Monday, August 31, 2009

David Shipler--a seminar on American poverty

For those who want to dive deeper into the reality of poverty in America today, here's a "seminar" that you'll find extremely helpful.

David Shipler spoke at Central Dallas Ministries not long after he wrote, The Working Poor: Invisible in America. His insights were profound, helpful and challenging. His well-researched work is a must read for anyone really concerned about poverty today.

In regard to the video below, I'm not sure I've seen anything that better justifies the investment of your time.

I'd appreciate your opinions after you hear Shipler's comments.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Woody Guthrie's vision. . .

Have you ever sang all of the verses to Woody Guthrie's classic song? Let me know if you have and where you were when you did.

This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Local "joints" and community

It seems I've got a million of 'em!

You know, eating establishments that are off both the beaten path and the more predictable list of popular franchise restaurants.

I suppose there may be some benefit to selecting a place like Chili's on a routine basis when you are on the road and not sure of your options.

Even then, I'm the guy who wants to try the local beanery.

During a trip to Chicago this summer, we found a "dawg house" that specialized in "encased meats" of various kinds. I ordered a craw fish and pork dog--never eaten one better!

Anyway, given the option, I always go with what I respectfully refer to as "the joint."

You can almost always tell when you've got a winner by checking out the parking lot.

Lot full=A place worth trying.

Lot always full=a "must stop" joint!

This is not to say that my favorite places to eat don't present their own challenges. Across the years I've noticed some common aspects of these places.

If you go for good food, comfortable atmosphere and a good time, it stands to reason that lots of other people will be there for the same reasons. It can get crowded in a "joint." You have to engage your reservoirs of courtesy, patience and spontaneous cooperation.

Usually, in a joint, things aren't laid out perfectly. People-flow issues compound the already troublesome space limits. Again, you have to take care for others as you care for yourself.

You can arrive a perfect stranger, as most of the time everybody does. But, you might just leave with new friends, or at least with an experience that makes you feel like a friend among friends.

Conversation is easy in these places. Almost expected, but never forced upon you.

The places can be messy. I don't necessarily mean "dirty" messy, though that can be the case as well. What I have in mind is the process. Often indiscernible to the customer, things just get done and the semi-confusion adds to the quality of the experience.

Sometimes a "joint" will be known for something unique about its atmosphere, its menu or its service style. You know, a sort of local twist--once experienced, you've become a member of the fan club!

There may be regulars in these places. Of course, all good "joints" have return customers. But they also have people who appear to be fixtures that put one in mind of the old television show Cheers!

In many cases these places will be located in neighborhoods, and almost never in shopping malls or larger strip centers. Occasionally, the "joint" will move to one of these places or possibly get into franchising for expansion. Such moves usually spell doom for the business, though at times the original location continues to thrive, while the "knock offs" just never really measures up.

I think one reason I like these places is because they represent an aspect of community life that is so important. Local creativity, risk, togetherness, ambiance and quality.

My list is long: All Good Cafe, Taco Joint, Hook, Line & Sinker, Jimmy's, The Elbow Room, The Porch, Harry's, Angry Dog, South Dallas Cafe, Matt's, Angelo's, John's, The Twisted Root. . . .

Any "joints" on your list of favorite places to eat and soak up a community's life?


Friday, August 28, 2009

So, I'm a thief. . .

Not long ago on a Monday evening after work, I broke into the Central Dallas Food Pantry.

Big time no-no, I'm telling you.

Place was locked up tighter than a drum.

No staff.

No interview process.

No forms to document output or outcomes.

Just me, using my key to get inside the food storage area after hours.

Total disregard for policy, protocol and process.

So, I'm a thief.

The saga began when I noticed an extremely skinny, as in skin and bones, Willie Nelson looking fellow climbing out of one of the trash dumpsters back of our building.

In his hands he cradled a discarded mess of shredded cabbage packed in a plastic bag.

Must have been near 100 degrees. No telling what the expiration date read on the package.

I approached him and introduced myself.

"Where did you get the cabbage?" I asked.

"Out of your trash," he replied.

"I just got out of the hospital this afternoon and I'm not doing so good," he added. "My stomach is hurtin' something awful."

"Gee, I'm sorry to hear that," I said, wondering what his plans were for the evening.

"Could you get me a few cans of food from inside?" he asked.

"Inside"--there's the term. After hours everyone who comes by because their hungry knows that "inside" is where the relief is to be found.

"Sure," I declared without much thought.

Immediately, an internal conversation got underway in my head, as I reviewed our "rules and regulations" about how to use and access the Food Pantry.

The way I figured it, I was in violation of about 100 rules and procedures.

The word "thief" rose up in my throat. I quickly pushed it back down and encouraged my new friend to follow me.

He rode a bicycle weighed down with plastic bags filled with soft drink cans for recycling. Guys like this keep our neighborhood cleared of all such trash.

"You can park your bike inside the back door and we'll go up and around back down to the Food Pantry," I laid out our plan of attack.

Luckily my keys worked! I've done so little in this part of what we do over the past many years that I wouldn't have been surprised if they had changed the locks on me. The Food Pantry was our only hope since I was flat broke!

The door opened and we were in!

I had to urge my buddy to fill up two shopping bags.

"I don't want to be greedy," he told me.

Now the guy is flat killing me.

"No chance of that here," I reassured him.

He told me that he had a small trailer parked over on Good-Latimer in South Dallas, so he wasn't without a roof over his head.

"I sure wasn't looking forward to that cabbage!" he exclaimed.

He finished packing away the loot and we made our escape.

No one saw us.

But, I had to get it off my chest.

We broke several rules, I'm sure.

I just can't stand seeing a man fishing "food" out of our trash.

Maybe I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Very useful resource on impact of health care reform

If you would like to evaluate the impact of Congressional bill, H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, on a congressional district-by-district basis click

The imformation that you'll find is amazing!

Here's what I found about U. S. Congressional District 5 represented by Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act would provide significant benefits in the 5th Congressional District of Texas: up to 13,400 small businesses could receive tax credits to provide coverage to their employees; 8,600 seniors would avoid the donut hole in Medicare Part D; 700 families could escape bankruptcy each year due to unaffordable health care costs; health care providers would receive payment for $84 million in uncompensated care each year; and 167,000 uninsured individuals would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.

Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 13,400 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.

Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 8,600 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.

Health care and financial security. There were 700 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $84 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.

Coverage of the uninsured. There are 188,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 27% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 167,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 1,990 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.3% of taxpayers in the district.

Visit the website and check out the impact of this comprehensive plan for health care on your own congressional district. Let us hear your reactions. There is so much misinformation and fear out there. We need more factual analysis.

The Moral Code of the Health Care Debate

Thoughts to ponder, especially for people of faith:

With all of the shouting, the fear, and now what often looks like hatred -- we are in danger of losing the moral “core” of this health-care debate. That core, quite simply, is that many people are hurting from a broken health-care system. They include the 46 million who have no health insurance, but also the many who do but don’t get what they need and simply can’t afford good health...

People of faith need to be the steady, moral drumbeat driving the debate and keeping our politicians accountable. This is a critical and long-overdue opportunity to fix a broken and inequitable system, which must not be derailed either by powerful special interests or by those, on any side, who just want to score political points. It is up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Jim Wallis

Read the entire text of Wallis' comments from 8-20-09 here.

Central Dallas Ministries, along with a number of other organizations and churches in the Dallas Metroplex, will be sponsoring the Justice Revival with Jim Wallis, November 10-12, 2009 in Market Hall. Watch for more details!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009)

News this morning of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy instantly brought tears to my eyes.

The reasons behind my emotional reaction are complicated, I know.

Living through the assassination of President John F. Kennedy here in Dallas affected my view of the entire Kennedy family.

Then, the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, when I was 18-years-old, moved me and my family deeply.
The passing last evening of Senator Kennedy completes a cycle of emotion, loss and celebration. His death is strangely personal for me and for millions of others, I expect.

I remember, as a young man, watching Ted Kennedy walking behind the funeral hearse that carried the body of his brother, Robert. I remember a much younger man standing with his older brother at the funeral of their brother, John. I remember the tears of my parents at the deaths of both of these American leaders.

Beyond those memories though, I'm moved by what Ted Kennedy worked so hard to accomplish and by the manner in which he worked.

My daughters and my granddaughter did and will benefit from the Title IX civil rights legislation that he worked hard to pass into law that equalized female participation in sports.

He passionately worked for the extension of civil rights in every direction--race, gender, sexual orientation, mental illness, special needs, immigrants and immigration.

His dying commitment envisioned health care benefits for every American.

Often referred to as the "Lion of the Senate," Ted Kennedy endeared himself to everyone by being a bridge builder and a masterful craftsman of workable coalitions. Even his most vociferous opponents regarded him with great respect and even love, as we are hearing now that he is gone. Senator John McCain's thoughts and recollections that I heard earlier this morning, exemplify the bi-partisan admiration that so many shared when it came to the Senator.

The closest I ever came to Senator Kennedy occurred here at Central Dallas Ministries. During a meeting of a national organization of foundations here in Dallas, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, his sister, visited our Food Pantry. Her interest in the people of the community, in our work and in every individual she met amazed us all.

Her ability to focus on each person is something I'll not forget. I remember when the tour bus had to wait on her because she hadn't completed a conversation with a woman who had come seeking assistance for her family. I've thought of her and her visit since learning of her brother's death.

Beyond all of our political differences, Senator Kennedy's death, like that of his brothers and his sisters who preceded him, was a loss to us all.


Hard times

Here are the facts:

From January through June 2008, Central Dallas Ministries worked with 25,542 different individuals and, among other things, distributed 277,056 pounds of groceries and foodstuffs to assist low-income people "make ends meet."

From January through June 2009, CDM worked with 31,100 different individuals and distributed 614,522 pounds of groceries and foodstuffs to assist in the "making ends meet" exercise.

While serving 22% more individuals, pounds of food distributed increased by a whopping 222%!

Our ability to serve so many more people so much more food is the result of our planning last year. Included in these strategic plans was our new working relationship with Crossroads Community Services, an urban ministry of First United Methodist Church, located in Downtown. Thanks to our collaboration, we've been able to raise more funds coordinating our work than we could have acting only on our own.

The food we provide families today is of a much higher quality than at any time in our history. The new approach kicked into gear at just the right time.

Still, we face a real challenge to sustain the effort at the current level.

More people needing our support.

More food available to support our neighbors.

More funds must be found to continue.

If you'd like to join our food security team, send your contributions to: Central Dallas Ministries, c/o Central Dallas Ministries, P. O. Box 710385, Dallas, TX 75371-0385.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nutrition and children

Back to school time puts lots of great kids on our streets here in inner city Dallas. I love watching them and watching out for them as I go to work or as I drive during the day when they are returning home.

This morning I saw a little boy around 5-years-old who caused me concern.

He trailed along behind a woman, I assume his mother. In one hand he carried a small bag of chips. In the other, a can of soda. It was about 8:00 a.m. I assume what I saw in his hands was his breakfast for the day. I hope not, but I'm almost certain it was his first "meal" of the day.

Nutrition drives health, both short and long term. Nutrition plays a large role in determining wellness outcomes of a person's lifetime.

Food has always been a huge part of what we do here at Central Dallas Ministries (CDM), and for good reason. Everything here is about health and wellness outcomes.

But, nutrition, or the lack thereof, is a growing problem/challenge for us.

CDM contracts with the Texas Department of Agriculture to provide summer and after school lunches and snacks to children living in low-income households here in Dallas, as well as in Austin this past summer.

Our program, we call it Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition, has grown dramatically for us.

For example, in 2008, CDM served 239,041 meals from January through June.

This year over the same period we have served 298,117 meals.

The figure for 2009 does not include over 50,000 additional meals, including breakfast meals, that we served in our new partnership with PepsiCo/Frito-Lay here in Dallas.

Improving nutrition for inner city families is a huge part of what we do here.

The little boy I saw this morning reminded me of just how crucial this work really is.

"The Gospel of Getting Rich"

A few days ago over in Fort Worth, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland hosted a conference for "prosperity gospel" devotees.

The New York Times reported on the event and the mindset back of it. Here's a taste of the article (photo from same source):

Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich
Published: August 15, 2009

FORT WORTH — Onstage before thousands of believers weighed down by debt and economic insecurity, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and their all-star lineup of “prosperity gospel” preachers delighted the crowd with anecdotes about the luxurious lives they had attained by following the Word of God.

Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds.

“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” preached Mrs. Copeland, dressed in a crisp pants ensemble like those worn by C.E.O.’s.

Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the “prosperity gospel” movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences. Their message — that if you have sufficient faith in God and
the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold — is reassuring to many in hard times.

The preachers barely acknowledged the
recession, though they did say it was no excuse to curtail giving. “Fear will make you stingy,” Mr. Copeland said.

But the offering buckets came up emptier than in some previous years, said those who have attended before.

Many in this flock do not trust banks, the news media or Washington, where the Senate Finance Committee is investigating whether the Copelands and other prosperity evangelists used donations to enrich themselves and abused their tax-exempt status. But they trust the Copelands, the movement’s current patriarch and matriarch, who seem to embody prosperity with their robust health and abundance of children and grandchildren who have followed them into the ministry.

“If God did it for them, he will do it for us,” said Edwige Ndoudi, who traveled with her husband and three children from Canada for the Southwest Believers’ Convention this month, where the Copelands and three of their friends took turns preaching for five days, 10 hours a day at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

You can read the entire report here, if you like.

Frankly, it was a hard read for me.

So, Jesus once told his followers that he had no where to lay his head.

He owned nothing.

He lived as a very, very poor man.

He counseled his followers and would-be followers to sell all that they owned and give the income to the poor.

He invited people to follow him in a radical life of self-denial for the sake of the marginalized, the hungry, the rejected and the untouchable.

He spoke often of "laying up treasure in heaven," one of his favorite phrases. Whenever he used that intriguing phrase, he always connected the earthly "deposit branch" to some clear benefit for the poor in the here and now.

He blasted greedy preachers and self-serving religious leaders as oppressors, not a category to which one should seek inclusion by God's standards!

No wonder we have problems today with poverty.

Is anyone listening to this weird guy named Jesus?

Religious expression like that which the Copelands hawk serves only to turn completely upside down all of the values by which people of faith should be formed and challenged.


Monday, August 24, 2009

A little boy, a mom and the first day back

I'll admit it.

I'm a sentimental fool when it comes to children and the markers in life.

So, this morning on my way to the office I pass a little boy, he looked to be about six-years-old. He was holding his mother's hand as they walked toward our neighborhood school for the first day of classes in this new school year.

For some reason seeing that little guy made me think of all of the other children, young and older who'll make a similar trek this morning.

Of course, I thought of my own grandchildren as my eyes called in a tear or two. All three of them will go back to school today.

I remembered the many "first day of school" days I experienced with my own daughters.

It's an exciting time. A good time. A nerve-wracking time.

It's not easy being a child today.

I offered up a simple prayer as I drove past that little fellow and his hopeful mom. It was a prayer for every child on this first day of a new school year. A prayer for mercy, hope, opportunity, courage, fairness and safety.

Our children are treasures, every single one of them.

I'll be thinking of him, my own grandchildren and all of them today.


A must read on health care reform. . .

What follows may be the best, most succinct thing I've read during the current health care reform debate. Thanks to my good friend, Randy Mayeux for sending me the link. I encourage you to read it all.
And, of course, I hope to read your reactions after you've done so.

I'm safe on board. Pull up the life rope
By Roger Ebert on August 20, 2009 4:44 PM

Having read through some 600 comments about universal health care, I now realize I took the wrong approach in my previous blog entry. I discussed the Obama health plan in political, literal, logical terms. Most of my readers replied in the same vein. The comments, as always, have been helpful, informative and for the most part civil. My mistake was writing from the pragmatic side. I should have followed my heart and gone with a more emotional approach. I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

Read the entire post here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Don't call me a saint!"

My soul draws inspiration from Dorothy Day. Her work, her writing, her soul, all combine to inspire. Possibly most inspiring were her honest struggle and her humility.

Friday, August 21, 2009


When I saw the report, that's all I could say or think.


Why would anyone carry an assault rifle to a political event, to a town hall meeting or to a speech? Who would do such a thing at an event where the President of the United States was to speak?

And to speak about health care, the nation's health and wellness?

Nothing new here though. Last week guns started showing up in the hands of people at other meetings and rallies dealing with health care reform.

Last week, at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where President Obama spoke, a man carried a sign that read, "It is time to water the tree of liberty." The same man had a pistol strapped to his leg.

Have a look at the story here.

Or, the video version here, reporting the presence of more than one person carrying assault weapons.

Maybe we need a holiday. You know, everyone go home, take a week off, calm down and decide to come back to the conversation or even debate with a bit of reason and maturity.

Lots is going on here.

What do you think?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Steve Martin to Benefit Central Dallas Ministries!!!

Tickets on sale now!

Save the date!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tickets can be purchased online at

Join us for an evening of celebration and joy!

For more details about sponsorships, contact Lisa Goolsby at 214.823.8710 ext. 138 or!

Beyond community gardens to urban agriculture as economic development

Lots of folks are discussing the benefits of urban community gardens as a tool utilized by non-profit organizations for community development.

But others are taking the idea of urban gardens to an entire new scale, and in some surprising places and for profit.

Take a look at this story out of Cleveland, Ohio of all places!

Your reactions could begin an interesting discussion.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Neo-natal mortality

At one point during Meet the Press on Sunday, August 16, 2009, the hour-long discussion on health care reform in the United States turned to the "quality of our health care system." Every time that subject come up, the opposing sides begin talking about two very different issues.

On the one hand, someone will quote the comparative negative public health outcomes for the U. S. versus those of a number of other nations that spend far less per capita on health care. The fact is, in terms of overall public health, we are behind.

On the other, someone will point out that the U. S. enjoys the best system in the world in terms of treatment, innovation and research for those who can afford to access these benefits.

And from here the debates rage on.

But, back to Sunday's program.

At one point, Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the very poor, was blamed for our nation's terrible neo-natal mortality statistics when compared to other developed nations.

It was then that I almost turned the television off. I had done a good job, up until then, of trying to give both sides a fair hearing.

But, the Medicaid comment changed the entire subject and focus of the conversation for me. And, because no one on either side talks about poverty on any of the Sunday morning news programs (or much anywhere else today for that matter), no one raised any objection.

I wanted to reach out and pull the Congressman who made the comment through the television screen and into my den. I wished that I could give him a driving tour of the "Medicaid" neighborhoods here in inner city Dallas, Texas. I wanted to tell him that these neo-natal statistics would be far worse without Medicaid and that their origin won't be discovered in the existence of this public benefit for the poor.

No, our discouraging neo-natal outcomes aren't the result of Medicaid.

They are a cruel outcome of poverty itself.

Mark it down, anyone who says otherwise does not understand poverty today.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Speaking of the health care debate--a word from Great Britain

Again and again, critics of any health care reform plan that further involves the U. S. government point across the pond to England as undeniable evidence of the folly of a national health care system that would provide care and coverage for all Americans.

I guess the Brits have tired of being made the straw man in our debate.

They are beginning to fire back.

For some interesting reactions to our debate and to the use some are making of their system in it look here and here for starters.


Health Care Crisis

The health care "debate" rages on, fueled at times by hysterical fears and plenty of outright falsehood.

What seems lost to many is the growing need among millions of Americans for basic health care.

Take a look at the video. It first aired on "60 Minutes" in 2008 before the Presidential election.

Sustainability and scale are the key challenges facing "free clinics" like the ones featured in the report. We need to find a way to care for one another, and that means everyone.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Penny wise, pound foolish

My dad always believed that you usually got what you paid for. As a result, he was never shy about paying a little more to move the quality needle upward. He knew that the additional investment would usually return to him, and then some.

I guess I've carried that notion into my own life. Certainly, I've not always been able to go for the best or the most expensive, but I have recognized the value of paying more today for an expected payoff later on.

All of the recent reports about the budget shortfall facing the City of Dallas and the City's plans to meet the funding shortage have me thinking about my dad.

So, I've done a little research on the City of Dallas, the current shortfall and the tax base for the city.

We are told that the shortfall will amount to $190 million for the next fiscal year. That represents 1/10 of the city's $1.9 billion spending plan to be approved by the City Council in September.

I got to thinking about that $190 million gap.

The City of Dallas' Tax Office told me when I called (they were extremely helpful, by the way) that the city received property tax payments from 390,932 taxpayers last year.

The city also receives funds from sales taxes and fees for various services, fines and permits. I realize that funding for the different departments and positions flows from various funds, each with complicating limitations and restrictions. The City's budget process is complicated.

Forgetting about these other sources of funding and the inherent complications for now, I calculate that if the property tax payers, all 390,932 of us, paid $486.02 more in property taxes this year lots of good things would happen in the city.

For example, all of the city employees (variously reported at between 900 and 1,300 individuals) who lost their jobs last Friday could be retained. Wonder what that would mean to their families and to the same tax base that pays their wages or to the status of their mortgages? Based on what I read in the news reports last Saturday morning, it sounds to me like the extra funds might not be needed for the entire year to maintain the city's full workforce. The City expects to be able to hire back many of those laid off within a few months, likely due to expected new sources of funds.

What's up with that? Why not raise taxes now, save all the jobs now, and next year pass along a tax reduction if that turns out to be possible?

No hours would need to be eliminated from the city's libraries or the swimming pools next summer or the recreation centers during the school year or the public health clinics. . .the list goes on and on.


Not an inconsiderable amount. And, I know, some would pay more based on the value of the home in question, but it's not a regressive system of taxation.

$486.02 at most. . .that works out to $40.50 per month or $9.35 a week or $1.33 daily. . .to save hundreds of jobs now, lost by my neighbors here in Dallas.

It appears to me that all of this pain and strain is being inflicted and endured so that we can all boast, "We balanced the budget without a tax increase!"

My dad wouldn't buy it. And, come to think of it, I bet my fellow citizens who lost their jobs wouldn't be celebrating either.

Lots of things are worse than an increase in taxes to support the common good, like, for instance, the overall decline of the common good.

I'd find it refreshing if our leaders reconsidered the challenge, got really responsible and levied a tax increase.

Maybe I'm just weird. But I come by it naturally. I got it from dad.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"No More Trouble"

What if an authentic experience of community could replace the culture of conflict that rules so much of our world, at home and around the world?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Always team, always

It's one of the main reasons that I love baseball.

Baseball is about community.

Baseball has its stars, and they make the game incredibly interesting.

But, the journeymen and the rookies and the guys "called up" who play their part--they make it interesting, as well.

I know it's true in all team sports. But, well, baseball is just special and very different.

Take the game on Thursday, July 30 between the Chicago White Sox and visiting Tampa Bay at U. S. Cellular Field.

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle entered the ninth inning with a perfect game--24 batters up, 24 batters down.

Entering the game in center field for the first time at the beginning of the ninth was unheralded Dewayne Wise, a player who had been around the major leagues for several years, but with not much success. The .200 hitter was accustomed to entering games in the late innings.

The first Tampa Bay batter in that last inning was former Texas Ranger Gabe Kapler.

Kapler hit a long, long drive to deep center field over the head of Wise. At the crack of the bat, Wise turned and ran toward the center field fence where he judged the ball would come down, if it didn't clear the fence.

Wise made a spectacular, leaping catch at the top of the wall. . .the first time he caught it. The ball game out of the top of his glove as both ball and player fell toward the ground. During the fall, Wise snagged the ball with his free hand, securing the first out of the last inning and helping preserve the no-hit, perfect game for his pitcher, Buehrle.

What a moment! What an effort!

Sports Illustrated reported that Buehrle's time on the mound during the game was just a little over 30 minutes. I suppose that's what happens when there are no base runners.

Dewayne Wise was in the game for a much shorter time. But his contribution made all the difference.


Great moments.



Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday afternoon on Congo Street. . .

Just ended my week with a walk down Congo Street and the home rebuilding/refurbishing project that links Central Dallas Ministries' AmeriCorps team with Brent Brown's bcworkshop to literally rebuild an urban city block the way the residents decide it should be done.

Great success at the near completion of yet another house.

Wish you could have seen it.

To see an earlier experience on the street, use the Search tool above to the left. Just type in "Congo Street."

Amazing. Simple. Sustainable. Community directed.

Urban farming

Urban farming changes communities, and is a movement sweeping across urban America.

As a result, fresh vegetables and fruit, often virtually inaccessible in many inner city neighborhoods, become available.

Community cooperation emerges from "ownership" in such endeavors that serve as community development and organizing labs.

The gardens can even serve as solar energy classrooms, crime watch tools and opportunities for residents to take hold of more control over their environments.

Watch this CNN video. Then, share your impressions. Anyone out there had experience with an urban garden or farm?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Texas, Our Texas. . .

Found the chart above on Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish (August 3, 2009).

No surprises at all.

We see the reality back of the data.

Texas is really a great place to live and work. . .for some of us.

For others, well, it's definitely a tale of "two states," worked out, at least 1from our perspective, in the cities.

We must find ways to change the trajectory of our public policy with a clear view to the sufferings of our low-income neighbors.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poor folks as criminals?

The longer I work and live in the inner city and the more I observe what low-income people face on a daily basis and how the "non-poor" react to them and their plight, the more convinced I become that most Americans just don't understand poverty.

Poverty results from and is sustained by ill-informed public policy. The criminalization of poverty being a case in point. The move of cities to outlaw many of the unavoidable actions of the poor only serves to deepen the poverty the poor experience. Systemic, "legal" forces serve to institutionalize poverty in urban America.

By now many readers here are rolling their eyes, thinking, "Here he goes again!"

My apologies for coming across like a broken record, but I find it necessary.

If you want to gain a better grasp of what ordinary poor people face in Dallas and the other major cities of the nation, please take the time to read insightful essay that follows.

Some will be surprised to learn how the legal system attacks the poor of all ages and life situations.

This article is worth your time, I promise.

Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?

Published: August 8, 2009

IT’S too bad so many people are falling into poverty at a time when it’s almost illegal to be poor. You won’t be arrested for shopping in a Dollar Store, but if you are truly, deeply, in-the-streets poor, you’re well advised not to engage in any of the biological necessities of life — like sitting, sleeping, lying down or loitering. City officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about the ordinances that afflict the destitute, most of which go back to the dawn of gentrification in the ’80s and ’90s. “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a city attorney in St. Petersburg, Fla., said in June, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.”

In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually been intensifying as the recession generates ever more poverty. So concludes a new study from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which found that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with ticketing and arrests for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering or carrying an open container of alcohol.

If poverty tends to criminalize people, it is also true that criminalization inexorably impoverishes them. Scott Lovell, another homeless man I interviewed in Washington, earned his record by committing a significant crime — by participating in the armed robbery of a steakhouse when he was 15. Although Mr. Lovell dresses and speaks more like a summer tourist from Ohio than a felon, his criminal record has made it extremely difficult for him to find a job.

Ehrenreich's article (read more here) is the third so far in a series that helps people like us come to grips with what it means to live in poverty. A Home Spun Safety Net (July 11, 2009) and Too Poor to Make the News (June 11, 2009), the first two installments of her extremely insightful series, should be read carefully by anyone who cares enough about poverty in the world's wealthiest nation to at least make the effort to understand the facts of the matter.

Reactions welcome here, as usual.

Monday, August 10, 2009

CityWalk@Akard "Topping Off" Celebration

On Thursday, August 6, 2009, KEY Construction hosted a traditional "topping off" celebration at CityWalk@Akard!

Well over 100 laborers have worked on the project to bring much needed workforce and permanent supportive housing to Downtown Dallas! Many of them sat down with a crowd of our guests for a meal to mark the completion of the basics inside the adaptive reuse project.

Central Dallas Ministries and our landlord, Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, will move into new 3rd floor offices in late September or early October.

By the end of 2009 we expect the building to be fully leased up!

The project has been complicated, challenging and difficult. . .but, completely worth it!

It was great to sit down with the workers who've made it all possible.

The video below is very low-tech with little artistic value!

It is a simple attempt to capture roving images of the men who have worked so hard on the project.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Just for fun and to remember. . .

I'm a confessed and incurable New York Yankee fan.

Grew up on the team in the 1950s and 60s when they aired every weekend on CBS-TV here in Dallas, back before we had a team of our own.

Mantle was my favorite.

Nothing much better than a Yankees-Dodgers World Series.

Just remembering those good days for baseball and for a kid growing up dreaming of swinging for the fence!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Ship 'em out!

Take a look at the following story that appeared in The New York Times on last Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

City Aids Homeless With One-Way Tickets Home

They are flown to Paris ($6,332), Orlando ($858.40), Johannesburg ($2,550.70), or most frequently, San Juan ($484.20).

Hector Correa and Elisabeth Mojica were at Kennedy Airport on Tuesday to fly home to Puerto Rico, to stay with her father.

Justin Little and Eugenia Martin, with Inez, returned to North Carolina after only a few days when relatives paid their back rent.

They are not executives on business trips or couples on honeymoons. Rather, all are families who have ended up homeless, and all the plane tickets are courtesy of the city of New York (one-way).

The Bloomberg administration, which has struggled with a seemingly intractable problem of homelessness for years, has paid for more than 550 families to leave the city since 2007, as a way of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system, which costs $36,000 a year per family. All it takes is for a relative elsewhere to agree to take the family in.

Many of them are longtime New Yorkers who have come upon hard times, arrive at the shelter’s doorstep and jump at the offer to move at no cost. Others are recent arrivals who are happy to return home after becoming discouraged by the city’s noise, the mazelike subway, the difficult job market or the high cost of housing.

Read the entire story here.

So, what do you think? Is this the right approach for a city to take?

I know here in Dallas it has been reported that vans from surrounding suburban cities drop homeless persons off at The Bridge, our city's homeless assistance center.

Love to hear your reactions.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

It's the neighborhood. . .

We've known it for a long time, just by observation.

Income status, overall well-being and prospects for success in life don't hinge on individual effort alone. The quality of life in a community, in a neighborhood outweigh factors related to the individual.

Malcolm Gladwell said about the same thing when he observed that a child raised in a good family residing in a bad neighborhood had less chance of success in life than did a child raised in a bad family in a good neighborhood.

Now comes a more definitive study conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts focused on neighborhood impact on long term economic status of African Americans compared to white Americans.

What follows is a report published by The Washington Post (July 27, 2009).

Neighborhoods Key to Future Income, Study Finds
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 27, 2009

Researchers have found that being raised in poor neighborhoods plays a major role in explaining why African American children from middle-income families are far more likely than white children to slip down the income ladder as adults.

The Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project caused a stir two years ago by reporting that nearly half of African American children born to middle-class parents in the 1950s and '60s had fallen to a lower economic status as adults, a rate of downward mobility far higher than that for whites.

This week, Pew will release findings of a study that helps explain that economic fragility, pointing to the fact that middle-class blacks are far more likely than whites to live in high-poverty neighborhoods, which has a negative effect on even the better-off children raised there. The impact of neighborhoods is greater than other factors in children's backgrounds, Pew concludes.

Read the entire report here.


[Later this year and into next, I'll share details and progress on a significant endeavor to revitalize one inner city neighborhood in South Dallas that will involve a creative partnership. More soon!]

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Creative, helpful housing as security

Larry and Ted Hamilton are good guys. We're glad to call them friends. Whether the issue is downtown renewal and upscale development or solving a security problem while helping others who find themselves in tough spots, these guys come up with very creative ideas!

Check out this report.

You'll see what I mean.


Patriot Solar Power, LLC

About this time last year, I posted a note about a dream I thought worth pursuing. You can read my first note about an idea we referred to as "Patriot Power" here.

In spite of challenges related to equipment costs, problems with the current electric grid infrastructure and our limited staff 's very real time constraints, the notion of creating a solar power company made a lot of sense to us.

If we could pull it off, the benefits seemed obvious:
  • New livable wage jobs for inner city residents
  • Real cost savings for low-income consumers in the inner city
  • A contribution, albeit small, to the production of alternative energy for the sake of the environment and the security of the nation

As is his habit on all ideas that have potential, John Greenan went to work on turning the abstract notion into a workable plan of action.

I thought you might like to read his update on our progress. You can do so right here.

Stay tuned. I know the story will continue to unfold.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Our river

If you live in Dallas or simply want to understand the city, its history and an important dimension of its psyche, you'll want to visit "Living with the Trinity," a multi-media project developed by KERA, our local PBS station.
I find the site a "must visit" on my Favorites list.

After you've had a chance to explore, let me know your impressions, questions, reactions, etc.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Homeless neighbors: a very bad deal

We've known for a long time now that homelessness costs our city big time.

At Central Dallas Ministries and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, we've conducted significant national research over the past several years into the costs to an entire community associated with not responding to the plight of the poorest among us.

Pick the city--you'll discover similar research results. New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and now Dallas. Allowing people to remain without homes costs communities more than what it would cost to provide decent, permanent housing to the same population.

The latest report by Dallas Morning News' reporter, Kim Horner, provides more data to substantiate the obvious.

Here's how Horner begins her report ("'Frequent fliers' run up Dallas County's homeless tab," Sunday, August 2, 2009):

Dallas County taxpayers spend about $50 million a year sheltering, treating and jailing the homeless.

Perhaps half of that is for the 600 to 1,000 toughest cases – many of whom visit emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, jails so often they're called "frequent fliers." These very ill people repeatedly cycle through a massive, uncoordinated system of local, state, federal and private institutions at alarming speed and alarming cost. And despite the millions being spent, many of these chronically homeless people remain in shelters and cardboard boxes.

"What do we get? They're still homeless," said Mike Rawlings, who serves as Dallas' homeless czar. "Somebody would be fired in the business world if they got those results."

The $50 million figure was arrived at by totaling the annual expenses of more than a dozen local taxpayer-funded agencies. It is a conservative figure because some agencies do not track how much they spend on the homeless. And it does not include at least $23 million in private funds spent locally caring for the homeless.

To read her entire report click here.

People who work to overcome homelessness in our nation understand the validity of the research. Further, the development of permanent supportive housing--that is, housing that is not transitional, accompanied by robust supportive or "concierge" services for tenants--produces clear and positive results in reducing the numbers of chronic, hardcore homeless from the streets of cities all across the nation.

More and more, cities are adopting strategies to house the most expensive "frequent fliers" who use up the majority of public services due to the fact that they do not have permanent homes. In Los Angeles County, municipality after municipality are embarking on projects designed to target and house the most expensive members of the homeless populations (usually starting with the top 50 on their lists). Utilizing a "housing first" intervention model, communities are realizing very good outcomes.

What we need is a better "return on investment."

[It is important to note that Horner's report does not address the positive impact that reducing the numbers of homeless persons would have on businesses and property owners located in and near the core of the city, to say nothing of the benefit to all of the taxing authorities depending on the success of these same property owners.]

All this makes perfect sense. And, thanks to Horner for bringing it to our attention one more time.

What makes no sense is the challenge associated with trying to site permanent supportive housing developments in Dallas.

When considered as a concept in the abstract, most people agree and even acknowledge the wisdom of the approach. After all, the data is hard to challenge.

The trouble comes when specific projects are proposed and city council support is called for district by district. Then attitudes of fine, but "not in my backyard" arise quickly.

Until a city's commitment to more effectively addressing the problem of needlessly expensive, chronic homelessness outweighs and overcomes the short-sighted concerns of district politics not much will change.

The business case for ending chronic homelessness is not only impressive, it is undeniable. In Dallas, we need to get our house in order. When we do, everyone will win.