Why Baltimore Is Burning

By Kevin Powell
BK Nation

I am from the ghetto. The first 13 years of my life I grew up in the worst slums of Jersey City, New Jersey, my hometown. If you came of age in one of America’s poor inner cities like I did then you know that we are good, decent people: in spite of no money, no resources, little to no services, run down schools, landpersons who only came around to collect rent, and madness and mayhem everywhere, amongst each other, from abusive police officers, and from corrupt politicians and crooked preachers, we still made a way out of no way. We worked hard, we partied hard, we laughed hard, we barbequed hard, we drank hard, we smoked hard, and we praised God, hard.

And we were segregated, hard, by a local power structure that did not want the ghetto to be seen nor heard from, and certainly not to bring its struggles out in plain sight for the world to see.

Indeed my entire world was the block I lived on and maybe five or six blocks north south east west. A long-distance trip was going to Downtown Jersey City on the first of each month so our mothers—our Black and Latina mothers—could cash their welfare checks, buy groceries with their food stamps and, if we were lucky, we got to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken or some other fast food restaurant on that special day.

When I was about 15 I was badly beaten by a White police officer after me and a Puerto Rican kid had a typical boy fight on the bus. No guns, no knives, just our fists. The Puerto Rican kid, who had White skin to my Black skin, was escorted off the bus gingerly. I was thrown off the bus. Outraged, I said some things to the cop as I sat handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. He proceeded to smash me in the face with the full weight of his fist. Bloodied, terrified, broken in that moment, I would never again view most police officers as we had been taught as children: “Officer Friendly”—

Being poor meant I only was able to go to college because of a full financial aid package to Rutgers University. I did not get on a plane until I was 24-years-old because of that poverty and also because I did not know that was something I could do. These many years later I have visited every single state in America, every city big and small, and every ghetto community you can name. They all look the same.

Abandoned, burnt out buildings. Countless churches, funeral parlors, barber shops, beauty salons, check cashing places, furniture rental stores, fried chicken spots, and Chinese restaurants. Schools that look and feel more like prison holding cells for our youth than centers of learning. Playgrounds littered with broken glass, used condoms, and drug paraphernalia. Liquor stores here there everywhere. Corner stores that sell nothing but candy, cupcakes, potato chips, soda, every kind of beer you can name, loose cigarettes, rolling paper for marijuana, lottery tickets, and gum, lots and lots of gum.

Then there are also the local organizations that claim to serve the people, Black and Latino people. Some mean well, and are doing their best with meager resources. Others only come around when it is time to raise money, to generate some votes for one political candidate or another, or if the police have tragically killed someone. (Continued)

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Steal This Idea: City Water Generating Green Power

A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)

Portland to Generate Electricity Within Its Own Water Pipes 

By Ben Coxworth
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag

Feb17, 2015 – There’s a lot of water constantly moving through the municipal pipelines of most major cities. While the water itself is already destined for various uses, why not harness its flow to produce hydroelectric power? Well, that’s exactly what Lucid Energy’s LucidPipe Power System does, and Portland, Oregon has just become the latest city to adopt it.

LucidPipe simply replaces a stretch of existing gravity-fed conventional pipeline, that’s used for transporting potable water. As the water flows through, it spins four 42-inch (107-cm) turbines, each one of which is hooked up to a generator on the outside of the pipe. The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn’t slow the water’s flow rate significantly, so there’s virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency.

A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)

The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy, and its installation was completed late last December. It’s now undergoing reliability and efficiency testing, which includes checking that its sensors and smart control system are working properly. It’s scheduled to begin full capacity power generation by March. (Continued)

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Rahm Emanuel Is a Union-buster. So Why Are Chicago Unions Backing Him?

Most of the city’s labor movement is laying low or supporting the mayor in the upcoming election, despite his well-known anti-worker policies

By David Moberg
In These Times

Jan. 28, 2015 – When Rahm Emanuel strode into office as mayor of Chicago in 2011, one of his first targets was the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). He sought and obtained state legislation limiting the right of Chicago teachers to strike. But he lost doubly in the fall of 2012: The CTU successfully mobilized its members to go on strike, then won both a good contract and the battle for public support. Yet Emanuel still closed 49 public schools and expanded charter schools the following spring. Meanwhile, other public employee unions moved into the mayor’s crosshairs as he drastically cut and privatized city jobs and services, often with help from a Democratic governor and state legislature.

Emanuel stands for re-election February 24 in a non-partisan primary against four challengers (and if no one wins 50 percent of the vote plus one, there will be a run-off between the top two on April 7). Polls suggest Chicagoans are not satisfied with their mayor, but most observers give him the odds because of his financial advantage—as of early 2015, he had a $11 million war chest, 10 times that of any opponent.

In theory, labor could be an important part of these calculations. Chicago is a more unionized city than most, and union endorsements typically come with credibility, money and an army of campaign workers. But despite Emanuel’s anti-union record, unions are divided about how to deal with “Mayor 1%,” as Kari Lydersen’s biography of Emanuel is titled.

Emanuel earned that sobriquet not only for the millions he made working for an investment bank and his gift for convincing the rich to empty their pocketbooks for the Democratic Party, but also his disdain for unions. “Fuck the UAW,” he infamously said when serving as Obama’s chief of staff during the auto bailout. He also largely shares the worldview of the financial and corporate elite: Give the hard back of the free-market hand to Jane and Joe Sixpack, the soft palm of friendly government to needy businesses.

Emanuel’s leading—but still longshot— opponent is his opposite on most counts. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a former alderman and state senator, has been a member of three different unions and strongly supports labor.

“My roots are with working-class people,” Garcia said in an interview with In These Times. “I understand what working-class families need. … Chicago would be better served by a mayor who has that background and would work with unions.” He says that Emanuel’s attempts “to break the CTU” were “heartless” and “spiteful.” Those are harsh words from a man who comes off as modest, self-effacing and “genuine”— as Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly said while endorsing him. Garcia supports the Fight for 15, wants to strengthen neighborhoods and their infrastructure and wants to replace the mayoral appointment of school board members with a board elected by Chicagoans (a major demand of the CTU).

You might imagine that unions would rally behind a seemingly pro-labor challenger to an incumbent with an anti-union record. But as of early January, Chicago’s unions were divided between Garcia, Emanuel and neutrality for a variety of reasons—some peculiar to Chicago, others typical of the U.S. labor movement’s electoral strategy.

Broad shoulder unions

Chicago’s unions, riven with thuggish political squabbles in the late 19th century, grew more unified, progressive and powerful in the first part of the 20th. They often supported labor and socialist party candidates and welcomed organizers like William Z. Foster, a Communist Party leader who led ambitious unionization campaigns in the Chicago meat-packing and steel industries.  (Continued)

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