- Created on 21 March 2013
Atlanta District 2 City Councilmember Kwanza Hall released the following statement this morning concerning the Monday, March 18 Council vote on a resolution authorizing the use of the city's hotel/motel tax revenues to partially fund a new professional sports stadium:
The proposal before us this Monday was one of the most significant pieces of legislation that the Council has considered since I took office in 2006. I was looking forward to reviewing it with the seriousness that it deserved.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 13, copies of the proposal were first delivered to our offices. This was less than 24 hours before my colleague, Finance/Executive committee chair Felicia Moore, was to convene our first work session on the proposal. At the conclusion of the Thursday, March 14, work session, Councilmember Moore scheduled a second work session for today, Thursday, March 21.
On Monday, March 18—five days after my colleagues and I first received the proposal--a resolution was introduced with the intent of forcing a Council vote that same day.
In its original form, the proposal was primarily a document committing $200 million generated by the city's hotel/motel tax for the purposes of constructing a new multipurpose sports facility. There was no community benefits plan in the proposal, and there was no provision to protect the City's General Fund from expenditures related to the stadium.
Over the course of Monday's Council meeting, a number of amendments to the proposal were introduced that improved the proposal greatly, including measures to protect the General Fund and a commitment, without details, to a community benefits plan.
I declined to support Monday's vote out of deference to Councilmember Moore's scheduled work session for today and because I wanted my constituents to have an opportunity to consider the many new features of the legislation which were introduced in rapid succession during Monday's Council meeting.
I was particularly interested in protecting and hearing from my constituents in Castleberry Hill, the Marietta Artery, and Downtown, the neighborhoods in District 2 that are most impacted by major new developments and events in the greater downtown area.
These residents and small business owners were top of mind for me because over the past few years District 2 constituents have borne the brunt of two previous Council decisions that, in retrospect, could have benefitted from more time for Council deliberation: the details of the contracts for Park Atlanta and General Growth Properties.
With appropriate time for considered review, I might have been in a position to support this proposal.
My record of supporting growth and development within the City of Atlanta is strong. As a result of my convening the Old Fourth Ward community for a master planning process in 2007-2008, the Old Fourth Ward is currently a boomtown.
My support of the Atlanta BeltLine, the Atlanta Streetcar, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the College Football Hall of Fame demonstrate my commitment to projects destined to transform Downtown Atlanta. But: Decisions on those legacy projects, as well as the Council's recent revisions to pension plans for City of Atlanta employees, came after serious collegial discussion and careful deliberation.
I have the greatest respect for Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons, and I am grateful for the innovative philanthropy of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has supported a number of projects in Council District 2, including the ground-breaking Wheat Street urban farm in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.
Now that the Atlanta City Council has approved this proposal by a vote of 11-4, I look forward to working with the Blank Family Foundation and Invest Atlanta as we flesh out the details of the community benefits plan for the neighborhoods in the area.
Throughout our work together, the residents of the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the new stadium will be foremost on my mind and first in my prayers.
- Created on 20 March 2013
The Black Women's Expo (TBWE), the number one national destination event for African American women in the Midwest, will return to McCormick Place April 5 - 7. The Expo is now in its 19th year and expected attendance is over 30,000. State Farm is serving as the title sponsor for the three-day exposition designed to empower, enlighten and educate women and girls of all ages. TBWE features informative seminars, insightful workshops, motivational speakers, bestselling authors and a variety of sponsored exhibits and pavilions. Walgreens will serve as the Presenting Sponsor of the 2013 event.
"The Expo's primary emphasis for 2013 event, as it has been for the past 18 years, is on the aspirations, opportunities and challenges of African American women", said Merry Green, president and CEO of MGPG Events and creator of the Expo. "Moreover, we are extremely excited about the power of our partnership with Real Times Media to further explore these themes".
In a unique partnership with Real Times Media (RTM) TBWE will now reach audiences across the nation. RTM is a multimedia conglomerate that oversees print, news, directories, media, digital, events and entertainment holdings in some 25 markets and will help extend the reach of TBWE to new markets across the country. The goal of the partnership is to leverage both organizations unique expertise in engagement marketing and event production and demonstrated success with large-scale multi-market events including the hugely successful "Who's Who" franchise.
"RTM has both the reach and resources to increase the visibility of TBWE, as the MGPG team continues its relentless focus on content and quality", says Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media. "Real Times Media has always realized the significance of the African American consumer, even more so we recognize the influence women have over household buying decisions. This partnership with MGPG Events and The Black Women's Expo is a match with unrivaled potential."
The Black Women's Expo continues to offer the perfect venue for small to mid-sized businesses and large corporations to reach the all-important African American consumer. African American consumers are over 42 million strong with an annual buying power of nearly one trillion dollars. At the Exhibitor Marketplace, businesses and corporations have the opportunity to reach out and touch this valued consumer segment at the grassroots level and expose them directly to their products and services through sales, distributions, and personal interactions.
As in previous years, TBWE will feature national experts in a variety of fields to address topics that are particularly important to African American women. Health and wellness, financial literacy, careers, business ownership, female-male relationships, green living, children's health and much more will be addressed in
a variety of settings. Expo Pavilions include Kidz Korner, Health & Wellness, Literary Café, Natural Hair and Relax & Renew. Additionally, TBWE will be announcing their live entertainment line-up shortly.
TBWE has introduced a number of innovations for 2013, sure to be a hit with attendees and vendors. As in past years The Black Women's Expo will host its Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala on Thursday April 4.
Follow the conversation using #theblackwomensexpo
About The Black Women's Expo
The Black Women's Expo is a three-day consumer exposition designed to enlightening, educate and entertain. This premier event for African American women and their families draws more than 30,000 attendees from across the
Midwest. Staples of the event include live entertainment and educational forums on health and wellness, financial literacy, careers, business ownership, relationships and children and family concerns. For more information and tickets you may visit the Expo on line at www.theblackwomensexpo.com, follow them on
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/blackwomensexpo or connect on Twitter using the hash tag #theblackwomensexpo.
About Real Times Media
Real Times Media, based in Detroit, Michigan, owns multi-media interests, both print and on-line, including the Chicago Defender, the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Michigan Chronicle, The Michigan Front Page, the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, TN. and the Atlanta Daily World. RTM also owns Who's Who Publishing Company and their directories are produced annually in more than 25 cities across the country. These top-quality books feature pictures and biographical data on a significant number of distinguished African-American leaders from various career disciplines and serve to record, inspire, and memorialize the next chapter of our history.
- Created on 20 March 2013
Many Americans are increasingly turning to high interest, short term loans to try to make ends meet, but a brief overview of payday lending's problematic setup shows that it's often a false solution to a false problem.
Payday lenders claim to be a convenient source of credit for low- to moderate-income families in a budget crisis. Yet a revealing study from Pew Research shows that contrary to common assumptions, borrowers typically use payday loans to pay for day-to-day expenses, not emergencies.
Payday loan centers tend to concentrate in minority neighborhoods underserved by mainstream banks, capitalizing on economic vulnerabilities brought on by decades of discriminatory legislation, financial deregulation and a decline in savings. Lower-income workers use payday loans to try to reconcile their stagnant wages with the rising cost of living, only to find that they've added another bill to their budget.
With little or no savings, borrowers struggle to pay off the loan balance on time amid sky-high predatory interest rates, leading them into what consumer advocates call the debt trap.
Payday lenders regularly mislead their customers by advertising their fees as a dollar amount rather than an APR, or annual percentage rate. Paying a $50 fee for a loan of $500 over a period of two weeks may not seem that bad at first glance, but that fee overlooks the fact that borrowers take an average of five to eight months to pay back their loans.
If you calculate the loan's APR, or what that loan would cost over the course of a year, the true interest rate balloons to a level far beyond that of most credit cards and bank loans -- a whopping 260 percent. Doing the math is essential to avoid ruinous setups offered by lenders such as Western Sky, which offers a $5,075 loan that can lead to an appalling $40,872 in repayment.
A payday loan may seem like a short-term fix, but it's ultimately just another expense. In today's economy there are no easy answers for low- to moderate-income Americans struggling to pay the bills, but what will clearly never work is adding another high-cost loan.
However difficult, the only path forward is to reconcile your cost of living with your income by evaluating areas where you can cut costs and make the most of your income. This means scaling back on extras and creating a long-term, sustainable budget that enables you to invest in your future.
When faced with a real emergency, don't discount relying on your friends and family. Many borrowers go to payday lenders to avoid borrowing from family and friends, only to end up asking for assistance later to get out of the debt trap. You may also investigate viable loan options at mainstream banks and financial institutions by assessing their APR and fees.
And as you continue to trim your day-to-day costs to fit your income, your goal should be to build up a savings cushion for emergencies -- that's money you can loan to yourself, interest free.
(This article was originally published on BET.com)
- Created on 20 March 2013
As a result of Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman’s declaration last week that he now supports homosexual marriage, I am once again compelled to ask: Why are Christians and conservatives constantly apologizing for what they believe?
Portman said he changed his position because his son told him that he was homosexual. Typically, I would not write about someone’s family issues. But, in this instance, I want to come at this issue from a somewhat different perspective. I want to use Portman’s renunciation of his Christian beliefs to have a more broad discussion of morals and values.
You should know that Portman is one of the most decent people you will ever meet. It’s almost impossible not to like Portman. People like Portman makes me want to stay engaged in politics. Throughout his decades of public service, he has made it perfectly clear that he is a Christian conservative, who believes in the sanctity of life and marriage being between a man and a woman.
In a column he wrote last week, Portman said, “…My position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
“I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”
I am somewhat confused that Portman seems to be asserting that somehow his son can’t “lead a happy, meaningful life” without his father accepting his son’s personal lifestyle choice.
What makes me uncomfortable about Portman’s about face is the implication that in order to love his son, he must turn his back on “my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” How does his son being homosexual change what the Bible has to say on this issue? Portman stated that his values were based on his Christianity—which is based on the Bible.
Since the Bible didn’t change, does that mean Portman no longer believes in the Bible? If his daughter told him that she was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion, would he also change his view on that issue in order to show his daughter that he loves her?
One can love a family member and yet be totally in disagreement with his or her lifestyle choices. I can appreciate Portman being in an uncomfortable situation. But why Portman feels the need to renounce his Christianity to accommodate his son is beyond my comprehension.
There is right and wrong; black and white; up and down. I don’t have to change my morals or values to be accepting of someone with whom I disagree – even if that someone is my son. To love him doesn’t mean I must always agree with him.
Portman ends his column with, “I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.”
Well, I, for one, am not part of the millions Americans that have renounced my Christianity to accommodate a family member. I will not apologize for my belief systems nor will I allow the pro-homosexual lobby to label me as anti-anything.
I am heterosexual, so are homosexuals willing to give up their beliefs to accommodate me? Of course we know the answer is no. So, they want me to give up my moral convictions to make them feel good, but they are not willing to respect my Christian beliefs by giving up their value system. Why should this be a one-way street?
Portman is doing what most parents would do—support their child. But he would be supporting his child even more by telling him that he totally disagrees with his personal lifestyle choice, but loves him anyway. That way, he would abandon neither his son nor God’s word.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.
- Created on 19 March 2013
The other day I found myself engaged in a casual discussion with someone next to me on an airplane. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that I had written two books on labor unions. The man responded that he thought that unions could be both good and not so good. I am used to hearing such arguments. But he then added that he thought that “…sometimes, unions are too strong…”
There is something almost other-worldly when I hear someone suggest that unions are too strong. First, labor unions represent approximately 11-12 percent of the non-agricultural workforce. That means that about one out of 10 workers are in unions. That is not what one could describe as overwhelming strength.
Yet what I found most important about the comment was something that went beyond the facts. This gentleman had, in his mind, disconnected the matter of economic justice from the matter of institutions called labor unions. In other words, rather than seeing unions as organizations fighting for economic justice for workers—irrespective of whether they happen to be in unions—he saw unions as isolated institutions that look out for their members but no one else.
In fact, the gentleman on the plane was offering a criticism of labor unions that those of us who are active in unions (and/or support them) should take very seriously. It would be very difficult to believe that anyone who was not an outright apologist for corporations would have any issue with organizations fighting for economic justice. After all, can there be too much economic justice?
On the other hand, if you look at labor unions as the equivalent of a lobby, such as the National Association of Home Builders, for example, then one could conceivably conclude that the institution could, under certain circumstances, be too strong. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that labor unions are or have been too strong. What I am suggesting is that if they are not viewed broadly as instruments for economic justice, they can be viewed as just another lobby or special interest group.
What this gentleman on the plane was suggesting actually represents the central challenge for those who believe in labor unions and economic justice. The union, as I have raised in my most recent book (They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions) is an organization of workers fighting to improve the conditions and living standards of workers. To the extent to which it defines that fight narrowly, the union may be viewed with jealousy, envy or resentment. To the extent to which it defines that fight in terms of the interests of workers generally, it has a better chance to succeed and win broad support.
The Chicago teachers’ strike is a case in point. The teachers’ union worked overtime to interact, learn from and hold discussion with parents and other community members such that when the strike unfolded, it actually became a popular strike for the children! The issues raised by the union were perceived not as special interests but as interests in favor of the parents and students.
As a matter of fact, I raised the issue of the Chicago teachers’ strike with the gentleman on the plane. He looked at me cautiously and nodded his head. Point taken and registered.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com