PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS: A SUMMARY
1) WORK FOR A FAIR AND HUMANE ECONOMIC SYSTEM
2) ASSERT MUCH GREATER LOCAL CONTROL
3) ESTABLISH A POLICY-MAKING STRUCTURE THAT ASSURES FAIR REPRESENTATION
4) PROMOTE A COMMUNITY ETHIC AND PRACTICE OF JUSTICE, PEACE, AND DIGNITY FOR ALL
5) IMPROVE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE AND ASSURE ITS SUSTAINABILITY
6) INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY WITH YOUTH AND YOUTH WITH THE COMMUNITY; HOLISTIC EDUCATION
Explanations and Resources
Appendix 1: Community currency
Appendix 2: Principles of Environmental Justice
Appendix 3: The Hannover Principles
Appendix 4: The Community Land Trust (CLT)
Each City resident has enough nutritious food, pure water, clean air, secure shelter, warmth, clothing. As individuals or as families, we each have a comfortable and private place where we can always go.
All legally competent residents, regardless of handicap or other status, are free to make our own decisions, and are fully included in the life and decisions of the community, to the extent we desire. As a result we naturally help each other and have a strong sense of civic pride.
Everyone is within easy walking distance of at least one sizable natural place. Public and private natural places where a great diversity of life flourishes, ranging from small manicured parks and gardens to large wooded and wild areas, especially native habitats, take up a considerable portion of the city. Waterways, from small streams and ponds to the Grand River, are virtually free of pollutants. All are integrated into a coherent, connected system. Beauty surrounds us.
We are each within easy walking or cycling distance of most things we need or want. An extensive, inexpensive bus/rail system provides easy access to other destinations in the area and beyond. Travel corridors are designed for people to enjoy and socialize, and life is unhurried. We can go anywhere, day or night, without fearing violence or harassment. Strangers are simply people we have not met.
We have abundant opportunity for meaningful and challenging yet pleasant and rewarding work, which we take on because we want to, not because we have to. We live in relaxed yet vibrant neighborhoods. There are lots of interesting places and events nearby.
We know these benefits aren't likely to suddenly disappear. We know that all the good things in our lives are created and moved in ways that affirm others' dignity and respect the environment. Our lives are filled with the excitement and unlimited potential that is only possible in a society based solidly upon justice. Our security and excitement radiates out to others powerfully, without limit of time or place, changing the world for the better.
We wish to thank all those who helped in any way. We do not imply that those listed here agree with all our recommendations; they may or may not. But everyone involved helped move us forward, even if only by challenging us in some way. This includes those who worked on developing, critiquing, or advocating for the proposals that eventually resulted in creation of the task force; those who served (whether officially or not) on the task force; those who helped with the survey, and those who helped to arrange public forums on the recommendations: Tony Wong, Linda Williams, Cliff Welch, Regina Vasquez, Doug Van Doren, Greg Sundstrom, Patty Stanitzek-Wozniak, Jeff Smith, Lorraine Rodrigues-Fisher, Bob Piel, Alex Myrhorodsky, Paul Mayhue, Gene Mason, Jaime Malone, Dan Lowery, Linda Knieriemen, Jan King, Cheryl Kasprzyk, Rick Kamel, Kathie Hoffmann, Paul Haan, Susanne Glynn, Genevieve Gibson, Andrea DeKam, Corinne Carey, K.C. Caliendo, Dick Bulkowski, Linda Betts, Cliff Alles-Curie.
We want to specially thank the following: George Heartwell, the City Commissioner who in the early stages helped move the process forward; Eve Manley (on behalf of the Community Relations Commission), for unequivocally supporting us at a critical point; John Logie (Grand Rapids Mayor) for officially establishing us - at some political risk - as the Mayors Justice 2000 Task Force.
We also want to specially thank the more than 1000 people (whom we will not attempt to name!) who gave input via the survey or directly into the recommendations.
Additional thanks to these organizations, which provided us occasional meeting space, copying, endorsements, and/or use of computers or phones or other technological wizardry: West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Well House, Heartside Ministry, East Hills Council of Neighbors. Finally, special thanks to the Institute for Global Education, which hosted most of our meetings and generally gave us support throughout. IGE's Program Coordinator Cliff Alles-Curie created this document for the internet.
This report may also be accessed at: http://www.horizons.k12.mi.us/~ige/just2000/index.html
Following this introduction we have put together a short summary - the essence of our recommendations. This gives an overall picture of what we believe is most needed. The specific recommendations, which are the heart of this report, follow. Further explanations, as needed, are provided in the appendices and the notes at the end. We strongly encourage you to take the time to read the entire report, as there are some creative ideas throughout, as well as some vital and interesting background information.
The City is already doing some very positive things, e.g. much work of the Equal Opportunity Office, the Office of Children, Youth, and Families; endorsement of this task force; some real support for recommendations in Helping the System Help Kids. We emphasize here areas more neglected, such as kids (and adults) having their rightful share of the worlds wealth, a clean and healthy environment, a supportive political system, and a sustainable future. We also emphasize areas where we believe the City is working against justice. Examples: Giving tax breaks to virtually every company that applies; responding more to people with lots of money than to people with little; contributing to human rights violations and ecological damage through its intimate and generally uncritical involvement in the global economy.
In pursuing some recommendations, the City will need to use not only all its power, but must fight to preserve and expand that power and the power of its neighborhoods, in order to effectively grapple with many of the larger forces that threaten us, and otherwise to protect citizens' basic rights to fair treatment. Such powers include the power to set standards, regulations, taxes, fees; to build infrastructure including water, sewer, land use, transport, health, education. It includes investment, purchasing, hiring, contracting. The City has the right (and duty) to protect health, safety, welfare. It can seek out particular types of products and services, and require or at least favor those products and services in its own purchases and use, and in its hiring and contracting. It can establish or approve special labels or seals of approval, and do public education. It can research, lobby, litigate. It can utilize all varieties of media.
We call for community dialogue in certain areas, especially on our economy. But there should be ongoing dialogue on all the recommendations in order to validate the importance of new voices and to incorporate differing views where possible. This report should provide a solid start to the process of this ongoing dialogue. There are numerous differences in opinion and perspective that no single effort, however well planned, can begin to resolve. For instance, among ourselves opinions on dealing with prostitution ranged from full legalization to zero tolerance. Based on our surveys and consistent with our overall approach, we were still able to agree to work toward an eventual end to prostitution in less punitive ways, and to focus more immediately on getting it off residential streets. There are many such recommendations that will need to be fleshed out similarly, or more. In fact, promoting a much fuller solution-based dialogue involving all parts of the community should be seen as a major part of the City Commissions job. Those with the least, the most oppressed, and their chosen spokespeople should be given the lead in these dialogues. They are most often able to identify needed changes. At the same time, we should all work together not just to redress power imbalances, but to make the system work better for us all.*
Our survey confirmed that most peoples concerns are more specific and immediate: clean up trash, deal with out-of-control youth, stop police harassment, provide decent jobs, etc. We ask the City to focus more on such specific issues. But our task is more to look at underlying injustices that make those and other problems continue. We believe that many people will not care about less immediate but perhaps more serious problems, such as environmental destruction, unless they feel secure and fairly treated. In addition we know that many who want to deal with basic injustices simply can't because they are too busy putting out fires caused by those very injustices.**
We believe in people taking responsibility, but know that their ability to do so is limited wherever injustice occurs, and do not want to blame the victims of injustice; rather, we want sufficient systemic justice to make it impossible for anyone to credibly claim lack of opportunity as a reason (or excuse) for lack of personal responsibility. And we know in general that failure to deal with basic injustices, such as racial or economic privilege/discrimination, tends to cause serious problems for everyone in the long run.
A major focus should be on design. For instance, a transportation/land use system that makes access easy through sustainable movement or not having to move, or economic incentives that encourage people to preserve rather than destroy the environment. Where good government can solve problems, good design can prevent them from ever occurring. And the more we waste through poor design, the less resources we will have to make all the needed changes for all of us (present and future generations), and the more the poor and other disadvantaged people suffer.
We are aware that the radical and far-reaching nature of some of our recommendations may be of concern to some. We note that most major societal changes, such as abolition of slavery, education instead of hard labor for most children, women's right to vote, were labeled as too radical and impractical by the powers-that-be of former times. Some changes suggested here, like those examples from the past, certainly wont come easily, but we believe they are necessary in order to protect ourselves and our community, that they are doable, and that City officials can and should help lead the way in bringing them about. Additionally, we note that some survey respondents and community forum participants have advocated taking to the streets in protest, disengagement of the school system from technology or the business world, full legalization of street drugs, the abolition of capitalism, etc. In these and other areas we have tried to find a middle ground while still advocating for what we believe is necessary for basic justice.
Some of our recommendations will not stand well alone; they come as an integrated package.*** For instance, if neighborhood organizations have substantial budgeting and development power, then the City Commission can focus more on larger issues that affect us all. If people are provided the basics, and if we can switch our dominant value system from competitive material consumption to justice and sustainability, then many adults will be more able and willing to work with youth in constructive ways. This in turn will help significantly reduce drug use, prostitution, and other crime. More generally, good education is necessary for democracy, which cannot be honestly discussed without considering economics.
This task force has not accomplished all that some of us had hoped. We had some spirited community forums with excellent dialogue and strong general support for what we are trying to do. But in the forums and elsewhere there were numerous unresolved issues, and more issues not even addressed. And we simply did not have time to flesh out many of the recommendations very well. So, our first recommendation comes right here: Continue the work of this task force first by helping to bring the issues raised herein to everyone in the city, thereby greatly expanding the ongoing dialogue. In addition, help some of us (by giving approval at the very least) to construct a facility on Calder Plaza that will be not only a focal point for the continuing work of promoting justice throughout the city, but a model of social justice and ecological sustainability itself. It would include living quarters for staff, including one of us already there who is without benefit of shelter and is subject to frequent arrest. This will simultaneously provide a solution to that injustice while showcasing the City's commitment to justice for all. What we have here is far from perfect, and probably nobody (including those of us presenting it!) will support every single point one hundred percent. For instance, while we all accepted the recommendations on prostitution, some of us would have preferred other (conflicting) recommendations. But we believe this report is an excellent start toward a new, and necessary, set of priorities. We present it proudly.
We ask the City Commission both for a formal endorsement and for a practical willingness to actually start translating the recommendations into reality. In considering such an endorsement, we recognize that you may have difficulty with certain points. If so, we ask you to set those aside for now, and endorse the rest; any you find too controversial may be shaken out through a community-wide dialogue.
"We can let others shape our future, or we can shape it ourselves."
This will provide an overview, as well as give an idea of where the task force has determined priority attention should be given:
-Provide support for continuing independent citizen work on justice issues, including a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable showcase structure that will include an office for this work.
-Have an intensive city-wide economic dialogue.
-Work for much more equitable wealth distribution (through equalizing inheritance, much more progressive taxation, assuring everyone basic needs, availability of decent-paying work for all, temporary wealth taxes, equalizing compensation for others economically connected to us).
-Treat ourselves and others with dignity and respect (listen to and give equal consideration to rich and poor citizens; treat all involved in trade with us as equals; employ military only to defend against invasion).
-Work for much greater local control, especially at the neighborhood level; make a concerted effort to create community corporations and otherwise rein in corporate power.
-Create an Advocacy Office as a major City department, both to help those treated unjustly and to defend the public interest.
-Confront political apathy; share political power (limit the influence of the wealthy on decision/advisory boards, direct voting by poor/minorities on issues particularly affecting them, significant funding and other support for organizations of poor/minorities, focus on development of poor areas as determined by those who live there, greater support for non-commercial democratic media).
-Replace our culture of violence with a culture of peace (promote a spirit of peace by changing rituals, symbols, and customs appropriately; curb media violence; get rid of most guns; get the military out of the community; honor and support those who work for justice rather than those who hoard or accumulate wealth or lead military exploits; control media and advertising).
-Make the priority of our criminal justice system the establishment of a just community; do all possible to integrate offenders into that community rather than punish them.
-Promote use of energy and resources so they won't run out and won't harm people (reduce consumption, use only clean and renewable energy, support much better land use/access/transportation planning and human-scale design).
-Support youth by modeling kindness and respect; integrate education into the community and make it more reflective of the need for justice.
On the pages immediately following are the Task Force's specific
recommendations, arranged according to the six categories listed below:
1. Work for a fair and human economic system.
2. Assert much greater local control.
3. Establish a policy-making structure that assures fair representation.
4. Promote a community ethic and practice of justice, peace, and dignity for all.
5. Improve quality of life and assure its sustainability.
6. Involve the community with youth and youth with the community; make education holistic.
Set a land fee to prevent speculation that favors a few at the expense of most. work to capture for the community increases in value conferred by the community, rather than allow private parties to gain from contributions they didn't make. Review options 2000; implement 2001.
Work for legal changes that will provide everyone an equal share of
inheritance. Statewide by 2010; our share worldwide by 2025.
Develop job incubators in neighborhoods that promote essential services such as tutoring, child care, work skills, and meaningful work with decent pay for all who want it. By 2005.
Advocate that temp workers benefits proportional to their work. As needed.
Assure everyone the basics regardless of ability to work. Provide City backup to assure this starting in 2000; work for state and federal backing.
Support business opportunities for the poor (those with low income and little assets). Provide support for small neighborhood businesses to train and hire the poor. 2000.
Use development incentives, zoning powers to assure reasonably priced basics in all areas where the poor live. By 2002.
Subsidize basic local phone service for all. 2000.
Support comprehensive, decent health insurance and health care for all
who want it, with a prevention focus. Allow all to see their own doctor.
immediately; work for greater support at state and federal levels.
Provide benefits and other incentives to community corporations; not for other corporations. Lobby for significant chain store taxes (the more stores in a chain, the higher the tax on each store). Allow grass-roots community groups to compete with all corporations for any benefits offered. Take measures to make private actions, including contracts, more subordinate to public policy. Start immediately, with goal that all corporations in the city, or at least those of any substantial size, will be community corporations by 2025.
Strongly encourage local production and use first, regional production and use second. Ongoing. Provide information on what products are local/regional. By 2001.
Help establish and expand a community currency (See Appendix 1). Start in 2000.
Promote non-discriminatory lending, with no interest or charges for the poor. Ongoing. Reduce red tape for small minority firms seeking contracts. Study how and implement in 2000. Model and promote fair contracting and hiring practices. Ongoing.
Assure that every resident has a significant share in the city's economy, and that no person has a disproportionately large share. Model this by reducing the highest City compensation and capping moderately high compensation. By 2010.
Tie benefits for the well-off to much greater benefits for the poor, begin immediately to 2010 and elsewhere by 2025.
Establish a business review board run by citizens independent of large business concerns. To develop and use business scorecards as a basis for policies toward businesses, and to review corporate charters and make recommendations to uphold or revoke them. By 2002.
Lobby for significant state and federal general revenue sharing for cities and neighborhoods, based on amount of poverty. Start now.
Support asset promotion plans, as long as they are consistent with other recommendations here, for poor and minorities. 2000.
Help create enough neighborhood based community development credit unions
to serve the entire city. By 2002.
Assure that the voices of victims of present economic practices reflect the impacts of goods and services sold here. By 2002.
Devise systems of accounting for social degradation and pay reasonable
compensation to the victims wronged by City action locally or abroad. Give
as much to organizations that are helping to end trade-related abuses.
toward implementing this by 2005.
Demand full disclosure of wealth and income for those on public bodies or receiving public support. Immediate.
Support the principle that people keep what they earn through their own work. Make public policy statement to this effect in 2000.
Actively and regularly promote Seeds of Justice (see notes). Start 2000.
Lobby for much more progressive taxation. We suggest no tax on incomes below $20,000; moderately progressive taxes up to $100,000; 90% over $100,000, 99% over $1 million, 99.9% over $10 million, etc.; plus at least 1% annual taxes on wealth over $1 million on an interim basis. Start immediately; ongoing.
Require developers to set aside 25% of development for low-income people,
as is done in some other cities. 2002.
Implement starting late 2000. Use GPI rather than GDP (see notes) in all City measurements and transactions. Start immediately.
Make sure those responsible for damages to the community are the ones charged, as is done (in part) regarding tobacco. Capture the economic value of advertising that derives from public space, or ban such advertising. Work for gradual implementation over next 20 years.
Such groups monitor others that have significant influence in the neighborhood. Develop transition plan and create advisory role starting 2000; fully in place 2003.
2.2) SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE FUNDING AND OTHER SUPPORT OF GRASS-ROOTS, DEMOCRATIC NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS, ESPECIALLY THOSE REPRESENTING LOW-INCOME AREAS.
Fund such groups in proportion to their grass-roots support. 2000. Set up a matching fund for neighborhood initiatives to start. Immediate.
Support small neighborhood businesses. Ongoing.
Expand City Commission to nine full-time members, all elected at large. Rather than having a mayor; have Commissioners choose a chairperson yearly. Charter amendment brought for a vote 2001; takes effect 2003.
Work toward local control over business and commerce. Vigorously defend our community against the threats to democracy and other negative impacts of global corporations. Work cooperatively with other municipalities. Join/support groups that are doing this work. Start immediately; for foreseeable future.
2.5) PROMOTE AND SUPPORT NEIGHBORHOOD COOPERATIVE ENTERPRISES THAT BUILD COMMUNITY. Ongoing.
Provide useful information, do or commission research, help individuals, and vigorously pursue remedies for injustices as needed. Disempowered to have greatest say in choosing advocates, who must also represent the poor elsewhere and future generations, as well as citizens generally, to counter the concentrated power of those with lots of money. Gradually replace community police with community advocates. Plan 2000, implement 2001. In the long term educate everyone, to the extent possible, to be able to advocate for themselves.
Increase support of Community Media Center. Work with it to start a weekly public newspaper, 2001; work toward a daily community-controlled paper, 2015.
Withdraw support of private media. Immediate. Provide financial and technical support for neighborhood newsletters and public meeting spaces. By 2001.
More physical spaces - parks, walkways, entryways, etc. Develop comprehensive plan, start implementing 2001.
Assure open government: disclosure of meetings between City officials and those with special financial interests. Written documents readily available. Clear reasons given for denial of requests, plus appeal process. Greatly expand the City information center. 2000.
Designate pedestrian entry points to businesses as public spaces for purposes of free speech. Provide incentives and research other options. Start immediately; accomplish by 2020.
Promote much greater availability of information elsewhere, such as
in the judicial system. Ongoing.
Support poor peoples gatherings, workshops, organizations, etc. Have votes by the disenfranchised on issues and developments, public or private, particularly affecting them. Advisory by 2001; binding by 2005.
Require strong supermajority for activity that severely negatively affects some (e.g. Grand Prix). Draw guidelines and implement a voting system late 2001.
Take the time and effort to make citizens well-informed. Assure that the poor, minorities, the young are well represented on decision and advisory boards. Abolish boards that discourage or do not allow such representation. 2001.
No special financial interests on any boards that make policy or recommendations significantly affecting those interests. Clear them out by 2003.
No more than one person with twice the median household income on any appointed board. By 2001 for City; lobby and educate for other jurisdictions.
Incentives for City employees to live in the City. Put in place 2000.
Strong support for present water-sewer agreements; encourage expansion to cover other infrastructure and make an effective urban growth boundary. Continue work promoting regional tax base sharing. Undertake and publicize studies of disparities. Focus less on downtown; more on poor neighborhoods, including the poor downtown. Assure more diversity in affluent parts of the city through zoning that allows at least some low-income development. Reduce or eliminate minimum lot sizes. Demand the same of suburbs. Work for charges against those well-off people who segregate themselves that reflect their contribution to concentrated poverty, especially in our inner city. For instance, require them to pay for part of the increased police and social service costs made necessary by concentrated poverty. Ongoing.
No property qualifications for voting. Time off work if needed, ballots delivered to homebound on voting day. Comprehensive, independent information on voting and the candidates delivered to every potential voter a few days before elections. Transport provided where needed. Registration automatic for all moves, including to temporary shelters. Allow voting any time after registration verified; set up for immediate verification. No voting restrictions for parolees or ex-felons. Implement by 2001.
Support peaceful conflict resolution. Ongoing. Goal to eliminate virtually all violence and promotion of violence, whatever the source, in the city. 2020.
Encourage citizens to support peacemakers rather than the military. Work for an end to military activity or contracting in the city. 2005.
Promote the realization that real security comes from justice, sharing of resources, the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully, etc. Ongoing.
Get most guns and other lethal weapons out of the city. Police model
this by phasing out guns in favor of non-lethal controls. Work to restrict
availability of such weapons everywhere. 2005.
Support a vision of community policing that focuses on restoring offenders to good relations with their victims and society. Clear, public, narrow guidelines, based on whether justice is served, consistently followed, for police to detain anyone. 2000.
Process for police to truly hear concerns of those alienated. Develop and implement in 2000.
Recognize the violence to our community of white collar crime. Assign half the police force to this crime. Start planning now; gradually implement to 2010.
Call police "peace officers", whose purpose is "to help and empower citizens to make and keep the city safe and just for all." Put this on police cars. Early 2000.
Police should reflect the community by race and sexual orientation. Concerted outreach/ hiring effort to reach this goal by 2005.
Require police to take diversity classes. 2000.
Match police sensitive to issues and circumstances of particular crimes, e.g. female officers with female sex crime victims, officers with child development training with child offenders, etc. 2000.
Greater direct citizen control over police. Stronger citizen police
review board, more proportional racially and economically to arrestees.
Include some who have been arrested and/or have made complaints about police
conduct. Final decision-making authority with City Commission. by 2001.
Work long-term to replace penal sanctions with community responsibility and accountability. Put all City laws in simple, plain language. Correct or remove those that are inconsistently enforced, or that fail to contribute to a more just community. Revise City Code accordingly, 2001.
Expand community dialogues on what behavior is unacceptable, and what to do about it. Start immediately.
Make every effort to get perpetrators of crime to provide recompense. 2000.
Replace "War on Drugs" locally with a (nonviolent) War for Justice. Treat street drugs like tobacco and alcohol: illegal to sell to minors, heavily taxed, provide treatment for all who ask, have credible education about drugs to counter existing hype; allow no public advertising of addictive drugs. Start immediately.
Focus on community reintegration of those who threaten or harm others; have sure, quick, reasonable sanctions where needed. Use arrests and jail as a last resort. Deal with people "hanging out" through interaction, incentives, rather than punishment or harassment. Emphasize restitution, responsibility, and natural consequences. Involve the community much more in the process of "resolving" criminal cases. Take people direct from arrest to arraignment. Assure option of arraignment and other judicial proceedings in person (rather than by video). 2001.
Measure the social, economic, and other costs of our present system of dealing with crime; compare those costs with various alternatives, including those suggested here. No privatization of jails/prisons or any part of judicial system. Take decisive action to stop rape and to otherwise protect prisoners who are threatened. Allow and encourage frequent visits from family, friends, and others, including intimate visits. Support full medical care, including HIV testing, for inmates. Educate the public on the full costs of imprisonment. Provide plenty of educational support. Hire prison and jail workers from the low-income and minority communities where inmates typically come from. Use inmates' first names or last names with respectful titles rather than numbers when addressing them. Explain the reasons for moves. Provide basic phone service at the same cost as outside. Allow no special restrictions on mail or reading matter. In general, assure that those incarcerated are treated as human beings with basic dignity. Act/lobby for these changes on ongoing basis.
Decriminalization of victimless crimes, including gambling and adult consensual sex. Regulate where appropriate. Ongoing.
Prostitution zones in non-residential areas as a temporary means of removing it from residential areas. 2000.
Provide recompense and other help for crime victims. take effective action to prevent crime, for instance when threats are made. 2000.
Make Victim/Witness independent of the Prosecutors office. 2000.
Encourage arbitration as an alternative to court trials. However, make sure arbitrators are responsive to the citizenry, and don't allow arbitration to erode anyone's right to judicial redress. Public policy statement to this effect 2000; ongoing support where needed.
Strictly enforce those motor vehicle laws designed to protect others. Take cars for serious offenses. By 2001.
Provide adequate support to those acting without a lawyer on their own
behalf or for others. Eliminate fees for low-income people doing so. 2000.
This should include protection of people elsewhere and of future generations, and an ethic of respect for all life. 2000.
Have plenty of info, workshops, etc. Ongoing.
Help provide connections for the disadvantaged that others take for granted - people to help with crises, provide job leads and referrals, watch children, etc. By 2001.
Cultural events passes (like in Chicago) for plays, musicals, museums, etc. at the library that can be checked out. Set policy for and implement in 2000.
Endorse Gay Pride Day. Develop a set of criteria for official support of ethnic/cultural events. Criteria to include diversity, inclusiveness, justice, not-for-profit focus. 2000.
Name publicly funded institutions generically or for those who have struggled for justice or been victims of injustice. Where institutions are already named for those who have accumulated much more than their fair share of wealth, drop those names, or use a common name as first choice (E.g., generally use The Grand Rapids Arena rather than The Van Andel Arena). Immediate.
Open Commission and other meetings with inspirational justice statements. Pledge allegiance to the Earth and all humanity. Start immediately.
Flags at half-mast only for death by homicide, motor vehicle crash, environmental poisoning, poverty, or lack of workplace safety. Immediate. No state or national flags displayed until those governmental bodies demonstrate similar commitment to justice. Design a City flag that symbolizes justice. 2000.
Use scientific methods to determine this (see notes). Perform analysis 2000, start reducing use accordingly 2001.
Have threatening animals picked up on a 24-hour basis. Work with Kent County to accomplish this as soon as possible.
Support the right to quiet: Strictly enforce existing noise laws; take offending noise producers (stereo systems, etc.) for second offenses. Pass appropriate ordinance and inform community early 2000.
Construct walls where needed (make them attractive) and/or grow tree walls along major high-speed roads that go close to residential areas, public parks, or public waterways. Start identifying areas immediately; get them planted/built by 2002.
Don't allow planes or helicopters over City airspace, or motorized watercraft on public waters, unless their decibel level on the ground or at shore is low enough to not interrupt a quiet conversation. Institute proceedings toward this end early 2000.
Fund enforcement of noise reduction by taxes on producers. Push state for this starting early 2000. Make sirens much quieter, highly directional, and used only when truly needed. By 2002.
Pay residents to keep neighborhoods clean. Start early 2000.
Fix existing infrastructure before building new. Always, unless old
must be replaced.
Define need narrowly - the basics of life. Ongoing.
Support incentives to reduce car and truck use. Adopt and follow the recommendations of WMEAC's Transportation Working Group relating to that goal (see notes). 2000.
Promote jobs, businesses, schools, etc. in neighborhoods where people who use them live. Ongoing.
Gear development to walking, cycling, transit (especially rail), mini-electric vehicles. Ban cars downtown; replace with comprehensive free bus service and community cycles. By 2001.
Require that businesses locating or relocating in the city be served by transit during their open hours. Ordinance passed 2000.
Push for a millage for comprehensive public transit including light rail. Those from areas that support the millage ride free; others pay. Now.
Require elimination of twice the amount of old pavement for any new
pavement; exceptions for cycle trails. Design new pavement so runoff flows
under and percolates as if there were no pavement there. Appropriate
policy changes by 2001.
Declare existing natural areas endangered; protect them. Work for greater ecological diversity. 2000.
Plant many more trees, especially fruit and nut trees. Support citizen foresters to plant and care for these trees. Policy of not cutting large trees unless they are about to topple from decay. Ongoing.
Many more garden spaces and other urban agriculture, public and private. Incentives for organic gardening and farming in and near the city. Support full household and institutional composting options. Create guidelines for allowing some farm animals in the city. Use farm animals (small goats or sheep) for mowing grass. Supportive policies in place late 2000.
At least a small park within walking distance of every child's home
in areas where yards are small or non-existent. By 2007.
Formally support the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice as adopted by the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (see Appendix 2). Spring 2000.
Make manufacturers responsible for everything they make, required to take back used materials, and to pay for safe storage of any toxic materials as long as they remain toxic. Start immediately where possible; work for enabling legislation where not by 2004.
Solid support for free recycling. 2000.
Promote renewable, non-polluting energy. Vigorously work to expand wind and solar power (both passive and active), co-generation, other efficiency improvements. Promote and fund several demonstration models in various locations and of various types. Start immediately.
No emissions zone downtown 2005, citywide 2010. Remove pollutants from incinerator; convert to biomass/composting facility, 2007.
No toxic human-made or refined materials produced in city, 2010; none permitted in city, 2025.
Require City departments, using as guides the Hannover Principles (see
3) and Natural Step Principles (see
notes), to assess their policies and practices and develop plans to
make them sustainable. Review City ordinances similarly. Assessment
2000; phase in sustainable practices by 2025.
Stop approving site designs that allow stormwater to go offsite. Spring of 2000.
Do a cost-benefit analysis of stormwater system. 2000.
Try again to create a stormwater utility. 2002.
No stormwater dumped into lakes and streams. By 2005.
Test water more comprehensively and frequently. Immediate.
Have an extra fee on run-down rental properties; take over immediately if not paid. Allow neighborhood groups to act against blighted rental property, e.g. by being able to screen tenants, while protecting individual rights of control over peoples own homes. By 2002.
Improved housing code enforcement, ongoing.
Make sure housing development is approved by democratic resident neighborhood associations. Institute requirement immediately.
Support and create co-housing opportunities. More support for affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods. 2001.
Focus on security of housing tenure by promoting home ownership in these two ways: 1) Create or support a community land trust (see appendix 4). 2000. 2) Provide opportunities for tenants to purchase, especially from absentee landlords. Review legal options and develop a strategy to implement, 2000.
For residents of housing controlled by federal, state, or non-profit agencies, find ways to help them gain greater autonomy and security. Make affordable housing available to all, and provide more info about it to the public. Start immediately.
Expand homebuyer assistance program to repeat home buyers, with up to
$10,000 for very low income. Include multi-unit dwellings, and assist in
conversion from rental to ownership. 2000.
Create a safe environment where youth can build conflict resolution skills. Provide spaces for disruptive youth that deal intensely with their behavior, rather than simply suspend or expel them. 2000.
Free, lifelong education for basic skills. Free/affordable summer school and other extra educational opportunities for all, including camps, pools, organized events and other physical activities to assure availability for all youth. Assure the option of constructive play that helps build self-esteem. Opportunity for all to learn art and music. By 2001.
Involve students at all levels in community service projects. Start 2001-2. Gradually increase.
Teach parental guidance for young parents without parenting skills. Bring them to school sometimes for skill-building, so they can identify with a learning process. Start immediately.
Provide support to parents and volunteers, including transportation, school daycare, and time off work, enabling their participation in school functions. By 2001.
More teachers, aides, classroom support; adult/child ratio no greater than 10 to 1. By 2002.
Incentives, such as tax breaks, for teachers to live in the community.
Be very reluctant to drug children. Explore or create environments geared to particular children's needs, provide intensive counseling, and do all else reasonably possible first. Support parental control over children not severely abused or neglected. Draft policies 2000.
Plenty of support to help parents where neglect or abuse is a problem.. Provide money to help with parenting. Support for entire families in crisis situations. By 2001.
Try to keep youth with parents or guardians rather than send them to detention centers. Always.
Support youth rights. Assure that transition places are available when needed. By 2001.
Help create youth-organized support and advocacy systems such as peer
hotlines. Start now.
Get the military totally out of the public education system. By 2001.
If that cannot be done quickly, closely restrict military access to students, and provide open access to those who credibly advocate for peace. By 2000.
Get all commercial advertising out of schools. By 2001.
Teach conflict resolution skills, for teachers as well as students. Emphasize and model nonviolent action for justice. Teach about land use, native habitats, water and air quality, stewardship for future generations, and our absolute dependence upon a vital and diverse natural environment. Start 2000; expand yearly until well integrated in curricula.
Encourage such holistic education in homes, neighborhood groups, churches,
and elsewhere. Promote community study circles. Ongoing.
Staff training in basics of childcare where needed. 2000. Provide grants for inner city childcare operations in order to improve their service and allow use by the poor. 2001.
More information readily available for parents regarding basic quality childcare standards. 2000.
*The concerns of the mainstream are, almost by definition, regularly addressed. We note, for instance, that The Delta Strategy is led by a relatively elite group and is predicated on legitimacy to professionals (some of whom have made a real effort to include those less heard). But the social service, medical, community development, and other professionals who draw large incomes based on their claims that they help the really needy undermine the community empowerment that can best help. Those large incomes could do more if put directly into the hands of those they are "helping". The Delta Strategy has also relied heavily upon voting, thereby eliminating many minority views from serious consideration. But nothing can substitute for a running, large-scale as well as small group dialogue that centers on the concerns of those most oppressed. Such a process is necessary for many of our concerns to be addressed at all.
**Some survey respondents said we should not be concerned with effects of our policies and lifestyle in other countries, but we believe that is important. We will never have a solid foundation for creating greater justice among ourselves until we treat others more justly. Also, over 10 years ago one group of Congresspeople determined that five major problems in many poor/oppressed countries could ultimately destroy us all. They are: economic stagnation, environmental damage, the threat to democracy from the military's political power, weapons proliferation, and drug trafficking (Muskegon Chronicle, 1 August 1989). We would add two more: the lack of a foundation of justice, and the spread of disease.
***On the interconnections
between various recommendations, numerous commentators (some cited elsewhere
in this report) make connections between income and violent crime. For
instance, the National Academy of Sciences says that "personal and neighborhood
income are the strongest predictors of violent crime" (cited in Wasting
Americas Future, by Arloc Sherman, 1994, p88). This is certainly one
of the central connections City government needs to make, and act upon.
See Margrit Kennedy's Interest & Inflation Free Money, p45-7 for discussion of this idea. For awhile Britain had a land fee that kept developers from taking for themselves the increased value of land due to community development. That fee was abolished when the government changed (Green and Compact Land, by Simon Fairlie, in The Ecologist, May/June 1996).
Assure everyone the basics.
Fairness and democracy demand that every person have or be able to obtain the basics of life. This should be considered an inalienable right, basic to all other democratic rights. Moreover, it affects people's ability and willingness to take concern for how their actions affect the environment; it can take away much of the reason for crime, and therefore for protective devices and walling off of some people from others; it can free up the energies of some to help others; it can greatly reduce the present bloated "welfare" bureaucracy. Regarding that last, people needing help frequently feel demeaned by the system that is supposed to help them, because there is an attitude that they may be getting something not rightfully theirs. And that attitude increasingly applies to anyone not doing or diligently searching for a "job"; that is, something for which somebody else will pay wages. Self-employment doesn't count, raising children doesn't count, working for justice or sustainability or simply a better community doesn't count. One German industrialist (quoted in Charles Derber, The Wilding of America, 1996, p156) notes that the "social marketplace economy" of several European countries "guarantees food, shelter, schooling, and medical attention to every person not as welfare but as human rights." Derber comments, "German business has supported this program...because 'this social network really works,' leading to a well-educated, healthy, and motivated work force whose productivity keeps increasing."
Provides a measure of safety as well as connections necessary for employment and personal maintenance. The poor, most in need, are least likely to have phone service. Should be restricted to the most basic local service, which will leave plenty of incentive for people to work for long-distance service, caller i.d., or whatever other phone perks they may desire.
We emphasize the conditions for health rather than direct "health" services. As articulated by one municipality, "The fundamental conditions and resources for health are peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice, and equity." (Toward Sustainable Communities, p153). In one mostly poor and Black part of Chicago people demanded control over hospital services, and eventually got it, yet found later that their health did not improve. It turned out most of their "health" problems were really social, economic, and community problems including car crashes, assaults, accidents, and drug-related problems. Their health improved only after identifying and working on those problems (Politicizing Health Care, in The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits, by John McKnight, 1995, pp80-85). According to Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, "It now seems well-established that poverty and social rank are the most important factors determining health - more important even than smoking." "Countries with the longest life expectancy at birth are those with the smallest spread of incomes and the smallest proportion of people living in relative poverty."
Despite economic inequality being the single greatest predictor of disease, in the USA the average CEO of a major corporation "earns" 326 times as much as the average factory worker (Rachels Environment & Health Weekly, June 10, 1999).
This idea expanded from Michael Shuman's Going Local (1998): All voting shares in any corporation that newly locates in the city must be owned by city residents. No one person may have more than one percent or $10,000 worth of voting shares, whichever is larger. 10% of voting shares must be distributed to the lowest-income people. Residents of the particular neighborhood where the corporation is located must have at least 10-25% of voting shares, depending upon neighborhood income (higher % of shares for lower income neighborhoods). Those who leave the community must give up voting rights to any shares they retain. Tax breaks might be given only to community corporations. Shuman writes: "The only way communities can ensure their economic well-being is to stop chasing multinational firms with no community loyalties, and to start investing in community corporations. Prosperity follows when ownership, production, and consumption become intimately connected with place."
"Private" corporations (those without public shares) must agree to conditions set by both the City and the neighborhood association where they are located, or wish to locate.
Non-profit corporations should be especially subject to community control in order to assure that they really serve the community. We have had complaints about some of the larger non-profits relating to excessive power, lack of sensitivity, lack of responsiveness to the communities they are supposed to serve. City support of such non-profits should be contingent not so much upon services (charity) provided, but upon empowerment of residents. Charity often manufactures "need" and creates dependency in order to justify high salaries to a professional class, as well as provide a "safe" outlet for business "donations" (see John McKnight's The Careless Society). Start by looking hard at these organizations: United Way, Salvation Army, Hope Network, Goodwill, Dwelling Place, and all area hospitals.
Chain stores suck resources from communities and distribute them to a few elite managers and owners (mostly White and male). Locally owned stores typically retain 60% of money spent in the local economy; franchises retain about 20%; and big box stores (WalMart, KMart, etc.) return only six cents on the dollar to the local community (Dan Burden, information given at an April, 1999, GVMC presentation). According to Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie, a locally owned store in a locally owned building typically reinvests 85% of its profits in the local economy (Changing Places, 1997, p145). Michael Shuman (Going Local, p186) cites a study which found that Oakland, California, lost $43 million/year to absentee landlords, $40 million/year to outside banks for interest payments on mortgages, and $150 million/year in consumer expenditures at stores outside city limits. A former Grand Rapids mayor cited major business loss in the Burton Heights area due to expansion of suburbia and suburban business (Grand Rapids Press, 14 July 1991, pE1). A tax on chain stores was enthusiastically supported when proposed in the 1930s, but was never implemented due to the resistance of the powerful corporations that would have been taxed.
Contracts with corporations should routinely include a clause that they may be modified in order to accommodate changed or overlooked public policy concerns. The City should work to change law and its interpretation so that this becomes true for all contracts, including corporate charters. If necessary, the City should work with other localities for a federal Constitutional Amendment to support this.
At the very least, tax abatements and regulatory breaks should not be given to corporations unless they clearly give back more than they take. Breaks should be tied to what corporations actually give, not to what they say they will give. Bonds should be required of corporations that may leave, sufficient to cover the community costs of their departure. Eben Fodor (Bigger Not Better, p44) cites a study which showed states that had less regulations, lower taxes, and more subsidies for business had lower general prosperity than states with bad business ratings. And business subsidies tend to favor new and expanding businesses, giving them an edge over those that are already well-integrated into the community.
There are many examples of such control over corporate attempts to play off communities for substantial giveaways. "No More Candy Store" gives a number of examples. One city, Parma, Ohio, gave tax breaks to one company worth $100,000/year for ten years, but required at least half the new hires be residents and half people who had been on welfare. It also requires an internship program with local schools, and reserves the right to revoke the agreement if the company does not live up to its promises. Another company receives subsidies in installments tied to its performance. "The company has to reach for it." Contact: Barry Broome, Parma Community Development Director, 216/845-8444.
All have a reasonable share in the economy.
Benefits of much more equal wealth distribution are numerous. In the Indian state of Kerala average income is slightly less than in India as a whole, yet life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, and fertility rates are close to those in well-off countries, and far better than those in the rest of India. Kerala focuses on the well-being of all, rejecting exploitative industries that have been invading the rest of the country (see article "Poor But Prosperous" by Akash Kapur in Atlantic Monthly, Sept., 1998).
This will provide a strong foundation for greater control over our economy, and keep more jobs and resources in the community. It will increase efficiency, sustainability. It will put us more in touch with the sources of our livelihoods, and will build a stronger sense of community. It will reduce our vulnerability to global events outside our control. A poll showed 75% of Michiganders would be more likely to buy products grown or processed in Michigan if they knew what those products were. (Grand Rapids Press, late June? 1998, article "Shoppers pick Michigan produce - if it says so").
Business review board.
It must be representative of the community by income, race/culture, etc., and be free of large business control. It would review business performance, and give ratings based on how community-friendly the businesses are. In the single year that Louisiana had an official "Environmental Scorecard" (in article "Life and Taxes," by J Andrew Hoerner, in cd This Place Called Home), which received considerable publicity and was a basis for tax breaks, companies committed to reducing their toxic emissions more than 8%, and to greatly reduce other emissions of air pollutants as well.
Federal revenue sharing.
Which takes Federal dollars and distributes them to communities without strings attaches, successfully helped balance regional economic inequalities in the 1970s.
An idea that has recently gained considerable mainstream support, including from Congress and the Ford Foundation.
Community Development Credit Unions.
A more people-centered alternative to banks, needed due to the increasing control and profit-centeredness of banks. The City should support the CDCU in Creston and help assure that other CDCUs are formed rapidly so they serve the entire city. They should be modeled on one in North Carolina that values "ownership as a development goal much more so than job creation or physical revitalization", and that has been particularly successful (described in Susan Meeker-Lowry's Invested in the Common Good, 1995, p58).
Community sovereignty vs. global corporations.
Numerous people have warned of the erosion of local sovereignty and other ill effects of increasing corporate power. A good local source of information is the Sept.-Oct. 1997 issue of The FUNdamentalist.
The federal government has a "hot goods" provision that allows seizure of some goods produced using child labor (Grand Rapids Press, 5 March 1999, pA4). The City should support that and similar laws where they exist, and should work to expand them. The city council of North Olmsted, Ohio, adopted a policy that vendors selling to the city must sign an agreement that their goods aren't produced under sweatshop conditions, including use of child and forced labor. They must be produced by a business that pays a just wage, does not work employees more than 48 hours/week, and provides a workplace that is safe, healthy, and free of physical, sexual, or verbal harassment. North Olmsted's mayor, Ed Boyle, was quoted: "Government should not be party to the exploitation of children and adults anywhere in the world." (National Catholic Reporter, 4 April, 1997, p6). We should expect similar leadership here.
Compensation where protection is lacking.
Even according to elite analysts like Robert McNamara, about a fifth of the world's population live lives "so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency." The Ehrlichs and Daily (The Stork and the Plow, p228) note that, "with very few exceptions, even the poor in the United States are well off by comparison." As an example, if the City buys coffee grown on land taken from indigenous people, where pickers are paid $1 a day, funds should go both for a decent wage and toward recovery of the land.
Assure life-cycle information of goods is available.
Environmental as well as social effects should be included with goods sold; independently determined, of course. "We need to know as fully as possible where the things which sustain us come from and how they are produced," wrote Vern Ehlers and others, before Vern became a Congressional Representative.
Seeds of Justice.
This is a local grass-roots foundation (unincorporated) that provides a way for those with unearned or excessive wealth to pass it on via a group representing those with the least here and elsewhere.
Stiff progressive taxation.
Some have argued credibly for a maximum income. Our suggestion is not quite as radical, but would still effectively redress the extreme imbalance of wealth.
This may be eased up as people in poverty go the way of the dinosaur.
The GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which basically simply measures money transfers, has more than doubled since 1950 in real terms. But cleaning up oil spills, hospitalizing people with wounds or diseases, and spending on prisons all add significantly to the GDP. The GPI - Genuine Progress Indicator - measures various quality of life indicators. While far from perfect, it has become fairly widely used, and generally points in the right direction. The GPI has decreased about 30% since 1950, and about 45% since its peak in 1973.
Unpaid use of public space.
Billboards are a good example of advertising whose value comes from public space. The use of such space should be charged to billboard companies and others who use it for private advertising.
Jeffery M. Berry and others (The Rebirth of Urban Democracy, p13) write: "St. Paul [Minnesota] is divided into seventeen District Councils, each elected by residents of the council area. Every council has a city-paid community organizer and office, but virtually all other efforts come from volunteers or additional funds raised by the council staff. The District Councils have substantial powers, including jurisdiction over zoning, authority over the distribution of various goods and services, and substantial influence over capital expenditures. A citywide Capital Improvement Budget Committee (CIB), composed solely of neighborhood representatives, is responsible for the initiation and priority ranking of most capital development projects in the city. Community centers, crime prevention efforts, an early notification system for all major city agencies, and a district newspaper in virtually every council area help to make the system one of the most coherent and comprehensive of any city we have seen."
Eben Fodor (Better Not Bigger, p127) writes: "Because neighborhood
associations have an official advisory role in D.C. government, the city
planning director is required to give their recommendations 'great weight.'
If the neighborhood association strongly opposes a proposed development,
the planning director will hold up the project approval until the issues
are adequately resolved." With this review developers go to neighborhood
associations as soon as they can to see if there will be any objections.
Results include less negative impacts from development and more empowered
Some decisions should not be made locally: there should be a universal basis for protection of fundamental human rights and the planets ecosystem. And some tasks are simply more efficiently done from a larger base. A major dialogue will be needed, as part of a much strengthened movement of localities taking more power and responsibility, to decide which decisions are best made at what levels, and how. Various existing agreements, such as the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, as well as policies that are known to work, such as general revenue sharing as a means of distributing wealth more fairly, or federal enforcement of civil rights where states have failed to enforce them, can serve as models for defining those areas where decisions should be more universalized.
Work cooperatively with other localities and groups.
Given the tremendous assault by large corporations against community power, only by working together with many others will we have the clout to gain, or even keep, significant local control, or maintain our present freedoms and quality of life, much less reach a vision such as we have presented. Lots of grass-roots groups are active in this, but, as this may be the greatest threat to a continued decent life for ourselves and the next generations, lots more work is needed.
Neighborhood matching fund.
Use Seattle's program as a model. Seattle provides over $3 million yearly to neighborhood groups (not limited to elected neighborhood associations), matching with cash the value the neighborhood groups contribute in cash, professional services, materials, or volunteer labor. The matching funds may be used for neighborhood organizing, improvement, or planning projects, or for public school/neighborhood pilot projects.
At least one city, West Orange, NJ, has two full-time public advocates
- one for zoning decisions and one for other planning issues. Other places
have something similar by another name, e.g. ombudsperson.
The City spends $100,000 a year for ads in privately owned newspapers. It could use that money to pay at least a substantial part of the cost of a weekly public paper, which could reflect public priorities in its advertising as well as its content.
Many businesses have effectively shut out free speech opportunities by locating their entry points in "private" areas (usually parking lots) and not allowing people to exercise free speech rights in those areas.
Eliminate unrepresentative boards.
The Downtown Development Authority is one such board. It actually requires that rich special interests be in control. A very small, powerful group pushed for a huge convention center in downtown Grand Rapids. In secret meetings they were able to line up most of the money and overcome other obstacles (See Grand Rapids Press, June 6, 1999, pA1). This is a more visible example of the plutocracy - government by a few wealthy and powerful people - that has largely taken over where legitimate government has failed to assert itself. It is the sort of thing that makes many people give up on government, and is totally unacceptable to us.
Requires new residential development to include a certain percentage of low/moderate income housing. It has been used successfully in many communities, notably in California and in Montgomery County, Maryland. It is important to assure that low-income housing is permanent, so as not to allow unearned profit to speculators and to keep communities from getting stuck with the need to constantly replenish such housing stock. For more info see Eben Fodor's Bigger Not Better, pp73-4.
Charges for economic segregation.
Stephanie Wildman (Privilege Revealed, p45) writes, "Rather than prohibiting economic discrimination, our legal system insulates it from the reach of civil rights law. Our system allows easy circumvention of fair housing law when discrimination takes the form of financial requirements, or if exclusion is attributed to protection of property interests. Such economic discrimination has been accorded a race-neutrality belied by the presence of hyper-segregated Black urban ghettos....To truly eradicate housing segregation, our society must examine and challenge the way our legal system reinforces two underlying assumptions: that white people have the privilege of escaping people of color; and that anyone who can afford to is entitled to abandon the urban poor. By casting economic discrimination as color-blind and an unassailable right, American law ignores the symbiotic relationship between employment discrimination, urban poverty, and contemporary residential segregation."
Citizen control over police.
The "imbalance" suggested here is needed to counter existing imbalance - the lack of a real voice for those mistreated. Any perceived unfairness can be checked by appealing to the elected City Commission. Amend City Charter to make this possible, if needed.
Replace "War on Drugs" with "War for Justice". The so-called "War on drugs" has been largely a propaganda exercise used as an excuse for military intervention against peoples movements in other countries and for police action against low-income and minorities in this country. It diverts peoples passions from the injustices that are the real problem. The damage done by all the illegal drugs is minuscule compared to the damage done by the "war" against them, or the damage done by either of two major legal drugs - alcohol and tobacco. Describing effects of the "War on drugs," one knowledgeable judge said, "We couldn't design a system worse than the one we've got. That judge then suggested an alternative: sell controlled doses of drugs in plainwrapped packages with a sterile needle and information about both the dangers of drugs and where help is available. Ban their advertising and their sale to minors. Maintain the price low enough so a black market doesn't develop." Others note that high use of various drugs, both legal and illegal, is very much related to social and economic conditions, and that sale of illegal drugs allows a way for those who otherwise do not have the means to attain a lifestyle touted as desirable by those who dominate the economy. Much more info is available on this in a two-part article in The FUNdamentalist, vol 6 #s 3 & 4.
Recommendations of the Mayors Task Force on Drug Policy Reform deserve a close look here. They are generally good, and deserving of support. But the report failed to get past much of the emotion-driven hype against certain drugs, as reflected in its very definition of drug abuse: "the inappropriate and/or illegal use of alcohol, prescription drugs, controlled drugs, and/or 'designer drugs.'" "Illegal" says simply that a certain drug is banned or controlled by statute, and "inappropriate" - a judgment that may just as well be applied to language, dress, etc. - is something that calls at most for social, not legal, control. If we define drug abuse more reasonably as that use which causes direct harm, then we get very different results. Tobacco, not even included in the task forces definition, then becomes by far our most serious drug problem, followed by various prescription drugs (see The Other Drug War, by Michael Castleman, in Nov-Dec Mother Jones, p39 for dangers of prescription drugs) and alcohol. The report says, "Substance abuse has been identified as the nations number one health care problem." But of the "most costly and dangerous" health consequences listed, all but one are the result of making many drugs illegal, and the remaining one (complications during pregnancy and resulting birth anomalies) is almost entirely due to legal drugs. The report recognizes some of the contributing factors to drug abuse, such as poverty and unemployment, but does not emphasize those factors, and fails to see justice as relevant at all. The solution proposed, a better "balance" between enforcement and treatment, would transfer control from one professional group to another, rather than empower the victims. This has been a problem even in the mental health field, where the problems are more intractable. Yet many of those victims have found, through difficult struggle, that their greatest hope lies in successfully demanding respect from others. In other words, while a focus on health rather than punishment is generally a step forward, it can be used for greater control rather than benevolently, and probably will be to some degree. The real solution is a focus on justice and empowerment of all involved, which goes way beyond "treatment" for "drug abuse."
City leaders must take the time to educate themselves well on this issue, and then should lead a dialogue on the realities of drug use and drug suppression. Special focus should be on the racist and classist history and continued nature of that suppression. The stereotypes and emotive images have misled quite a few people, and it will not be easy to overcome the hype, but the effort should be made so that, at the least, we don't keep adding fuel to the fire.
Community reintegration of offenders. Punishment, while sometimes containing immediate problems, in the long run builds resentment and models uncaring solutions to problems. That is made worse where systemic power imbalances exist, as they certainly do in our society. Sure, quick, and fair sanctions are known to be much more effective than the grossly disparate and prolonged, sometimes excessively harsh sanctions now applied. Perhaps more important, as articulated by criminologists Harold Pepinsky and Paul Jesilow (Myths that cause crime, 1984, p138): "If a society wants to stop people from committing crimes, it has to invest in things they can do instead. Human life consists of energy that craves outlet in interaction with others; the more constructive participation of people in community life can be expanded, the more social peace will reign."
This has had some serious effects already, and looks to become worse if not halted. It essentially legalizes slavery in private hands, which is even more dangerous than keeping it in public hands. Education of the community on the general problems of prisons may be aided by supporting community outreach by advocates of prison reform or abolition.
Note that we are in no way condoning gambling, prostitution, drug use, etc.; we are simply aware that attempting to forcibly suppress them causes more problems than it solves.
Victim/Witness office. The lack of independence from the Prosecutor
has, based on what we were told, compromised the Victim/Witness office.
Grow tree walls.
Noise on high-speed roads is one of many "side effects" that users of motor vehicles inflict upon others. Drivers should pay to grow and tend these walls, which should be thick and tall enough to stop most or all of the noise. Other types of noise barriers should be built where tree walls will not work. The easiest way would be through gasoline taxes, which can presently only be enacted at the state or federal level. City officials should brainstorm ways to accomplish this more directly.
Noise from flying.
Landowners have traditionally had rights over the airspace above their land. Perhaps this can be used to prevent low overflights. If not, the City should work to assure that residents are compensated for the noise they endure from those flights.
Pay to keep neighborhoods clean.
Paying people in the neighborhoods who want jobs to do useful neighborhood work would help solve multiple problems, and would be very appropriate use of City resources.
Comprehensive plan for efficient access.
Use Copenhagen, Denmarks, success as a basis for efficiency planning. While systematically reducing parking, and adding more pedestrian and cycle space, Copenhagen's social and recreational use of the center city has tripled in the past 20 years (What Works? Denmark!, Jay Walljasper, in The Nation, Nov. 30, 1998, p15).
Public rail transit.
This is not only considerably more efficient, properly planned, than buses, but has more potential to be operated sustainably; that is, using clean, renewable power sources.
Gardens throughout a neighborhood are a great way to get to know neighbors and involve youth through teaching and learning about natural processes, swapping plants and recipes, sharing food, etc.
Restore ecological diversity.
Work with others to identify and restore presettlement habitats in selected areas. Convert impervious surfaces especially; also convert from grass. Establish a natural features heritage fund based on activities that destroy these areas to accomplish this. Provide incentives for activities that establish/preserve/protect these areas. Some potential stakeholders here are the museum, the botanical garden, and the public schools. 2001.
Ads in public space.
Charges that should be imposed for these ads come in two parts: the revenues that companies derive from the ads based on use of public space, and the external cost of the imposition of those ads on public space. The latter can be measured, in part, by surveys asking what it is worth to people to live or work in places with and without such ads.
Protect water, air, soil.
The Natural Step is a non-profit organization that uses scientifically based information on how systems work to help communities, businesses, governments, and others to redesign their activities to become more sustainable. It uses four guiding principles: 1) Substances from the earths crust must not systematically increase in the biosphere. 2) Substances produced by society must not systematically increase in the biosphere. 3) The physical basis for the productivity and diversity of nature must no be systematically diminished. 4) We must be fair and efficient in meeting basic human needs. For further info contact them at: 415/561-3344; website: <www.naturalstep.org>.
Minnesota has a tax on contaminated property, providing an incentive to clean it up. The same idea might be applied to run-down rental housing. Note that this must not be used as an excuse to allow housing discrimination.
Curb housing agency and other agency power.
Where agencies control low-income housing or shelters, many people want
fewer restrictions, greater privacy, and generally more control. HUD has
threatened to kick people out of subsidized apartments for not keeping
things clean and ordered up to their standards. At least one agency, Dwelling
Place, Inc., while helping to provide many needed low-income spaces, has
used that in an attempt to exert control not only over the housing it manages
but over much of an entire neighborhood. The Gamaliel Foundation, a church-based
community organizing ministry, articulates this problem: People need to
be fed, clothed, educated and provided medical care; but if it is done
in a way that strips people of their dignity and isolates them into a clientele;
and rewards dependency then the very act of helping can destroy peoples
capacity to help themselves. Advocating for people that is speaking for
them, is a way of stealing their own voice. People can speak for themselves.
Pushing these agencies to focus on empowerment (more decentralized and
democratic decision-making) models might make a difference.
Safe environment for conflicted youth.
The GRPS' LEAP program is one proven model. It should be expanded to more ages, needs adequate support, and should not be so narrowly focused on quickly returning children to a "regular" school environment.
Education for basic skills.
Some needed skills: frugality, non-materialistic values, advertising literacy.
"The Phoenix (Ariz.) Parks, Recreation and Library Department, when expanding its late night/weekend activities over the summer months, found that such programs result in a 52% reduction in juvenile crime. Such programs were provided at a cost of 74 cents per person whereas the cost to incarcerate one teen for a year is $38,000." (Cited by Grand Rapids Parks & Rec. Dept.).
The basic idea is that a local group issues a currency which may be redeemed locally for goods or services. These may be provided directly by the group, or by others in the community. Groups that have done so have been municipalities, community groups, businesses, even individuals. The key is in how well it is accepted, which makes City government a natural to promote it. The City issued its own currency, generally called a "scrip", in the early 1930s. It operated a store where the scrip could be redeemed by those unemployed persons who performed work benefiting the city in exchange for the scrip. Several local agencies that serve those in need have rudimentary systems now. For instance, Liz's House, which serves homeless women, has a "Lucky Bucks" system which allows the women to "buy" minor household items when they make progress toward their goals or help out at the house. Hard Times Cafe, a group that focuses on empowerment of the disempowered, allows people not only to obtain such items but to get vouchers for groceries, rent, and utilities in exchange for work at various non-profit agencies.
But all these systems require (or required) donations, where a true community currency should be more self-sustaining. Here is an example of how it can work:
A neighborhood association, because its work is not sufficiently valued in the market economy, does not have the money to pay people for all the services it would like performed. So a non-profit group set up, with City backing, specifically to issue and manage "community dollars" gives some of those dollars to the neighborhood association. The neighborhood association uses some of those dollars to pay a volunteer for calling people about a neighborhood meeting. That volunteer, whose bicycle needs repair, then pays someone on a fixed income to fix it. That person, in turn, goes to a participating store and buys some groceries, perhaps paying partly in market dollars and partly in community dollars, based on a ratio set by the store. The store may have to require some percentage in market dollars to pay for those things it cannot obtain with community dollars, but it has incentive to make the percentage of community dollars as large as it can because that increases its business by enabling people with limited market dollars to purchase more. The store then uses the community dollars to pay someone to clean the store.
The process can go on and on, just like it does with regular dollars, though with some important differences. Community dollars can only be used by those in the community who participate, thus they are more limited. However, they are guaranteed to stay in the community, thus are much more productive in terms of promoting the community economy. And rather than being issued by a large bank under control of distant regulators who are unresponsive to the community, they are issued by a local grass-roots group directly answerable to citizens. This means that we have some real control over our economy, and can promote things we value such as provision of fresh, locally grown food or a variety of community services, and can discourage other things such as weapons or drugs, or speculation of any kind that rewards people simply for having money. Administrative costs may be paid by a use fee, and a local "tax" may be imposed above that cost, if desired.
Hundreds of such systems exist in other communities throughout the world. There are dozens, at least, in the USA. They vary in how they are set up. Some are ways of streamlining barter systems, some focus on expanding the local economy, some are geared toward encouraging volunteer efforts. Michigan has legislation supporting a limited Time Dollar system, which is one of those systems encouraging volunteer efforts. A local Community Economic Development coalition made up of diverse citizens recommended support for a community currency in 1997.
For further info a good place to start is this web site: <http://www.transaction.net/ money/>. Two good books are: Time Dollars, by Edgar Cahn and Jonathan Rowe, 1992, and New Money for Healthy Communities, by Thomas Greco, 1994.
Adopted at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, October 24-27, 1991, Washington, D.C.
Preamble: We, the people of color, gathered together at this multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to begin to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to insure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of Environmental Justice. Environmental justice:
1. affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
2. demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
3. mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
4. calls for universal protection from nuclear testing and the extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
5. affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.
6. demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.
7. demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
8. affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
9. protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
10. considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
11. must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.
12. affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full range of resources.
13. calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.
14. opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.
15. opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.
16. calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.
17. requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother earths resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.
1.Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
2. Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognize even distant effects.
3. Respect relationship between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
5. Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes, or standards.
6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes to approach the state of natural systems in which there is no waste.
7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.
The Hannover Principles should be seen as a living document committed to the transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdependence with nature, so that they may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.
A community land trust is an organization created to hold land for the benefit of a community and of individuals within the community. It is a democratically structured nonprofit corporation, with an open membership and a board of trustees elected by the membership. The board typically includes residents of trust-owned land, other community residents, and public-interest representatives. Board members are elected for limited terms, so that the community retains ultimate control of the organization and of the land it owns.
The CLT acquires land through purchase or donation with an intention to retain title in perpetuity, thus removing the land from the speculative market. Appropriate uses for the land are determined, in a process comparable to public planning or zoning processes, and the land is then leased to individuals, families, cooperatives, community organizations, businesses, or for public purposes.
Normally, the CLT offers lifetime or long-term leases, which may be transferred to the leaseholders' heirs if they wish to continue the use of the land. Leaseholders must use the land in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, but the CLT may not interfere with their personal beliefs, associations, or activities. Leases are given only to those who will use the land. Priority in leasing is usually given to those whose needs are greatest.... Leaseholders pay a regular lease fee - based on "use value" rather than "full market value" of the land - but they do not need to make down payments and do not need conventional credit or financing ....
While leaseholders do not own the land they use, they may own buildings and other improvements on the land. In many cases the CLT can help leaseholders to acquire ownership of buildings and improvements by arranging affordable financing, and in some cases by organizing volunteer labor to assist in construction. Where the CLT has purchased property that includes existing housing, the housing may be sold to leaseholders over an extended period of time, either with the CLT holding the mortgage or through a land contract. If leaseholders leave the land and terminate the lease, they may sell or remove the improvements which they own. Typically, the CLT retains a first option to buy the improvements at the owner's original invested cost, often adjusted for inflation, depreciation, and damage during the ownership period. This property can then be sold to the next leaseholder. Thus, the first leaseholder is guaranteed equity in the improvements, and the succeeding leaseholder is able to buy the improvements at a fair price. No seller will profit from unearned increases in market value, and no buyer will be priced out of the market by such increases. Any increase in value that is not due to a leaseholder's efforts will remain with the CLT.
In short, CLT's are a way for communities to:-Gain control over local land use and reduce absentee ownership,