Which World Do You Believe In? Progressive or Elitist?

An Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) for Pasadena? Yea or nay? There are commissions galore in Pasadena, including one for bikes and one for trees – but not for housing.  WTF?

The city used to have one, but it was disbanded in 2012 when a major source of funding dried up.

At the friendly debate last week that pitted affordable housing advocates, myself among them, against two city commissioners and an affordable home-owner developer, the story of funding drying up became a refrain: in the wake of 85% of federal HUD dollars and other funding sources disappearing, everyone is wondering what to do.

The nay-side says an AHC would cost too much money and staff time. Another developer in attendance pointed out to me in a break-out session that preceded the debate that “gentrification is happening everywhere, especially on the west coast. It can’t be stopped.” All this noise added up to: so what if we’re losing our racial and ethnic diversity in Pasadena because many are priced out. This is the way of the world – the elites get to live in a city of . . . other elites.

But our side argued that everyone is affected by our city’s housing policies. How? Certainly the 500+ homeless and low and very-low income residents who struggle to find adequate housing, but also our children in the PUSD. Our public school teachers who can’t afford to live here have long commutes and are probably not at their best when more sleep-deprived. Our police and firemen can’t afford to live here either, and are less invested in the community they police, which may also compromise job performance. We are all affected by air quality, and more cars driving long distances to Pasadena for jobs degrades the environment.

This is why I began my spiel with this sentence: “With an AHC, Pasadena could be a model of urban development that ensures diversity, economic generation, and environmental innovation.” We shouldn’t settle for “this is the way of the world.” There’s a better one possible, but yes, it will take more effort and funds.

But not much. Let’s talk about money. Did you know the police are burdened by incidents related to homelessness? One sworn police officer might spend his or her entire 8-hour shift dealing with a homeless person who is having a mental health crisis. And when all is said and done, several hundred dollars later, that homeless person ends up back on the street. Did you know the city allocates about $67 million for its police services, and the housing department gets less than $2 mil? Hmmm.  All that the staffing would cost for an AHC is 1/5 of an FTE.  And what if we prioritized the creation of permanent supportive housing for our homeless, preventing the draining of our police resources in the first place?

Another nay-argument was that it’s really the advocates who “get things moving” and convince the City Council to move in desirable directions. Not another city commission. What a brush-off. What advocates are asking for is the AHC (advocates had also needed to fight for a housing department). In other cities of comparable size in CA that have an AHC, they are able to find or create additional funding sources, strengthen policies, educate about the deep complexities of affordable housing, and find ways to expedite development projects (not slow them down, as the nay-side clucks).

It recently came to my attention that Pasadena votes overwhelmingly progressively – 70% of us voted for Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama. But our municipal leadership is made up of conservatives and moderates. Indeed, advocates will always play an important role in steering the municipal ship toward progressive ordinances and policies – policies that believe in a city as it could be, rich with ethnic and economic diversity, clean air, and innovation. Isn’t it interesting that we meet this roadblock when we ask that attention to these matters be instituted within the city government?

When they say, “no, we can’t,” we’ll say, “SI, se puede – YES, we can.” We just need one more vote on the City Council to get the AHC.   So keep hustling – write a note to your city councilperson. At the last G-PAHG meeting (Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group), we had 18 people in attendance. Come join the party!

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

 Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

Don’t Ever Think There’s Nothing You Can Do

When I heard the news about the police officers getting mowed down in Dallas, it was early Friday morning, and I was focused on preparing my family to leave for a camping trip by 8 AM. I was still reeling from the events of the week and couldn’t quite process it. The family trip was an easy distraction. The next day we visited the Discovery Center at Big Bear Lake, and I noticed the flags at half-mast. I had forgotten about the police killings and the answer given for my inquiry was simply, “Texas.”

I agree with the statement Chief Sanchez of the Pasadena Police recently made about Texas, that all workers deserve to come home at the end of the day, including his police force, and was moved by him saying he was opposed to all forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence or violence on the street. I also reflect that flags would always be at half-mast if we honored and respected life equally. Shouldn’t the flags be at half-mast after people are so purposelessly killed by police? What about after a four year old is killed in a drive-by shooting? That also happened last week, in my neck of the woods, Altadena.

I’ve been reading about Lakota values and spirituality, preparing for a sermon on the topic later this month in Santa Monica. Here is a passage by Joseph M. Marshall III about respect from the book “The Lakota Way”:

“Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota and one of the first Native American writers to be published (around 1900), talked about respect as an essential ingredient for balanced interaction among all living things. According to him, the Lakota had developed a respect for the Earth and all forms of life because all were a necessary part of the physical environment. He suggested that some people, and he was politely implicating whites, had lost respect for animals. His biggest concern was that humans who lost respect for animals would soon lose respect for their own kind as well (italics mine).”

It sent a chill up my spine, in light of the mounting tragedies, how far down we have sunk in terms of respect for human life. It made me think of the concurrent unfolding of failed Reconstruction soon after the Civil War, when Standing Bear’s observations were published. A book recently published that traces the roots of white backlash in America to this time period is “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, reviewed as “extraordinarily timely and urgent.” My interest was also piqued on KPFK when I heard part of a speech by Dr. Joy DeGruy about Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

In response to these times of civic unrest and tragic violence, we must take advantage of the spotlight, and help educate ourselves and others about how we got here. It starts with the violent commencement of our nation, exterminating Native Americans and centuries of slavery. It continues today as we wage the War on Drugs decade after decade in the poorest neighborhoods of America.

And we shouldn’t stop there. The other day, my friend lamented there was “nothing we can do.” This is far from the case. There is clear evidence that advocating for and achieving greater civilian oversight of police force is the best way to curb unnecessary brutality and killings. Here is a helpful article: 15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality. And here is a helpful update about the city of Pasadena in this regard.

Last Tuesday I showed up at a Human Relations Commission meeting to urge them to pay attention to the Graziano report, which highlights the results of a survey that was taken in 2015 about public attitudes toward Pasadena police. An article, “For Second Time in Two Weeks, Controversial Report on Pasadena Police Goes Unheard, Undiscussed” was published the next day in Pasadena Now.  At the commission meeting, here is part of what I said:

Good evening Commissioners. I’m Rev. Hannah Petrie and I’m here tonight because I’ve worked with the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight for Pasadena Police and am concerned about biased policing in NW and Central Pasadena that is revealed in the Graziano Survey, for example:

  • 72% of African American residents found racial profiling by police a problem. (Up from 52% in the 2006 PARC survey). Latino results stayed about the same at 46%. (page 23)
  • About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force. Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force. (page 29)
  • 58% of residents searched lived in NW Pasadena and 30% in the Central area. (page 29)

These figures, when paired with recent studies compiled by a Coalition of California legal and criminal justice organizations, including the Western Center on Poverty, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and others, show hard data about the biased effect of police stops.

  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over more by police, and white drivers are pulled over less.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over without a good reason.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately searched during traffic stops.
  • Police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers, than in searches of white motorists.

As it turned out, the Human Relations Commission cancelled the presentation of the Graziano survey, and there was no discussion or questions after our public comments were made.

But we have another chance to urge the city to take this report seriously (so far they have not, and some have even questioned its validity) this Thursday afternoon, July 14, in City Hall Chambers at the Public Safety Committee meeting, at 4:15 PM, when the Graziano report will be presented and public comment heard.  Any public comment made makes a difference, but it is especially helpful if people of color who have experienced over-policing can testify to support the report’s findings, which are further reviewed below by CICOPP’s Chairwoman, Kris Ockershauser. What is CICOPP, you ask? It’s the coalition whose work you join – our next meeting is this Thursday morning, July 14, at 9 AM at All Saints Church. CICOPP stands for the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police.

Until next time, Do the Hustle! Oh, speaking of hustle, here is a recent article about criminalizing it.

– Rev. At-Large, hustling hope for all you mother fo’s, aka Rev. Hannah Petrie

 

GRAZIANO SURVEY OF POLICING IN PASADENA &

THE TRAFFIC TICKET TRAP: TARGETING LOW INCOME AND COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

  1. Graziano 2015 survey of residents of all Pasadena show great majority – 87% – pleased with police services. African American and Latino residents differ: racial profiling, excessive use of force, and stop and search for no good reason cited as major police misconduct affecting them.  One third of all residents surveyed felt police misconduct at least a minor problem in Pasadena
  2. Graziano survey a replica of 2006 PARC (Police Assessment Resource Center) survey,  Pasadena Police-Community Relations Assessment. PARC survey showed satisfaction with police services by a majority of the city, except in NW and Central.  Police misconduct such as racial profiling and being stopped for no good reason was seen as a problem by more than half of African Americans residents and 45% of Latinos (p. 70).
  3. An informal survey in 2011 of more than 600 resident and shoppers in NW Pasadena replicated the PARC survey findings.
  4. Graziano survey results show biased policing: 72% of African Americans and 46% of Latinos found racial profiling a problem (p. 23).  About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force.  Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force (p.29).
  5. 58% of persons stopped and searched were from NW Pasadena;   30% were from Central Pasadena (Graziano Survey p. 29)
  6. Studies of a variety of California cities show that police stop and search for no good reason practices are: a) disproportionately targeted at people of color; b) African Americans and Latinos  are disproportionately searched during traffic stops; and c) police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers than of white drivers. (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/ )
  7. People of color are disproportionately stopped, searched and arrested for minor offenses (broken tail light, rolling a stop sign, littering, jaywalking). (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/ )
  8. If a person fails to pay, automatic fines increase from $100 to $490 to $815.  Drivers License suspension for unpaid fine follows.  Over 4 million in California have suspended DLs, 1 in 6 people.
  9. Predominantly persons of color and low income are affected. (see Interactive Map of DL suspensions, Zip Code 91101, at (http://ebclc.org/backontheroad/problem/).  Restitution in full is required to get DL back.  A study reported that 42% with DL suspension lose their job, only 45% find a new job, and 88% of those with a new job receive lower wages.
  10. A recent Supreme Court decision will now allow illegal police stops without probable cause/no good reason if a person has an outstanding warrant. Legal commentary predicts a rise in illegal police stops to search persons. (see Supreme Court Gives Police More Power To Stop And Question People http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-court-police-stops-20160620-snap-story.html ; Police Injustice: How the Court Fails  http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/07/02/police-injustice-how-the-court-fails/ )
  11. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor ,in dissent of the Utah v. Streiff majority decision:By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”
  12. Ferguson MO police, courts, city administration, city council raised revenue through increased traffic stops, use of force, ticketing and fining, and jail sentences targeted at African Americans. (CNN 3/6/15 “Policing for Profit”)  Who benefits from fines in Pasadena?  (An Investigation of Civil Forfeiture in California   http://bit.ly/1RRZSgx )
  13. Pasadena can stop thisA) A state sponsored ticket amnesty program is in effect until March 2017.  Flintridge Center holds monthly clinics on ticket amnesty.  The City could also offer free ticket amnesty clinics.  B) Pasadena PD could cease making arrests solely based on warrants for failure to pay or appear, or for driving with a suspended license for a failure to appear or pay.  C)  Pasadena PD could curtail the over-policing of low income and communities of color.
  14. Civilian oversight of PPD could provide professional, full time oversight of Pasadena’s policing policies and practices, to City leaders and the public, with input from neighborhoods most affected by over-policing.  This could be an effective, low cost way to build trust between communities of color and police, reducing crime within neighborhoods and police misconduct within poor neighborhoods.

Why I Wanted Bernie

I’ve known the middle class was shrinking, but today on NPR I learned some hard numbers. They started a new series, “The New Middle,” seeking to answer the question, “What does it mean to be middle class in America today?”

The hardest numbers I heard was that since 1970, every decade has ended with fewer people belonging to the middle class. And that 2015 was the first recorded year when the middle class was no longer a majority, outnumbered by the rich and poor combined. Then NPR did what they do so well to reassure its listeners, by throwing in a misleading stat (courtesy of the Pew Research Center) that, of those who have left the middle class, two thirds went up to be rich, while only one third went down to be poor.

While it may be true, it’s misleading as far as thinking about the realities of downward mobility for so many Americans.

This is why I wanted Bernie – yeah sure, I’ll vote for Hillary, though my friend Judy would groan to hear me say that (more on Judy in a minute). I think of strong Hillary-supporters as people who listen to this New Middle NPR story and say to themselves, “see! It’s not so bad. More people who are leaving the middle class are getting rich!” and don’t bother to ask the deeper questions about wealth and class in America today.

But a Bernie supporter chucks the rose-colored glasses, seeing through the bourgeois bs. I could count on Bernie to be honest and have integrity about the realities of economic struggle. I want a president who points out that over one fifth of America’s children living in poverty is morally unacceptable, and here’s what can be done about it.

Bernie was the best hope for saving the middle class. When I said this to my friend Judy today, who is a Bernie-or-bust supporter, she retorted, “forget about the middle class – I mean, that’s important – but at this point for me it’s about saving democracy.”

Judy is distressed by the corruption she sees. From voter suppression that has inspired a national class-action lawsuit against the DNC to the fact that if you want to be a Bernie delegate at the Democratic National Convention, you are required to pay $600 per night for a minimum of 5 nights at a fancy hotel in Philadelphia. There are 1,879 delegates for Bernie, and they ain’t all rich. “We don’t live in a democracy,” Judy says.

She is going to Philly at the end of the month to be part of the protest scene outside the DNC.  Judy is no youthful thrill-seeker in this regard. “I’m an old lady. I’m scared of getting gassed and pepper-sprayed. But our country is at stake. I have no choice but to take to the streets in protest.” She says she is willing to get arrested.

I admire her conviction, but cringe at a country led by Trump more than a country led by Hillary (Judy disagrees and says Trump’s bafoonery will be innocuous compared to Clinton’s aggression). I fear that neither presidency will do much to halt the tide of “A Tale of Two Countries.” While it’s more complicated than I’m about to state it, we have become a country of wealthier cities and poorer suburbs/rural areas. Warren Olney (I love that man) had a good piece on this recently, The City as the Power Center.

It all makes me think of two films that I’d sooner hope not describe our future, The Hunger Games and Her.

I thank Judy and others like her who have fought for Bernie’s candidacy for hours, weeks, months on end, and who are not giving up on the leader they believe in. They give me hope that plenty of Americans still care about the highest merits of democracy, with equality, freedom and opportunity for all.

Bernie had a refreshing combination of authenticity, realism, and idealism. And yes, I trusted him.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

– Rev. At-Large, aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!

4th of July Reading List Spectacular!

One of my favorite things about being a parish minister and a hustler of justice is I get to read constantly, because I have to understand what it is I’m fighting for.  I have two periodicals in my life: Rolling Stone magazine (journalism, baby) and the New York Times Book Review. I have a running list of books I want to acquire, and ostensibly, read. Years may go by before I read some of them, but others I devour.

As y’all settle into your summer, here are some great newly published or recent picks that are at the top of my list to read, many with patriotic subjects: what’s happening to America, politics, satire, and history. Note the article that is a primer for economic justice activism.

So get the kids to bed, turn off Netflix, and enrich yourself with knowledge and the truth about your country.  Turn on your patriotic mind, and your ass will follow – Happy Independence Day!

PRIMARILY? POVERTY:

Evicted – Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016) by Matthew Desmond

This book could be a prelude to change if enough of us rise up. Very readable – about what life looks like when you’re forced to spend the majority of your income on rent, which fully a third of Americans do, if they’re not homeless.  Summary available.

Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America (2014) by Linda Tirado

Poverty is physically painful, but this book delivers wit with your moral witness. Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Tale of Two Cities (2014) by Mark Maier and Peter Dreier

This article came out right before Christmastime at the end of 2014, so a lot of folks might have missed it. It’s important to note that, while Pasadena has the largest difference between rich and poor out of any city in the whole state of California, this tale-of-two-cities phenom is occurring in cities across America. I’ll go deeper into this with my next blog post, when I explain why I wanted Bernie.

HISTORY! HELLO:

For a readable, background history of the tale-of-two-cities phenom, check out,

The Color of Wealth – The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide (2006) by Lui, Robles, Leondar-Wright, Brewer, and Adamson

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016) by Elizabeth Hinton

Lately it’s been fashionable to blame the Clinton era (the first one) on the rise of mass incarceration. This book dials it back to the mid-1960’s and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Crime. So, same fuck-up, different Democrat. Highly praised in the review (“a revelation”).

The Firebrand and the First Lady – Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and The Struggle for Social Justice (2016) by Patricia Bell-Scott

I can’t wait to read this one – about a bad-ass most of us have never heard of. Pauli Murray was a super smart and audacious African American woman who had a brilliant mind for activist strategy.

POLITICS? PERHAPS:

Wonder why we have Trump on the docket? These two books promise to illuminate how and why the Democrats can no longer claim to be the party for the working class,

Listen, Liberal – Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016) by Thomas Frank

The Limousine Liberal – How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (2016) by Steve Fraser

United – Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good (2016) by Corey Booker

New Jersey US Senator.  Pretty sure this is the dude who recommended Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  Could might make us feel better about Democrats!

Breakthrough – The Making of America’s First Woman President (2016) by Nancy Cohen

Women and politics making it to the show: Bring. It. On.

COMMUNICADO? CORRECT:

Free Speech – Ten Principles for a Connected World (2016) by Timothy Garten Ash

Establishing sensible social mores, not censorship, on free speech. Review said no other book has gathered the salient issues as thoroughly.

Rebel Reporting – John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists (2015) edited by Stockwell and Bell

One review says, “John Ross was Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, Roque Dalton and Che Guevara all rolled up together, but most of all he was himself, observer and participant at once, listening carefully to the poorest, challenging hypocrisy wherever he detected it oozing from the mouths of the powerful.” Enough said.

SATIRE’S SAKE:

I’m looking forward to these novels,

The Sellout (2015) by Paul Beattie

Massively offensive, probably, to some.  Won loads of awards. Put that in your politically incorrect pipe and smoke it.

Blackass (2016) by A. Igoni Barrett

A black man in Nigeria wakes up a white man. If you like the Sellout, you might like Blackass, too. Also, gets us out of our myopic, US navel-gazing and into Africa.

A final note: I linked all these titles to Amazon so you could read more about them. But if you like to read books with paper pages, order them at your local mom and pop bookstore.

Until next time, Do the Hustle!

(Patriotic, disco-colored fireworks!)

– Rev. At-Large aka Rev. Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!