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'

Monday, April 28, 2008

CCDA Institute Recap

What a great weekend!

Last Friday and Saturday we were honored to co-host the Christian Community Development Association's (CCDA) Institute at our church (St. Samuel's). On Friday Noel Castellanos taught the class, "The Church's Role in Community Development" and on Saturday Bob Lupton taught on "Empowerment". Both classes seemed appropiate for what God is doing in East Palo Alto and the Bay Area. 

We had an intimate group for both days which made the class interactive and fun. On Thursday night Melissa and I got to spend some time with Noel, and had a great dinner at Palace Barbaque in Sunnyvale. Noel is on a no-carb diet - and there is no better place to eat meat than Palace!

I had a major grant application due Friday, so I was in and out for Noel's class - but the couple of hours I spent there were rich. I was able to attend all of Bob's teaching on Saturday. This is my second time through this class - and it seems to get better each time. Bob has been a major influence on us as we've crafted the vision for NCUD.

One thing that particularly stuck me about Bob's words is his "Principles for Helpers". In his section on "lending is better than giving" he states:
Give once and you elicit appreciation;
Give twice and you create anticipation;
Give three times and you create expectation;
Give four times and it becomes entitlement;
Give five times and you establish dependency.
Lending, on the other hand, establishes a mutually beneficial relationship characterized by responsibility, accountability, and respect. It is legitimate exchange that requires the lender to be responsible for assessing the risk while leaving the dignity of the borrower intact. Lending, done well, builds mutual trust and respect.
Bob is advocating that we look at a different paradigm for urban mininstry - one that builds dignity and capacity and in the communites we serve, other than creating dependancy through simply giving goods and services away. Good stuff!

I encourage you to pick up Bob's book Compassion Justice and the Christian Life. It's an amazing book that's been challenging my thoughts about ministry to the poor.

Thanks to Noel, Bob and CCDA for an excellent two days of training.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

CCDA Institute this Weekend!

Join us for the the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Institute this Friday and Saturday. You can read more here. 

On Friday Noel Castellanos will be speaking on 'The Church's Role in Changing Communities" and on Saturday Bob Lupton will be speaking on "Empowerment". 

Classes are from 9 to 4 each day and are located at St. Samuel at 1199 E. Bayshore Rd. in East Palo Alto.

Call our office at 650-328-1890 for more information. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Baseball - The Mighty Kubs - One East Palo Alto

This year is Samuel's last year in little league. It seems like yesterday he began playing in the Junior Giants program in Jack Farrell Park in EPA. This year, after some coaxing from his head coach Bruce,  I decided to be an assistant coach. The last time I coached was when Sam was in pitching machine league about three years ago. I've been pleasantly surprised how much fun this has been. The Ravenswood Kubs have a real shot at the league championship this year, after struggling over the last few years. They are a great group of kids. 

Samuel has been on a tear in his hitting lately. He's batting lead off and for the last three games has been smoking the ball. Yesterday he batted three times, with a single, double and his first home run in little league. (In pitching machine league he once hit for the 'cycle'.) But this home run was no cheap shot - it cleared the center field fence in the deepest part of the yard. Thanks to Coach Bruce and others for searching for the ball. Samuel's the starting catcher this year and occasional first baseman. He'd love to pitch, but he hurt his arm in winter ball, so he's had to let that go for now. 

Baseball has been fun this year. If you're in EPA on a Saturday, come by MLK park and catch a game. Of course, you must root for the Kubs

I had to leave an excellent board retreat for One East Palo Alto to attend the game yesterday. I agreed to serve on the OEPA board earlier this year. The board is a group of passionate EPA residents who work tirelessly to serve the community. I'm honored to serve with them. While I hated to leave the retreat - I'm glad I got to coach the Kubs and see Sam swing for the fences! 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Warm Weekend

It was an unusually warm weekend around the Bay this weekend. When it would usually be 65 degrees, it was around 90 in EPA. As many Bay folks do - when it gets above 75 we all start whining and head to the beach. What a beautiful beach day! Being true city lovers, Sam Melissa and I went to Ocean Beach in San Francisco.  Parts of it is beautiful black sand beach. The beach was packed, lots of folks, lots of sights. It's an odd day in San Fran when it's 80 degrees at the beach.

After the beach we drove down the coast to Half Moon Bay arriving at one of our favorite restaurants the Flying Fish Grill. If you're ever in the area, check them out. It's a bit of a 'hole in the wall' place - but it has great, cheap seafood. I had the chioppino (a San Francisco creation - it's a Italian Seafood soup in a tomato base) and Sam and Melissa had their amazing fish and chips. (I loved the chioppino, but it was a little heavy on the calamari this time). If you're going to the grill - note that they close early - 8:00 pm. 

We even ran into some old friends there, Ben and Lucy Rodriguez. Kind of funny - since we introduced them to the place a number of years ago! 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

To Live and Fight in East Palo Alto

Charisse Domingo's  (from YUCA) photos, thoughts and work about the violence in 2007. 

Dirty Red Sox Fan Tries to Jinx the Yankees

The Redsox are foiled again! CNNSI Reports:
NEW YORK (AP) -A construction worker's bid to curse the Yankees by planting a Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled Sunday when the team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot in the ballpark.

After locating the shirt in a service corridor behind what will be a restaurant in the new Yankee Stadium, construction workers jackhammered through the remaining concrete Sunday and pulled it out.

The team learned that a Sox-rooting construction worker had buried a shirt in the stadium from a report in the New York Post on Friday, team officials said.

Yankees President Randy Levine said the team at first considered leaving the shirt.

"The first thought was, you know, it's never a good thing to be buried in cement when you're in New York,'' Levine said. "But then we decided, 'Why reward somebody who had really bad motives and was trying to do a really bad thing?'''

The worker had buried a Boston jersey under a locker room in the new stadium, which will open next year across the street from the current ballpark, team officials said.

Levine said that area had been well supervised. "Obviously it was in a different location,'' he said.

On Saturday, construction workers who remembered the employee - Gino Castignoli - phoned in tips about the shirt's location.

"We had anonymous people come tell us where it was and we were able to find it,'' said Frank Gramarossa, a project executive with Turner Construction, the general contractor on the site.

It took about five hours of drilling Saturday to locate the shirt under 2 feet of concrete, he said.

On Sunday, Levine and Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost watched as Gramarossa and foreman Rich Corrado finished the job and pulled the shirt from the rubble.

Now in shreds from the jackhammers, the shirt still bore "Red Sox'' on the front. It was a David Ortiz jersey, No. 34.

Trost said the Yankees had discussed possible criminal charges against Castignoli with the district attorney's office. "We will take appropriate action since fortunately we do know the name of the individual,'' he said.

A woman who answered the phone at Castignoli's home in the Bronx said he was not there.

A spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson did not immediately return a telephone message Sunday.

Levine said the shirt would be cleaned up and sent to the Jimmy Fund, a charity affiliated with Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

"Hopefully the Jimmy Fund will auction it off and we'll take the act that was a very, very bad act and turn it into something beautiful,'' Levine said.

Just like the Red Sox! No matter how hard the Sox try (Steve, I'm looking at you) they will never have the class, the championships and the history of the Yankees! What class the Yankees have by donating the shirt back to a Boston area charity. That's why the Yanks are the best ever! 

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rubber check fees and why you should move your accounts to a credit union

CNN.com recently had a article on the fees in banking, credit card and cell phones. It showed how these fees are boosting profits and becoming a key part of profit margins for these companies. I would like to highlight the overdraft fee issue.  The article states:
- In '07, consumers paid $63 billion in credit card fees, over - $38 billion in bank fees (overdraft and other fees) 
- Credit unions often have lower fees than banks
- Being late with credit card bill can trigger fee of up to $35
- Credit card cash advance can carry 23 percent interest, plus fee
It began with a story about a pizza:
Terri Lovin and her husband, Harold, may have had the world's most expensive pizza ... at $117 a pie. No, it's not gourmet dining. A cashier charged the couple twice for the $22.50 pizza. That caused the Lovins, who live in Hawaii on a fixed income, to be overdrawn on their bank account by less than a dollar. And that resulted in multiple banking overdraft fees of $24 each.

And that's money the Lovins didn't have. So, the couple had to take out a payday loan to cover these fees.

"It was the most irritating, most expensive pizza I've had," says Terri. "I was in tears for days."

In many business transactions, such fees have become customary. And as the fees grow, so does consumer frustration.

"People are pissed," says Ira Rheingold of the nonprofit National Association of Consumer Advocates. "But they have no idea what to do. It's everywhere. It's become an everyday part of life."
Here's how it works: Most banks, when presented with overdraft items will pay the largest items first, then domino the whole account. An example would be if you have $100.00 in your account and write three checks: one for $5.00, one for $1.00 and one for $101.00. The bank would process the $101 item first, (most likely) pay and charge you an overdraft item fee. Then they would process the $5.00 check (producing the second overdraft fee) then the $1.00 check (third overdraft fee). 

If, like some banks can be, your fees are $34.00 than the total fees would be $102.00.

Community Trust Credit Union (as do many) would process the smaller items first, the $1.00 and $5.00 items (which would clear without an issue). We would then process the $101.00 item (which would be charged an over draft fee). Our fee is currently $18.00. So, your small mistake would cost you $18.00, not $102.00. 

(However, check with the CTCU agreements and staff to confirm. I'm speaking merely as a 'citizen' here and not as a employee of CTCU - since I'm not.)

One thing to also note: when you use your Visa or Mastercard debit card as a credit card, it's the same as writing a check. The above example would also apply to those types of transactions (where you don't actually write a check). 

This sounds like a predatory practice to me! To me, this clearly articulates just one more reason why you should have your banking relationship at a member owned, non-profit, deposit insured credit union! 

Why do banks do this? Because they made almost $40 billion last year on fees! The trend is for fees to continue to rise as banks try to recover their recent losses due to the sub prime market debacle. 

ATM Availability
While I'm ranting about the subject of banking - let me say one thing about ATM availability since it seems to come up all the time. Most credit unions are part of the 'co-op network' meaning you can do your business at most credit union ATM machines without cost. This includes withdrawals and deposits. You can also do your banking at most 7-11 stores free of charge. Also - Community Trust has a relationship with Bank of the West - so we can use any of their ATM machines. This literally increases our ATM availability into the thousands of machines nationwide!

Q.  So - when will you change your account to Community Trust or another credit union???

Even if you never bounce a check - wouldn't you rather be a part of an institution who's bottom line is the well being of it's members, other than making stock holders happy and fat? 

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bay Area Gangs Headed to Central Valley

TRACY (CBS 5) ― As families from Oakland, San Francisco and East Palo Alto migrate to places such as Tracy and Stockton, police in the Central Valley say they are bringing in more young people with problems to the area.

The gang graffiti that litters an otherwise well-kept city park in Tracy is a symbol of the growing pains now tormenting Central Valley communities. And police say the very children whose parents might have crossed the Altamont Pass to escape the streets of Oakland, San Francisco or East Palo Alto are driving the trouble.

For law enforcement agencies such as the Tracy Police Department, the crime fight becomes even more complex because gangs are commuting to and from the Bay Area to commit crimes.

See the video here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mustard Seed Faith

Rudy at Urban Onramps recently posted this link. What an amazing article on the Pope's call to a faith filled response to the conflict with Islam. It calls us back to a faith filled response to our current challenge. This article resonated with my feelings about the church. I believe that in our country the Church has been all to connected to a political worldview. Our strength lies with our ability to be the subversive underground Kingdom that is governed by a different set of values. When the Church is the Church, separate from the State, we have authority and the world is forced to notice. The article states:
A self-described revolution in world affairs has begun in the heart of one man. He is the Italian journalist and author Magdi Cristiano Allam, whom Pope Benedict XVI baptized during the Easter Vigil at St Peter's. Allam's renunciation of Islam as a religion of violence and his embrace of Christianity denotes the point at which the so-called global "war on terror" becomes a divergence of two irreconcilable modes of life: the Western way of faith supported by reason, against the Muslim world of fatalism and submission.
Pope Benedict calls for a clear understanding of the conflict:
The West is not fighting individual criminals, as the left insists; it is not fighting a Soviet-style state, as the Iraqi disaster makes clear; nor is it fighting a political movement. It is fighting a religion, specifically a religion that arose in enraged reaction to the West. None of the political leaders of the West, and few of the West's opinion leaders, comprehends this. We are left with the anomaly that the only effective leader of the West is a man wholly averse to war, a pope who took his name from the Benedict who interceded for peace during World War I. Benedict XVI, alone among the leaders of the Christian world, challenges Islam as a religion, as he did in his September 2006 Regensburg address.
The article expounds on the Pope's thoughts:
One does not fight a religion with guns (at least not only with guns) but with love, although sometimes it is sadly necessary to love one's enemies only after they are dead. The Church has lacked both the will to evangelize Muslims as well as the missionaries to undertake the task. Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, has thought about the conversion of the Muslims for years, as I reported just before his election in 2005 (The crescent and the conclave, Asia Times Online, April 19, 2005). Where will the Pope find the sandals on the ground in this new religious war? From the ranks of the Muslims themselves, evidently. Magdi Allam is just one convert, but he has a big voice. If the Church fights for the safety of converts, they will emerge from the nooks and crannies of Muslim communities in Europe.
Read the article here.