community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: Condominiums find a home in a tax free zone in Garfield, The Conspiracy tour arrives in Pittsburgh to rally support for the RNC 8 and other activists, Marcellus Shale gas drilling discussions continue across Pittsburgh And more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for August 2, 2010
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every other Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
We can also be heard weekly on FRSC Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1FM
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We turn now to local stories.
The Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s East End, often known for its high poverty and crime rate, is the future site of a 6.4 million dollar condominium complex. Facing Penn Avenue, sandwiched between old brick row homes and a Kentucky Fried Chicken is a tall, green, modern looking building named the Glass Lofts.
What makes the Glass Lofts so special is that its being built in a tax free zone granted by the state. The area is called a Keystone Opportunity Zone, commonly referred to as a K-O-Z.
The state created KOZs in 1998 in an effort to alleviate the failing economy in Pennsylvania. The idea was to offer tax free incentives to businesses to move to poverty stricken areas and create jobs.
The Glass lofts are part of a mixed use development plan that includes businesses and senior housing. They are considered phase two in a two part project, but only the lofts are located in the Keystone Opportunity Zone.
Susan Dileo, a member of the Friendship Development Associates, the organization in charge of the project, gives us an overview:
The 18 condos that are for sale go for 127,000 to 375,000 a piece. Seven out of the eighteen lofts that are considered affordable range from 127,000 to 177,000 dollars. According to 2008 data, over forty percent of Garfield residents live below poverty level and the median household income is twenty-three thousand dollars a year.
Ms. Dileo explains the advantages to buying one of the lofts.
Sarah Dileo continues.
According to an article in the magazine 'Pennsylvania From Below', there are provisions that regulate businesses with KOZ status called Clawbacks.
Clawbacks allow the state to revoke tax breaks if companies don’t hold up their end of the bargain. For example, if a business doesn’t remain in a KOZ for at least five years after their tax breaks expires their tax exemption can be – but won’t necessarily be – revoked. There are no clawbacks, however, for businesses that fail to create jobs.
We speak with Mitchell Troutman, writer and contributor for the paper, Pennsylvania From Below.
* clawbacks.flac: (0:52)
Mitchell Troutman continues.
Another example of a KOZ is the Cira Centre of Philadelphia. After it was completed in 2004, the law firm Dechert L.L.P., the largest law firm in Philadelphia and the 37th largest in the world with 900 lawyers, moved from their downtown Philadelphia location to the new Centre. This allowed the already-established law firm to stop paying taxes.
(quote) If residents of Garfield were asked to vote on where to allocate $2.2 million in loans for development, or who should reap over $1 million in tax breaks, it is doubtful they would clamor for loft housing or reward a buyer who is already able to afford a $300,000 house.(unquote)
This quote comes from an article entitled “Broken Logic at Root of Glass Lofts Development”, which is located on the website, East End Mutual Aid.org. East End Mutual Aid is a grassroots organization started by local residents in the East End that strategize and implement community driven solutions to problems in the area.
The group points out that while modern homes are being built like the Glass Lofts, there are much more affordable homes, now unoccupied, that could be remodeled instead, as well as foreclosed homes that homeowners are in need assistance to reclaim.
The EEMA acticle suggests that the goal of neighborhood development should be to encourage and support those already in a community, who have stuck with it through the hard times many Pittsburgh neighborhoods have experienced, and give them the reasons and resources they need to help guide its rebirth.
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
Radio Rootz brings us this radical history lesson for August 2nd:
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Marcellus Shale drilling is a hot topic in Pennsylvania now. As more communities are approached to sign gas leases, the nightly news reports on gas drilling-related accidents that injure workers and create environmental hazards. During the last two weeks of July, several public hearings and gatherings took place. Many featured panels where gas industry representatives proclaimed drilling will bring great benefits to the region. Less space was provided for the comments of ordinary citizens, many of whom questioned the impacts on their air, land and water.
The Allegheny County Council held a Public Hearing on July 21st. For nearly two hours Council members questioned a panel of guests including industry representatives from Consol Energy, Equitable Gas, Range Resources and others. Also present was the Pennsylvania DEP Secretary of Mineral Resources Management Jay Roberts; and representatives of Clean Water Action, The Group Against Smog and Pollution, the electrical workers union IBEW Local 5; and others.
Topics of concern presented by Council members included the presence of TDS or total dissolved solids in the Monongahela River in 2008; the impacts drilling and fracking have on local water quality; chemicals used in the fracking process; workplace accidents injuries, and fatalities; and the number of jobs created for Pennsylvania residents with the expansion of drilling.
During the public comment period, the many of the speakers spoke against drilling and called on the local and state governments to spend more time researching the potential health impacts and environmental threats of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Others welcomed the industry citing the economic growth it will bring to the state.
County resident Jeanne Clarke:
Another County resident Dr. Dorothy Bassett critiqued an industry-funded Penn State University study which predicts up to 88,000 new jobs will be created in 2010 as a result of further Marcellus Shale gas drilling. The study also projects that energy and utility companies will invest $8.8 billion this year on Marcellus Shale exploration, and more than $11 billion in Pennsylvania in 2011.
Dr. Dorothy Bassett:
Local activist Mel Packer spoke against drilling and fracking, calling the oil and gas corporations "mercenary companies":
The next night, July 22, the Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing in Canonsburg PA, one of only four meetings of its kind across the nation. The EPA has been charged by congress to conduct a scientific study on the environmental and health impacts of hydrofracturing, the process used to extract gas from the Marcellus shale formation and other deep shale beds across the country. Over 1200 people attended. However, the EPA has a checkered history with hydrofracturing regulation. In 2004, they released a study on hydrofracturing in coalbed methane, which is closer to the surface than Marcellus shale, and found the process posed no threat to drinking water. However, this was the same year that Dick Cheney’s Energy Task force was pushing through the Halliburton Loophole, which exempted hydrofracturing from the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Furthermore, an environmental engineer working for the EPA, Weston Wilson, wrote a whistleblower letter to congress to say that the report was: (quote) scientifically unsound and contrary to the purposes of the law. EPA has conducted limited research reaching the unsupported conclusion that this industry practice needs no further study at this time. EPA decisions were supported by a Peer Review Panel; however five of the seven members of this panel appear to have conflicts-of-interest and may benefit from EPA's decision not to conduct further investigation or impose regulatory conditions (endquote)
The EPA plans to complete the new study in 2012. The purpose of the public hearing was specifically to get feedback on the EPA’s methods for the study. For four hours, a panel heard the comments of the public, each limited to two minutes. The overwhelming majority of the people spoke against Marcellus gas drilling. Speakers included many who had personally been impacted by drilling, from Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. Although the Pennsylvania Association for Natural Gas drilling brought three busloads of people with pro-drilling signs and placards, making the lobby a colorful place, the number of pro-drilling speakers was in the single digits, and most were industry representatives.
We’ll now bring you some of the voices from the hearing. Jodie Burone:
Carol Jean Lotan and her family didn’t lease their land to be drilled, but they were impacted when adjacent landowners did:
Ned Mulcahy, a lawyer with Three Rivers Waterkeepers, drew attention to the current legal framework that makes it very difficult for people to seek redress from problems caused by drilling.
Currently the impacted person bears the burden of proof to link the problems they experience to drilling activities. Even though the connection may seem obvious because a person never had problems before the drilling, in most cases the link is impossible to prove in a court of law because no water or air quality tests were conducted to document conditions at the site before drilling. If the EPA developed scientific models for how exposures to frack fluid or other contaminants can occur, these could give impacted citizens a leg to stand on when making legal arguments.
Seth Bush, with the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition, attends the University of Pittsburgh and his family is from Doylestown in eastern Pennsylvania:
Myron Arnowitt, state director of Clean Water Action, emphasized that the testimony the EPA was hearing from impacted people were not isolated incidents:
Several people expressed concern that the 2012 deadline was too late given the ongoing destruction in Pennsylvania.
Angela Wiley, a student at Chatham College also with the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition:
Jessica McPherson, Rustbelt Radio contributor spoke on behalf of her work with the Shadbush Environmental Justice Project:
The EPA is still accepting written comments on the hydrofracturing study.
On Thursday July 29th, City Councilman Patrick Dowd held a public forum at the Teamsters Temple in Lawrenceville featuring representatives from environmental organizations, public health researchers, law clinics, state representatives and a representative from Chesapeake Energy. After brief presentations, the audience directed their questions at the panelists. Many had questions for David Spigelmyer, the Vice President of Government Relations for Chesapeake Energy and Marcellus Shale Coalition Vice Chairman. Earlier in his presentation he stated that he believed neither his company nor others had current plans to drill in a densely populated urban environment like Lawrenceville. Given this information, one audience member questioned Mr. Spigelmyer as to what in fact were the leases for, if the companies had no plans to drill. When asked if he would state that the various companies would NEVER drill in the city, he said that he could not say no for sure.
As the evening came to a close with many audience members questions going unanswered, many people rushed to the stage to continue speaking with Mr. Spigelmyer, 39th District Representative David Levdansky, and others.
And just on July 30th, the Marcellus Shale Coalition announced that Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and federal Homeland Security chief, has joined MSC as a strategic advisor. Gov. Ridge stated, "The development of the Marcellus Shale will benefit all of the citizens of our state, our region, and our nation. Not only can the environmental and economic benefit be transformational for generations to come, our homeland security will be forever strengthened."
The Marcellus Shale Coalition defines itself as (quote) " an organization committed to the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation and the enhancement of the region’s economy that can be realized by this clean-burning energy source." (unquote) However, a quick glance at MSC's members reveal a long list of oil and gas companies who surely seek to diminish public perception of any of the potential negative impacts this drilling may have on Pennsylvania's eco-system and public health.
In recent weeks, new coalitions of concerned citizens have formed to bring information about Marcellus Shale drilling to targeted communities in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. One new group plans to hold a march and rally against hydraulic fracturing at the industry-sponsored Marcellus Shale Summit taking place on October 1st at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. For more information go to marcellusprotest.org
...That was Zounds with the song Demystification
The Conspiracy Tour, a road show educating activist communities about state repression, came to Pittsburgh on Saturday July 31st, and presented at the Union Project located in East Liberty.
Through lectures and puppetry, the groups aim is to raise awareness about the governments new tactic to convict activists--conspiracy charges.
Through the use of conspiracy charges, the state has attempted to punish above ground organizers for the more militant and covert actions of others.
Recent trials against the Shac 7 and currently, the RNC 8 and Scott DeMuth, reveal a desperate attempt by the state to bring convictions based solely on shared intent and not on actual illegal activity.
The RNC 8 are organizers facing conspiracy charges after their preemptive arrests before the Republican National Convention in 2008. They were part of a collective that organized logistical support for activists arriving into town to protest the convention.
In November 2009, Scott DeMuth and Carrie Feldman were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Iowa because of an investigation into a 2004 Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa. Both refused to testify, Carrie was later released after four months in jail, and Scott was indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Scott is still facing conspiracy charges.
Last week, members of the tour suffered harassment at the hands of the Chicago police during one of the first stops on their nearly month long tour. Chicago police said that they (Quote) "came under their radar" (unquote) and demanded that DePaul Law School hire private security at their speaking event due to the threat that they may pose.
Rustbelt Radio now brings you excerpts from the Conspiracy tour.
One of the organizers of the tour explains the recent history of repression in the United States starting with the F.B.I.’s covert and often illegal program, CoIntelPro or the Counter Intelligence Program. The program lasted from 1956 to 1971, its aim was to infiltrate and disrupt various organizations ranging from women's groups to peace and justice groups, and to black nationalist groups among others.
You have been listening to excerpts from the conspiracy tour. For more information, go to conspiracytour.wordpress.com
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
[ Outro Music ]
Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Anthony Brino with contributions from Carlin Christy, Seth Bearden and Jessica McPherson. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. Become our fan on Facebook to receive updates on our latest episode. All of our shows are available 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 bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.