GIVING THANKS FOR TJ & MO!

GIVING THANKS FOR TJ & MO!

I’ve blogged about our son TJ before over three years ago on his 28th birthday. This time I get to blog about TJ and our new daughter Maureen Sanchez Wysocki. Nov 24 2018 Maureen & TJTheir wedding gives us another date for family celebrations: November 24th.

The wedding mass was at Old St. Patrick’s where TJ had his First Communion. It’s also our church where my wife Lynne has been singing in the choir for over two decades. Many of her choir mates volunteered to sing but were outnumbered by one of the largest and most diverse wedding parties at OSP.

Nov 24 Wedding PartyMany emotions and memories flooded that day. One was that TJ’s Irish Great-Great Aunt Anna lived across the street from OSP and made her First Communion there as well, perhaps in the first decade of 1900. My mother’s Irish ancestors emigrated post-famine from County Cork, first settling in Troy, NY.

My father’s Polish ancestors emigrated in the early 1870s fleeing from domestic policies in the German part of partitioned Poland, where poverty and official discrimination aimed at Catholics were prevalent. I’m sure Theodore Sr, my mother Daisy and Lynne’s Irish and German parents, Leslie and Harry, were all there in spirit to welcome the Mexican-American culture into our heritage. Nov 24 Mo & Dad

Most of my blogs are overtly political. This one is certainly personal. But I need to be true to my own voice and share my pride in TJ & Mo as they start the next branch in our family tree as Polish-Irish-German-Mexican American. This is America’s heritage. This is America’s future.

God Bless, TJ & Mo. May your years ahead be full of joy and happiness.

While I haven’t added lyrics to the U2Cando playlist in a number of months, it’s only appropriate to do so from your Wedding Playlist:

I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles
And the heaven’s open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song
She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love
She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love

Yeah when I’m returning from so far away
She gives me some sweet lovin’ brighten up my day
Yes it makes me righteous, yes it makes me whole
Yes it makes me mellow down in to my soul
She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love
She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love
— Van Morrison

 

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MOVING ON FOR CHANGE

Two years ago after the November Trump Ascendancy to the throne, I went to hear Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, speak. I’m sure all in the audience were looking forward to hearing about all the progress on climate action that was awaiting us over the next four years. While McKibben shared the audience’s frustrations over the election result, he inspired me with his story telling on how 350.org was founded.

Anna MoveOnThis year post-election, I heard Anna Galland, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, speak at a fundraiser for Organizing Neighborhoods for Equality: Northside [ONE Northside].

MoveOn is where millions mobilize for a better society—one where everyone can thrive. MoveOn is more than its name. It is challenging America “to move forward boldly and fearlessly, upholding and enacting the values that will make our country work for all of us.”

ONE Northside is a mixed-income, multi-ethnic, intergenerational organization that unites diverse communities on Chicago’s north side. Building collective power to eliminate injustice through bold and innovative community organizing, they are developing grassroots leaders acting together to effect change.

Anna shared in her keynote remarks that MoveOn’s Nobody Is Above the Law campaign, which is fighting to defend the Mueller investigation, had deployed that day its rapid-response network to convene 900 protests over Trump’s effort to ensure that the Justice Department ends the investigation.

ONE Northside leaders shared their multiple issue campaigns including its Affordable Housing Team’s focus on defending the North Side’s diverse neighborhoods, like Uptown where I work, against gentrification. Among current advocacy is IL state legislation [SB3512], which would both lift the ban on rent control and implement rent stabilization in the state of Illinois. Election Day was a victory for the hard work of its Team to tackle the urgent need for affordable housing with over 70% of Chicago’s 46th Ward voters checking their support for rent control.

MoveOn_HouseWinGraphic_NewAnna imparted her elation in the House returns providing a check on Trump exploits over the next two years. ONE Northside leaders proclaimed their pledge to take their issues into the pending Chicago Mayoral race.

Now there is less than two years for us all to be Moving On For Change.

TREASURING CRA

“The banks of this country are remote from the people and the people regard them as not belonging to them but as belonging to some power hostile to them.”

I started my March 15, 2015 blog with this quote. I first acknowledged that it was not a quote from US Senator Elizabeth Warren; but it could be. It is from a 1908 keynote address to the American Bankers Association by Woodrow Wilson.

Now in the last month, Senator Warren @SenWarren has awakened my imagination to the possibility of electing a President who is an affordable housing advocate, not a luxury developer. She has introduced legislation, titled the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which takes aim at segregation, redlining, restrictive zoning, and the loss of equity by low-income homeowners.

The Atlantic article by Madeleine Carlisle on September 25th describes it as “perhaps the most far-reaching assault on housing segregation since the 1968 Fair Housing Act. It’s ambitious, pouring half a trillion dollars over 10 years into affordable-housing programs.”

Warren’s bill would strengthen anti-discrimination laws by expanding Fair Housing Act protections to include gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, and source of income, attempting to limit housing segregation in the future. It will authorize more enforcement mechanisms for the federal Community Reinvestment Act [CRA] and expand it to include credit unions and nonbank mortgage companies.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has started the comment clock on its efforts to strip “community” out of a law that’s supposed to strengthen America’s communities. A New York Times Op-Ed on August 28th by Jesse Van Tol, chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC], ran with the headline: “A Green Light for Banks to Start ‘Redlining’ Again.”

The Community Reinvestment Act [CRA] was passed in 1977 to end “redlining” by requiring banks to lend money in the communities where they are chartered to do business or receive deposits. According to NCRC calculations, banks have made nearly $2 trillion in small-business and community development loans since 1996 to meet CRA requirements.

NCRC members 5th3rd & Huntington MAR 2017

NCRC members announce community lending agreements with Fifth Third & Huntington banks March 2017

This impressive record is now at risk of being turned into a math formula, which would make CRA exams considerably less effective in evaluating how banks are responding to local needs in metropolitan and rural counties. One ratio cannot tell an examiner, a bank, a mayor, or a member of the public how responsive a bank is to its various local service areas.

If CRA exams award points for financing or activities that do not address lack of access to banking or community development needs in lower income areas, then CRA will be less effective in channeling resources to the very communities that were the rationale for its passage. Coupled with an expansion of the kinds of activities that could count as “community lending,” it could allow banks to make fewer loans in poorer urban, suburban and rural communities.

Ignoring the lens of “equitable development,” it could accentuate CRA credit for loans to luxury and market-rate housing in economically and racially diverse communities that will only further real estate speculation, displacement and the lack of affordable housing for those Americans who should benefit from CRA lending.

Comments to these proposals to weaken CRA must be submitted on or before November 19, 2018. For more info, including instructions on how to submit your comment go to: ncrc.org/treasureCRA 

Reinvesting in communities can make America’s economy great for all. At a time when power is again becoming hostile, we must Treasure CRA in order to pursue a Just Economy.

BLOGGING FOR 4 YEARS & STILL LOOKING…

My first blog was in August 2014: DOES ANYONE HAVE BONO’S CELL NUMBER? Unfortunately, no one did, so I “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

My first year of blogging, I did so weekly and Blog #52 offered a Top 10 retrospective of that year: BLOGGING FOR JUSTICE OVER A YEAR’S WORTH OF SEEKING.

Looking back on the last three years of monthly blogging, there have been many renewed calls for justice and sorrowful farewells to warriors who have left us.
Reviewing my last 36 blogs, I’ll limit this anniversary reflection to my ToP 5.

#5 HAPPENING HERE? – January 2017: Comparing Trump’s inauguration to my alternative history, envisioning the inaugural speech that President Robert F. Kennedy could have delivered in January 1969.

#4 WAIT, WAIT… DON’T TELL ME… REDLINING LIVES? – February 2018: Anticipating that all Trump financial regulators will be “bluffing” when it comes to enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act [CRA] and that building local economies and encouraging racial and economic diversity will be regarded by Trump as “Not My Job!”

#3 MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY – March 2017: Remembering my June 1996 visit to Belfast as a member of a delegation convened by Senator George Mitchell, who noted:  “When I first came here, people on both sides of what is ironically called the peace line told me, without any rehearsal, exactly the same thing – that there was direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment.” Hume quote

#2 HEEDING A WARNING TO HUMANITY – October 2017: Observations from my tour of Auschwitz in Poland as a place forever to be “a cry of despair and a warning to humanity.”Auschwitz Plague

For those who know me, I’m sure you beginning to guess that there was a life-time moment for me on November 2, 2016 that is the #1 blog: GOING ALL THE WAY… CUBS WIN!! CUBS WIN!!

It’s still unclear how the Cubs will fare this Fall. I’m rooting for a Cubs / Red Sox World Series. Our political landscape remains hazy. Perhaps, a blue wave will reclaim the House & Senate. Chicago faces a Mayoral Election next year for its very soul and future opportunities for all.

As I pledge to keep blogging in the months ahead, it’s only appropriate to add another song from Bruce to the U2Cando playlist. I look forward to meeting you in a land of hope and dreams. U2Cando!

Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past
Big wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Oh meet me in a land of hope and dreams
— Bruce Springsteen

WARRIORS FOR TRUTH & PROPHETS OF VIRTUOUS ACTION

“People have been lied to and cheated. People have been systematically denied their right to control decisions that affect their lives and their communities.”
–Studs Terkel quoting Gale Cincotta during July 7, 1977 interview

This is not my first blog to be influenced by a sermon of Fr. Ed Foley, from the Catholic Theological Union. One homily back in May 2014 especially resonated with me when he encouraged the congregation to be “Traders in Hope.” This inspired me to post a series of blogs about my community development colleagues who could add that title to their LinkedIn profiles. More recently on Sunday July 8th this year, Fr. Foley offered two additional job descriptions which are timely positions to be filled for today’s challenges and an appropriate title for this blog.

That same Sunday afternoon, I attended a presentation at our favorite independent book store, City Lit, by the archivist for the Studs Terkel Radio Archives. Studs ArchivesThen later that evening, I searched the site and found Studs’ interview 41 years and a day ago with the “Warrior for Truth and the Prophet of Virtuous Action” who shaped my life and vocation, Gale Cincotta.

Not only was it great to hear Gale’s voice again, it was especially relevant to hear Studs quote above the essence of Gale’s call to action over four decades ago. In the interview Gale reminds us even today: “Getting people to realize that they can exert control of their own lives is what it is all about.”

Gale Cincotta

Gale Cincotta Reclaims America October 13, 1980

Gale went on to discuss with Studs the “sense of Power, sense of being” when people act together. My first memory of Gale goes back to the spring of 1973 as she addressed a school hall filled of African-Americans, ethnic whites, and Latinos from communities across the country, which were all inundated by racial steering for profit. She would call out the truth today as affordable housing remains plagued by developer greed and racial segregation.

On July 9, 2018, the Chicago Tribune ran an editorial, Growth vs. Affordability — Neighborhoods Need Both, referencing a Tribune story that discovered: “in gentrifying neighborhoods where affordable housing is most needed, fees paid by developers to fund housing at below-market rates get diverted elsewhere.” The editorial concludes that a pilot program should be expanded to more gentrifying communities to eliminate the buy-out option and ensure that if developers are going to build in these neighborhoods, “they’ll have no choice but to include affordable housing in their plans.” My comment is absent such a timely policy shift, the City of Chicago and other US cities are fostering continued racial and economic segregation.

For those who would protest such governmental action would be market interference, a history lesson can be learned from Studs’ and Gale’s 1977 conversation. Studs asks if Chicago’s posh Lincoln Park had a plan to move out its low-income population. Gale answered by noting that 55% of Chicago’s federal HUD loans went to Lincoln Park’s more affluent instead of where they were supposed to go to assist low- and moderate-income Chicago residents and communities.

Warriors for Truth and Prophets of Virtuous Action needed even more now 41 years later. Applications welcomed!

HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

“Hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness…. Hygge is an experience of selfhood in communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation…. Hygge is a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being not having.” – Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well.”

There I was on my Scandinavian vacation, when I discovered my hygge in a Copenhagen bookstore. With my community development perspective, I embraced it not only as cozy comfortable life style options but as a socio-economic-political paradigm. DSCN4326 (2)I remembered my own hygge moments of watching sunsets and reading in the shade of my backyard. But as previous U2Cando blogs bear witness our country is in dire need of cultural enhancements through better hygge.

Encounters not only in Denmark but also in Norway and Sweden affirmed that while citizens of these countries pay (and complain about paying) exceptionally high taxes, they do so as individual contributions to the common good. A “hygge” tax policy that efficiently supports and facilitates the opportunity for all to enjoy wellbeing.

In Stavanger, Norway, I learned at its Oil Museum about Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund to assure that its citizens benefited from the exploitation of their natural resources. Established in 1990 to invest surplus revenues [mainly from taxes on oil companies and payments for licenses to explore for oil], it now has over $1 trillion [US dollars] in assets, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In May 2018, those assets were worth about $195,000 per Norwegian citizen.

DSCN4153 (2)

Outside the Nobel Peace Prize Museum in Oslo

Visiting Oslo, Norway, I reflected on how my career vocation was shaped in college by reading The Structure of Freedom by Christian Bay. His 1959 University of Oslo PhD dissertation was a study of the quest for freedom. I had the personal privilege of studying with Bay at the University of Toronto in the winter of 1973 for my Master’s degree research. His imperative that politics should be the profession of serving human needs not wants remains my mantra and remarkably relevant today. It seems to be a core “hygge” value.

 

“To hygge is to build sanctuary. The most basic security that we can provide each other is shelter – physical and psychological…. Ideally buildings and cities would be designed with our enduring human needs in mind.”

That’s a good summary of equitable development and the urgency of my current efforts in Chicago’s Uptown community. I was especially pleased and inspired to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ final note in her book:

“Hygge is dependent on having our most basic human needs met. Without security and shelter it’s hard to survive. For every copy of this book bought a donation will be made by the author to a charity in support of the homeless.”

Sure glad I bought her book and not the more popular book profiled on the Today Show in March 2017 as a cute trend.

 

BINDING THE WOUNDS

BINDING THE WOUNDS

“Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and women. Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and sisters, countrymen and countrywomen once again.”  — Robert F. Kennedy, April 5, 1968

I went to sleep the night of June 5, 1968 having watched the projected returns from the California Democratic Primary. Having completed my college freshmen year, I dreamt that night about the changes coming and what they might mean for me.

Earlier that April, perhaps the same date that RFK sounded the call above, flying home for Spring Break, I observed the west side of Chicago, my hometown, in flames after Dr. King’s assassination. How could I have known then how quickly tragedy would strike two months later?

I would still spend another year in ROTC but the questions that Bobby Kennedy was raising about the Vietnam War were already resonating with me.

SHELTERFORCE RFK 2007 40th
SHELTERFORCE Winter 2007

His calls to combat poverty and embrace civil rights were an awakening that six years later would become my 44-year vocation for equitable community development.

I did not foresee all those changes ahead for me, let alone our country, the morning of June 6th when I arose to learn of his assassination. Yet, I was profoundly moved to search for meaning and new ways to serve my country and my brothers and sisters.

This is not the first time I have used this RFK quote from his “Mindless Menace of Violence” speech in Cleveland the morning after Dr. King’s assassination. I did so in a blog after Trump’s inauguration speech. In my alternative history, I envisioned these simple words as the core value message of the inaugural speech that President Robert F. Kennedy could have delivered in January 1969. Given the continued onslaught of hate tweets, they should be considered imperative for the duration of the Trump Administration.

Binding the wounds will be a challenging task. Conversations are a start but underlying contradictions are pervasive obstacles to even approach the beginning of consensus. Demonstrating the possible is an appropriate response. But that too is no easy initiative.

Here at the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] we have launched a new series of Conversations on Social Justice. The first topic was Immigration Reform. Hearing from the opening panelists on the urgency of their respective initiatives, it remains incomprehensible to me that a country founded by immigrants can’t reconcile welcoming policies and practices.

Future topics such as addressing homelessness and assuring equitable development implore action plans not only locally here in Chicago but also nationally and internationally. When designing for change, we must imagine a better world as Bobby did 50 years ago.