community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: Coverage of the Pennsylvania liquor store privatization; An update on the Bradley Manning case; Councilman Burgess proposes reforms to Community Block Development Grant distribution; Marcellus Shale drilling threatens Pennsylvania State Forests and more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for March 28, 2011
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.
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We turn now to local stories.
The privatization of Pennsylvania's publicly owned liquor stores is being hotly debated and gaining momentum.
While no legislation is on the table yet, County Council members briefly discussed the proposal on March 25th. The members didn't take any action on a resolution, but requested more information on the pros and cons of privitization.
To gain a better understanding of the consequences of privatizing the Pennsylvania's liquor stores, Rustbelt Radio spoke with State Representative, Kevin Murphy. Murphy, who is a current member of the House Liquor Control Commitee and was a state employee for seven years, is in charge of auditing the state liquor stores.
Murphy says that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Stores, also known as PLCBs, bring in far too much revenue to the commonwealth, for them not to be sold without vigorous debate.
Not only do taxpayers have to worry about privatization, but over four thousand unionized clerks do as well.
While public sector unions are under attack all over the country from Wisconsin to Ohio, the UFCW Local 23 has openly declared war on Gov. Corbett's plans to dismantle the state owned liquor stores.
On its Facebook page, it says that [quote] This is no time to sit back and see what happens---this is War [endquote].
Murphy says that the PLCB provides family-sustaining jobs to more than 4,000 people.
Gov. Corbett says that its necessary to sell off the liquor stores because of the budget crisis. Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai claim that the sale of the state owned liquor stores would generate $2 billion in revenue in 2011.
According to Murphy, the numbers simply don't add up. To get $2 billion, the 850 state liquor store licenses would have to sell for more than $2.3 million. But this feat has not been achieved by any other state.
For example, New Jersey licenses average only $250,000 and West Virginia's liquor stores sell for only $200,000
Senator Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County doesn't agree with the privatization plans, either. He called the agency a great public asset and said privatizing would be financially foolhardy. This year, the agency is kicking $105 million into the state treasury, he and others noted.
Murphy thinks that the current system generates tax revenue at a more sustainable rate than a simple one time fix can provide.
According to the Times-Tribune, the Delaware Loophole, that Murphy refers to, is a tax law that state officials say costs Pennsylvania $450 million a year in corporate net income taxes and forces it to rely more on taxpayers and small business owners who earn far less than corporations. The revenue generated by state liquor stores helps pay for public safety measures, as well.
You were just listening to State Representative Kevin Murphy of Lackwanna County, member of the House Liquor Control Committee.
On Thursday, March 24th, Reverend Ricky Burgess, City Councilman of the 9th district, held a reform public hearing about Community Development Block Grant or CDBG spending in Pittsburgh. CDBGs are funds given from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD for local community activities such as housing, anti-poverty initiatives and general infrastructure development. The grant program was started in 1974, making it one of the longest, continuous running HUD programs.
Each year, the city of Pittsburgh receives around $20 million in CDBG funds. In order for communities to be eligible to receive these monies, 51% of the households must have an income at or below 80% of the median household income. The Census shows that 51% of Pittsburgh’s population is eligible for these funds.
The public hearing was scheduled by Burgess to discuss the mishandling of these funds and the underfunding of CDBG eligible communities:
Burgess went on to explain how CDBG money is divided, which is through the Capital Budget, the Consolidated Plan process and City Council actions. A bill was put into effect this fiscal year to reform the Capital Budget decision-making process. Now, Burgess is proposing four bills that would take things a step further by reforming both the Consolidation Plan Process and City Council’s actions. The councilman speaks on these reform bills which are still pending in council:
After Burgess gave his presentation, the floor was opened to members of the audience to share their opinions, concerns and suggestions for community participation in development. One of the around twenty five speakers was Ora Lee Carrol, the founder and Executive Director of the East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corporation, who spoke of her support as well as frustrations:
Mary Savage, a resident of Homewood who works on vacant lots, gave a suggestion for how to deal with these lots in her neighborhood:
Councilmen Peduto and Lavelle also were in attendance and in support of the bills and gave short responses to what was said at the end of the audience’s comments.
An issue that was touched on only briefly was the plan by the federal government to cut CDBG funding to communities by anywhere between seven to sixty percent. The 7% cut is proposed in President Obama’s 2012 budget, and would lead to a loss of $300 million in Pittsburgh.
The 60% cut is proposed by the House Appropriations bill. What any of these cuts would mean for Pittsburgh was not discussed in depth.
For more information on these bills, visit the City Council’s legislation page at Pittsburghpa.gov/lic or call Councilman Burgess’ office at 412 255 2137.
* pa_prison_report_march_twenty_eight.wav: PA prison report
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You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to other independent news from around the country, and around the world.
It is now eight months that U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning has been held in solitary confinement as he awaits trial for allegedly passing secret cables and videos to the website WikiLeaks. Rustbelt volunteer Bonnie Pfister has this update.
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the state of Louisiana challenging the so-called Crimes Against Nature statute. The law was originally designed to penalize sex acts associated with gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. It requires those charged with exchanging oral or anal sex for money to register in the state’s sex offender database following jail time.
According to RH Reality Check, an online publication which offers reproductive health information, a legal challenge has been filed on behalf of nine anonymous plaintiffs - including a grandmother, a mother of four, three transgendered women, and a man, that have been required to register as sex offenders from 15 years to life as a result of their convictions for the solicitation of oral sex for money.
Intended for the protection of minors, every state has a sex offender registry. However, Louisiana is the only state requiring registration by people who have been convicted of a sex crime that does not involve minors or sexual violence.
In Orleans Parish, 292 people are on the registry for selling sex, 85 for forcible rape, and 78 for indecent behavior with juveniles. 40% of people in this sex offender database have been convicted of the crime of offering anal or oral sex for money. 75% of those convicted are women. 80% are African American. Evidence gathered by advocates suggests the majority of these people are poor and have endured sexual abuse themselves.
In Louisiana, the punishment for offering oral or anal sex for money is jail time, followed by 15 years to life with the words “sex offender” printed under your name on your state ID.
For more information and personal accounts, visit RHrealitycheck.org.
The 2011 World Social Forum was held in Dakar, Senegal in February. Montreal-based independent journalist and activist Stefan Christoff was there and brings us these Dispatches from Dakar:
You can check out more of Stefan Christoff's Dispatches from Dakar, by visiting montreal.mediacoop.ca.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
That was Carole Houser reflecting on the Moshannon State Forest, which she grew up near. That was also the sound of the cerulean warbler, which Carole may have heard as she and her grandfather were fishing. But we may not have the chance to listen to this bird for long, because it is threatened by forest fragmentation, which may increase exponentially as a consequence of Marcellus gas drilling. Pennsylvania’s state forests are now under threat from expanded Marcellus leasing. Half of the state forest land that falls within the Marcellus shale formation, or 700,000 acres, is already leased, and Governor Corbett has said he plans to allow more leasing. Today we’ll explore the potential impacts this may have on the forests, and what this means for the people, plants and animals that depend on them. Bill Belitskus, board president of the Allegheny Defense Project, spoke to us about what they have learned in 15 years of monitoring conventional gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest or ANF.
Bill explains the significance of interior forest habitat:
In the ANF, there are twenty two hundred miles of gas well roads, almost twice the amount of forest service roads. All of the impacts that Bill describes in the ANF have come from conventional drilling. Impacts from Marcellus drilling will be even more serious, because it requires much more land and has greater toxic pollution impacts to the air and water.
Most of the leases of state forest land were sold in 2009, and the revenue was used to balance the state budget. It was the first time ever that revenues from mineral extraction on state forests were put into the general revenue stream, rather than going to fund the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or DCNR, which manages the forests. After this, the DCNR did an assessment, and found they’d already leased everything they possibly could without harming the other uses they are mandated to protect.
However, when Governor Tom Corbett took office, he rejected the DCNR’s assessment, arguing it was redundant because the Department of Environmental Protection already reviews Marcellus permits.
Carole Houser and her family like to hunt, fish, and hike in the forest. Since Marcellus drilling moved into the Moshannon, however, she feels like all of this has been taken away from her.
All of the impacts described so far are associated with legal, permitted well drilling and operation. However, violations of permits are common. Allegheny Defense Project staff and volunteers have been monitoring gas drilling for 15 years.
Jenny Lisak, who also lives near the Moshannon State Forest, has heard reports of similar violations.
In addition to creating great unease in residents about whether they will be exposed to toxic chemicals in animals, waterways, air, and even dust from roads, the impacts of drilling can have concrete and immediate economic impacts. Bill Beliskus describes a recent incident:
The town of Gallitin, like many others in Pennsylvania, does not have a water treatment plant. Instead, it relies upon the forest to filter its water. The streams that we take our drinking water from are fed from rainwater and groundwater. When the land surrounding a stream is forested, rainwater slowly percolates through vegetation and soil to reach the stream. This filtration process removes many biological and even chemical contaminants. However, when the forest cover is removed, the water flows quickly across the land; not only is it no longer filtered, but it carries topsoil off the land into the stream. Streams where the surrounding watersheds are not forested almost always have higher levels of sediments, biological, and chemical pollution. When a forested watershed provides pure water, no additional filtration is needed. However, once the water becomes polluted, the only way to turn it into drinking water is to build an industrial facility to purify it first.
The stakes are even higher further east.
100 years ago, almost every tree in Pennsylvania had been cut down for commercial logging. Hillsides were eroding, streams were flooding, and deer were almost wiped out from the state. As people began to see the impacts this catastrophic destruction had on their own food and water supply, public forests and parks were founded out of a desire to manage the land more sustainably.
The state forests were founded in response to industry that had gone too far and threatened the habitability of the land. While Marcellus drilling won’t clearcut the entire forest, it will greatly reduce its value by fragmenting the forest on a massive scale. Furthermore, it introduces chemical pollution that will remain destructive long into the future, and may remain a hidden hazard for future generations. As the drilling industry advances in the state and Governor Corbett rolls back protections on the state forests, what will be the future of our commonwealth landscape, our water, and the animals that depend on it like the cerulean warbler?
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events. To get your event on this calendar, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* The 2011 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival will be held from Thursday, March 17th until Sunday, April 10th. Fifteen distinctive films will be presented in this year’s Faces of Migration festival, including selections from China, Greece, India, Israel, Korea, Mexico, Romania, Turkey and our very own Pittsburgh. More information from cmu.edu/faces
* On March 28th through the 30th, the leaders of the gas industry will gather in Pittsburgh for an "environmental" summit on Marcellus Shale gas drilling. Join Marcellus Protest for a picket on Tuesday, March 29th at 11:30am outside the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel at 107 6th Street, to show our concern for the health of our communities and the environment on which we depend. Visit Marcellusprotest.org for more anti-drilling organizing news.
* The 2nd Annual Geek Arts/Green Innovators Festival aims to bring together people from across the city who are involved in the arts, environment, and technological innovation to showcase their work. This year's event will take place on Friday, April 1st and Saturday, April 2nd. For more info, visit gagifest11.blogspot.com.
* On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers demanding their dream--the right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. There will be a march in Downtown Pittsburgh on Monday, April 4th to continue the fight for the rights that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died for and to demand that corporations pay their fair share. Gather at noon at EQT Plaza, located at 6th St. and Liberty Avenue, then march to Gov. Tom Corbett’s downtown office. At 1pm, there will be a free luncheon at United Steelworkers headquarters, located at Stanwix and the Blvd. of the Allies.
* The Annual Anarchist Ball will take place at AIR on Thursday, April 7th from 8pm to 11pm. This year's event is a masquerade ball with DJs! Refreshments and snacks from countries in revolt will be served, with raffle drawing at 10pm! $5-10 donation goes towards publication of the Steel City Revolt and other Pittsburgh Organizing Group activities. No one will be turned away and this is an all ages, sober space. For more information, visit steelcityrevolt.org.
* The Anti-War Committee of the Thomas Merton Center is taking a bus to New York City to join in the United Anti-War Committee's call for bi-coastal anti-war demonstrations. Leave at midnight on Friday, April 8th, and return midnight on Saturday, April 9th. Cost $25. For more info, visit: pittsburghendthewar.org
* In solidarity with the Free Bradley Manning Bike Tour, there will be a local educational bike tour in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 9th. The ride will meet at the Carnegie Library Dinosaur in Oakland, at 3 pm. It is a moderate ride that will include several stops with guest speakers on the significance of Bradley Manning's case to a variety of current events, including the wars, veterans, torture, marcellus shale, government transparency and the role of new media.
* Global Solutions Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Human Rights Network will be participating in Amizade's Fourth Annual Water Walk! Join us on Saturday, April 9th to carry a water bucket on a 2-mile-route as we walk in solidarity with the 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe water. For more information contact Tim Lessick at email@example.com or via 412-471-7852.
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WIUP Indiana, WNJR Washington, WLRI LanChester, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Jessica McPherson with contributions from Emily Laychak, Annie Defazio, Emily Demarco, Seth Bearden, Lizzie Anderson, Jessica McPherson, Bonnie Pfister, Jeremy Fleischman, and Nigel Parry. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson and Phill Cresswell. 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, and follow us on Twitter @pghimc. 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.