Monday, December 10, 2007

Rebuilding New Orleans on the cheap


Where did all the money go?

First they fired every union teacher in New Orleans and turned the city into a mecca for privately-managed charter schools doing education on the cheap with many low-paid and unqualified teachers and rookie principals. Now come the reports that the city is being rebuilt by exploiting low-wage, immigrant, non-union labor brought in from Mexico and Central America. These undocumented workers have no rights and are paying the ultimate price. They are suffering from a range of respiratory diseases and other potentially deadly ailments from Katrina's toxic residue with no access to medical care or treatment. The main problem?—fear of being deported if they seek care or drugs.

"The majority (of us) have had breathing problems," says one worker, nodding toward the men milling around behind him. They don't give their names because they are all undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Honduras or Guatemala. "We work in demolition, construction," he says. "But many times, the bosses don't give us masks or gloves or glasses or filters."

Philly a black majority city with little equity

In response to the official release yesterday of the Urban League's 2007 "State of Black Philadelphia" report, a couple of hundred Philadelphians packed a meeting room at the Loews Hotel to listen to a panel discuss the report and its bleak findings. The report found that the quality of life for black Philadelphians, configured as a "Philadelphia Equality Index," measures up to only 72 percent of that of whites.

Wharton School economics professor Bernard Anderson says he believes African-Americans actually represent nearly 50 percent of the population. "You can't have half of the population groveling in poverty and still be a vibrant, growing city," he said.

‘Motown may soon be notown’

In Chicago, journalist extraordinaire, Danny Schecter writes over at Pacific Free Press about his visit to Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push. Danny is here to show his 2006 film, In Debt We Trust.

(Nearby Detroit is harder hit. Yesterday, residents of the Detroit area who opened their paper were greeted with 122 pages of the 2008 Tax Foreclosure list for Wayne County. The current figure for Wayne county reports that a staggering 1/4 homeowners are in default on their mortgage.) This is worse than Katrina, a disaster in the making. Motown may soon be notown.

Danny, sitting in Rev. Jackson's church, makes the right connection:

I flashed back to the churches I visited during the civil rights movement back in the South in the 60's where politics and religion became one in a blend of inspiration and resistance. It seemed like that movement may be on the verge of being reignited, This will be a movement for economic justice, not just civil rights.