Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dream Act

This is an important piece of legislation. We're worked with some young leaders over the year where this is an important issue. Whateve your political view - let's not let the children of the undocumented suffer for the choices of their parents...

DREAM Act Introduced!

Take Action!

Thank key senators for their support and urge your senator to cosponsor!

On Friday, November 18th, a bipartisan group of Senators officially introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2005, S. 2075, giving new life to legislation that has been in a holding pattern since the beginning of the year.   The features of the DREAM Act of 2005 are nearly identical to the version that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Congress by a 16-3 vote.

The sponsors of the DREAM Act of 2005 are Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN).

The other original cosponsors are Norm Coleman (R-MN), Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Barack Obama (D-IL).

It will become law if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President before the end of 2006.

Please act now to thank the DREAM Act sponsors and co-sponsors, and urge your senator to cosponsor the bill.

If enacted, the DREAM Act, S. 2075, would transform the lives of persons who were brought to the U.S. years ago as undocumented children and who have stayed in school and out of trouble since their arrival.  Currently these individuals have no pathway to legalize their immigration status and get on with their lives.  The DREAM Act would correct this flaw.  Upon high school graduation, these individuals — who have grown up in the United States — would be able to apply for six years of conditional legal immigration status, which would be made permanent if they continue on to college or to serve in the military. 

Those helped would include Marie Gonzalez who grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri.  A Latina Magazine Mujer of the Year, she became a symbol for thousands of others in similar situations, last year, when she was able to stave off deportation with the help of thousands of supporters.  Now she is quietly attending college, but has only been given a reprieve until July of 2006 and could again face deportation if the DREAM Act is not enacted.

Introduction of the DREAM Act comes at a time when Congress will also address the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite the outcome of that debate, the DREAM Act must be addressed on its own merits because it will have a positive impact on education, fairness to children, and American competitiveness.

Young people facing high school graduation and major decisions about college or work should not be asked to wait until Congress resolves all of the other vexing immigration issues.  Rather, Congress should act now and take these young people off of the field of battle of the immigration wars.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A little background about the economic development project we're working on...

This is a little 'formal' - but it gives a clear overview on the project we're currently working on... The bottom line issue is that we're focused on dealing with systematic and generational poverty that keeps people in bondage. I'm tired of dealing with issues that are the outcomes of povety - violence, anger, dispair. I feel that the power of the Gospel lies with the ability to deal directly wiht the heart of people - and the root causes of their dispair.

NCUDC is a non profit, faith based organization. Our mission is to transform Northern California’s urban communities by addressing systemic and generational poverty through economic and community development projects.
Our Board was formed in 2005 by a group of seasoned professionals. Its members are experienced leaders in business development, banking, marketing, administration, community service, and management of non-profit and for profit organizations. NCUDC is presently focused on an economic development project for East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park.

With a population of roughly 40,000, having only one bank has been financially challenging to the community, 93% of which is composed of Latino and African-American residents. Identifying challenges such as poor education, deteriorating family structure, endemic poverty, and all forms of racial discrimination is not as difficult as one might expect. These issues are well known and well documented. Finding the solutions to meet underlying needs and provide for positive outcomes are the issues on which NCUDC is focused.

An economically distressed community like East Palo Alto has needs most commercial banks are ill-equipped to meet. Banks are not accustomed to entry level financial products that deal with barriers common to a minority demographic. Barriers include; communication with non-English speaking customers, consistent patterns of high spending and low savings, and a delinquent or nonexistent credit history. This is the gap in services NCUDC will address by starting a credit union that will focus on breaking the cycle of poverty in this community.

By employing models that have been proven to work with a similar population make-up and economic history; the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) will provide savings and checking accounts, check cashing, international money orders, car loans and mortgages. Despite a variety of benefits, this endeavor will instantly provide an alternative to the often-predatory check cashing and payday loan services widely used in the community. For example, it is common for a payday loan to charge over 600% interest (APR). Check cashing fees add up to hundreds of dollars annually, a burden for many with low- income occupations. This has developed into common practice due to the lack of affordable and pertinent financial services. Our goal in the end is to place more money into the hands of the people who earned it. The credit union will also provide a mechanism offering courses in financial management thus developing better financial practices that will lead to self-sufficiency among its patrons.

On a community level, the CDFI will foster initiatives that encourage self–dependence, entrepreneurship, and personal initiatives such as micro-enterprise loans and small business development. We will provide technical assistance and consulting services to existing community organizations, emerging organizations and local businesses.
NCUDC’s focus on East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park has garnered the support of the community itself. Over 20 faith-based and nonprofit community leaders have pledged their support for NCUDC’s initiative. We fundamentally believe that a group of dedicated people, committed to working together can solve any problem.

Growing savings and investment accounts, owning homes, and reducing financial stress on families is the reason we are working towards the goal of opening a CDFI branch by the end of 2006. In spite of having the overwhelming support of the community, the immediate need requires the raising of start up capital. The community’s needs are obvious, the plan identified, now we look forward to those who will step up, catch the vision, and help make it a reality.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Getting Going!

OK - watching guys like Rudy Currasco do the blogging thing sucessfully over the years - I feel like it's time to start this thing. Hopefully this will be informative about my life and ministry in the Bay!