Category : City Government

(NYT) With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?

As disaster costs keep rising nationwide, a troubling new debate has become urgent: If there’s not enough money to protect every coastal community from the effects of human-caused global warming, how should we decide which ones to save first?

After three years of brutal flooding and hurricanes in the United States, there is growing consensus among policymakers and scientists that coastal areas will require significant spending to ride out future storms and rising sea levels — not in decades, but now and in the very near future. There is also a growing realization that some communities, even sizable ones, will be left behind.

New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change. By 2040, simply providing basic storm-surge protection in the form of sea walls for all coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents will require at least $42 billion, according to new estimates from the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental advocacy group. Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion.

“Once you get into it, you realize we’re just not going to protect a lot of these places,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the group, which wants oil and gas companies to pay some of the cost of climate adaptation. “This is the next wave of climate denial — denying the costs that we’re all facing.”

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(BBC) The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

In March, just over a month before the Easter attacks, a gunman quietly entered [Mohammad Razak] Taslim’s house in the early hours of the morning. He was lying in bed, next to his wife, and his youngest son. The gunman shot him once in the head.

“At first I thought the phone charger had exploded, but I looked and it was fine,” Taslim’s wife told me. “Then I tried to wake him up, and I could smell gunpowder… I reached out to him and I realised he wasn’t conscious. I thought he was dead.”

Taslim was rushed to hospital. He survived the attack, but it’s not clear if he will ever fully recover.

Sri Lanka’s army commander, Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, is now playing a leading role in the investigation into the Easter Bombings. He told me it had been confirmed that the “same network” was also responsible for the desecration of the Buddhist statues, the explosives hidden in the coconut grove, and the shooting of Taslim.

He admitted that the previous incidents should have made the authorities more alert to the dangers of a jihadist attack. Instead, warnings by the Indian security services in the days and hours leading up the bombings weren’t followed up, due to what the army commander referred to as problems with “intelligence sharing” between different departments.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Wired) In a first, San Francisco just banned public agencies, including police, from using facial recognition technology

At the state level, efforts to regulate facial recognition in Washington crumbled after Microsoft and Amazon, among others, opposed a proposed moratorium in favor of a bill with a lighter regulatory touch. In Massachusetts, which is considering an ACLU-backed moratorium on facial recognition until the state can develop regulations including things like minimum accuracy and bias protections, local police departments frequently partner with the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify suspects.

Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts, which is working with Somerville officials on a proposal that would forbid such data-sharing, is optimistic about the potential for cities to lead the way. “I’m not aware of any other example of people really successfully intervening in this very fast-moving train of tech determinism and throwing a democratic wrench in the gears,” Crockford says.

San Francisco’s ban comes amidst a series of proposals that highlight tensions between the city and tech companies that call it home. On Tuesday, the city also unanimously approved a ban on cashless stores, an effort aimed at Amazon’s cashierless Go stores. Waiting in the wings? A so-called “IPO tax,” in response to the endless march of tech companies going public, which would authorize a city-wide vote to raise the tax rate on corporate stock-based compensation.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–What Rural America Has to Teach Us

Everybody says rural America is collapsing. But I keep going to places with more moral coherence and social commitment than we have in booming urban areas. These visits prompt the same question: How can we spread the civic mind-set they have in abundance?

For example, I spent this week in Nebraska, in towns like McCook and Grand Island. These places are not rich. At many of the schools, 50 percent of the students receive free or reduced-cost lunch. But they don’t have the pathologies we associate with poverty.

Nearly everybody is working at something. Nebraska has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate among the 50 states. It has the 12th-longest healthy life expectancy. Some of the high schools have 98 percent graduation rates. It ranks seventh among the states in intact family structure.

Crime is low. Many people leave their homes and cars unlocked.

One woman I met came home and noticed her bedroom light was on. She thought it was her husband home early. But it was her plumber. She’d mentioned at the coffee shop that she had a clogged sink, so he’d swung round, let himself in and fixed it.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Race/Race Relations, Rural/Town Life

(DN) Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’. The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable. ‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said. There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking.

Read more at DutchNews.nl:

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Sexuality, The Netherlands, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NY Times Magazine) How American Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

[Jamie] Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.

The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

“I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”

Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?

“I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.

That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(PD) Gerard Bradley–The city of Philadelphia’s recent decision about Catholic Social Services: Learning to Live with Same-Sex Marriage?

The everyday challenge of Obergefell is whether those of us who hold the “decent and honorable religious” conviction that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry will be accorded the legal and social space we need in order to live in accord with our convictions. The question at hand is whether we will instead be forced to contradict our convictions in word and deed, day in and day out. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Obergefell:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.

Just so.

Catholic Social Services vs. the City of Philadelphia

Last week (on May 16), Catholic Social Services and several foster care parents sued the city of Philadelphia to settle one of those “hard questions.” CSS was recently ranked by the city as the second best of the twenty-eight agencies with which it contracts for foster care placement and support. Its record of finding homes for difficult-to-place children is unsurpassed. On March 15 of this year the city announced that it was nonetheless suspending referrals to CSS. Because the city monopolizes these referrals, its decision was tantamount to closing down CSS’s foster care operation.

The hanging offense? Even though CSS avers in its complaint (prepared by lawyers from the Becket Fund, the great religious liberty firm) that it has never received a complaint from a same-sex couple, it does adhere to Church teaching about marriage. The complaint makes clear enough that CSS would conscientiously refuse to do the work prescribed by law to certify a same-sex “married” couple as foster parents. CSS would, however, refer them to other agencies that would.

Philadelphia is trying to drive these “decent and honorable” people from the field. The mayor is quoted in the CSS complaint as declaring that “we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against” people in same-sex marriages. “It’s just not right.” The city council professed to be shocked—shocked!—to discover that some contracting agencies have policies, rooted in religious beliefs, that prohibit placement of children with “LGBTQ people.” But the Catholic Church’s position on marriage is no secret. The CSS complaint even points out that the “City has been aware of Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs for years.” For example, the city waived repeatedly for CSS the obligation of city contractors to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. I

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, State Government, Taxes

(NYT The Upshot) In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America

Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby.

This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond.

Two years ago, Mr. Desmond turned eviction into a national topic of conversation with “Evicted,” a book that chronicled how poor families who lost their homes in Milwaukee sank ever deeper into poverty. It became a favorite among civic groups and on college campuses, some here in Richmond. Bill Gates and former President Obama named it among the best books they had read in 2017, and it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

But for all the attention the problem began to draw, even Mr. Desmond could not say how widespread it was. Surveys of renters have tried to gauge displacement, but there is no government data tracking all eviction cases in America. Now that Mr. Desmond has been mining court records across the country to build a database of millions of evictions, it’s clear even in his incomplete national picture that they are more rampant in many places than what he saw in Milwaukee.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, City Government, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, The Banking System/Sector

(NYT) The ISIS Files–We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long

The commander who strode in sat facing the room, his leg splayed out so that everyone could see the pistol holstered to his thigh. For a moment, the only sounds were the hurried prayers of the civil servants mumbling under their breath.

Their fears proved unfounded. Though he spoke in a menacing tone, the commander had a surprisingly tame request: Resume your jobs immediately, he told them. A sign-in sheet would be placed at the entrance to each department. Those who failed to show up would be punished.

Meetings like this one occurred throughout the territory controlled by the Islamic State in 2014. Soon municipal employees were back fixing potholes, painting crosswalks, repairing power lines and overseeing payroll.

“We had no choice but to go back to work,” said Mr. Hamoud. “We did the same job as before. Except we were now serving a terrorist group.”

The disheveled fighters who burst out of the desert more than three years ago founded a state that was acknowledged by no one except themselves. And yet for nearly three years, the Islamic State controlled a stretch of land that at one point was the size of Britain, with a population estimated at 12 million people. At its peak, it included a 100-mile coastline in Libya, a section of Nigeria’s lawless forests and a city in the Philippines, as well as colonies in at least 13 other countries. By far the largest city under their rule was Mosul.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism

My favorite story of the week–Wilmot Collins Is Montana’s First African-American Mayor from NBC

Watch it all– America at its best, great stuff.

Posted in City Government, Liberia

In New Jersey, a 93-year-old veteran serves his community as mayor

Vito Perillo won his first race for mayor, wearing out two pairs of shoes as he campaigned door-to-door in Tinton Falls, New Jersey.

Watch it all–oh my is he inspiring.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., City Government, Politics in General

(Local Paper) Charleston, South Carolina, mayor reaches out to religious leaders to build relationships, promote good deeds

Shortly after Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg took office in 2016, he reached out to several pastors for counsel.

He had been thinking about how the city fared following 2015’s Emanuel AME Church massacre, about how a web of strong relationships helped Charleston shine during one of its darkest hours.

Tecklenburg hoped that this gathering of religious leaders not only would build on those relationships but also find new ways to promote good works.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, City Government, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Yorkshire Post) Archbishop Sentamu’s intervention could finally end Yorkshire devolution stalemate

A possible solution to Yorkshire’s long-running devolution stalemate that could see a region-wide mayor elected by May 2020 has emerged after an intervention by the Archbishop of York, The Yorkshire Post can reveal. A letter by Dr John Sentamu to Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, seen by this newspaper, sets out proposals for a two-year phased programme that would finally see vital powers for transport, housing and skills handed over from Whitehall to the region’s leaders.

The plans outlined by the Church of England’s second most senior cleric, who met last month with local MPs, council leaders, trade union leaders and bishops, are a bid to overcome the Government’s objections to the proposed ‘One Yorkshire’ solution for a mayor presiding over the whole region of more than five million people.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), City Government, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

How One Anglican Congregation Asserted its First Amendment Rights amd Effected a Change in City Policy

The city’s policy did not expressly prohibit use of the park for religious activities or by religious groups. Instead, the city’s denial of the application was based on unchecked, arbitrary discretion – which is Constitutionally invalid.

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious expression and speech are protected in traditional public forums such as public parks like that of Old Town Square in Fairfax. City restrictions on such freedoms are heavily scrutinized and must not discriminate against a particular viewpoint. Further, in traditional public forums, state actors cannot censor people or groups based on the content of their speech, except when there is a compelling state purpose and the restriction is both necessary and the wording narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ruled in other similar cases that in circumstances like these in which the forum is available to others and the event is open to the public, there is no Establishment Clause conflict. Additionally, in order for the state to require permits (i.e. approval) as a prerequisite for individuals or groups to engage in protected speech, it must follow very strict and objective criteria in decision making. To base such permits on vague discretion by officials making the individual decisions may be considered a prior restraint on protected speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

Fairfax City’s denial of Shepherd’s Heart’s application “was classic prior restraint, which is exactly what the Founders wanted to prevent when they drafted the First Amendment,” explained Gorman. “We used the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the city’s park policies. Even though they said it wasn’t allowed, there was nothing in writing to back it up. It was completely arbitrary.”

Gorman, feeling convinced of the Constitutional violation, contacted the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee who took on the case pro-bono.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), City Government, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Justin Wolfers–Can We pinpoint Racial Discrimination by Government Officials?

A team of economists has uncovered persuasive evidence that local government officials throughout the United States are less responsive to African-Americans than they are to whites.

The researchers sent roughly 20,000 emails to local government employees in nearly every county. The emails posed commonplace questions, like “Could you please tell me what your opening hours are?”

The emails were identical except that half appeared to come from a DeShawn Jackson or a Tyrone Washington, names that have been shown to be associated with African-Americans. The other half used names that have been shown to be associated with whites: Greg Walsh and Jake Mueller. The email sent to each local officeholder was determined by chance.

Most inquiries yielded a timely and polite response. But emails with black-sounding names were 13 percent more likely to go unanswered than those with white-sounding names. This difference, which appeared in all regions of the country, was large enough that it was statistically unlikely to have been a matter of mere chance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations

(Economist) Reno, Nevada–Anti-vagrancy laws are not the best way to reduce homelessness

As the city’s fortunes have risen, so too have its rents, occupancy rates and house prices. Since 2012 the median price of a home has doubled; the average rental price jumped 17% between 2014 and 2016. In January the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless counted nearly 4,000 people living in weekly motels, up from 2,560 in 2011. Those who cannot afford motels have moved into shelters or onto the street.

If the proposed ordinance to ban sleeping outside passes, Reno’s police officers will be directed to try persuading those living on the streets to move to shelters. If they have no space, the homeless living on the street will be left alone. But if they do, anyone living outside who refuses to move in after a warning might be arrested.

An arrest record makes it harder for a homeless person to find employment or housing in the future. Many studies suggest there are cheaper ways to tackle the problem. The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, a charity, found that the average costs associated with the incarceration and hospitalisation of a chronically homeless person are about triple what it would cost to provide a chronically homeless person with housing. Between 2007 and 2015, New Orleans reduced its homelessness rate by 85%, primarily by providing housing. Reno’s city government should take a look.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Poverty, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Sunday [London] Times) ‘They’re here, then they just die’: opioid addiction kills 175 Americans a day

At first glance, Manchester, New Hampshire, seems a typical New England town. A pleasant, low-key sort of place, free of extreme poverty or urban decay.

You do not have to look far, however, to see something is amiss: this is a town firmly in the grip of the opioid crisis that is devastating America.

Dotted around the central squares and parks are small groups of people visibly suffering from addiction. Yesterday, hundreds of residents took part in a “rally for recovery” in the town centre, gathering to highlight the plight of their friends and neighbours.

On the walls of the Hope addiction recovery clinic, a few hundred yards away, are pictures from a kayaking expedition. Karla Gallagher, who works at the clinic, cannot look at it without becoming close to tears.

“We lose these people all the time,” she said, pointing to a picture of a smiling young girl on a canoe. “We lost her. One day they’re here and then they just die.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, State Government, Theology

(Local Paper) Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, other S.C. leaders pledge commitment to Paris Climate Agreement

In defiance of President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, local and state leaders across the country are pledging to carry out the goals of the international pact to fight climate change.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts signed the statement that supports ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, and Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University, are among the other names and entities from the Palmetto State that support the landmark agreement. The list is compiled at wearestillin.com.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, City Government, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology

(NYT) Cambridge, Mass might place lockboxes on street corners 2 give the public easy access to Narcan

Across the country, someone dies of an opioid overdose every 24 minutes. In Massachusetts, the death toll is five people a day.

In the face of this epidemic, Cambridge could become the first city to take a step that until recently might have seemed unthinkable: It might place lockboxes on street corners to give the public easy access to Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, a medication that can rapidly revive people who have overdosed.

The idea is in its earliest stages, and any concrete plan for the city, and residents, to consider seems at least a year away. But several days ago, the city police and area doctors who support the boxes conducted an experiment here, asking people who walked by if they would help a stranger who had overdosed.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., City Government, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(AP) Besieged by Opioids, City of Everett Wash. says drugmaker knowingly let pills flood black market

As deaths from painkillers and heroin abuse spiked and street crimes increased, the mayor of Everett took major steps to tackle the opioid epidemic devastating this working-class city north of Seattle.

Mayor Ray Stephanson stepped up patrols, hired social workers to ride with officers and pushed for more permanent housing for chronically homeless people. The city says it has spent millions combating OxyContin and heroin abuse — and expects the tab to rise.

So Everett is suing Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid pain medication OxyContin, in an unusual case that alleges the drugmaker knowingly allowed pills to be funneled into the black market and the city of about 108,000. Everett alleges the drugmaker did nothing to stop it and must pay for damages caused to the community.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Health & Medicine

The Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina's Statement on the Dylann Roof Verdict

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Anthropology, City Government, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NHPR) New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling: Church's Parking Profits Are Taxable

Churches are generally tax-exempt, but New Hampshire’s highest court ruled the parking spaces are taxable because they were rented to students for “their own private and secular purpose.”

Todd Selig, Town Administrator of Durham, said “this was not in any way an effort on the part of the town to bring in more revenue. It was simply an issue of equity and fairness.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, City Government, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes, Theology

(Wash Post) ”˜Evil, evil, evil as can be': Emotional testimony as Dylann Roof trial begins

The dead appeared in court today, staring out from video monitors at their families and friends, their congregation’s pastor, a federal judge, a jury and Dylann Storm Roof, the man charged with firing more than 60 bullets into the nine of them in an effort to start a race war in America.

U.S. attorney Jay Richardson, prosecuting Roof on 33 counts of federal hate crimes, used his opening statement to introduce jurors to the men and women he said Roof killed during a church basement Bible study on June 17, 2015.

As their pictures appeared, Richardson sketched them in words: the Rev. Clementa Pinckney: pastor, husband, father; the Rev. Daniel Simmons: spiritual guide; the Rev. Sharonda Singleton: ray of sunshine, loving mother, track coach; the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor: singer, whose four young daughters always carried milkshakes to church; Cynthia Hurd: wife, sister, librarian; Ethel Lance: grandmother, church usher; Susie Jackson: called Aunt Susie by everyone, proud matriarch of the sprawling Jackson family; Tywanza Sanders, 26, a man just beginning to see the promise of an extraordinarily bright future; and Myra Thompson, leading her first Bible study.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(BBC) Bloomington, Indiana, changes the name of "Good Friday" to "Spring Holiday"

The US city of Bloomington in Indiana has renamed Good Friday and Columbus Day as “Spring Holiday” and “Fall Holiday” to be more “inclusive”.
Mayor John Hamilton said the move would “better reflect cultural sensitivity in the workplace”, local media said.
Bloomington is a traditionally liberal city. Its county gave Hillary Clinton 58.6% in the presidential election.
But the move sparked a backlash on social media, with opponents condemning it as an act of political correctness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Post-Gazette Editorial–When jail fails: The push for alternatives must get stronger

A report released Wednesday calls out Allegheny County law enforcement officials and the court system for putting people in jail when alternatives would better serve the defendants and the taxpayers. Too bad it came out after James Marasco died of undetermined causes in the county jail while serving a 10-day sentence for loitering.

The report, by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics, indicated the jail’s population had swelled to 2,200 despite falling crime rates. Many are locked up while awaiting disposition of their cases; 81 percent of inmates in the county jail are not serving sentences, compared with a national average of 62 percent. Only 19 percent of county inmates have been charged with violent crimes; the rest are there for drugs or the kind of lower-level crimes that landed Mr. Marasco behind bars.

Moreover, as many as 75 percent of inmates have mental illness, substance abuse problems or both. Mr. Marasco had mental illness and used drugs. Mental illness may be the underlying factor in a person’s crimes and should be taken into account before incarceration. The primary purpose of jail is correction, not treatment. It’s unlikely that a person’s mental illness will improve in jail. The illness is likely to worsen, and that is why mentally ill inmates often incur more disciplinary infractions and serve longer sentences than healthy peers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, City Government, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Mental Illness, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(America) Washington D.C. Council Supports Assisted Suicide Bill

Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, chairperson of the Health and Human Service Committee, and Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau offered the only votes opposing the measure.

“The D.C. City Council has taken another step toward passing a fatally flawed bill that would legalize assisted suicide in Washington, D.C.,” said Michael Scott, director of the D.C. Catholic Conference, which represents the public policy interests of the Catholic Church in the district. The conference joined a broad-based coalition of other groups in opposing the measure.

“This bill discriminates against our African-American and Hispanic neighbors, sick seniors, the disabled, the uninsured and all who are vulnerable in our community,” Scott said in a statement after the vote. “Our coalition will continue to fight this bill, which has few safeguards to protect the vulnerable and does nothing to help the thousands of D.C. residents desperate for access to better health care and improved social services, such as counseling.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Theology

(BI) U.S. public pension plans are headed for a disaster on the current trajectory

The combined debt held by U.S. public pension plans will top $1.7 trillion next year, according to a just-released report from Moody’s Investors Services.

This “pension tsunami” has already forced towns like Stockton, California and Detroit, Michigan into bankruptcy. Perhaps no government mismanaged their pension as badly as Puerto Rico, where a $43 billion pension debt forced the commonwealth to seek protection from the federal government after having defaulted on its obligations to bondholders ”” a default which is expected to spread to retirees in the form of benefit cuts.

While the disastrous outcome of Puerto Rico’s pension plan ”” which is projected to completely run out of assets by 2019 ”” represents the worst-case scenario, the same series of events that led to its demise can be found in most public pension plans nationwide.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, City Government, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, State Government, Stock Market, Theology

(NYT) A Somber Charleston, South Carolina, Reflects on Race as 2 Murder Trials Begin

CHARLESTON, S.C. ”” Seventy-four days separated the fatal bursts of gunfire: the eight rounds a white police officer fired at Walter L. Scott, a black man in North Charleston, and then the shots that killed nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here.

And now, seven days will separate the trials of the officer, Michael T. Slager, and of Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist accused of carrying out the church killings.

Jury selection in the state trial of Mr. Slager, who was fired after the shooting, will begin on Monday; one week later, the same process is scheduled to begin in the federal case of Mr. Roof. Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty for Mr. Roof, rebuffed his offer to plead guilty.

The proceedings ”” unusual in a country where, for different reasons, few police officers or mass killers stand trial ”” will draw renewed attention to, and more reflection within, the Charleston area, where many residents still struggle with killings that rattled the nation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology, Violence

(NYT) Tulsa’s Prayers, and Past Scars, Softened Reaction to Police Shooting

White rioters poured into the streets, burning and looting homes, businesses and churches in a black neighborhood and leaving this city deeply traumatized. That was 1921.

Last week, not far from where those haunting events took place, the streets of Tulsa were calm after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black motorist. The video of the shooting angered many Tulsa residents, but the subdued reaction was markedly different from the violent clashes that took place in Charlotte, N.C., in recent days, after the police killed a man there.

Why one place erupts and another does not is never easy to discern. Tulsa quickly released videos showing the facts. But some here trace part of the reason for Tulsa’s emphasis on prayer, and not protest, in recent days to the lingering scars of the 1921 riot, which is regarded as one of the deadliest race riots in the country’s history and still lingers in Tulsa’s consciousness.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence