Mayors and Affordable Housing, Part 1

In full disclosure — an earlier version of this piece leaned very pro-Francis. I stand by my criticisms of McFarlane’s record, but I won’t fully support Francis without digging into his potential relationship with anti-LGBTQIA+ legislators. In general, I am disgusted how capitalism stunts our opportunity to grow.

Voters will choose either incumbent, Nancy McFarlane or challenger, Charles Francis as Raleigh’s next mayor on November 7th. Mayor McFarlane, and the two local newspapers that endorsed her, fed heavily from the past year’s panic-buffet of blaming infighting in the Democratic Party for electing the 45th president. The Democratic Party’s judgment of internal competition as a condition too dangerous to contemplate lest we want more GOP seats rattles with the death notes of a political ideology wants For the People, but can’t because, $$$. For today, the options we have are what we have- so what’s their deal?

Upfront, I’m not impressed by Mayor McFarlane, and that’s before I even get to policy. I went to a Police Accountability Community Taskforce (PACT) action at a City Council meeting last year, and watched the Mayor’s facial expressions through a series of speakers — her eyebrow twitches when she’s angry. Beginning with Akiel Denkins’ mother, her sharp pain re-opening unhealed wounds, and with each new speaker’s spoken word, song, poem, or story about the pain and fear felt by black residents in Raleigh during encounters with police. I listened to them, but I watched her– lots of twitching. At the end, with a shaking voice, she responded to the intensity filling room — “I am offended…,” she began.

Last month, about a year later, I tried to navigate the 14+ day advance noticed needed before being approved to speak to my City Council — the county commissioners have a paper sign up right there at the door! But I managed only to watch Mayor McFarlane’s face stayed planted in her laptop screen during the public comment periods on topics of gentrification, revitalization and, again, a well-designed body camera policy. This, and her statement a few weeks ago, at the start of the run-off campaign says everything that most of us won’t hear.

Her attempt to work Charles Francis up to some sort of agent in a GOP sleeper cell, rather than pointing out his very-real role as the attorney for the Raleigh Housing Authority. Why not focus there instead of as Francis the provocateur using “misleading rhetoric” and “misstatements” to deceive voters into forgetting her vision of “a better, more sustainable, more vibrant Raleigh?” Francis agrees that Mayor McFarlane’s records speaks for itself — and Raleigh’s affluent citizens, but his record the RHA attorney speaks for protection of the state. What possible reason could she have not rebutting his promises for an affordable housing focus with the legal cases where he represented the Authority against residents? His position doesn’t earn her pro-column points, because not only does she avoid legitimate details about Francis, she does so while deflecting from the details of her own tenure as Mayor by demanding we focus on what she thinks matters the most — her. Her vision, her legacy, her interpretation of Raleigh’s future prosperity.

That’s the problem. This continued emphasis on the shiny image of Raleigh presented in the Top 10 Best of lists, rather than the unphotoshopped reality of half the citizens. The function of ego that will not allow her (or others) to see that building new neighborhoods from the ashes of urban decay both look good, and be bad for the original residents. We praise the economic improvements of the neighborhood after Hope VI paid to build Capitol Park as the replacement for Halifax Court. Except that only 150 of the 318 (90 reserved for senior citizens) public housing units returned.

For every word of praise spoken and written about downtown Raleigh’s new urban boom so too are there archived public comments and city council minutes clearly noting the citizens that have never agreed that what she and her Council have built is a better, sustainable, vibrant, or prosperous Raleigh. All of those criticisms began long before most of us knew a Charles Francis existed. More importantly — where are our demands for explicit definitions of what the City Council under her leadership means by “affordable housing?” Where are our questions about the HUD regulation differences for how we spend for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money versus Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA)? And why aren’t we asking her to detail the selection criteria she used for her nominations to the Raleigh Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, especially considering that the 9-person Board holds all the power?

“The City has no influence over the management, budget, or policies of the Authority. The Authority’s Board of Commissioners has the responsibility to significantly influence the Authority’s operations. This includes, but is not limited to, adoption of the budget, personnel management, sole title to, and residual interest in all assets (including facilities and properties), signing contracts, issuing bonds, and deciding which programs are to be provided.(1)”

Well, that probably explains why she never goes after Francis, the Raleigh Housing Authority’s attorney. Institutions protect themselves, even at the cost of elections.

To that end, many folks accepted her statements that $60 million dollars over 10 years tax bond funding represents an unprecedented effort. We accept so much from the politicians we decide are good people, don’t we? Looking at the silent efforts from the anti-war effort during the Obama years and judging us all with equal scorn. How many of us know the differences between public housing and housing choice vouchers, or the difference between tenant-based, or project-based rental assistance? How many of us know the fair market rent for Raleigh apartments? How many of us know that HUD allows local housing authorities to run home ownership programs where for a fixed number of years, the Section 8 voucher can be used toward a mortgage rather than rent? There are 9 people plus at least one attorney that knows why Raleigh doesn’t run that program.

White progressives and liberals take the little bits we knew about a few things we know something about — gentrification, housing, and the attempt to replace the Citizen Advisory Councils with a Community Engagement Board and we make entire decisions on the effectiveness of our local government based on surface-level information. We have to stop asking what, and start asking why.

A map of the Raleigh voting precincts, the majority on the left are shaded in brown, and are McFarlane victories. Those on the right (East Raleigh) are shaded tan and are Francis victories.

Source: Wake County Board of Elections 10/10/2017 Election Results Map

Why did Francis win all the precincts on the right? Why are all of the black-majority precincts clustered in East Raleigh? Why did the City suddenly start to care about preserving affordable housing in neighborhoods where houses could be bought for less than $70k right up until our attention caused property values to skyrocket? Why do we think the black residents of East/Southeast Raleigh are not actively participating in challenging development plans? When we decided to construct of I-40 in right down the middle of their backyards, do we really think that property owners didn’t fight it with the same energy as that of the white, North Raleigh neighborhoods? There’s a reason for a difference in the success rate that has nothing to do with citizen engagement; it’s called institutional racism.

Black and white neighborhoods? Raleigh’s population is totally diverse — look, someone painted it right there on the side of the building and printed on all these yard signs — Y’all means All! I mean, yes, we are diverse. We are so diverse that we have racially concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP), where 50% of the residents are minorities and the poverty rate exceeds 30% of individuals in a defined area. Of the several RCAPs in Wake County, all are located within the City of Raleigh(2).

Again, ask why the concentration of poverty and race exists in East Raleigh when the entire point of Housing Choice vouchers is to prevent that very thing. Though also understand that HUD’s efforts to deconcentrate poverty in public housing didn’t start until 1968’s Fair Housing Act forced integration of public housing projects.

When the answer to people actually living and dying without access to housing is “well, this is more than any other City Council has ever done” why aren’t we prioritizing the truth of the People over a politician’s statement?

Why do we continue to allow the private market to accumulate profit off families surviving on the significantly less-than side of the $80,200 area median income? Why do believe that developers and mortgage lenders lose money on building affordable housing? They do not.

If Y’all meant All, we would prioritize someones truth as fact over our personal assumptive perceptions. We choose ourselves because it’s easier to remain ignorant of how our complicity creates economic and racial inequity. This is not progressive.

Now, ask why it’s so easy to identify white supremacists carrying their message with flaming tiki torches, and so hard to see how white supremacy carries a similar message with municode and policy.

  1. Analysis and Audited Financial Statements, Year ended March 31, 2017

 

 

Mass Shootings. A Gun Story

San Bernardino. Mass Shootings. These events result in predictable reactions from all sides– it’s exhausting and, ultimately, pointless. Is there really any need for me to express my outrage? Or for the militia to defend their constitutional rights? Those methods aren’t working.

When a mass shooting happens, we immediately start sorting people into their baskets: mentally ill, terrorist, criminal. Then we begin to argue about how people are sorted into those baskets (hint, it’s a skin pigment thing). Next we argue about what the founding father’s meant when they wrote the 2nd Amendment (hint, there wasn’t a National Guard). We move on to the arguments about gun permits, background checks, and whether criminals give a shit about either one. And finally, when we’re a week or so out from the latest tragic event, we gather up our arguments and deflate back into our corners, ready and waiting for the next opportunity to bring it all out again. Because it’ll be the 689th time we say the same thing, but maybe this time the other side will finally get it.

It’s time we change the story.

And by we, I mean all the semi-sane people on both sides. Pro-gun folks, I’ve been in your forums– I know, and YOU know, that some of your tribe are one roll of aluminum foil away from the fluoride poisoning conspiracy

Sidenote: The government’s fluoride poisoning plan example was a real thread on a gun rights forum. I read all 22 pages– guess what? All of them would defend Tin Foil’s right to bear arms, because Amendments! And most of them typed long messages that, in summary, told Tin Foil that he was going a little too bat-shit about the water poisoning plan.

All of this to say that I understand that liking/owning/loving guns isn’t the piece that turns a person into a gun-nut. Just like I hope that sometimes the reverse is true, that they know, deep down inside, that you can be liberal without being a dirty hippie.

A meaningful conversation between our two groups has got to start somewhere. Here, I’ll go:

My name is Stephanie, I’m an Army Brat who spent her formative years on, or next to, a military base. My Army father did not keep guns in the house, because the animal hunting he preferred used worms, not bullets.

Mom– you should stop reading now. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back. 

That does not mean I have not held, loaded, or shot a gun. That does not mean I’ve never had a gun pointed at me. One of my favorite memories involves a trailer, a drunk guy, and a rifle. And I mean favorite in the, “phew, glad I didn’t die!” sort of way.

I’ve shot targets with a gun that was not mine, that was probably not legally the gun of the person that handed it to me.

I took a lot of unnecessary risks as a teenager/young adult. I came home late one night toward the end of my Senior Year of high school, finally afraid about the situations I had put myself in, and I asked my Dad why we didn’t have a gun for protection. He paused for so long, quietly finishing his who-knows-what-number can of PBR before he saying: “you only shoot a gun at someone if you mean to kill them. I don’t mean to kill anyone with a gun ever again.”  I never touched a gun after that night.

Mom, it’s safe again. 

Now I told y’all that stuff that’s going to get me in major trouble with my mother because I want you to understand that it’s not ignorance, or a lack of firearm’s experience that prompts my distaste for guns. No, it’s when y’all started wanting to take them everywhere, instead of leaving them in your damn house, that I got antsy.

How do you tell the difference between a legally carried firearm on a law-abiding citizen, and a legally carried firearm on a citizen seconds from their big psychotic break? You live to be horrified by seeing the first, and the details of your murder is reported live on the news by the other.

If I see you carrying a gun, I call 9-11.

Yes, I get tangled up in the symbology of shooting my son with a water gun, and yes, when my then-5 year old shot me dead center of the forehead during laser tag I struggled not to burst into tears. No, I will not play gun-games with my kids anymore, which was more their choice than mine. I ruin the fun by quoting gun injury and death statistics. I own my hypocrisy– sword play doesn’t bother me, and I’ve helped both kids make bows and arrows, so I obviously don’t have a problem with weapons.

But I do have a problem with guns. I have a problem with the constant push-back against background checks and waiting periods. I have a problem with the lack of a photo on NC’s concealed carry permits. I have a problem with the gun trust and dealer show loopholes. I have a problem with 4 white guys openly carrying loaded rifles in Target, and I have a real serious problem when John Crawford gets shot by police, in an open carry state, for carrying a toy gun while black.

I do. I have problems with all of those things. But I have other problems too. I have a problem believing that increased regulations will stop a criminal from purchasing or shooting a gun.

They won’t.

I have a problem with open-carry, but if given the choice between open or concealed? I’d rather see you coming, thankyouverymuch.

To give me time to call 9-11. 

I have a problem with the idiot adults that don’t secure their firearms, ending the lives of their children, the friends of their children, or even themselves when accidentally shot by those children.

Trigger locks could help there. Birth control would probably help even more.

Whenever we start talking accountability, we hyper-focus on the guns, the permits, the background checks, the gun safes, the criminals, the law-abiding. We talk and talk and talk, the 2nd-Amenders might say, “well, this guy bought the guns legally, then went nuts. No regulation would stop that, criminals gonna do what criminals gonna do.”

They have a point.

Non-Gunners want more regulations, because fuck, loose regulations resulted in twenty 1st Graders being murdered right there in the middle of the suburbs.
They also have a point.

Now, let’s talk about the people that are sitting verra still and quiet during these conversations. Let’s talk about the data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that no one on Reddit has ever read. Let’s start with the how a person becomes a dealer– by getting a Federal Firearm License (FFL). The regulations are specific, for example a FFL allows you to sell guns at a single address, so you can’t load up your car and sell guns door to door. One application, a $200 permit fee (for dealers, it gets more expensive for importing and manufacturing) and you now have a FFL. At the end of November 2015, there were  138,949 active FFLs in the United States. The key for number codes for each column header can be found here.

Okay. So there are a lot of dealers/pawnbrokers with federal licenses to sell firearms. With privilege comes responsibility, so the FFLs are supposed to maintain detailed records because sometimes an ATF agent will come inspect your facility. For example, by 2014’s year-end, out of more than 140,000 FFLs, the ATF had inspected 10,249. That’s a full 7%, y’all!

The FFLs are required to keep detailed records, including inventory listings, sales (transfers), thefts, and losses. These reports are made available to… wait. Losses? Why is that separate from theft? Why would that be…oh. Loss means missing, not stolen, inventory. 

So losses are missing inventory– just poof, vanished. Which is probably a small number, because firearm theft is the way that all criminals get their guns. Except the losses aren’t small. The total number of firearms stolen at the end of 2014- 5,719. The total number “lost” – 13,510.

Yeah. I think maybe we need to focus harder on those compliance inspections. The number of guns just lost? Why, it’s almost criminal.

 

Thom Tillis. Whoops.

Anonymous promised to release a list of KKK members on November 5th, which helped legitimize the Nov. 2nd release that included my own NC Senator, Thom Tillis. The real Anonymous was quick to non-ANON their association with the other group. If the first rule of Anon-club is not identifying yourself how can Anon really know for sure they aren’t associated with non-Anon? Deep thoughts.

This “alleged” information infected news and social media like electronic measles at Disneyland. I shared it, abandoning my overarching distrust of everything and everyone. You see, reading that Tillis was a member of a racist organization supported what I believe to be true about his character.

“Alleged and claimed, because no one is delivering the proof. But you know what? Even if it’s not true, I can’t think of a better person to have to deal with dealing with it.” 

Yeah, that was my comment on the Indyweek article I shared, even once it became obvious that the leaked information lacked a thing called validity. As an aside, is anyone else concerned with how easily public opinion can form based on what someone finds in your internet trash? I’ve spent the last several months researching a novel. Taken out of context my internet history reads like a textbook example of a watch-list, which doesn’t make my real life activity something that is watch-worthy.

Right before bed last night, I read the article Scott Huler wrote for Slate about the dangers of rumor. In fact, I was the person he quoted as saying, “I’m just stooping to their level” –hell yeah, it’s Six Degrees of being published on Slate.

Last night, I acknowledged the truth in what he said, then admitted to still not feeling ashamed for sharing misinformation, ultimately deciding to accept the whole thing as a tidy example of my own hypocritical (human) behavior.

This morning I decided that accepting it as excusable hypocrisy just wasn’t acceptable. Some of my favorite internet debates involve the times when I can point out the fallacies we all use to certify people with authority. Neither Jenny McCarthy, nor Bill Nye have the required bona fides to make a determination about GMO crop safety, which has in no way prevented either of them from talking about what they think.

How many progressive foreheads banged against desks during the coverage of the faked Planned Parenthood videos?  Can I truly work it out in my own mind that my falling for the Tillis/KKK lie is somehow different than those that fell for the PP lie?

I could. I really want to. But I won’t.

Instead, I’m going to do something much harder:

Senator Tillis, I’m sorry for saying you were in the KKK. I still don’t like you, but that was an unfair accusation and I was wrong. 

 

Sincerely,

Eater of Crow

 

Easy Racism Test

Dylann Roof walked into a church in Charleston shooting to kill. Nine people are dead because they were black, and he’s a racist.

Some of the comments, opinions, and idiocy I’ve read since: white guy walks into a church, says he hates black people, kills black people, but this is yet another attack on Christianity? I mean, really.

Or, he’s mentally ill.

Which is interesting because you almost never read about the underlying mental illness of the Sept. 11th terrorists. Or the Boston Marathon Bombing, or the– you get what I’m saying here?

Maybe you can argue that the murders of Travyon Martin, Michael Brown, John Crawford and Tamir Rice weren’t rooted in racism. I’d counter-argue, and at least once the open carry advocates agreed, that racism and the resulting fear of a black man with a gun caused their deaths. When black men–and children– are killed for having fake guns, but the white guys hang out in Target armed for war?

Well.

Roof? He’s a racist. He’s a terrorist. He’s a racist terrorist that got a gun and deliberately murdered innocent people in order to start a race war. Then, before the first funeral could happen, South Carolina started a war of moral outrage, not over the 9 people killed in a church, but over the attack on the still-flying Confederate flag.

Classy.

I find myself shocked all over again by the people that still don’t understand why a missing orange sticker on a toy gun does not excuse Tamir Rice’s murder; why stolen cigars does not excuse Michael Brown’s murder; why a toy BB gun in a store in an open carry state does not excuse John Crawford’s murder, why a hoodie and a pack of skittles does not excuse Travyon Martin’s murder. The same people keep defaulting to mental illness as the motivating problem for these mass, spree shootings. It certainly can’t be that ALL THE DAMN GUNS in America that could be partially to blame. Oh, no– not the guns.

I’ve tried to explain white privilege, and I’ve tried to explain how citizens in a city might be provoked to riot after a senseless murder.

Some folks just aren’t getting it. Maybe a picture?

Collage of white mass shooters called mentally ill, but unarmed black victims are called thugs. That's Racism.

 

 

 

Manufacture NC’s Dream: Gambling on Poverty and Education

The big stories in North Carolina over the past few years have been heavy on attracting jobs, poverty, and education. Public education funding, common core repealing, teacher pay raises, medicaid, unemployment benefits, corporate tax cuts, and fracking. Sensationalized headlines–“Gambling with Teacher Pay” and reports of teachers leaving the state link on the homepages of most local news organizations. Even while understanding the need to cut spending in a strained economy, many still struggle to understand why the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) chose specifically to devalue public education. Why they would chose an income tax cut that then creates a dependency on funds for public education on powerball ticket sales? They are trying to manufacture NC’s dream by gambling on poverty on education. While ignoring how teacher’s–and quality public education– break the cycle of poverty.

Or maybe that IS the goal: keep the poor uneducated now, protect the availability of your low-cost workforce later.

 The North Carolina Education Lottery 

In 2013, the North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) spent $354,000 on advertising. They also added new games, brand-specific instant win tickets, and second-chance drawings for losing scratch-off tickets.

It worked; the sales for the NCEL in 2013 were up 5.4 percent from 2012, a total of $1.6 billion. After paying for lottery winner payments, advertising/marketing, and other expenses, $478 million remained.

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