“The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number”

ON STATEHOOD: From its beginning, this country was organized in the interests of white males of property.  Elections were scheduled for the height of harvest time to prevent the newly propertied rich, farmers, from participating.  All the rest of us – people of color from formerly enslaved Africans to Indian people and their descendants, now called Latinos or Hispanics; Asians, Africans, women once also considered the property of their mates or fathers – have had to struggle to attain our citizenship rights in the United States.  Yet, here in the District of Columbia that goal has yet to be realized, and taxation without representation, the rallying cry of the revolution, still persists.  I demand full statehood for the District of Columbia, with three (3) Representatives (the number of our Presidential electors) and two (2) Senators. This can be accomplished through a majority vote of Congress.  We pay most of our own way through our taxes, have given a disproportionate number of our young people to service in this nation’s military, and have demonstrated over and over our entitlement to this most basic right of citizenship.  The time for justice for District residents is NOW!  I will ensure that we no longer have a 30-day Congressional review of our hard-earned budget, and encourage the District Council to make First Source pay for District residents by requiring them to hire DC residents and punish violating companies.

ON JOBS:   The working class, including enslaved Africans and their descendants both before and after enslavement, other minorities and poor whites has produced everything in this powerful country.   We must ensure that public policy initiatives recognize this contribution as an outcome of the policies.  I support raising the minimum wage to a living wage with paid sick, personal and vacation leave and that payment of overtime for all employees working beyond the 8-hour day be mandatory.  I also support six months of fully paid parental leave for all employees (men and/or women) either giving birth or adopting one or more children.  Additionally I will work vigorously to ensure creation and support for infrastructures that produce green jobs. All workers work to support themselves and their families and the wages they earn and the conditions under which they work must support them in that goal.  Unlike others, I will not tie workers’ health care and insurance to their employment, but will work to secure their entitlement to healthcare whether they are employed or not.  As a state, I will ensure that the 60% of non-residents who work here daily but do not pay taxes here will do so.  I will fight to bring jobs and/or job-producing industries to the District to relieve our unemployment crisis.  I will support legislation to shift policy from incarceration to employment, entitled “Jobs not Jails!”

ON HEALTH CARE:   The struggle for universal health care has been underway in this country for a century or more, long supported by unions and other worker organizations.  I worked with CongressmanJohn Conyers in the past, organizing a conference in support of H.R. 676, Medicaid for All, bringing together Unions, Physicians for a National Health Plan, Gray Panthers, and many others to discuss strategy to secure this benefit.  Though this battle was lost in the past, I will work for and support universal single-payer health care where all residents are entitled to health care without regard to pre-existing conditions by the provider of their choice, care that is fully paid by the federal government, without any requirement to obtain or maintain insurance.

ON UNIONS:  Unions provide workers/employees with an entity to support their entitlement to safe working conditions, fair bargaining with employers, and further support the maintenance of safe and healthful workplaces which benefits both workers and employers.  I will work for and support ensuring all workers’ rights to unionize in their own interests and further require all employers to recognize and support that right without interference; and close loopholes allowing employers to ship/outsource jobs overseas.

ON EDUCATION: Free public education is a legacy to this country emerging from an alliance between ex-sharecroppers and ex-slaves in South Carolina committed to securing education for their children with the understanding that it was the surest vehicle for securing the best future possible for them; it has been under attack ever since, most recently through charter schools and other privatizing schemes.  I support fully funded public education that speaks to the needs of our society for all residents, from birth to death, securing a commitment from them to give back to their communities, i.e., as carpenters, teachers, transportation specialists, etc., offering incentives and other benefits.  I will work to ensure that our public education system, from high school to college, is directly tailored to the skill needs of our community, and that our children will be trained to be disciplined, responsible, concerned, committed contributors to our society.

ON HOUSING:  Ever since there was “no room at the inn” in the time of historical Jesus, there has been conflict between tenants and landlords.  While this is a capitalist economy that idolizes the importance of profit, this government has the responsibility to provide for the ‘least of these.’   I support policy for the full funding of public housing and its maintenance including returning billions that have been federally diverted from public housing for more than two decades, with requirements that residents pay no more than 30% of their income in rent; attend housing maintenance classes, be allowed to contribute their services at market scale in partial payment of their rent, and not be penalized for criminal history.  Recognizing that the housing boom and bust has left many of our nation’s residents victims of predatory lenders, under threat of foreclosure and otherwise unable to recognize their dream of homeownerships, I support legislating for an immediate moratorium on foreclosures while plans to support threatened homeowners’ transition are developed, curtailing questionable lending practices at any level, e.g., eliminating adjustable rate mortgages or balloon payments, etc., and imposing criminal penalties for institutions having participated in predatory lending at any level, resulting in loss of residents’ homes and dreams; and support the call for a D.C. municipal bank to replace the predatory lenders and better enable productive banking practices and policies.

ON SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY:   In 1986, President Clinton led the effort to “end welfare as we know it” and converted the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), ending the federal entitlement to income assistance and relegating welfare support to the states.  Welfare benefits often fail to reach the level of a State’s own determination of what income a family requires to live in the state, while also often not recognizing education as work, though it is well-documented that education plays the most critical role in preventing a person/family from falling into poverty.  I am a founding board member of the National Welfare Rights Union, NWRU, an organization of, by and for poor people in the United States building a social movement committed to ending poverty and ensuring a better world for our children and ourselves, dedicated to unity among low-income, public assistance recipients, and the unemployed.  I support the NWRU 8 Position Points to Dismantle Poverty in the U.S., which include A Guaranteed Annual Income; Universal Health Care with a Single Payer; Nationalization of Child Care; of Education including the Head Start Program; of Utilities; of Housing; and of Public Mass Transit; and Troop Withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and no new deployments, thereby reducing the social costs of war. These policies will not only help this nation achieve its promise to poor and low-income people, it will free up the resources to truly make this country one of the people, by the people and for the people that can afford to act in their own interests.

ON PENSIONS & SOCIAL SECURITY:  We must provide for our residents and workers in the winter of their lives, much as we do provide for them in their dawn.  We have addressed children in the sections calling for nationalizing childcare, education, head start and healthcare.  We must also ensure that provisions are made for our retirees and seniors.  I support full funding for Social Security with the addition of expanding the collection of taxes on incomes over $96,000, as well as a fully funded pension system. I will work for legislation to ensure these provisions that will also seek to reclaim the surplus value lost through labor negotiations peculiar to our economic system, ending poverty among women and children.

ON TAXES: We currently have a tax system where major corporations and the rich do not pay their fair share, where workers pay more in taxes than their corporate employers.  I support a progressive tax system that includes allowing Bush tax cuts on the rich to expire, supporting a middle class tax cut, eliminating taxes on our poorest residents, and taking corporate money out of elections with a system of public financing.

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Tingling-Clemmons Opposes PETRA

Rick Tingling-Clemmons, candidate for Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, DC Statehood Green Party, calls for an immediate moratorium on housing foreclosures and categorically opposes PETRA. PETRA, short for “Preservation Enhancement and Transforming Rental Assistance,” is an Obama Administration proposal to effectively “privatize public housing” by converting public housing to private owners, offering the buyers 20-30 year contracts.  The owner can then go to the private financial market to borrow money, using public assets as collateral.  There is currently a $30 billion backlog through holding back funding for renovations in public housing.

What would happen to the public housing units as collateral if the property is foreclosed on?  Suppose the private owner cannot pay the money back?  If it is a private entity owning the property, tenants will lose their rights currently enjoyed under law; especially their right to organize and have any substantive input in the future of the property.  Also, when a tenant lives in a PETRA property for two years, he/she can get a voucher to move anywhere they want into HUD-designated ‘opportunity neighborhoods’, thereby allowing them to jump over the thousands of people on the waiting list for either public housing units or vouchers – which today number about 26,000 people in DC alone.  But with the current state of the economy and double-digit inflation accompanied by double-digit unemployment on the horizon, the situation that created this problem will persist.

Housing advocates urge the government to put money into public housing as it has previously committed to but has not, which Tingling-Clemmons supports, that the $30 billlion which the federal government has withheld be immediately put back into public housing, and that tenant control be immediately reinstated.   Currently, the government puts 80% of its housing supports into supporting higher-income sectors in the form or abatements, tax credits, mortgage income deductions versus 20% to the low income population.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters had introduced promising legislation to preserve public housing, including:  a one to one replacement for any Public Housing unit torn down; allowing Public Housing Authorities to go to the public finance market with units insured by the Federal government; and proposes home-care training for Public Housing tenants.

‘Housing is a Right,’ declared Tingling-Clemmons, further stating, “We should stop the policy and practice of denying people public housing, jobs and training opportunities based on their criminal convictions and/or records (i.e., Ban the Box!), and Public Housing tenants should never pay more than 25% of their income for rent.  He is also demanding an end to predatory lending practices and more federal support to keep people in their homes and support for first-time buyers, to be paid for by increasing taxes on persons earning over $250,000 per year; and by ending U.S. support for wars, thus returning badly needed revenue to housing, job creation, education and health care for all.  When any of these human needs is affected, it has an impact on all the others.

Reaching Out to The Poor: Here & Abroad

Children have been orphaned by AIDS which is running a close second to the devastation wrought on the African social fabric caused by colonialism.  We are returning this year to dedicate a school in Bukoba for children in similar conditions.  Because of the underdevelopment of African by Europe and the United States, Africa is one of the poorest continents on earth – despite its vast mineral reserves, the fact that it is the cradle of civilization and origin of all humankind.  In keeping with the concept of “helping the least of these,” in Africa, as in the U.S., we are reaching out to the poor.

African Liberation Day

Kwame Ture, born Stokely Carmichael, was an organizer and  long-time civil rights and justice advocate.  Known for coining the phrase “Black Power” when he was being interviewed as a leader of SNCC, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Kwame and I met at an Africa support meeting held at Howard University and teamed up to organize the first African Liberation Day celebrations.

We did a great deal of political work together in opposition to apartheid and in support of Africa; hunger and homelessness, anti-war, and employment for people of color.  We shared a love for and appreciation of people of color and a common determination to struggle against their plight.  We became friends in the early 1970s that ended with his death in the late 1990s after he had become an expatriate and moved to Guinea.  This picture was taken at Crampton Auditorium when he was last in the United States, raising funds to support his fight against the cancer that ultimately claimed his life.

Literacy Is The Foundation For A Democracy

At the time this picture was taken I was the Evening Coordinator for Metropolitan Delta Adult Literacy Center, operated as a project of the Metropolitan Baptist Church on R Street, NW.  The picture was at the National Convention for Literacy in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1990s and I know teach for CEET, Center for Empowerment and Employment Training, teaching Construction Math, Geometry, English, and now Social Studies. To me, literacy is the foundation for a democracy.  Close to 50% of all Americans cannot read and write the language they speak (the city reports one-third or 30%.  

Both numbers say that there is a serious problem with democracy in this country.  It is well known that students who do well in school do well because of parents who understand and support education of our young people.  It is also true that learning is a life-long process.

As a Delegate I will push for policies that would end this often hidden scourge on the society by increasing educational opportunities for both our children and their parents, which would address what I call an issue of national security – poverty.   “Famous Amos”, standing with me in the photo, became a philanthropist making millions off of his cookies sold worldwide, and devoted much of his riches to literacy and education efforts.  He was especially sensitive to the issue of literacy, having struggled with illiteracy personally in his early life as he was becoming a success, and he funded many efforts to support expansion of literacy programs, and he read regularly on public television programs emphasizing the importance of literacy with his own story.   We shared both our passion for literacy and contact information after his keynote address.

End Welfare As We Know It

In 1996, President Clinton embraced a proposal to “End Welfare as we know it” which the National Welfare Rights Union (NWRU) dubbed “Welfare Deform.”  This historic proposal was to take Welfare from a Federal program to make one where each state determined its own rules and in how draconian a fashion it would treat its poorest families with children.  NWRU had forged a strong partnership with National Organization for Women leadership, which resulted in Michele being invited by NOW President Patricia Ireland as NOW’s partner to meet with Vernon Jordan in company with those women’s group representatives deemed important to bridge strong relationships with by the Clinton Administration.

I and Michele are founding members of the National Welfare Rights Union board and have been in the forefront of the fight to secure just treatment and income levels that enable families on welfare to “thrive, and not just survive.”  As delegate, I will work with local advocates to support raising basic benefits for the first time in 20 years for DC families on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which replaced AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), more commonly known as welfare.  In Congress, I will seek to ensure that families receiving TANF will be able to have their educational efforts count as work, to better enable them to move off the program, with its lifetime limitations for support.

When Dick Gregory heard about the nightly vigils at Peace Park (Lafayette Park, across from the White House) that entire week, he came down to join the protestors stating, “this is the most important expression of solidarity that I have heard about on this critical issue!”