kristen Zimmerman, a correspondent with Making Contact, reports:
* MakCon.ogg: [10:31]
Making Contact is a part of the National Radio Project. To hear more of their program on queer youth identities or to learn more about other Making Contact programs please visit www.radioproject.org
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WVJW Benwood and WPTS Pittsburgh.
Our hosts this week are Ellen Pierson and Jessica McPherson with contributions from Andalusia Knoll, Jessica McPherson, Veronica Milliner, Ellen Pierson, Vani Natarajan and Carlin Christy. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, or to send us your comments, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. All of our shows are available for download or podcast on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.