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, December 19, 2008

This happened in my neighborhood

This recently happened on my street. I'm thankful that the police made this arrest, but I also have great concern for the families that live on our street. Please pray for those of us who live on Saratoga Ave! We're prayng for the Kingdom of God to impact and change our neighborhood.
The police team also arrested two Pacific-Islander men, whose names were not available, for having two guns, including a loaded Uzi machine gun with 300 rounds of ammunition. The two also had scales for weighing drugs and night-vision goggles. Packaged narcotics for sale were also seized in the arrest, which occurred in the 1100 block of Saratoga Avenue in East Palo Alto.
You can see the whole article at Palo Alto Online. This is in response to the recent shootings and violence that I blogged about here.

Update: Here is another version of the story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dr. Emmit Carson on Non Profits Can Survive in a Down Economy

Dr. Carson from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation says:

- Non profits must be aggressive in telling your story. Get in front of more people. Connect.

- Know that the rules have changed. Know the times we live in and make adjustments. Engage the systems.

My Morning Jacket - "Look at You"

Indie band My Morning Jacket's recent record "Evil Urges" has an outstanding song called, "Look At You" Here are the lyrics:

Look at you:
Such a fine citizen!
Look at you:
Such a glowing example of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Of peace and Glory. Glory. Glory.
Let me follow you.

We believe in your power to lead
without fear.
Not about, in some tower,
but here-right down here-... with us
in this world.

Look at you:
everywhere at once.
Look at you:
such a glowing example of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Let me... let me follow... let me... let me follow you
Great sentiments during the Christmas season as we reflect on the Incarnation.

Does the Gospel Itself Move Us to Do Ministry to the Poor?

Tim Keller answers the question,
"How does our commitment to the primacy of the gospel tie into our obligation to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith, to serve as salt and light in the world, to do good to the city?" I will divide this question into two parts: (1) If we are committed to the primacy of the gospel, does the gospel itself serve as the basis and motivation for ministry to the poor? (2) If so, how then does that ministry relate to the proclamation of the gospel?"
Read his comments here. This is an important theological reflection - especially for those of us who come from an evangelical perspective but are called to minister to the poor. We often are criticized for not proclaiming the Gospel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here's a couple of picures from our recent visit to Florida. Picutres with my parents are all the grandkids, as well as all our family together...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008




TIME: 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Light Refreshments will be provided.

For more information, please contact Patty Del Castillo, Executive Assistant to Chief Davis at 650-853-3155

My City

Five shootings in 5 days with nine hurt, one overdose and another homicide over a week ago. It's been an especially violent couple of weeks in EPA. What's been particularly shocking is that some of the victims have been children and women. This is revealing the insidious nature of the shootings. There is a meeting today with some faith leaders and the police department as well as other prayer events stirring.

Here is the official press release from yesterday's shootings: 
At approximately 08:44 P.M., East Palo Alto Police Officers were summoned to the 2800 block of Illinois Street for a Shot Spotter Activation. While police officers responded to the 2800 block of Illinois Street, police officers learned that a possible shooting victim arrived at a home on the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue. In a divided response, police officers responded to the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue and the 2800 block of Illinois Street.

When police officers arrived on the 2800 block of Illinois Street, they checked the area and located evidence consistent with the original Shot Spotter Activation. When other police officers arrived on the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue, they contacted a shooting victim, identified as, Fernando Knight, a 43 year old East Palo Alto resident.

The victim suffered a gunshot wound to his leg and he was immediately provided with medical care by Fire/Medical personnel of the Menlo Park Fire Department. The victim was subsequently transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment where he was listed in stable condition.

This shooting is actively being investigated by detectives from the East Palo Alto Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. Anyone who may have witnessed this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Angel Sanchez at 650.853.3144 or at 650.853.3160. Witnesses also have the option of calling the East Palo Alto Police Anonymous Tip Line at 650.851.8477.
Please join with us in prayer for our city.

Monday, December 08, 2008

NCUD's Christmas Letter

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Northern California Urban Development (NCUD)! As 2008 comes to a close there is much to be thankful for and reflect upon.

Lately I've been thinking about an analogy that describes NCUD's work in the community. We are painfully aware of the current economic conditions in our country and world. East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park certainly aren't immune from the problems, which are indicated by the well over 400 distressed properties in our community that are either in or near foreclosure. Truly, a fire is raging and lives are being forever changed. In a fire there is always a short-term and long-term response. The short-term response saves lives and property. The longer term involves two activities: replanting and future fire prevention.

As I've meditated on the correlations between a fire and NCUD, I'm thankful that God has placed our organization in the middle of the crisis at the right time. Who would have known four years ago that Community Trust Credit Union (CTCU), sponsored by NCUD, would be on the front lines of the fight, helping members navigate their financial lives through these state of affairs? How could we have known that financial literacy would play such a vital role? I can only attribute that to God's wisdom and His leading you and I to work together.

Our youth financial literacy program currently serves over 150 students a week! These classes are another way we are helping to protect lives from future fires. Given the current economic situation, we’ve had the privilege of helping our students understand what is happening so that they can conceptualize the greater depth of how their decisions with money affect their lives. A guest speaker came in to explain the $700 billion bailout in terms that would make sense to high school students that didn’t really understand why it was deemed a financial crisis. Students were able to understand more fully what led up to the bail out and why it was so extreme. Great discussions sparked up between classmates, including their own take on the financial mistakes made and what they would have done differently. The chance we have to see youth openly discuss financial matters that affect their lives is further proof that our programs have had a resounding success!

Lastly, NCUD is currently in the middle of a number of vital conversations regarding housing and foreclosures in our community. The issues are complex, the needs staggering. Conversely, we have a number of resources in our arsenal to craft a direction and response to the housing crisis. In the coming weeks we will be proving out a program directed specifically at community transformation and rebuilding through an affordable housing strategy. Please look for exciting news soon!

As we persevere through the ongoing economic issues and development in our community, we need your help now more than ever. The current crisis will most certainly impact non-profit organizations such as ours. Yet, I truly believe we are playing a vital role for 'such a time as this'. A gift this season will have a number of impacts. It will allow us to expand our youth financial literacy program by over 50 students a week beginning in January 2009. In order to meet our expanding opportunities we would like to raise $35,000 by the end of December. Secondly, it insures that we remain on the front lines of the 'fire fight' - providing us with necessary resources to consult with local individuals and organizations and creatively and collaboratively maximize our resources to help the many families that are in need. I can honestly say that this year, your gift is even more vital. Will you join with us?

Thank you for the many prayers and generous support of Northern California Urban Development. Have a blessed Christmas and wonderful New Year.

In Him,

John Liotti and the NCUD Team

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Check this blog out!

My friend Andrew Marin from the Marin Foundation is doing some amazing work building bridges between the church and the LBGT community. Andy has been blogging here pleas take a moment and check out what he's doing and saying.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oceans of Justice

I've been preparing for this weekend's CCDA Institute in the Twin Cities that Juanita and I will be teaching. The topic is the CCDA core value redistribution. It's amusing how that word has fallen out of grace during the election. For CCDA, the definition of redistribution is a 'just distribution of resources' or 'giving people the tools and resources to work their way out of poverty' - not a socialistic or communistic interpretation. Another way to look at it - it's changing the economic forces to reflect God's kingdom and His values.

I recently read a great article by Jeremy Del Rio called "Worship and Justice". In the article Jeremy quotes a well known text from the prophet Amos, but read in The Message version. It states:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-24, The Message)
Jeremy goes on to say,
"That passage messes with lots of evangelical tradition, far more than there’s space in this column to explore. But what of the “noisy ego-music” Amos references - that of the “I’m blessed, be blessed” variety - that consumes much of our church time? Is it possible that we have become so focused on what we can get from God for ourselves that we have forgotten that the point of His blessing is to love Him well and others sacrificially?
It seems I can't go to chruch these days, or pick up the mail, or turn on religious TV without someone asking for money. In fact, as I right this I myself am writing a Christmas appeal letter for NCUD. No doubt times are tight for ministires. Donations are down. But, in the middle of chaos and consternation I'm praying for awakening. Awakening to a new realization of Kingdom economics, Kingdom values and Kingdom infused worship.  

I find myself saying a lot of cliches lately. When someone asked how I'm doing I've been saying, "blessed!" When we speak of the financial woes, I say, "God is still on the throne!" I say these not to be trite or religious. I'm saying these because I want to remind myself of how blessed I truly am, in more ways than I can mention. I also want to remember that God is sovereign and still in control over the world's and, yes Virginia, my finances. 

Perhaps I'm rambling too much here. But - in the middle of the swirling chaos, I'm daily seeking and at times finding peace. It's a daily battle, no doubt, one I don't always win. I'm standing on the truth that if I first seek His Kingdom, His justice and His reign - that all will be 'added' and provided. 

Please pray for this weekend's Institute and that God's presence would show up. Pray also that Jesus' peace and presence would invade our lives and world. God knows we need it! 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pascal Gomez

Pascal Gomez came by for a visit yesterday. He brought his parents with him. Moses and Melissa are very close, old friends. Melissa was a student in a youth group I led and (my wife) Melissa used to babysit little baby Moses. I was honored to perform their wedding four years ago. 

The Gomez family serves with YWAM Amsterdam. Melissa works with prostitutes and sex slaves in the infamous red light district and Moses is doing innovative ministry through DJing. He goes by the name DJ Osmoses. Sam and he had a great time spinning some wax. They head home on Wednesday after a four month furlough.

A long time ago I wanted to move to the YWAM base in Amsterdam. At least I can live vicariously through them. I've been encouraging them to blog more - hopefully my nagging will take! 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not much posting lately

OK - I know I haven't been posting much lately. After the CCDA conference, then a week of vacation I came back to a whirlwind. I hope I still have some readers! Here's a few things that has been going on to catch you up on the randomness of my life:

- Andy Hartwell, founder and former Executive Director of my former employer Bayshore Christian Ministries attended Max Torres' funeral. Here's some of Andy's reflections
"I went to Max' funeral. It was pretty amazing. We got there a little before 10 and still ended up sitting in the gymnasium. The sanctuary and overflow room were already packed. Later, the little passageway between the 2 got packed out as well. I think there were 1000 people there, certainly 800+. Lots of bikers. The speakers were great. They really knew Max and reflected well on his personality and his legacy. It was really positive without being at all shallow. It wasn't happy-happy; it was really moving. His oldest son got up to thank everyone and was crying. His pastor did a great job and then presented a flag to his family, recognizing Max as a Christian hero. The bikers definitely got their salutes in as well...."
Thanks to Andy for the update. Max's death really knocked me for a loop. I've been praying for his wife and kids every day. I truly miss my brother, but I'm also thankful we got to journey together on 'this side' for a decade or so.

- The new Ryan (certainly not Bryan) Adams and the Cardinals record, Cardinology, is growing on me. Best tracks: Fix It, Natural Ghost, Evergreen and Stop. 

- Thanksgiving was great - went to the Bains' house... Great food, good fellowship...

- Next week I'm off to the Twin Cities to teach a CCDA Institute class with Juanita Irizarry on the CCDA core value, 'redistribution'. If you're from the area, please come by. You can get info here. I hope to see Eric Iverson when I'm there.

- Interesting New York Times article on predatory lenders. It's not the typical report, this one shows both sides of the issue. Not sure I agree - but it's great for discussion.

- The Del Rio's had a beautiful baby boy, Cyrus. Congrats to the Del Rio family!

- It's been fun reconnecting with a bunch of folks recently. YWAM friends Suzie (Flanigan) Bukovec and Todd Worlock. Gotta love Facebook. Todd was with me in '87 when I connected with Melissa in LA and Suzie was one of my closest friends when I first went into the organization at 18 years old. Todd and I about split the LA YWAM base over a U2 concert - but that's another story! I attended St. Peter's Catholic School for 8 years. A bunch of the former students are planning a reunion at Christmas this year. I can't attend - but it's been fun to read the emails and see where everyone is at these days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missing My Brother

Our beloved friend, lifetime servant of Christ, pastor, respected 'urban' leader and Sam's adopted uncle Max Torres passed last night after a fatal motorcycle accident. Max has been a close friend of mine for well over a decade. I've had lots of wonderful memories flooding back from my times with Max including a retreat on Lake Meade in the 90's, a visit to the White House in the Clinton days and many laughs during his season serving in East Palo Alto with Bayshore Christian Ministries. One of the picures I posted was from a summer intern retreat where he was the speaker.

My thoughts are prayers are with Dalia and their sons.

Max, well done - a life well lived. You are missed...

Every day is a gift.

I'll post more information as I become aware.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Off to Miami

Left San Jose for Miami yesterday for the CCDA board meeting and conference. 7:30 AM flight, the sky was beautiful as we took off. After a long delay in Chicago I arrived at the hotel at 9:30 pm.

On Wednesday lots of EPA folks arrive. Jenni and Gil from our office at NCUD, Joe, Linda and Phil from Community Trust Credit Union, Heather from FYBY, and Rolando and Amy from BCM. I'm looking forward to hanging with all the EPA folks in Miami.

I'll post updates as often as I can throughout the week. 

If you're coming to the conference please don't miss the specific 'emerging' CCDA leader's track that I've been organizing. Heather and I are also doing a workshop on leadership transition on Thursday. I'm also leading a panel discussion on Thursday at lunch. Here's some details:

- Emerging Leader Panel: CCD and Shalom as Implemented by the Next Generation of CCDA Leadership - Thursday, 11:45am - 12:45pm

- When the Sand Shifts: Personal Leadership Transition for Emerging Leaders- Thursday at 1:00 (taught by Heather Starnes and John Liotti)

· Emerging Leader Chat with CCDA board and staff - Thursday, October 23, 9:30pm – 10:30pm (Orchid B):

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It was 20 years ago today...

No, not Sargent Pepper, but 20 years ago today Melissa and I were married! 

It was a long time ago. We were young, idealistic and in love. Looking back, I wouldn't change that decision for the world! However, looking at the picture maybe I should have cut out a cheeseburger or two;) 

I've been reflecting on this great milestone and how we got here. As ususal, music connects with me and my feelings. There are two songs that put my feelings into words. Fred Hammond's "Lord Your Grace" and Dylan's "Covenant Woman".  (No video for Dylan, bummer.)

In many ways it's only due to the grace of God and our commitment (and in many way's Melissa's patience) that we're still together. I give all honor to my Lord and Savior. 

Melissa, I love you. Let's go for 20 more! 

Covenant Woman - Bob Dylan

Covenant woman got a contract with the Lord
Way up yonder, great will be her reward.
Covenant woman, shining like a morning star,
I know I can trust you to stay where you are.

And I just got to tell you
I do intend
To stay closer than any friend.
I just got to thank you
Once again
For making your prayers known
Unto heaven for me
And to you, always, so grateful
I will forever be.

I've been broken, shattered like an empty cup.
I'm just waiting on the lord to rebuild and fill me up
And I know he will do it 'cause he's faithful and he's true,
He must have loved me so much to send me someone as fine as you.


Covenant woman, intimate little girl
Who knows those most secret things of me that are hidden from the world.
You know we are strangers in a land we're passing through.
I'll always be right by your side, I've got a covenant too.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Records by Oasis and Dylan

Dylan Just released a new bootleg record called "Tell Tale Signs" and Oasis just released "Dig Out Your Soul". - great stuff! Just in time for the trip to the CCDA conference. New Ryan Adams in a few weeks! 

New records, one reason to love the fall!

Is race an issue in today's politics?

A recent AP / Yahoo / Stanford University poll says it may. USA Today reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about 2.5 percentage points.

Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.

But in an election without precedent, it's hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.
What do you think? Is race an issue in this election? Is the US ready for an African American president?

Two excellent resources to help you understand the current financial crisis

Yesterday I listened to an excellent episode of the PBS show 'This American Life". In layman's terms they described the current major concerns (mortgage meltdown, commercial paper, credit default swaps) and discussed the pros and cons of the bailout. This was VERY helpful to me as I've been trying to understand the current pickle we're in. I encourage you to listen. You can find it here or on itunes. The episode is called "Another Frightening Show About the Economy".

They also recommend the "Planet Money" podcast which gives a day to day recap on what's happening.You can find it here or also on itunes.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bottom Up Economics

This morning I read a great San Francisco Chronicle editorial by Robert Reich on economic policy focused on the middle and lower class. The article states: 
"Bailout or no bailout, we're heading into deep recession. One of the first initiatives that Congress and the next administration will need to take will be an economic stimulus package. But not even this will remedy the underlying problem: The earnings of most Americans haven't kept up with the cost of living. That means there's not enough purchasing power to keep the economy going.

Adjusted for inflation, the incomes of nongovernment workers are lower today than in 2000. They're barely higher than they were in the mid-1970s. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago.

The long-term answer is for America to invest in the productivity of our working people - enabling families to afford health insurance and have access to good schools and higher education, while also rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in the clean-energy technologies of the future. We must also adopt progressive taxes at the federal, state and local levels."
The article identifies three coping mechanisms that the US engaged into keep our living standards growing in the face of stagnant or falling wages. Reich suggests we are out of options. Those mechanisms are:

- Women with children entered the work force.
- Americans work more hours. More than the Europeans and even the Japanese.
- We borrow.

Our nation simply has nothing more to give to allow us to grow without increased earning capacity. The article states:
"(today) ...The top 1 percent of American earners now take home about 20 percent of total national income. In 1980, the top 1 percent took home just 8 percent. Inequality on this scale is bad for many reasons, but it is also bad for the economy."
This again underscores that NCUD's initiatives such as the credit union and financial literacy places us on the front lines of the current economic crisis. The answer to many families problems is education and empowerment with a commitment to live within our means. If the U.S. is to pull our of our current economic malaise, then drastic short term action must be taken, but not at the cost of the long-term.

Yes, we have a crisis with our financial system, but our problems are also chronic - requiring a long term focus. A focus on helping the bottom rise. This goes beyond partisan politics and into the realm of "doing justice and loving mercy". However, this this type of justice action will straighten or entire nation - from the bottom up.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Who are you going to hire?

OK - so I'm just going to say it. I'm supporting Obama this year. I certainly have issues with each candidate's platform, but in the end I believe that Obama is better suited for the job, especially at this point in our nation's history. 

My friend Stewart Hyland sent this to me that was a striking comparison of the candidates backgrounds. I felt that it underscored why I'm supporting Barak. I've heard some of my more conservative friends question Barak's qualifications and touted McCain's. This directly addresses those concerns and asks whether Obama is being discounted because of his race. Perhaps that is going to far, but It's still an interesting comparison. 
What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if Obama were a member of the Keating Five?
What if McCain were a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said 'I do' to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

With America facing historic debt, 2 wars, stumbling health care, a weakened dollar, all-time high prison population, mortgage crises, bank foreclosures, etc. consider...

Educational Background:

Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Now, which team are you going to hire ?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ortberg's Thoughts on Preaching, the Church and Politics

See the entire article at Christianity Today.
Imagine that we elected all the right people to all the right offices—President, congress, governors, right down to school board, city council members, and dog catcher (is that still an office anyone gets to vote for?).

Let's imagine that all these ideal office holders instituted all the right policies.

Let's imagine that we got all the propositions right. (In California, we vote on lengthy and complicated propositions for everything you can imagine. Nobody understands them all.) Every piece of legislation—from zoning laws to tax codes to immigration policy to crime bills—is just exactly the way you know it ought to be.

Would that usher in the kingdom of God?

Would the hearts of the parents be turned toward their children?

Would all marriages be models of faithful love?

Would greed and pride be legislated out of existence?

Would assistant pastors find senior pastors to be models of harmony and delight?

Would human beings now at last be able to master our impulses in areas of sexuality and anger and narcissism?

Let's get a little more personal.

Would you finally become the woman or man you know you ought to be?

In the words of theologian Macauley Culkin: "I don't think so."

Because no human system has the ability to change the human heart.

Not even democracy, or capitalism, or post-modern-emergent-ancient-future-missionalism.

T.S. Elliot summed up our quandary brilliantly: "We want a system of order so perfect that we do not have to be good."

Systems are important. But they're also complicated. Historian Mark Noll notes that evangelicals often fail to add value in politics because we like simplicity: good vs. evil; right vs. wrong. Political and economic arrangements are full of complexity and nuance. Well-intended legislation may lead to poor results.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Didn't Get Called

Out to a homicide tonight. Pastor Bains went. He and I are police chaplains. Pastor knew the family. How can there be so much violence in 2.5 square miles? Sure, EPA is much better than years before - but we still need Jesus.

Posted with LifeCast

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Game - lot's of memories!

I'm sitting at home watching the last game at old Yankee Stadium. They hosted a wonderful pre-game ceremony where many of the living Yankee greats came out including Yogi and Whitey Ford, as well as the families of Babe Ruth and others. The Yankees do a great job of honoring the past players. 

The New York Daily News has a great photo set of the day's events.

I'm so glad Samuel and I took the time this year to return to the Stadium for a couple of games. We returned to NYC and attended two games, one with our friend Jeremy and his son Judah. 

Also, a few years ago when I was traveling for work Sam came with me and we squeezed in a tour of the stadium (it was winter, so no games were being played). Sam and I got to see the press box, club house, dugout, walked around the field and monument park. While in the clubhouse we saw the lockers of DiMaggio, Ruth, Jeter and the forever empty locker of Thurman Munson. When the guide turned his back Sam snuck a feel of Jeter's jersey.

I'm sad to see the Stadium close. My hope is that the new Yankee Stadium will welcome the heart of the Yankees, the blue collar fan. Here's some pictures from our trips to the stadium.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Perspectives from Bob Lupton

CCDA board member Bob Lupton from FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta regularly emails and posts an article called Urban Perspectives where Bob share insights from his work in the South. Bob has been very much leading the conversation around 'gentrification with justice' and empowerment. Today he sent out an article that relates very well to the redevelopment conversation going on in East Palo Alto and like communities. The underlying question is, "How do we reconcile redevelopment with the needs of the poor?" 

Thanks for your insights, Bob. Here is Bob's thoughts (emphasis mine):
“This city has a definite anti-church bias,” the pastor declared, leaning forward across his cup of steaming Chinese tea, brow furrowed with frustration. At every turn he had faced city resistance to his church’s plan to build a worship-community center on the five acre site they owned free and clear. Zoning hurdles, city planning department stonewalling, uncooperative building department staff – all clear messages that the city did not want a church built on that land. “We may have to get an attorney and take them to court.”

The city of Doraville, a close-in suburb of Atlanta, was an amazing place to minister, especially for those committed to world missions. Over the past three decades it had become a port of entry for immigrants and refugees from all over the globe – Asia, Central Europe, Central and South America, Africa. A steady stream of new arrivals poured in daily, crowding into apartments with friends and relatives, snapping up every low-paying job they could find. These new-comers, eager to adapt to their new land of opportunity, flocked to ESL classes, support groups, and youth programs sponsored by churches and agencies in the area. For religious groups committed to outreach, Doraville was a field of dreams. The world was literally coming to their doorstep.

“We have a very strategic location,” the pastor continued, “right between two large apartment complexes.” The church had purchased the five acre site for the express purpose of outreach ministry to the immigrant population packed into the surrounding neighborhood. The plan was to construct a utilitarian facility that could be used for all manner of recreational and service programs as well as worship services. It would be a beacon of light, a lighthouse sitting squarely in the middle of teeming multitudes searching for belonging and hope. What a perfect location for the Gospel to be visibly demonstrated! “But the anti-church attitude of city officials has brought our plans to a halt.” A mixture of anger and disappointment registered in his eyes.

A mile and a half from the Chinese restaurant where we sipped our tea a very different conversation had been taking place. City Hall. The mayor, department heads, and various elected council members had convened numerous times to discuss a comprehensive city-wide revitalization plan. It was an expensive plan created by a nationally recognized urban consulting firm. But it was brilliant – tree-lined streetscapes along major thoroughfares, pedestrian-oriented walkways that connected residential neighborhoods with new commercial shopping clusters and restaurant districts, new urbanism design with an integrated mixture of single-family homes, attractive shops and live-work condominiums. The renderings portrayed a Doraville that its beleaguered citizens longed for – a charming, green community with vibrant economy and friendly, safe streets.

It had been generations since Doraville had been able to dream dreams like this. In the 50’s it had been the proud host of a state-of-the-art General Motors assembly plant – the symbol of American enterprise. The post-war boom had launched the community into an era of vigorous prosperity. Everyone was working, starter homes lined cull-du-sacs, new schools were being built. These were the good days that few imagined would ever end. This was before the refugees started to show up.

At first it was only a trickle of refugees from Vietnam. Then Cambodians. And Hmong. And then somehow the floodgates swung wide and Asians of every description started pouring in. Koreans, Chinese, Indians. Soon came the Mexicans, hoards of Spanish-speaking legals and illegals flooding in from the southern border, crowding into once-nice apartments with cousins and uncles and friends from rural villages back home. Before anyone could do anything about it, Doraville had become Atlanta’s out-of-control port of entry.

Strange signage soon proliferated along major thoroughfares as ethnic shops and restaurants opened – letters and words illegible to the Doraville citizenry. The health department started receiving complaints about chickens and goats being slaughtered in local apartments. Gang activity was reported for the first time. Teachers in the local schools were overwhelmed with students who could neither speak nor understand English, and few translators to help them decipher even the most rudimentary communication. Longtime homeowners began to exit, selling their houses at reduced prices, getting out “while the getting was good.” Attractively manicured three bedroom, one bath bungalows turned into jammed communal houses, driveways lined with worn-out cars. For elected officials and public servants attempting to keep the systems of the city functioning, these were not good days.

Then came the devastating news about the closing of the GM plant. The one stabilizing anchor that had kept the wheels on the Doraville economy was now departing. What ever would city leaders do?!

Turn lemons into lemonade! Could the plant closing possibly be a godsend after all? According to the urban planning consultants, 165 acres of prime real estate sitting at the convergence of two major interstates could be redeveloped into an amazing new urbanism village that could be the catalyst for reigniting the entire Doraville area. It could have a rich international flavor, be the source of hundreds of new jobs, attract a cosmopolitan population back into the city, provide an even stronger tax base to fund all manner of community improvements. There was more positive energy in city hall than it had seen in decades. Their troubled port-of-entry city could become a highly desirable point-of-destination magnet for all manner of interesting new businesses and customers, for upscale housing and moneyed neighbors.

One thing was for sure. Now was not the time to encourage programs or facilities that would further entrench the poverty that had settled like a pall over the city. It was time to dream about rebuilding healthy mixed-income neighborhoods, time to strategize how to thin out concentrated poverty compounds and absorb an immigrant population into the fabric of the larger community. It was not the time to support a new church center built to serve an overcrowded poverty area.

“All they’re concerned about is the money,” the pastor declared. “They see dollar signs, upscale condos, high-end retail. They see this GM deal as the new Atlantic Station.” The reference was to downtown Atlanta’s hippest new town within a town concept. “Where’s the compassion, where’s the concern for what happens to the poor who are uprooted and scattered to the winds by big development?” He was right, of course. The energy at city hall was all about growth and development these days. So much of their hard effort in past years had been consumed in trying to keep the city from disintegrating into chaos. These new dreams of a reborn city were absolutely exhilarating. Meanwhile, the social service agencies, the churches, the non-profits who spent themselves caring for the needs of the poor were all still out there, still appreciated for their heroic work, but for the most part consumed in their myopic direct-service world. And while these wonderful ministry-types were busy teaching parents how to read and write English, city officials were sweating over budgets, stretching and leveraging shrinking tax dollars to keep police from being overwhelmed by street crime, firefighters from striking, and communicable diseases from mushrooming into an epidemic. Plus fix potholes. The pastor was right. They were mostly concerned about money – how to keep enough of it coming in to keep the city running, how to allocate it wisely, how to leverage it for greater benefit. But these were not, as the pastor accused, people without compassion. On the contrary, these money-focused city leaders may well have been acting in the most compassionate way possible: strategizing ways for the city to become prosperous once again. Prosperous and just – if in their planning they were attempting to include as beneficiaries all of the city’s diverse population.

Do justice! Now there’s a different role for the church to play.

“Mercy” ministry had been the major outreach of this church – feeding, clothing, counseling, tutoring – all important activities that demonstrate Christ’s love for those in need. But loving mercy is only part of the Kingdom mission. Doing justice is another vital role. The voiceless poor need representation at the planning table where decision-makers are shaping future plans. Someone who understands how economics works must ensure that adequate affordable housing is woven into new development strategies. Those with reconciling spirits must do shuttle diplomacy between and among the diverse cultures and interests of the community to ensure that all are taken into account. This too is the mission of the church – to insert its redemptive influence and strength into the decision-making process so that compassion and justice prevail in their city.

The ancient prophet Micah summed it up this way:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jeter and Gehrig - Together

They Yankees, geez. What a horrible season evidenced by my lack of attention to them on this blog. I'm just plain frustrated by the Yankees. We'll - at least I can still count the 26 championships.

By Jeter - what a ball player. The New York Post reports:
The Yankees captain tied Lou Gehrig for the most hits all-time at Yankee Stadium, with his third hit of the day - and 1,269th at the House that Ruth Built - a home run over the right field wall to lead off the fifth inning of the Bombers' 8-4 victory over the Rays.

"Jeter is chasing the ghost, and he's chasing it very well," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm happy that I don't have to see him again this year."

The home run was part of Jeter's third straight three-hit game and the highlight of the Yankees' second straight victory over the AL East-leading Rays.

Jeter singled and doubled in his first two at-bats, then delivered his celebratory blast in the fifth off Rays phenom David Price, making his major league debut. The historic homer came on a 2-2 slider that was the ninth pitch of Jeter's at-bat. Afterward, Jeter came out for a curtain call and doffed his helmet to the Bronx faithful, who cheered his accomplishment.

"I've been fortunate to play my whole career here," Jeter said, "and they've pretty much seen me grow up."
Derek Jeter, what a bright spot in a rather dismal season.

Friday, September 12, 2008

20/20 Vision for Schools

Check this out. This is something that Jeremy Del Rio has been spearheading in NYC. I'm praying that this idea will take hold in Nor Cal. If you think you have an interest in 20/20 - please contact Jeremy or I...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wisdom from Guy on Fund Raising

I've learned a lot from Guy Kawasaki over the years. His book, 'The Art of the Start" taught me much about starting things, raising money and making presentations. He recently did a blog post that contrasts two types of approaches to venture capital. One is with up front money is one is raising money after a product is brought to market. You can read his thoughts on 'Plan B' fundraising here.

To me there are many parallels to the non profit sector. Many of us think 'money first, programs after.' We like to project what we feel will be the best case scenarios, articulate the community need are then try to build the capacity around the idea. In my career I've started things only to find the need was not what I expected it to be, and had to go back to donors or stakeholders and explain what happened. That's not too fun. Staffing in non profit work is as or more important than in the for profit world because of the relationship factor. Staffing is also by far the highest cost of all and is what, other than a place to be, what capacity building is about in our world. 

Others, scape, borrow, beg and duct tape a program together, prove the need, create the market (participants) then build the capacity of the program after the program and approach is proven. 

With our youth financial literacy program, for example, we've proven over the past year that there is a need and our approach works. Now we're trying to build the staffing and capacity of the program to meet the demand. It's a whole different type of 'ask' when you can say - "We're blowing the doors off and your help with make a major difference!"  This, in my opinion, is by far the better way to go and the easier way to build capacity and raise funds. It's still a bear to raise funds - and is the burden I have to carry on a daily basis. I'd much rather raise funds with all the data, evidence of proven need and track record than with great ideas. 

However, if an organization or leader has a proven track record of success, then there is a much greater chance of raising funds and building capacity before a programs is unveiled. For those of us who are still establishing ourselves, then 'Plan B Fundraising' may be the right route to take. 

Please comment....

Monday, September 08, 2008

New York Times Editorial - The Great Seduction

Here is an important editorial in the New York Times called "The Great Seduction by David Brooks. You can read the original post here. 

Thanks to Dr. Amy Sherman from Ele:Vate for the head's up.
The people who created this country built a moral structure around money. The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized hard work, temperance and frugality. Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors and teachers expounded the message. The result was quite remarkable.

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Sixty-two scholars have signed on to a report by the Institute for American Values and other think tanks called, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture,” examining the results of all this. This may be damning with faint praise, but it’s one of the most important think-tank reports you’ll read this year.

The deterioration of financial mores has meant two things. First, it’s meant an explosion of debt that inhibits social mobility and ruins lives. Between 1989 and 2001, credit-card debt nearly tripled, soaring from $238 billion to $692 billion. By last year, it was up to $937 billion, the report said.

Second, the transformation has led to a stark financial polarization. On the one hand, there is what the report calls the investor class. It has tax-deferred savings plans, as well as an army of financial advisers. On the other hand, there is the lottery class, people with little access to 401(k)’s or financial planning but plenty of access to payday lenders, credit cards and lottery agents.

The loosening of financial inhibition has meant more options for the well-educated but more temptation and chaos for the most vulnerable. Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.

The agents of destruction are many. State governments have played a role. They aggressively hawk their lottery products, which some people call a tax on stupidity. Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The spending is starkly regressive. A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, about 9 percent of all income. Aside from the financial toll, the moral toll is comprehensive. Here is the government, the guardian of order, telling people that they don’t have to work to build for the future. They can strike it rich for nothing.

Payday lenders have also played a role. They seductively offer fast cash — at absurd interest rates — to 15 million people every month.

Credit card companies have played a role. Instead of targeting the financially astute, who pay off their debts, they’ve found that they can make money off the young and vulnerable. Fifty-six percent of students in their final year of college carry four or more credit cards.

Congress and the White House have played a role. The nation’s leaders have always had an incentive to shove costs for current promises onto the backs of future generations. It’s only now become respectable to do so.

Wall Street has played a role. Bill Gates built a socially useful product to make his fortune. But what message do the compensation packages that hedge fund managers get send across the country?

The list could go on. But the report, which is nicely summarized by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in The American Interest (available free online), also has some recommendations. First, raise public consciousness about debt the way the anti-smoking activists did with their campaign. Second, create institutions that encourage thrift.

Foundations and churches could issue short-term loans to cut into the payday lenders’ business. Public and private programs could give the poor and middle class access to financial planners. Usury laws could be enforced and strengthened. Colleges could reduce credit card advertising on campus. KidSave accounts would encourage savings from a young age. The tax code should tax consumption, not income, and in the meantime, it should do more to encourage savings up and down the income ladder.

There are dozens of things that could be done. But the most important is to shift values. Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues. Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues. It’s considered normal to play the debt game and imagine that decisions made today will have no consequences for the future.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Good Weekend...

Labor Day weekend... Thank God for you! 

We really needed the three day weekend. While the weekend before we moved into our new place, we still had a bunch of junk in the old one. We spent the weekend clearing out the old apartment, and continuing to work through the boxes and set up our new house. When we left Modesto we down sized a three bedroom small house to a tiny apartment. We got rid of much of our furniture. Now we're having to upsize into a new place, so we're begging, borrowing and stealing as much furniture as we can. Melissa's friend Karen was headed to a missions stint in Russia and she long term lent us a bunch of nice stuff. Phil and Jen were getting rid of some couches and the chair I'm sitting on right now, so thanks to them we have a living room. We found a very nice 'scratch and dent' dining room table a Sears, so we outfitted them with four chairs from Ikea. So - other than some odds and ends, we're set.

We also have rented our upstairs apartment! A wonderful single mom with two teenage children rented the place from us. She's an interior designer who teaches part time at the Academy of Art. Samuel has already struck up a friendship with Cody around, what else, video games. Last week I was focused on getting the apartment ready with some plumbing needs and a stove. 

Sam and I did get a chance to sneak away to Fort Funston. This part of Golden Gate National Park is a off leash dog park. It has a very nice beach and some excellent trails. It's also a great place to see every type of dog, big and small, from Great Danes to Chihuahuas. Samuel and Ralph had a great time.

All in all, this was the kind of weekend we needed... Here's some pics: 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Amazing Moment in Our History

I'm sitting in my office listening to the Democratic National Convention. Whatever the politics, I think it's truly amazing that today, 45 years to the day after MLK's "I Have A Dream Speech" we now have our first African American major party presidential candidate. In a big way, 'the Dream' is being fulfilled. 

I cannot help but stop and recognize the significance of this event. It really brings hope to many of the people I love and serve. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Reflections of Reality Blog / Growth at NCUD

My coworker Jenni Ingram (aka 'Reflections of Reality) recently blogged about her job at Northern California Urban Development (NCUD). See her blog here.

We've recently been blessed to bring on two new staffers. Gilbert Chaidez came on as a program developer to work with the development of our youth programs. He was funded through a generous grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. As Jenni mentions in her blog, she was doing double duty as admin support and Youth Program Manager. Through her leadership our programs have grown so much we were able to bring Cynthia Ruiz on as admin support. This frees Jenni to focus her attention on the youth programs. Jenni's blog has a great update on what we're doing. Check it out! 

I've known Cynthia for many years through my time at BCM. She's a wonderful young leader who has grown up in East Palo Alto. We're blessed to have both Gil and Cynthia on our team. You can see more about them on our website here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changes, Changes...

The last few weeks have been ones of incredible changes. We've been blessed to be able to purchase a house! For eight years we've been living in rented spaces, and for 6 years at the Willow road apartment. If you saw our apartment, you'd know how small it was. None the less, we were thankful and tried to use the place to the best of our ability. 

More of less for the last year we've been looking at houses, trying to take advantage of the down market. About 6 months ago we looked at a house on Saratoga Ave in East Palo Alto. It sort of a duplex with a two bedroom apartment upstairs that could be used as a rental. Months ago we contacted the owner about a sale - but he laughed at our offer and sent us away. The market has continued to drop in the mean time, and we ended up picking the place up for just short of $40k lower than our last offer! I have some thoughts about the market and my conflicted thoughts about reaping the benefits of heartache - more on that in the near future. We picked up the keys a week ago. Since then we've been cleaning, packing and moving. We also painted Sam's room with a Yankee blue accented wall and proudly pasted a Fathead Yankee 'NY'.

This morning we moved in. I want to say a big thanks to Steve and Amy Joh, Pastor Bains, Katie Fantin, Stu Hyland, Cherokee and Justin Dickey and Bro. Keith for helping us move. One good thing about an small apartment is having less things to move. We had everything loaded into our new place in about two hours! I'll post more pictures in the near future. 

After eight years of serving and loving East Palo Alto and living in east Menlo Park, we're thrilled to be living in EPA! However, we have 'much luv for eMP'! 

Not that that isn't enough alone - we also adopted a dog, Ralph. We've wanted a dog since we had to give our beloved Max away (not to be confused with our wonderful friend and Sam's uncle Max Torres) when we left Modesto. With the small apartment we just couldn't swing it. Ralph came to us via Grateful Dogs Rescue in San Francisco. He's a six year old German Shepherd (like Max was, but again, not Torres). No one knows what happened to him - other than that he came off the street and into a  'high kill shelter' where GDR saved him before he was put to sleep. He's been in foster care with the rescue for about a year, just waiting for the Liotti's to come get him! He's housebroken and completely lovable. We've been joking that he's slightly like each of us. He was to be right in the middle of things like Samuel, he's slightly melancholy like me and has a touch of anxiousness like Melissa.

So - all in all it's fair to say life has been slightly nuts. No wonder that the blog posts have been slow coming! Please pray for the Liotti's - including Ralph...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bronx Blues

The Yankees, sheessh... Come on, I'm DYING here. 2 and 6 on the current road stand, 9 games out in the division lead. Girardi - PLEASE stop benching Damon. 

No joy in mudville....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Universe

Is set back in order. Samuel came home today after three weeks of vacation with his uncle and grandmother in the Central Valley. It's amazing how empty it feels without him around. What are we going to do when he leaves for college??!! I don't even want to think about it:(

Posted with LifeCast

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Domestic Life

Wow, things are changing. Melissa and I are spening the day looking at furniture, stoves, washer and dryer combos and dish washers. We drove from an appliance store in Hawyard to the San Jose Flea Market to the Great Mall in Milpitas.

Now that I have a better handle on what we need I can scour Craigs List and see what bargains I can find. I feel so 'domestic'!

Posted with LifeCast

Friday, August 08, 2008

Some Great News!

I have some wonderful news on the home front! After many years of praying and many months of looking we're close to closing on a new home for our family in East Palo Alto! If all goes well, our new place will close escrow on the 13th. For eight years now we've lived in the east Menlo Park Belle Haven neighborhood - but our whole lives have been invested in EPA. We're thrilled to finally be able to live in the community that God has called us to serve.

The place we're buying is at 1143 Saratoga, directly across from the Cityteam building and about a 7 iron golf shot from where we currently reside on Willow Rd. It also has a wonderful two bedroom 2nd story apartment that we'll be renting out right away, so please let anyone know who is looking for a place.

Not comes the fun part - we're looking for a few willing hands and strong backs to help us move on Saturday, August 23rd starting at 8:00 am. Those of you who know our current place, know that we don't have too much stuff, so with enough help I think we could knock it out in a couple of hours. If you can come by and give us a hand - we'd be blessed and honored.

Please keep praying for us during this exciting and somewhat scary transition for us. If something goes wrong with the closing of the house in the upcoming days, I'll shoot a follow up email. Please let me know if you can help so we can plan accordingly...

Peace and blessings,

- John and Melissa Liotti

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Post from God's Politics

I enjoyed this post from the God's Politics blog. about Gold medal-winner Tommie Smith and bronze medal-winner John Carlos in the iconic image from the 1968 Olympics. Honestly, not know the back story, I didn't realize the faith connection and deeper implications of the athletes' actions. The post quotes MLK:
"There are some who still find the cross a stumbling block, others consider it foolishness, but I am more convinced than ever before that it is the power of God unto social and individual salvation."

Pictures from Yesterday

Melissa and I enjoyed the Frida exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) yesterday. She's one of Melissa's favorite painters mostly because I think she reminds her of our life in Mexico and our friend Lucy (who we recently made contact with after over 10 years).

As for me, I'm much more a Diego Rivera fan because of his themes of the working class struggle. I didn't realize the connection that Diego and Frida had with San Francisco. They did much of their work here.

Afterword we went to dinner at Nola's in Palo Alto. I had a gift certificate for there I was given on my birthday. What a great blessing!

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Hanging in SF with the wife today. We're going to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit that runs through the end of September.

Might crash the Apple store and pick up a Bluetooth headset so I can comply with the new Califonia law.

Posted with LifeCast

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mobile Posting Works!

Just installed a program that let's me post from my iPhone called lifecast. It was a free program and works like a charm! Maybe I'll post more consistently now:)

Posted with LifeCast

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Is the Housing Bill the Answer?

Today President Bush signed the emergency housing bill to law. This bill provides for the support of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which insures about half of the nation's mortgages. It also comes in the week where we have just passed a record deficit budget. I cannot but help but wonder if we are in for further hard times. As usual the poor will suffer greatly. The New York Times reports:
The law authorizes the Federal Housing Administration to insure up to the $300 billion in such loans but the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that only $68 billion of that authority is likely to be used. The original lenders will have to pay upfront fees into an insurance fund, and borrowers will pay on-going insurance premiums of 1.5 percent a year to insulate taxpayers against losses from defaults.

The budget office has estimated that 35 percent of the refinanced loans will end up in trouble again.

Did I read that right? Has the congressional budget office really predicted a 35% failure rate in REFINANCED loans? I'm not sure what do do with that...

I'm mixed on this bill. I feel pain for my friends and neighbors who are losing their homes. NCUD is having many intense conversations about what we can and should do.  But our efforts will very much be funded by private donors and foundations. On the other hand, the economy and housing market cannot suffer the failure of Fannie and Freddie. But can we continue to afford a $500 billion deficit? If we the taxpayer are asked to continue to bail out the mortgage industry - how high will that deficit go? When inflation starts to kick in, and the jobless rate goes up (both of which are happening right now) where will we be? 

The article goes on to say:
Some experts have said that the law is wrong-headed in its attempt to retain the hybrid nature of the mortgage finance giants, which are private companies with publicly traded stock, but which have an explicit guarantee of help from the government - an arrangement that critics say privatizes the profits but socializes the risk and any losses.

David M. Walker, the former comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office who is now president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said that Bush might have been unwise to sign the measure.

"Providing authority to the secretary of the Treasury to extend credit or to buy stock is one that will end up costing the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars," Walker said in an interview earlier this week.

Walker noted that other government interventions in the private market, including a rescue of the Chrysler automobile company had provided an opportunity for taxpayers to profit. But when it comes to the mortgage giants, he said, there is no upside.

"The way this is structured," he said. "It's only a matter of how much the taxpayers are going to lose."

Supporters of the legislation - including Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, the leaders of the banking committee, and Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, the main author of the legislation in the House - say the law represents the best way to help stabilize the housing market, potentially putting a solid floor under declining prices.

To be sure, there are no easy answers. This is one of the most scary, interesting and unique financial climates I've seen in my lifetime. I've said it many times before. I believe the answers to the world's condition rests with the creativity, expertise and spiritual authority that Christ instilled in His people. 

What do you think? How are you feeling about the economy? What should the Church's response be? 

Update on Dr. John Perkins

From Elizabeth Perkins (Dr. Perkins' daughter)
"Thank you for your prayers and support during this time. Daddy came through the surgery very well. He is in great spirits and beginning his recovery. He has been resting and managing his pain and discomfort.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support. We will keep you posted.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Praying for Dr. John Perkins

Dr. John Perkins, the founder of the Christian Community Development Association is having stomach surgery today at 2:00. Dr. Perkins is a spiritual father and mentor to many of us. Please hold him up in your prayers today and for his speedy recovery.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What I'm doing these days...

Two words: GOLF TOURNAMENT at Poppy Ridge Golf Course in Livermore, CA. This is NCUD's biggest event for the year. We're only one week away, the tournament is next Friday, the 18th. 

We're still looking for some golfers and sponsors. If you're interested, please let me know. 

For more information you can check out our website: here. 

This year we have some wonderful major sponsors including Community Trust Credit Union, Woodruff Sawyer, Paul Hastings LLP, DLA Piper LLP, Plant A Seed Foundation and Highway Community. 

Our friends at Miner Family Vineyards in Napa Valley has really stepped up to the plate. They will be doing wine tasting on the course along with the wonderful wines from Spring Mountain Vineyards. 

Please be sure to recognize and support our sponsors. 

That said, my blogging will be somewhat limited until after next Friday. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Politics - Some Newt Wisdom

Those of you who know me or read this blog often will hopefully see my political stance - which I classify as a center to left leaning independent. I'm concerned about the poor and justice issues - but also value self determination and enterprise. Honestly - most of the time both parties frustrate me and confirm my aversion to party politics. 

However, when someone speaks logically about a subject I have to take notice. While not a huge fan of his, I ran across this video on You Tube where Newt Gingrich lays out a three pronged approach to current energy crisis including releasing funds from the strategic petroleum reserve, drilling and using domestic oil and aggressively pursuing alternative fuel sources.

I like most folks hate paying almost $5.00 a gallon for gas - but in many ways we have caused our own problems by poor choices of automobiles, illogical environmental policies and a lack of aggressive alternative research (that arguably has been blocked by oil and auto companies). 

However, we need to move forward logically while caring for the environment. As with most things - the extremes usually miss the point and the correct path requires some compromises - from all parties.

Check out Newt's thoughts. How would you respond?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Not been posting much

I know, I know. I've been slow in posting. It's been a wacky - crazy month with travels and such. One short update: Melissa and I went to see Robert Plant / Alison Krauss at one of my favorite place, the Greek Theatre on the Berkeley campus. This was truly an amazing and inspiring show. Alison could be one of the best female singers I've ever seen live. And what can you say about Robert Plant? He did a couple of reworked Led Zeppelin songs that were nothing short of brilliant. The musical chemistry between Robert and Alison was obvious. Who would have ever thought the 'rock god' Robert Plant would be singing Gospel bluegrass songs about Jesus. Wonder if anyone will play those backwards?

Drummer Jay Bellerose was perhaps one of the most intriguing drummers I've seen in a long time. He's different and plays a strange looking vintage kit. He was the backbone of the whole event.

If you were at the show and took some other video PLEASE post it on YouTube!!!

As a side benefit T-Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller backed them. Buddy is one of my favorite guitarists. T-Bone is a producer extraordinaire. It was a wonderful show and a unforgettable evening. Here's a video from the event:

Here's a video of them singing "The Battle of Evermore" from another show. Although it's a different show - they sang this in Berkeley.

Finally - here's Alison singing, "Down in the River to Pray".

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In Dallas

Just arrived in Dallas. I'm here for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Union's annual conference. I arrived late, so I had to grab a bite to eat in the lounge before crashing. It's in the same hotel the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference was at a few years ago. We attended that conference with the Bayshore Christian Ministries staff. I still remember the BCM folks playing broom hockey at the rink nearby.

It's good to be here. "The Federation" provided us council and assistance as we organized the partnership that brought about Community Trust Credit Union of East Palo Alto. I hear Juan Hernandez will be here tomorrow. I hope to connect with him. Juan spoke at the CCDA conference a few years ago also.

I do a workshop tomorrow afternoon then jump on a late flight back. In the last six weeks I've been in NYC, LA (twice), Chicago and now Dallas. As much as I like to travel, I'm ready to be home for a spell.

I'll post an update soon. In the mean time check out Crissy Brooks' post on Jeremy Del Rio's website. Crissy is a great friend and colleague who leads MIKA Community Development Corporation in So Cal. I was honored to visit her and her staff when I was in LA last week. She has a great young team that are doing excellent work in the poor areas of Orange County (yes, there is poverty in 'the OC').

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Samuel Liotti TV Interview about Obama's Nomination

Check this out this link!

Samuel, his best friend Malik and other students at East Palo Alto Academy were interviewed on TV  where they were asked about their views on Obama. 

The students has some interesting and revealing comments. With all the politics, it may be easy for some to overlook the significance and importance of the first truly viable African-American candidate for president. Obama's nomination to especially many young people in our community speaks volumes about who they are and what they can become. This is an exciting and important time in our history. 

Please join me in praying for both our candidates, but especially Obama. I've felt impressed that I should pray specifically for his safety during the next months. 

Follow the link and check out the interview!

What about you? How significant do you feel is Obama's nomination?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Yes we can!

Obama fan or not - this is a moving piece and shows off Obama's oratory skills. Whomever wins this November - this is a timeless message of hope and potential. For all my cynicism, I believe that in the middle of the mortgage meltdown, soaring gas prices and a seeminly endless war in Iraq and Afganistan, a message of hope and healing is important.

Thanks to Will I. Am from the Black Eyed Peas for this...

Q. What do you think? Is this the right message for today?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Self Sufficiency Standards in San Mateo County

Some interesting information about self sufficiency in San Mateo county. Short story: a single mom with an infant and school age child needs to make $67,617.00 to live. That equals four minimum wage jobs. Check out the Insight website for more information. 

Some other facts about basic costs in San Mateo County (not including rising gasoline prices which is further straining families):
  • Food costs have gone up 15%.
  • Health care costs have climbed significantly, up 30%.
  • Since 2003, the rise in costs resulted in an increase in the Self-Sufficiency Standard of $10,116 to $67,617 a year for a family consisting of one adult, a preschooler, and a school-age child.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Walk Off... Go Home... It's Over!

Today was the last game for the mighty East Palo Alto Kubs, Sam's baseball team. They were playing for 2nd place in the league against Lodge, their rivals. The winner would have sole possession of 2nd place and receive a trophy (which each kid coveted greatly).

It was a tough game. Lodge came out hard and behind their great pitching remained in front through six innings. But behind the Kubs solid defence (led by their catcher, Sam) they kept the score close.  Being the home team they had the last at bat. 

In the bottom of the 6th (ending) inning, the Kubs were trailing by one run. The bottom of the order was batting. Jasmine, our rookie was up. For whatever reason Lodge pulled their pitcher and replaced him with a closer. 

After going to a full count Jasmine walked and was replaced with a pinch runner, Jason. Next up was another rookie, Andre who also reached base on balls. The leadoff hitter, Samuel Liotti, was up. On the first pitch, Sam crushed an 'against the fence' 'walk off' double scoring Jason and Andre.

Sam walked off the field the hero, winning his team the second place trophy and the game ball for himself!

As a bonus, Sam was voted team MVP and made the league all star team as a catcher. It's been fun to watch him use his leadership skills to work with the pitchers and infield players. After reluctantly taking his place behind 'the dish' this year, he found a home following in Yogi Berra's, Jorge Posada's and Johnny's Bench's footsteps!

Yea, I'm a little proud of him, just a little;)