Saturday, October 31, 2015

Health Coverage Here!

Get covered!

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Here’s an opportunity for you (or someone you know!): Be a Fellow for the Get Covered America campaign.

Fellows work closely with our staff to get the word out about how people can get covered and stay covered under Obamacare. And they get to learn tangible skills, including:
  • Grassroots organizing
  • Data management
  • Coalition building
  • Media outreach
  • And more!
So, as a Fellow, you’ll get advanced training on cutting-edge outreach strategies, all while helping more people get quality, affordable health insurance. What’s not to like?

The deadline to apply is November 13th -- start your application today!

We look forward to hearing from you!

The Get Covered America team

P.S. Know someone who might be interested? Forward this post to them!

Thursday, October 29, 2015



If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to build wealth at "the bottom" Part 3

To build wealth among low-income people we've got to get honest about a few critical elements of the U. S. economy today that call for reform.

We could increase the wealth/earning power of millions of low-income families by enacting comprehensive immigration reform.  Such reform would re-frame the entire security (i.e. "build a wall on the southern border) conversation.  Building on the work that has been done on border security; reform should create an efficient, user friendly, guest worker program; complete with green cards/swipe cards that would allow passage back and forth along the southern border as it is to the north. 

As millions of productive workers stepped into the light of the U. S. economy, wages would rise, taxes paid would increase, innovation would emerge and the economies on both sides of the border would expand.  Clearly, continuing refusal to strike a deal on comprehensive reform keeps wages artificially low and explains in large part why we've not been able to achieve a sane policy. 

To be sure, the benefit of a sub-culture that labors for extremely low wages can't be ignored.  The real worry today regarding reform has more to do with the security of our wallets than that of our neighbors who hide in the shadowy places of our economy. This must change.

Further, pathways to citizenship have never hurt our nation.  In fact, openness to immigrants all the way to the full national inclusion of citizenship is a hallmark of American national life and expectation. 

Wealth building at the bottom demands that we embrace policies that intentionally, methodically, and legally work against every expression of segregation in our national and community life.  Nationally, we need to be all shook up!  Inclusionary zoning laws (illegal in Texas) need to be applied across the nation, particularly in our metropolitan areas. 

Housing developers, education systems, health care providers, county and city governments that discriminate on the basis of race or class should be penalized severely.  Discrimination must not be tolerated by individuals, families, communities, states or the broader nation.  If we're honest, we will freely admit that discrimination continues to plague us. 

Faith communities need to step up and help us achieve a new, never before realized sensitivity to the negative forces accompanying discrimination directed toward others who don't seem life us, but in fact, are our brothers and sisters.  We must face the harsh truth that much of the poverty in our nation results from the poisonous dynamics of discrimination and prejudice in personal actions, as well as in public policy. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to build wealth at "the bottom" Part 2

So, here's how we ended in my last post:

. . . a growing underclass struggles with intensive  toxic stress, resulting in a spiral downward for tens of millions of Americans. 

Poverty is growing. 

Poverty is tragic.

Poverty presents possibly the most serious threat to our nation's long-term security. 

What is necessary to overcome these negative forces?  How, in fact, do we build wealth at "the bottom?"

This seems so obvious, but to overcome poverty and its various expressions leading to the toxic stress ravaging so many urban neighborhoods we must create higher income levels among today's working poor. 

How do we do that? 

What steps must we take if we are really serious about attacking the problem of poverty? 

Step one:  raises wages, and not just to minimum wage expected standards.  Wages must rise to a livable level--the paycheck required for a full-time employee to be able to care for himself/herself and whatever family.  Wages have risen for the upper-class at historic and astounding percentages over the past 20 years, while the middle and lower classes have seen wage stagnation and exploitation produce the biggest income gap since the early 20th century.  This must change.

Step two:  provide quality, affordable health care to everyone who works and for the disabled who cannot work.  Health care costs and health disasters drive much of the growth in poverty since the 1990s.  An example of leadership failure in this regard is the state of Texas' refusal to expand Medicaid for our poorest citizens.  Not only is this shameful, it is terrible business practice. 

Step three:  develop and execute on a plan that enables millions of us to prepare for and purchase a home.  Nothing grows real wealth like homeownership. The expansion of efforts to teach financial literacy when coupled with the real prospect of home ownership will only drive incomes in the right direction.

Step four:  expand educational options for everyone.  Creative efforts to re-purpose public schools and libraries as community learning centers for children and adults could produce good results.  Finding ways to reduce student debt for those seeking college opportunities will be essential to progress in filling the mid-level and upper-level skill sets for which employers continually request. 

Step five:  eliminate predatory lenders and lending schemes and provide consumer protection against such unjust businesses.  Payday lenders must be declared illegal enterprises.  At the same time, banks must develop credit products for low-income households as a part of their community reinvestment requirements. 

Step six: require 1-2 years of national service along the lines of AmeriCorps on the part of all our high school graduates.  This "youth corps" effort would come with a monthly stipend and educational awards upon completion of each members tour of service.  Such an effort would provide meaningful work for students, significant impact on communities and pathways to careers across the spectrum of labor sectors. 

Stay tuned for part 3.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Where Is It?

Four young men sit by the bedside of their dying father. The old man, with his last breath, tells them there is a huge treasure buried in the family fields. The sons crowd around him crying, “Where, where?” but it is too late. The day after the funeral and for many days to come, the young men go out with their picks and shovels and turn the soil, digging deeply into the ground from one end of each field to the other. They find nothing and, bitterly disappointed, abandon the search. The next season the farm has its best harvest ever.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Building wealth at "the bottom" Part 1

Poverty is not complicated in terms of seeing its impact and affect on people. 

However, the forces causing it can be beyond complicated. 

The American economy has experienced seismic shifts since the end of World War II.  Companies experienced great growth,  A generation went to college. A great middle class emerged. Industry exploded with technological and product innovations. Wealth grew, and much of that wealth landed in the stock market as more and more companies "went public." 

More recently, companies find it in their best interests to move out of the United States when it is time to build new facilities, manage labor costs and for other off-shore advantages. 

Technological advancements displaced workers and continue to do so.  Labor unions experienced a rather sharp decline in influence and power.  The expectation of the coming economy involves additional job losses, especially for low or under-skilled workers. 

Socially, continuing income and racial segregation result in dire consequences to the economy, to
public health, to public and higher education, to quality of available housing stock, to public engagement and to overall community well being.  The division of rich and poor geographically hurts us all.  The unfulfilled dreams of the American civil rights movement play a big part here.

Caught up in these and many other negative forces, a growing underclass struggles with intensive  toxic stress, resulting in a spiral downward for tens of millions of Americans. 

Poverty is growing. 

Poverty is tragic.

Poverty presents possibly the most serious threat to our nation's long-term security. 

What is necessary to overcome these negative forces?  How, in fact, do we build wealth at "the bottom?"

Check back with me over the next few posts as I attempt to deal with these vexing questions.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Just City?

Next City, an urban focused list serve/online resource, is something I check in on almost every day.  Recently, the producers of Next City and other partners authored an e-book--actually a collection of essays, "The Just City Essays," that will be unveiled during this week at their website.  You can read details about the process here

What follows is taken from the first essay written by Darnell L. Moore in the challenging collection. 

Feedback appreciated!

Darnell L. Moore is Senior Editor at Mic. He is also a co-managing editor of The Feminist Wire and Writer-in-Residence at the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice at Columbia University. He is a member of the Black Lives Matter network and co-organized the BLM Freedom Ride to Ferguson in 2014.

Urban Spaces and the Mattering of Black Lives

The more insidious problem is the belief that whiteness at all times and in all places signifies safety and bounty and, therefore, represents a site of investment: new stores selling expensive items begin emerging; the same stores stay open (the doors and not just side windows) twenty-four hours; realtors finally begin to take an interest in property sales; nameless and faceless ‘investors’ begin leaving cheap flyers on stoops or in mailboxes promising cash for homes. Safety becomes a relative experience when gentrification occurs. The presence of white people almost always guarantees the increased presence of resources, like police, which does not always guarantee safety for black people in those same spaces.

A “just city,” then, is a space where one’s hued flesh does not determine one’s full or limited access to equity and safety in communities where she or he lives and works. To vision and create the type of city that is not a built rendition of the biased ideologies we maintain requires a liberated imagination, but we can only free our minds from the chains of anti-blackness and classism when we first acknowledge each has its hold on us. An expanded public dialogue is necessary for us to arrive at this set of shared understandings.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Progress only in failure

Willing to Fail or Succeed

Risk requires that we be willing to fail as well as succeed, to be wrong as well as right. Risking failure is the doorway to consciousness, the anthem of our humanity. And while it may look to the observer that we have learned to trust ourselves when we put our call in the public eye, we have, in fact, begun to trust something deeper, more mysterious and powerful, which in turn frees us to act in ways that may seem foolish, even foolhardy, to others.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


To Help Poor Neighborhoods, Urban Planners Have to Do More Than Urban Planning
They can't just improve the physical environment if they want to revitalize poverty-stricken areas.
by | October 2015
William is a Governing columnist, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University and former mayor of Ventura, CA.
In San Diego, half the neighborhoods are inhabited by mostly poor residents. During my recent stint as director of planning and economic development there, residents would often ask me how I planned to revitalize those neighborhoods. I tended to give an alarmingly honest answer: I wasn’t sure.

Read the interesting conclusion here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

When work doesn't pay

So much for the myth that hard work pays off in "moving on up" options.

It’s Getting Harder To Move Beyond A Minimum-Wage Job
By Ben Casselman

Minimum-wage jobs are meant to be the first rung on a career ladder, a chance for entry-level workers to prove themselves before earning a promotion or moving on to other, better-paying jobs. But a growing number of Americans are getting stuck on that first rung for years, if they ever move up at all.

Anthony Kemp is one of them. In 2006, he took a job as a cook at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Oak Park, Illinois. The job paid the state minimum wage, $6.50 an hour at the time, but Kemp figured he could work his way up. “Normally, a good cook would make $14, $15, $17 an hour,” Kemp said. “I thought that of course I’d make a better wage.”

Continue reading here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


We Must Move

We must move from the realm of abstraction and dreams into the physical realm of risk and results. Risk is ultimately a birthing stage, often marked by sweat, blood and tears, along with moments of ecstatic joy. Something tangible becomes visible and begins to breathe. Our creativity finds form and substance. We sound a call for some new initiative and hope others will respond. Some go from gestation to birth with painful contractions, making this a difficult and anxious stage. Some enter this stage triumphant, just glad to be rid of doubt and indecision. For them, risk feels like a long-awaited adventure. Others feel timid and hesitant, afraid to act and yet more afraid to go back.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Time, just a minute

You Will Surprise What Happen When The Homeless Man Ask Him Wa...
You Will Surprise What Happen When The Homeless Man Ask Him Wait For 1 Minute...
Posted by KeeptheHeat on Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Learning, diversity and choice

The notion of "school choice" stirs up heated debates.

Still, when the goal of choice in public education is to achieve more socio-economic diversity for the good of all students, we should pay attention.

Schools with a mixed population economically perform better for everyone.

  Let me know what you think of this?


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

SMU Couch--community building!

Payday loan oppression

Can you imagine taking out a $500 loan and it costing more than $1100 to pay back?

FACT: Every day in our area, many of our neighbors are doing just that and paying up to 484% in interest and fees on small, short-term "payday" loans. payday lending
This is completely legal in our state, and as a result, payday and auto-title lenders are making billions of dollars while preying upon people in dire need of financial help to pay their rent, to feed their children, and to fix their car so that they can get to work.

FACT: According to Texas Appleseed, in the Fort Worth-Arlington area, 105 cars are repossessed per week as a result of auto-title loans.

That's nearly 5,500 cars per year and an equal number of families, single parents, senior citizens, and others who may permanently lose their vehicle for being late on one payment, sometimes by a matter of minutes, even though they've been paying back a 300% interest loan on time for months.

FACT: Due to inaction by the state legislature to regulate these predatory lenders, many cities have passed meaningful reforms to protect their citizens. 

To date, 26 Texas cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, El Paso, Flower Mound, and Denton, have passed ordinances limiting loan amounts and the number of times a loan may be rolled over. Right now, Arlington is considering becoming the first Tarrant County city to add their name to this list. 

FACT: There are several things that you can do to help be a part of the solution.

First, if you or someone you know has been a victim of predatory lending, let us know. Call my office at 817-459-2800 or click here to send me an email. We want to know how these loans are personally impacting Texans and trapping people in a cycle of debt.

Second, if you live in a city not on this list contact your local leaders and ask them to support a payday lending ordinance in your community.

Third, make your voice heard on this issue. Write a letter to the editor, call your legislator, tell your friends. This is a serious issue, the impact of which goes far beyond those who take out the loans. In fact, the Texas Catholic Conference has estimated that 30% of charitable assistance goes to help those in trouble with payday or auto-title loans and that predatory lending has a negative economic impact of $87,578,234 in the Fort Worth/Arlington area alone.

FACT: Federal regulations are being proposed, but they will not fully address the problem.

Next month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency with oversight over predatory lenders, is expected to release new proposed regulations. These rules have become a common talking point among those who are opposed to state or local regulation -- they often point to impending action by the federal government as a reason not to pass state or local laws

Prominent organizations across our state, like the Texas Catholic Conference, the Baptist General Convention's Christian Life Commission, and Texas Appleseed, agree that these rules will not replace local ordinances, but serve to complement these existing laws.

It's also critical to point out that the timeline for implementation of federal rules is unclear. My office has been in contact with the CFPB and has been told that it will like take about two years for rules to go into effect; this of course assumes that implementation is not halted by industry lawsuits or a new administration. 

Predatory lending is an issue that impacts us all. Even if you have never taken out a loan, somewhere down the line, through the need for more charitable contributions or as a result of the strain on local economies, you're going to pay a price. It's time we help our neighbors and time we act on their behalf.

Please, tell us your story, contact your elected officials, or write a letter to the editor. Whatever you do, don't sit on the sidelines and let these predatory lenders trap more of our neighbors in a never-ending cycle of debt.

P.S. If you'd like to join our Texas 101 Payday Lending Task Force, click here.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Important school bond issue coming in November!

In August, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees voted to bring a $1.6 billion bond proposal to the citizens of Dallas on November 3. The proposal is based on the recommendations of the Future Facilities Task Force, commissioned last fall by the superintendent and comprised of community members appointed by the Board of Trustees to represent each of their districts.

  The proposed bond for Dallas ISD is anticipated to fund new schools, expanded academic programs, and facility improvements at almost every district school.

The Hub contains an interactive online map that details the proposed projects that are currently anticipated to be funded with bond proceeds. Click here to view the map and learn more.

If you need additional information, please visit Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Thank you, Paula C. Blackmon
Senior Executive Director Intergovernmental Affairs and Community Relations
Dallas Independent School District

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Faith moving outward. . .

Inward and Outward

Just as we are committed to being on an inward journey for all of time, so are we committed to being on an outward journey, so that the inner and the outer become related to one another and one has meaning for the other and helps to make the other possible…. If engagement with ourselves does not push back horizons so that we see neighbors we did not see before, then we need to examine the appointment kept with self. If prayer does not drive us out into some concrete involvement at a point of the world’s need, then we must question prayer. If the community does not deliver us from false securities and safe opinions and known ways, then we must cry out against that community, for it betrays.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Profiles in leadership

Two insightful videos follow here.

The first records the solo action of CitySquare board member, Kevin Thomason.

The second captures members of the leadership team of the CitySquare. Here I'm proud to stand with Kevin (out a second time in a week doing his duty to our community) along with board chair, Dave Shipley and President/COO, John Siburt.

Clearly, evidence that our organization is in good, stable hands!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Wage justice

Years ago, I taped a Pogo cartoon strip on my office door. 

One cute character said to another, "The solution to poverty is monies." 

Surely a true statement. 

Poor people need money.  They need money from the jobs at which they work hard. 

They need money for work gloves.

City leaders remain reluctant to impose a living wage (of sorts) on contractors who provide services such as garbage collection and landscaping.

When I heard the news that the Dallas City Council wasn't going to push forward improvements in the wage situation of hard working sanitation workers, among others, I began to calculate what my own out-of-pocket costs would be weekly to my trash team.  I know one thing, I couldn't do without them. 

I do know that a concern of some city council members and our mayor has to do with verifying that the increase wages would actually go to those who do the work and not to the contracting companies.

But, there are ways to ensure integrity, like "certified payroll" processes that all federal grant recipients have learned to deal with .  Or, possibly we could create an office of labor credit that rewarded workers who produced proof of having worked for companies contracting with the city. 

I know it's complicated.  And, I trust our leaders.

But, the fact remains. 

People need monies to live and to thrive. 

Monies invested in people is always best.