No Transportation, No Education

MetroCard Brooklyn Bridge march

When budget cuts threatened the program that provides transportation for New York City schoolchildren, Urban Youth Collaborative organized students to fight back.

Without the student MetroCard program, which provides free public transportation to and from school, New York City K–12 students living in zones where the schools are severely overcrowded and under-resourced would not be able to travel to schools that offer them better opportunities to succeed and go to college. Dropout rates are already staggering: Only 36 percent of students who enter high school in the Bronx graduate. In addition, cutting the student MetroCard program would result in an increase in crime rates among youth because they would have to resort to jumping the turnstiles. Cutting the MetroCards would lead to an even more segregated New York City (which is already one of the most segregated cities in the country) because students wouldn’t be able to leave their own boroughs.

For more than half a century, the city and state of New York have provided free fares to students who needed to travel to and from school. In 1994, Mayor Rudy Giualiani said that the city would stop paying its share of the cost because it should be the MTA’s sole responsibility. This forced the MTA to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in 1995 that made the funding of student fares a three-way responsibility: the city, the state, and the MTA would each pay $45 million.

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Transit Case Raises Question: Can the Poor Ever Find Justice?

A recent decision handed down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals raises this important question: Can victims of contemporary forms of discrimination and disparity find justice in our courts?

The court ruling came in the case of Sylvia Darensburg, an African-American mother of three who lives in East Oakland. Every day, along with tens of thousands of low-income African-American, Asian and Latino bus riders in the Bay Area, Sylvia experiences the reality of transit inequality.

According to the case, Darensburg v. Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Sylvia relies on the AC Transit bus system as her primary means of transportation to her job during the day and to college classes at night. She endures long waits for the two buses she needs to take, with each trip taking an hour or more each way. On her way home at night, she has to walk 12 blocks from the nearest bus stop in her neighborhood.

Sylvia is not alone in making such an arduous journey—almost 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color, and over 70 percent have incomes below $30,000. Nearly 60 percent are entirely dependent on public transit.

In 2005, a group of law firms and nonprofit legal advocacy groups—claiming state and federal civil rights violations—filed suit in federal court in the hopes of getting Sylvia Darensburg and others like her equal access to quality transit services.

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Renovated Nevin Community Center rejuvenates Iron Triangle neighborhood

After a citywide restoration project to revitalize the Nevin Community Center and the surrounding area, the center will celebrate with a much-anticipated grand re-opening celebration this Saturday.

“I think it’s part of the Iron Triangle cleaning itself up,” said nearby resident Richard Boyd, referring to the center’s new look from the inside out. For the last three months, the center’s doors have remained open as over 50 community members volunteered hundreds of hours to wax floors, paint walls, remove graffiti, refurbish classrooms, and collect trash surrounding the center.

“Teams would take shifts to renovate and clean the center. Those working would range from 14 years old to 77 years old and across all racial lines,” Boyd said. A resident of the Iron Triangle, Boyd also works with Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), an interfaith organization comprised of 25 congregations and youth organizations representing 35,000 families throughout the county. He helped organize city officials’ visits to the park and generate interest from residents outside the Iron Triangle.

Youth Organizer Plays Key Role in Deciding East Palo Alto's Future

Peninsula Press

East Palo Alto is moving forward with a long-term strategic planning process that officials hope will bring new money and new life into the city. But it’s not just bureaucrats who are doing the heavy lifting.

Annie Loya, an outspoken 26-year-old native of East Palo Alto, was instrumental in drawing the land-use map that will anchor a specific plan for the city. In a two-year process that paralleled the city’s own, she solicited community input on the map and ultimately advocated for a version that would provide jobs appropriate to community residents; zone for open, civic and mixed-use space; and lay the groundwork for the creation of a new downtown.

Loya, as head of the group Youth United for Community Action, has stepped up in recent years to pester officials on some of the touchiest issues the city faces. She doesn’t shy away from terms like “environmental racism”; nor does she worry about acting the part of the “lobbyist,” which — though it’s not how she’d describe herself — essentially summarizes her job description.

“Happy New Year, everyone!” Loya crooned recently, in a high, sing-songy pitch, hoop earrings swaying as she approached a podium to face East Palo Alto’s planning commissioners.  She wore high heels and black stretch pants. “Um, so as you guys know, um, I’m part of a collaboration called Envision, Transform and Build East Palo Alto…”

Council OKs high-density housing project for Hacienda Meets court-ordered deadline to boost affordable units here

The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday approved land use changes in Hacienda Business Park that will allow for construction of a high-density, 840-unit housing project with half the units to serve those with low-to moderate incomes.

The complex of two and three story buildings will be constructed on 32 acres of still-vacant land owned by W.P. Carey, Roche and BRE. The three sites are located along Hacienda, Gibraltar and Owens drives close to the Pleasanton BART station with nearby access to I-580.

The council's rezoning of the properties came in response to a ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch last August in favor of suits brought by Urban Habitat and then state Attorney General Jerry Brown. Roesch declared the city's 29,000unit housing cap approved by voters in 1996 in violation of state mandates for affordable and market rate housing requirements imposed by the Bay area Association of Governments. In addition to scuttling the cap, he ordered Pleasanton to come up with a plan to meet its current housing numbers requirements by March 1, and to add another 1,400 units by2014.

Something For Nothing: The Selling Off Of Public Housing


Public               Housing Capital FundHUD has administered the planned obsolescence of public housing for well over 15 years. According to HUD, 150,000 units have been lost to demolition and disposition, although the number of lost units is probably closer to 280,000 if taken from the Millennial Housing Report and Ways and Means Committee’s Green Book. There are also an estimated $20-30 billion in maintenance backlogs. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan argues that things have gotten so bad that we must open up public housing to private capital or “lose these irreplaceable resources forever.” (Click here to read this article on the Huffington Post.)

The pivotal decisions by Congress to cut annual appropriations for the Public Housing Capital Fund and to lift one-for-one replacement for any public housing unit lost to demolition or disposition were neither necessary nor inevitable. They were politically, not economically, determined. Other choices could have been made. For instance, George Romney, HUD Secretary under President Nixon, suggested that, if necessary, money for public housing should come from reforms to Mortgage Interest Deductions, a reasonable alternative considering 75 percent of this expenditure benefits homeowners earning more than $100,000 a year.

Lawsuit by Low-income Groups May Delay Climate Law


The latest legal challenge to California's landmark climate-change legislation isn't coming from big polluters faced with a series of new regulations. Instead, groups representing low-income residents are challenging the environmental law as unfairly burdening their beleaguered communities.
A handful of community groups, represented by the San Francisco-based Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment have filed a motion that could delay the implementation of parts of the Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32.

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Battle for Cr8ive Arts

The illest breakers from all over the San Francisco Bay Area rose up and strutted their mad skills at the “BATTLE FOR CR8IVE ARTS,” reppin’ for their love of dance and in solidarity for arts education. Over 150+ dancers, observers, entertainers, and supporters filled the gym at June Jordan School for Equity on January 15, 2011. It’s the first of many events to come, engineered by SFCr8ive’s Bobby “Finesse” Vicario. This 5 vs. 5 crew battle for $1,000, organized as a fundraiser provided by SFCr8ive and Small Schools for Equity hosted by Kevy Kev 90.1 “The Drum” and Noelrokswel. All the Way Live powered the 2 vs. 2 (18 and under) All Styles Battle for $200. The judges: (all members of Renegade Rockers) Jazzy, Milestone, and D Rock. The goal is to support June Jordan School for Equity’s arts program, that is currently faced with the challenge of maintaining its array of art electives. Through art, culture, and community SFCr8ive strives to enrich the academic experience their students need to be engaged in order to achieve success after high school. Listen as these artists speak on the last time they were inspired. “It Takes the Hood to Save the Hood.” – United Playaz. For more info:

Calif. cap-trade plan dealt blow by S.F. judge

SF Gate

The California Air Resources Board violated state environmental law in 2008 when it adopted a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases and again last year when it passed cap-and-trade regulations, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has ruled in a tentative decision.

If the decision is made final, California would be barred from implementing its ambitious plan to combat global warming until it complies with portions of the California Environmental Quality Act, though it is not yet clear what the air board would have to do to be in compliance. The state's plan, which implements AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, would reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The Air Resources Board and those who brought the lawsuit, a variety of environmental groups represented by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, a San Francisco organization, have until Tuesday to respond before the court makes a final ruling.

Governor Brown Proposes Elimination of Redevelopment Agencies

By Zack Olmstead

More than $1 billion in annual funding for low- and moderate-income housing at risk

Over $1 billion in annual funding specifically designated for low- and moderate-income housing production is at risk with Governor Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies in his 2011-12 budget (details on his redevelopment proposal begin on page 168).

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