ACORN Canada, ACORN International, Many Others Banned from FEMA Funding

acorn-international-logoNew Orleans Props to Dave Weigel of Slate.com for bringing to the public a better understanding of how the Republican U. S. Congress is so consumed by hater-ation that they can’t see the desperate needs of victims of disaster because they are still blinded in the fog of their ghostbusting of the tragically defunct ACORN.  Yesterday Weigel redacted a long, long list of groups banned by the U.S. House of Representatives included in the funding appropriations bill for FEMA.  Perhaps nostalgia, but I can’t tell you how proud I was to read that list.  It was an Honor Roll!  It was also totally bizarre!

Here’s the honor roll of banned groups:

“None of the funds made available by this Act shall be made available to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Acorn Beneficial Assoc., Inc., Arkansas Broadcast Foundation, Inc., Acorn Children’s Beneficial Assoc., Arkansas Community Housing Corp., Acorn Community Land Assoc., Inc., Acorn Community Land Assoc. of Illinois, Acorn Community Land Association of Louisiana, Acorn Community Land Assoc. of Pennsylvania, ACORN COMMUNITY LABOR ORGANIZING CENTER, ACORN Beverly LLC, ACORN Canada, ACORN Center for Housing, ACORN Housing Affordable Loans LLC, Acorn Housing 1 Associates, LP, Acorn Housing 2 Associates, LP, ACORN Housing 3 Associates LP, ACORN Housing 4 Associates, L.P., ACORN International, ACORN VOTES, Acorn 2004 Housing Development Fund Corporation, ACRMW, ACSI, Acorn Cultural Trust, Inc., American Environmental Justice Project, Inc., ACORN Fund, Inc., Acorn Fair Housing Organization, Inc., Acorn Foster Parents, Inc., Agape Broadcast Foundation Inc., Acorn Housing Corporation, Arkansas Acorn Housing Corporation, Acorn Housing Corp. of Arizona, Acorn Housing Corp. of Illinois, Acorn Housing Corp. of Missouri, New Jersey ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc., AHCNY, Acorn Housing Corp. of Pennsylvania, Texas ACORN Housing Corporation, Inc., American Institute for Social Justice, Acorn law for Education, Rep. & Training, Acorn Law Reform Pac, Affiliated Media Foundation Movement, Albuquerque Minimum Wage Committee, Acorn National Broadcasting Network, Arkansas New Party, Arkansas Acorn Political Action Committee, Association for Rights of Citizens, Acorn Services, Inc., Acorn Television in Action for Communities, Acorn Tenants’ Union, Inc., Acorn Tenant Union Training & Org. Project, AWA, Baltimore Organizing Support Center, Inc., Bronx Parent Leadership, Baton Rouge ACORN Education Project, Inc., Baton Rouge Assoc. of School Employees, Broad Street Corporation, California Acorn Political Action Committee, Citizens Action Research Project, Council Beneficial Association, Citizens Campaign for Fair Work, Living Wage Etc., Citizens Consulting, Inc., California Community Network, Citizens for April Troope, Clean Government Pac, Chicago Organizing and Support Center, Inc., Council Health Plan, Citizens Services Society, Campaign For Justice at Avondale, CLOC, Community and Labor for Baltimore, Chief Organizer Fund, Colorado Organizing and Support Center, Community Real Estate Processing, Inc., Campaign to Reward Work, Citizens Services Incorporated, Elysian Fields Corporation, Environmental Justice Training Project, Inc., Franklin Acorn Housing Corporation, Flagstaff Broadcast Foundation, Floridians for All PAC, Fifteenth Street Corporation, Friends of Wendy Foy, Greenwell Springs Corporations, Genevieve Stewart Campaign Fund, Hammurabi Fund, Houston Organizing Support Center, Hospitality Hotel and Restaurant Org. Council, Iowa ACORN Broadcasting Corp., Illinois Home Day Care Workers Association, Inc., Illinois Acorn Political Action Committee, Illinois New Party, Illinois New Party Political Committee, Institute for Worker Education, Inc., Jefferson Association of Parish Employees, Jefferson Association of School Employees, Johnnie Pugh Campaign Fund, Louisiana ACORN, New York Communities for Change, Affordable Housing Centers of America, Action Now, Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change, Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO), The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, New England United for Justice, Texas Organizing Project, Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Organization United for Reform, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, A Community Voice, Community Organizations International, Applied Research Center, or the Working Families Party.”

Weigel was looking at the bill to try and understand how Congress was going to shift resources that would have been spent in Joplin, Missouri, still suffering from their tornado damage, to help folks on the East Coast who were battered by Hurricane Irene.  There is a huge story that is covered my appendix about Lessons from Disaster in my book, Battle for the Ninth Ward:  ACORN, Rebuilding New Orleans, and the Lessons of Disaster (available www.socialpolicy.org), but that, as they say is another story, though it is the same story with simply another verse of governmental inaction and incompetence at the highest levels.

Some of the list is simply overkill.  ACORN International is banned by both that name and our other name, Community Organizations International.  ACORN Canada is banned though it doesn’t even work anywhere but Canada, duh.

Much of this is simply meanness.  The poor Applied Research Center is banned I assume just because they are my friends, and I have spoken supportively of them.  Oh, that and their founder was the great Gary Delgado, the first organizer I ever hired after founding ACORN, so sins of the fathers, I guess for the hater clan in Congress appearing near year on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

But among the elected Congressional haters accuracy is not the point after all.  One of the things I loved about reading this Honor Roll is that though they banned six or seven different entities that are component parts of Local 100, United Labor Unions, in fact Local 100, if it were of a mind, could go crazy applying to FEMA to help disaster victims, as could a number of other entities I direct that are not on the list.

Given that Congress sure isn’t helping disaster victims since the FEMA bill is stuck now between the House and Senate, maybe that is exactly what we should do.  Years ago I listened frequently to a story from my ex-mother-in-law (may she rest-in-peace) as she would say, “Wade, let me tell you what’ I’ve learned raising five children.  Never tell one of them not to put a bean up their nose.  As soon as you do, you’ll catch one of the little scudders in the kitchen doing just that!”

Seems to me like the Republicans in Congress are trying to put a bean up our noses now.

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Springfield Story: Do We Learn from Disasters?

foreclosureNew Orleans There’s a t-shirt coming:  global warming gonna get your mamma! The spate of disasters from Japan to Joplin, Birmingham, Alabama to Springfield, Mass brings all the horror home again.  Living in New Orleans and still in recovery from Katrina and weaker and wiser from the experience, I keep an eye on these things, and in the case of Springfield I have been connected to some of the scrappy organizations, organizers, and activists trying to contend with the both the learning curve and the vast unmet and crying needs of victims and the community itself.

Springfield is at the top of the list for foreclosures in Massachusetts and sitting with the redoubtable Congressman Barney Frank, banking expert and one-man accountability squad, but people are still demanding a moratorium during the crises for foreclosures and have yet to win it, despite the Springfield City Council joining the call and FHA saying they are ready.  A federal disaster has been declared.  Occupancy for housing units was frightfully low (about 6%) before the tornado, yet no action.  Why after Katrina is this not automatic?  Why do families and their organizations have to start from scratch here?

Housing can’t be found.  There is still no moratorium stopping evictions for families still living in houses that have been foreclosed during this crisis.  What the frick?!?

This morning I have been listening to a video of interviews with survivors.  I did not need to watch.  I’ve heard all the stories before from different faces.  We are almost 30 days out from the disaster and people have their famous FEMA letters, but no money yet.  It seems that the emergency payments that helped us survive post-Katrina have not been issued.  The Red Cross has announced that it is closing shelters today and some of the survivors who were interviewed talked about the crushing indignity of having their cots and gear moved out yesterday as they got the notice.  Why do we still let the Red Cross muddle through the mess?  They are good at giving out water and food, waving their flag and raising money, but they don’t know how to handle housing or survivors once the first punch has been taken and the long sloughing fight to rebuild sets in.  Why are we still not being better?  This is a congressionally authorized corporation with virtually no accountability in Washington that preys on disorganized and panic victims thankful for any help.  Listening to one woman talk about how she felt Puerto Ricans and African-Americans faced discrimination at the hands of the Red Cross was just flat over the line for me!

Hotel rooms are going begging for guests in Springfield now, and there is word that survivors unable to locate housing may be relocated to some, but in a typical disaster catch-22, FEMA says it will reimburse the survivors for their lodging which means these poor, working families would have to come up with the money now on the front end and get reimbursed who knows when?

And, working, forget about that even though protecting livelihoods is lifeblood for families and for the community.  One woman talked about having lost her car and having no way to replace the transportation so knowing that her job was going to be the next thing she would lose and then she would have to “start all over.”

In New Orleans we had to learn how to organize to win on all of these fronts after Katrina and we’re still paying the price.  Now almost six years after Katrina where are new communities and new victims and survivors of disaster still facing the same maze of obstacles and obstinacy in the face of tragedy when our national and local policy should be an open and helping hand?

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Post-Disaster “Cleansing” in Alabama

New Orleans Once you start looking, it’s hard to avoid the patterns, even in the worst of tragic disasters caused by hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.  The American version of “ethnic cleansing” where such devastations are used to rationalize the elimination or, as they would call it, the “rebalancing” of racial and class constituencies, is perhaps the most despicable of post-disaster patterns, competing for honors with straight out carrion picking contractor rip-offs.

We saw it in New Orleans in 2005 where the developer-oriented Urban Land Institute recommended whole areas for depopulation and return to cypress swamps, especially in places like the lower 9th ward.  We also read about it as some city “fathers” ran their mouths in the Wall Street Journal about Katrina being an opportunity to change the racial balance of the city.

The floods in Iowa in 2008 where lower income and working class areas in the bottoms in communities around Cedar Rapids were targeted for wholesale removal according to stories in the New York Times.

This weekend another example in this same pattern emerged when Mayor Jack Scott of Cordova, Alabama, about 35 miles northwest of Birmingham, decreed without any apparent sense of irony from the temporary trailer housing City Hall and the Police Stations after their tornado, that no single-wide FEMA trailers would be allowed in Cordova.  According to the Associated Press, Scott “doesn’t want rundown mobile homes parked all over town years from now.”   As for the City Hall trailer, he says, “It’s temporary and we know it’s temporary.”

Another tornado hit areas in Alabama are suspending their anti-trailer covenants, and for all of us who have traveled in that area of the state, god knows there are already trailers aplenty!  Citizens are circulating petitions to remove the fool from office.  One – Harvey Hastings — states the issue clearly:  “There are trailers all over here but (Scott) wants to clean all the trash out.  He doesn’t like lower-class people.”

We need clear and certain rules that prevent tragic disasters from being do-overs from the power and business elites trying to work their will by denying the right of return – and relief – to the victims.   The FEMA delays and governmental foot dragging from city, state, federal, and school leadership have still left 100,000 people almost exiled from New Orleans as a direct and indirect result of such “cleansing.”  This should never be allowed.

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