Showing posts with label black issues obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black issues obama. Show all posts

Friday, December 21, 2007

Obama Tells Bush


Says Build First

Washingon, D.C., Dec. 18, 2007 - U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., today sent the following letter to President Bush, calling on him to abandon his administration's intentions to demolish federally-assisted housing in New Orleans.
Dear Mr. President:
I urge you to abandon all plans to demolish federally-assisted housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, until there is a comprehensive plan to meet the region's extensive affordable housing needs.
Two years ago, when you appeared in Jackson Square, you spoke of America's "duty to confront this poverty with bold action." You explained: "Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome. We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons -- because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love."
Unfortunately, there are an estimated 12,000 people already homeless in New Orleans, and thousands more are struggling with costly and slow rebuilding efforts and private rents that have risen 45 percent since the storm. More than two thirds of the housing stock was destroyed by the hurricane, and much of it has not yet been rebuilt. Thousands of residents are still living in trailers with dangerous levels of formaldehyde even though more than 800 days have passed since Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
Despite this harsh reality, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now planning to reduce the limited supply of affordable housing even further by demolishing 4,500 units of public housing. Notwithstanding your wish for evacuees to come home to "thrive" and "overcome," New Orleans does not have adequate affordable housing options even for the people who are already there.
It is critical for policy makers to answer the following questions before any demolition takes place:
• Is demolition, which was originally planned and approved before hurricane Katrina, still a sensible strategy in light of the region's housing crisis?• How many new units of public housing will be built or acquired to replace the 4,500 scheduled for demolition? If less than 4,500, what is the plan to close the gap to get back at least to pre-Katrina levels? If more than 4,500, what plans are in place to ensure adequate income diversity and economic integration? • What plans are in place to meet the low-income housing needs during the period between demolition and the availability of new housing? • What supports are in place to assist residents during any housing transition?
Almost a year ago, I visited New Orleans and posed similar questions to HUD. I have yet to receive an adequate response to that inquiry.
There is no question that most displaced residents want to come back to their homes and apartments, but that is hardly possible if they return to a city with fewer affordable housing options available than it had before. I support the conversion to mixed income neighborhoods and greater economic integration, but such redevelopment plans must not be at the expense of adequate and improved housing options for the poor. No public housing should be demolished until HUD can point to an equivalent number of replacement units in the near vicinity.
Over the past two years, the federal government has failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. But there is still an opportunity to demonstrate that they are not forgotten. I urge you to reconsider the demolition of these housing units until there is a comprehensive plan to meet the region's extensive affordable housing needs. Thank you.
Barack Obama, United States Senator

Op-Ed On Giving Ex-Offenders
A Second Chance

Yesterday, Barack Obama published the following op-ed in the Chicago Defender and the Austin Daily News:

In America, nearly a third of African-American men will enter state or federal prison during their lives. Too many will be lost in the criminal justice system and end up in prison, poverty, and unemployment. And in some cases, the lack of job training and support programs means that those who are released could fail to become fully rehabilitated, and may go on to commit more crimes.

There is no question that breaking the law should have consequences, and we have to do more as parents to teach our children that violence is always wrong. But justice must be fair, and punishment must fit the crime. Yet, we still have a system that locks away too many young, first-time, non-violent offenders for the better part of their lives. It’s a system where certain sentences are based less on the kind of crime you commit than on what you look like and where you come from.

In Illinois alone, more than 40,000 people are released from prisons each year with most of them returning to the Chicago community. Almost half of those released from prison lack a high school diploma or GED. Only one-third of inmates receive vocational training or work experience designed to improve their ability to obtain employment once released. Even fewer receive counseling and placement services after their release. Within three years, statistics indicate that more than half will be back in custody.
In today’s economy, without a high school diploma, supporting a family is almost impossible. And with a criminal record instead of an education, the prospects for success are next to none. This has to stop.

The costs of crimes are high. But failing to break this cycle costs us even more.
That’s why I am fighting to pass the Second Chance Act, which would support faith- and community-based organizations working with state and local authorities to give former prisoners a second chance at a meaningful life. The Second Chance Act makes funding available for transitional jobs programs and housing, supportive health services, and educational needs. Organizations such as the Safer Foundation and Heartland Alliance have demonstrated success giving formerly incarcerated people in Illinois an opportunity for a second chance. And the Second Chance Act would ensure that the federal government does its part by supporting reentry programs like these that help make our communities safer.
We must create a pathway for people coming out of jail to get the jobs, skills, and education they need to leave the life of crime. That means supporting effective training and mentoring programs to help people transition into jobs. That means reevaluating the laws against hiring people with a criminal record so that we don’t foreclose effective ways to bring people out of poverty and deter them from committing new crimes. That also means giving former prisoners parenting skills so they can give their children the sense of hope and opportunity that so many of them were denied.

Thurgood Marshall said: “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”
As we fulfill Marshall’s legacy, let’s bend down and help every kid pick up his or her boots for a second chance.