Vol. 2, No. 3 March 2003
MENTAL HEALTH BUDGET CUT
I once took a job that paid less than I needed to survive. I did so because it was a good opportunity, and once I made it past the 3-month "probationary period" I would make substantially more money. During that three months, I scrimped, borrowed, went without, and did a lot of "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
My life during those three months looks a lot like the public mental health system. Local Community Mental Health agencies (CMHs) are required, on a daily basis, to meet the needs of people with mental illness in a system that everyone knows is tragically under funded. The system does what it can with the resources it has and looks towards the next fiscal year, with fingers crossed, hoping for some relief. Some in the system have given up hope, and consider it a "success" if their funding isn’t cut or eliminated.
The dramatic rate of increasing health care costs in this country has been well documented. This, in effect, means that any budget that does not include substantial increases is the equivalent of a cut, not a continuation of funding at the same level.
The Bush Administration’s proposed budget for FY 2003 could potentially do great harm to the community mental health care system. We need immediate action to prevent this damage: write, call, fax and e-mail your legislators to let them know you want community mental health to be adequately funded! Here are a few of the most troubling aspects of the budget proposal.
· Of the mental health programs that would not be cut or eliminated, most would receive "flat funding.
" Flat funding + rising health care costs = cuts.
· "Community Action Grants" would be eliminated. These grants are small potatoes in the overall budget (they are usually $50,000-$150,000) but are the genesis of many innovative and "best practice" programs. Many of these programs have been proven to reduce hospitalizations and increase successful employment, among other outcomes.
· $17 million will be cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funding for CMH Programs of Regional and National Significance (which apply research findings to improve community-based services).
· All finding for 5 "Mental Health Centers" would be completely eliminated. These centers provide technical assistance to directly help mental health consumers around the country achieve independence through recovery from mental illness.
At the same time these cuts are being proposed, this budget seeks to slash other programs and supports that the CMH systems rely on to help support people with mental illnesses. Deep cuts are proposed in Housing assistance (including the important Shelter Plus program), VA health care, funding for public school counselors, and other related programs. As we’ve seen this administration do in other areas, Bush is using the war on terrorism to justify these cuts. $4.3 billion has been found for bio-terrorism prevention and response.
No matter how one feels about the "war on terrorism" it is impossible to justify taking funding from some of our most vulnerable and underserved populations.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Annual Tax Day Demonstration
April 15th, Noon. Federal Building, Ann Arbor
To protest the increasing size of the military budget while social needs go unmet.
FOLLOW THE MONEY by Jim Mogensen
U2 Can Go to the Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum (WEF) held its annual meeting in New York City from January 31 through February 4, taking over the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The annual gathering of business and government leaders is usually held in the Swiss ski-resort village of Davos but was moved to New York City. The organizers characterized the move to New York as an act of "solidarity" with the Big Apple but some think that Switzerland told them that the security costs were just too high.
The corporate media breathlessly awaited violence and ran videos of Seattle, Genoa, and Quebec City. They seemed disappointed when they reported that the protesters were apparently in teach-ins, seminars, and non-violence training.
The conference had 2,700 participants including a small number of government, academic, and religious leaders along with the business leaders. Celebrities attending the conference included Bono, who has been working on international debt-relief, with Elton John and Alec Baldwin.
Alas, the tight security included not letting the media into the Waldorf-Astoria and severely restricting their access. The WEF’s director of communications, Charles McLean, argued that "they would take the place of government, business, academic, and religions leaders. They would have overwhelmed the meeting and taken away many important voices."
Of course, these voices would be unheard without the press. Shouldn’t the people be helping the decision-makers make some of these important decisions?
David Komansky, the chairman and chief executive of Merrill Lynch, reportedly said of the protesters "Some of the activities that we engage in put you in a position where you can truly understand some of their points of view." Mr. Komansky argued, however, that critics don’t always understand the balance large corporations need to strike when doing business in developing countries.
Critics argue, of course, that the balance corporations strike involves their own balance sheets and that workers need to go on strike to counterbalance the interests of the stockholders.
Wall Separating Church & State is Crumbling
The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) is proposing to issue a $7.8 million revenue bond on behalf of the Saline Christian School Association to assist in building of a 73,000 square foot two-story school building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Moon Road.
Usually the MSF issues the bonds on behalf of corporations. On August 22nd, 2000 (fourth anniversary of the Federal Welfare Change Legislation) a notice was published in the Ann Arbor News announcing the intention of the MSF to issue a revenue bond on behalf of the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) for its new office building on Green Road. As a neighbor of the building, I took the opportunity to contrast corporate and "personal" welfare in a speech to City Council.
When the Ave Maria School of Law asked for Ann Arbor Economic Development Corporation to issue a revenue bond for its expansion even I was somewhat astounded. The City Council balked at the proposal and the Law School went to the Michigan Higher Education Facilities Authority (The Higher Authority) for the revenue bond. One can imagine that the golf course and Ave Maria University are next in line.
The public revenue bonds provide a lower interest rate than a regular commercial loan because of their tax-exempt status. They may be legal but it’s just not right!
Mass Transit at a Crossroads
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) is the public body responsible for mass transit in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti urbanized area. Local subsidies provided 40% of AATA’s operating costs in FY 2001. Transit fares, and state and federal subsidies, and interest on "retained earnings" pay the rest.
The AATA is currently suffering from a budget crunch in part because of a decrease in state funding. On January 29th, the AATA board reviewed a menu of options to balance the budget. Some of the options included:
· Increased fixed route fares
· Increased fares for A-Ride, Senior Taxi, & Night Ride.
· Decreased fixed route service
· Elimination of Night Ride
· Increase in the payments by local governments for transit service
· Requiring St. Joe’s and WCC to pay for service
· Elimination of Senior group shopping trips
· Restructuring the high school afterschool service
· Increasing grant funding for preventative maintenance
· Selling advertising on buses.
When these kinds of issues are discussed it is often the most vulnerable who lose out. Those who must take the bus to work will need to do so even if the fare goes up but middle class people only seem to take the bus when it is free or when there’sno parking (e.g., Art Fair).
The Racial and Economic Justice Task Force (REJ) of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) has been watching carefully. If you would like to be on a list alerting you to public hearings, etc. please contact: ICPJ, Attn: REJ-AATA, 730 Tappan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104; firstname.lastname@example.org; 734-663-1870.
LOCAL SOLIDARITY RALLY PROTESTS WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM
On February 2nd, 2002, a rally was held at the Federal Building in Ann Arbor, in solidarity with a demonstration in New York City outside the meeting of the World Economic Forum, to protest the corporatization of the world’s economy.
Local speakers representing at least a dozen groups addressed an enthusiastic audience of about 40 people, and included high school and college students. They addressed a wide range of concerns, from opposing sweatshops to demands that we not widen the war.
It is encouraging that so many groups, ranging from the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice to the People’s Progressive Network of Washtenaw County were able to work together to make this effort a success.
STOP THE WAR
March on Washington D.C.
"The War on Terrorism" breeds more terror, and it’s Unamerican, too.
Join us to demand:
A just U.S. foreign policy
Hosting Groups: National Youth & Student Peace Coalition; National Coalition for Peace & Justice; 9-11 Emergency National Network; NYC Labor Against the War; International A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) A.N.S.W.E.R.@afgi.org or (212) 633-6646.
Haddad Case Still Pending
Rabih Haddad, the Muslim Leader who was arrested at his Ann Arbor home on December 14, 2001, was questioned by a grand jury in Chicago on February 14 following three closed hearings on visa violation charges at the INS office in Detroit.
Several newspapers and civil rights groups have filed suit to open Haddad’s past and future hearings to the media and the public.
He was reportedly told that he is not being investigated for terrorist activity by the Justice Department, but is expected to be called before the grand jury again in April.
Haddad’s wife Salma Al-Rushaid, along with a daughter, appeared at an INS hearing on February 12. The family is requesting that their deportation cases be consolidated so that they can make decisions together. A hearing on consolidation is set for April 10. Noel Saleh, an attorney handing some aspects of the case, stated that the family will not contest the immigration charges. No criminal charges have been filed against Haddad or Al-Rushaid.
Day of Solidarity with Arab Detainees
Five diehard peace and justice activists from Ann Arbor and Detroit came out to educate and engage the public on the University of Michigan Diag–the walkways that traverse the main UM-Ann Arbor campus. We spent several hours in the frigid, rain-soaked afternoon handing out peace literature and blue triangle pin/stickers to passers-by (each triangle representing a person being detained by the government).
This event was meant to call attention to the degrading status of civil liberties in the U.S. The local action was part of a national "Day of Solidarity" with those men of Arab descent or of the Muslim faith who were arrested since September 11th. The Houston-based group "La Resistencia" originally suggested this action, and by February 16th had collected approximately 240 signatories from a highly diverse range of simpatico groups and individuals from across North America.
The literature we handed out at the Ann Arbor event included summaries of the purpose of the "blue triangle day of solidarity" as well as information regarding upcoming local events in support of Rabih Haddad (see left) who has been held under very harsh conditions in Michigan and Illinois prisons since his arrest on December 14th, 2001.
On February 20, in addition to handing out literature and 30-50 triangles, the five local peace advocates attempted to dialogue with a hurried and disinterested public. Although we encountered much apathy, we did speak with a number of people who seemed genuinely concerned about civil liberties and war, and who said they planned to take further actions themselves in the days ahead. Very few people were hostile, although it was apparent that several were frightened of the wave of repression that is occurring and how it might impact their own lives.
Related Events in Dearborn
Along with events in cities across the country, a rally took place in Dearborn, in which an estimated 80-90 people took part. Many observed and applauded the demonstrators as they traveled along Michigan Avenue during the 4:00-5:30 p.m. rush hour.
Stay tuned to the local press (especially the Street Wall Journal, the Agenda and the People’s Voice) and to the La Resistencia website at www.laresistencia.org for further developments which are planned across the country for the coming weeks and months. Laminated blue triangles on pins are available for a small donation from the author (at Wooden Spoon Books, 200 N. Fourth).
PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
(La Resistencia National Council)
Today, February 20th, 2002, they are coming first for the Palestinians, Pakistanis, Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Afghanis, Yemenis, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.
But today, February 20th, 2002, I pledge resistance to the disappearance, indefinite detentions, depor-tations, torture and secret military tribunals.
I pledge resistance to the government’s persecution of people based upon where they were born, the color of their skin, their immigration status, the language they speak, or the religion they practice.
I pledge resistance to the hateful racism and vigilante attacks that have been encouraged by the government’s anti-immigrant hysteria.
I pledge to unite and work with as many people as possible from all backgrounds to find the ways to stop all of this now and in the future.
I pledge and commit myself to people here and around the world to work tirelessly, to unite with thousands, tends of thousands and ultimately millions, to stand up to whatever the government may throw at us, to do whatever is necessary, so that together, we can stop these and all attacks on Muslim, Arab, South Asian and all immigrants.
Bush Secrecy Undercuts Democracy
As George W.’s first year as president ends, a disturbing pattern of Nixonesque secrecy is emerging. In precolonial times, the Divine Right of Kings was regularly used to defend all royal decrees. The ruler’s fiats unfailingly expressed God’s will for their kingdom, making most opposition punishable by both God and state. In 1215, the noblemen of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, designed to redress a long series of unjust executive power grabs. Today this same elitist doctrine is called executive privilege, and George W. has sought to expand executive secrecy more in one year than most presidents do in an entire term.
From the Afghan War to the massive upscale tax cut, very few details of real political effects are readily available to the general public. Without broad access to this type of vital information, little factual evaluation of current policies can be made.
Just as the many abuses of the Watergate era finally received (currently nullified) redress, Congress must soon be pressured to actively challenge this current executive power-grab–our future together depends on it!
America’s Political Cult of Not Enough
About twenty years ago, an obscure group of rabid haters of the New Deal began their concerted effort to reshape American society to the greater benefit of the wealthy. The key belief shared by these mostly well-off citizens is in their right to recast domestic economics and politics to enhance their own powers. The constant Doomsday scenario of this group projects the federal government "going broke", followed by major chaos. (This argument ignores the fact that the entire monetary system is the government’s own captive creation.)
During this twenty-year period, our society has experienced many systemic failures–healthcare, education, transportation, etc. due to this highly eccentric world view. To the extent that many of these crucial governing decisions are now made based solely on current economic criteria, the traditional democracy of broader civic decision-making is bypassed for "government efficiency". When coupled with the current Bush/Ashcroft assaults on civil liberties, the need to reverse these authoritarian trends becomes obvious. Be sure to vote wisely this November!
Rally at the Olympics
With the eyes of the world on Salt Lake City on March 8th for the opening day of the 2002 Winter Olympics, about 200 people marched to Presidents Circle in Salt Lake City, where they held a rally to protest the lack of "economic human rights" experienced by so many Americans.
The rally, organized by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (www.kwru.org.) and the JEDI (Justice, Economics, Dignity, and Independence) Women received good press coverage in Salt Lake City, where a rally of that size is very rare, and also in Philadelphia (home of the KWRU) and internationally.
Speakers at the rally called for adequate food, housing, clothing, education and medical care for everyone. It was attended by people from around the country.
When 5 people tried to go beyond Presidents Circle, they were arrested, driven to some uninhabited area and released in the middle of the night.
Signed Elements ©