Saturday, January 30, 2010

Detroit News 1/30/2010, Pg A1




New Buffalo
This tiny beach town in the southwestern corner of Michigan is being squeezed by speculators of different stripes.
On the west, so many condos have sprouted along Lake Michigan that developers can’t fill them.
On the east, the new Four Winds Casino Resort draws 15,000 gamblers a day. The population of New Buffalo is 2,200.
The changes are bringing the type of development that residents had come here to escape.
“Ten years ago, I described it as the Hamptons of the Midwest,” said Mike Hosinski, a former furniture store owner who led a movement against construction of th e casino. “Now it’s the Atlantic City.”
The influx has raised tensions, espe cially between the blue-collar locals and well-heeled Chicagoans buying the con dos. The natives refer to their new neigh bors in a derogatory way that is not Friendly Illinois People.
Some locals celebrated the collapse of the housing market because it’s the only thing that has slowed the deluge.
But it also left the overdeveloped town with dozens of homes that have never been lived in and whose high prices pre vent the middle-class from moving in.
Nora Duffy, a real estate agent who is chairwoman of the Zoning Board of Ap peals, defended the city against criticism that, unlike neighboring communities, it failed to control development.
“Could we have gone slower? Yes,” she said. “But no one saw the (housing mar ket) bubble coming.”
When Native Americans began oper ating casinos in the 1970s, they referred to

(More online: Explore an interactive satellite map of New Buffalo at

them as the "new buffalo" because of the promise of prosperity.
So it seems only fitting that eventually an Indian casino would come to a place called New Buffalo.
The town was named by a schooner captain from the Buffalo, N.Y., area who discovered it in 1834 when his ship ran aground just south of here.
The area became a popular summer getaway in the first half of the 20th century. After World War II, however, highways and airliners allowed people to vacation farther from home.
New Buffalo was forgotten, barely glimpsed as motorists sped by on Interstate 94. In the 1970s, its seedy bars and bait shops were popular only with Indiana kids, who liked Michigan's lower drinking age. The town is two miles from the state bor der.
One of those Indiana kids was Harry Pagels, who later became a steel mill worker for 30 years and now tends bar at New Buffalo's most popular watering hole, Casey's Bar and Grill.
"The town was nothing but bars when I was a kid," he said. "There were shacks along the water. Now it's million-dollar homes."
New Buffalo was rediscovered a decade ago. Chicagoans flush with money from the go-go economy of the '90s were looking for ways to spend it and the area's bountiful sand dunes offered some of the prettiest beaches along Lake Michigan.
More than 500 condos, houses and townhomes have been built since 2005, according to property tax records. The town had 1,426 housing units in 2000, according to the Census.
Homes that couldn't fit on the crowded land sit upon pilings on the water.
The average price of homes in the region jumped from $189,996 in 1999 to $481,688 in 2007 before falling to $354,308 last year, according to a review of figures by Re Max Harbor County, a real estate firm in nearby Union Pier.
Larger homes along the water sell for millions of dollars, including one last year for $4.9 million.

Who's to blame?

Exhibit A in the overdevelopment of New Buffalo lies smack dab in the middle of its two-blocklong downtown.
Village Square was a $71-million development that was going to revitalize the business district. Covering nearly a square block, its four buildings would hold 61 condos and assorted shops.
Seven years later, half a building sits on the dormant construction site. A plastic window cover flaps mockingly in the wind.
With taxes unpaid fo r three years, the property is headed toward foreclosure, said city officials. Developer Jimmy Gierczyk of Homewood, Ill., couldn't be reached for comment.
At Casey's, across the street from Village Square, a real estate broker and a newspaper owner argued last week over who was responsible for the eyesore.
"They left us high and dry," Mary Beth Moriarty, publisher of the New Buffalo Times, said about the developer. "They were pirates. They should be ashamed of themselves."
"Or should the city be ashamed for not having bonds when it gave building permits?" said the broker, Dan Coffey, referring to money a developer pays a municipality to guarantee a project's completion.
"I blame real estate agents for saying property would be worth three times more than it is now," Moriarty said.

Casino changes landscape

When the Four Winds Casino Resort opened one mile east of town in 2007, it was like an enclosed city had popped up overnight.
The resort has a 165-room hotel, four restaurants and a room of slot machines that is a footballfield- and-a-half long. Its square mile of land is nearly half the size of New Buffalo.
Other businesses in New Buffalo are losing customers and workers to the casino, whose 1,800 workers make it the third largest employer in Berrien County.
It's also attracting crime.
Calls for police, fire and ambulances in southwestern Berrien jumped 55 percent after the casino opened, from 6,716 incidents in 2005 to 10,393 in 2008, the last year figures are available, according to the county.
But Matt Harkness, general manager of Four Winds, pointed out the casino contributes 2 perc ent of its revenue from slot machines to local municipalities. The communities said they have received $5 million so far.
"I believe it has been a positive impact," Harkness said.
Like an invaded land, New Buffalo shows other signs of foreign occupancy.
Despite its small size, it has eight real estate agencies. Besides Duffy, the real estate agent who is chairwoman of the zoning appeals board, a real estate agent serves as secretary of the New Buffalo Township Planning Commission.
Amtrak brought Chicago even closer to New Buffalo in October by doubling the number of nonstop routes between the cities to four. The 71-mile route can be traversed in 50 minutes. A Detroit train stops there daily.
Beach entrance fees and hotel rates have risen. The summer weekend rate at Harbor Grand Hotel has jumped from $175 in 1998 to $319 this year.
Popular landmarks are disappearing.
The kitschy Jackson's Fruit Market, located at the intersection of the two major roads running into New Buffalo, lost its lease to a proposed office and retail development. But the financing dried up and the site has been vacant for two years.
Each summer tourists and Chicago residents converge on the tiny burg, bringing traffic to a standstill. A survey of residents and businesses by the city Business Improvement District last year cited the gridlock and lack of summer parking as major headaches.
To avoid the cars, some residents rarely venture from their homes until the visitors leave at the end of the season.
"The town was on its way to being one of the most successful lakefront communities," said Hosinski, the retired furniture store owner.
"But they didn't have a plan. People were building condos like crazy. It was a great idea that got sidetracked. They had an opportunity that they squandered." (313) 223-4186

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Fact Worth Repeating - Whirlpool Spreads Garbage

A few years ago, Jack Nicklaus visited the Benton Harbor, Michigan area to view land where a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course was to be built along with a huge resort called Harbor Shores. They* wanted desperately to convince Nicklaus that it would be a wonderful and fair act to develop the publicly owned Jean Klock Park. So, before Nicklaus arrived, they* trucked garbage to a grassy area in JK Park, easily viewed from hwy. 63. The garbage was a combination of appliances and general trash from a popular nearby dumping area, trash left from a recent triathlon, and even laminated Harbor Shores maps strewn all over the long, neat, linear garbage pile, at least 100 feet long.

Thus, Nicklaus was given the impression that people in Benton Harbor kept their land covered in garbage. This ploy was designed to influence Mr. Nicklaus; he wouldn't feel badly about destroying such a mess.

The mess was not cleaned up by them.* In fact, it wasn't cleaned up until Richard Marsh was hired as BH city manager.

*Harbor Shores - Cornerstone Alliance - Whirlpool

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We watched The Great Debaters on DVD recently. True story of the Wiley College debate team invited to Cambridge where they took on Harvard's team in the early part of last century. Quite a wonderful story with Denzel Washington as the coach, and other actors you'll recognize. If you saw Precious, The Great Debaters (along with many other recent excellent films having Black themes), would be a good antidote.

From Armond White's review of Precious: "...Perry and Winfrey naively treat Precious' exhibition of ghetto tragedy and female disempowerment as if it were raw truth. It helps contrast and highlight their achievements as black American paradigms--self-respect be damned."
Mr. White provides a list of movies with Black themes.

Another Precious review well worth the read:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

[Guess which school system in Berrien County will NOT receive any of these funds? --answer at end]

Board approves resolution to make the state pay more

By Scott Aiken H-Palladium
Friday, January 22, 2010
ST. JOSEPH - Berrien County officials support a resolution that calls for laws to force the state to pay for services it mandates from local governments and school districts.
The resolution adopted by Berrien County commissioners Thursday calls for an end to so-called unfunded mandates.
The Legislative Commission on Statutory Mandates has suggested steps to eliminate unfunded mandates, programs and services the state calls for but fails to fund. The commission concluded in a December report that unfunded mandates, while commonplace, subvert the intent of the Headlee Amendment to the state Constitution, approved by voters in 1978.
The commission was formed by the Legislature in 2007 to investigate the cost of funded and unfunded mandates to local governments and to recommend changes.
Berrien County commissioners voted to approve a resolution encouraging the state to adopt the LCSM recommendations, which include steps to prevent new unfunded mandates and mitigate those already in effect.
Underfunding of state mandates cost local government units and school districts $2.2 billion to $2.9 billion in 2009 alone, the commission said.
"It's the best chance we've had in a long time to get the state's attention on unfunded mandates," county Administrator Bill Wolf said.
With the state in a budget crisis, Wolf said, it's not likely it will spend money to make up for past underfunding. But taking steps to prevent future abuses would greatly benefit local governments and schools.
The Headlee Amendment prohibits the state from reducing its portion of costs of any existing activity or service required of local government by state law. Any increase in existing activity or a new activity or service cannot be required of local units unless the state appropriates money for it.
The LCSM found a "stark history of noncompliance" with Headlee going back 31 years. Checks and balances put in place when the amendment was enacted have failed, the commission said, and reform is needed.
The commission recommended that new laws should be written to require the drafting of a fiscal note before a law could take effect.
Funding would then have to be set aside for it before an appropriation bill could be passed.
Challenges to whether a requirement was a mandate or not would be heard by a special master through an appeals court action. The court would be required to rule within six months of filing.
If the court failed to rule, any affected local government or school district could discontinue the service until the state complied with the Headlee Amendment.
The Senate Fiscal Agency says state support for local governments has dropped 20.7 percent since 2003, while colleges get 16.4 percent less and public schools get 6.8 percent less.
Several organizations representing schools and local and county governments submitted lists of unfunded mandates for inclusion in the LCSM's final report.
The Michigan Association of Counties listed eight, some in effect before the Headlee Amendment was approved and others that came later. They totaled $39.8 million to $43.8 million. The counties association did not specify the time period.
Michigan School Business Officials, a professional organization, estimated that the state has underfunded the pension program for public schools by $1.46 billion over the past 30 years. School districts that once paid 5 percent of the pension costs now pay all of them, the result of cost shifting by the Legislature.
Wolf said the recommended changes, which are to be considered by the Legislature, might be enough to get the state to back off from gradually chipping away funding for local government.

[Benton Harbor school system will get NONE of these funds]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Link Crisis Intervention Center's 14-bed shelter program for troubled youths will close as of March 1

Organization will focus efforts on outreach services instead
By Wm. Ast III - H-Palladium, Friday, January 22, 2010

BENTON TOWNSHIP - Faced with a 40 percent cut in state and federal funding and a decreasing demand, the Link Crisis Intervention Center's 14-bed shelter program for troubled youths will close as of March 1.
Instead, the Link will concentrate on outreach services, which should better serve the youths, officials said.
Art Cotter, chairman of the board of Child and Family Services of Southwestern Michigan, said in a press release Thursday that the economic downturn has ended "certain key state and federal funding sources for the Link." To ensure financial viability, the CFS board decided to close the Link shelter program, he said.
The Link is a part of CFS.
CFS Executive Director Warren Washington said the shelter program has had an annual budget of around $500,000 but has seen the big decrease in state and federal funding.
However, he said the Link has also seen "a decrease in the demand for our shelter services and an increase for our outreach services. That's part of the reason for this restructuring. We believe our restructuring will help us meet the changing needs of the community."
The shelter had about 100 youths in 2009, Washington said. "The shelter has been underutilized for the past year," he added.
Washington said he's not certain why the demand has gone down.
"I know we have increased our prevention and outreach services, and providing counseling to youths in schools and community centers to help prevent youths from running away in the first place," he said.
Offering more outreach services should allow the Link to help 500 young people this year, compared with 200 total last year, Washington said.
Shelter director Kelly Nightingale said young people who used the shelter in 2009 stayed for an average of about eight days. They are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days, she said.
After March 1, the space will be used "for some of the other programs that we have in the agency," Nightingale said. "We will have no problem utilizing the space."
In addition to more outreach programs, the agency will expand its National Safe Place program. That program will allow CFS to continue to help what it calls "youth in crisis" to get help at participating business locations.
Washington said participating businesses display a Safe Place Sign, showing youths a place where they can go and get help. "Then the business owner and staff will contact us here at the Link, and a counselor or case manager will work with the youth," he said.
The goal "is to recruit at least 50 businesses in the first year in the tri-county area served by Child and Family Services," Washington said.
CFS in a news release about the changes said it expects to eliminate a few positions as a result of the restructuring.
Washington said the Link has 14 staff positions. He said he doesn't yet know how many may be lost.
Child and Family Services of Southwest Michigan originated in 1891 as the Children's Aid Society, which helped orphaned children find permanent homes. CFS services now include Homecare, Day Services for Seniors, the Link Crisis Intervention Center, West Michigan Guardianship, and Safe Shelter Inc., the area's domestic violence shelter.
CFS is now at 2450 S. Michigan 139.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Discrimination Lawsuit Against Whirlpool -
Racism Tolerated (Encouraged?) in Whirlpool Workplaces

Former Whirlpool employee gets $1M from harassment lawsuit

By Chastity Gunn, Dec. 24, 2009

A former Whirlpool employee who claimed her complaints about racial and sexual harassment were ignored by company management received a $1 million award from a federal court Monday.

Judge John T. Nixon found that every level of management of the now defunct La Vergne [Whirlpool] plant failed to respond to Carlotta Freeman's complaints. The harassment eventually spewed over into a physical altercation.

Freeman, an African-American woman, testified that her co-worker Willie Baker, a white male, repeatedly made "sexually explicit and racially charged statements" to her for two months, according to court documents.

Baker denied making the comments, but "the court does not find Baker's testimony to be credible on this point," the judge's order states.

Freeman repeatedly complained to her direct supervisor Charlie Fisher about Baker's comments and behavior. Fisher assured her he would do something and "suggested that Freeman ignore Baker," according to court documents.

But, Fisher did not investigate the allegations and did not discuss them with Baker.

An attempt by The DNJ to get comment from Whirlpool was unsuccessful.
The La Vergne plant, which employed more than 500 people, closed in August 2008.

On March 22, 2004, Baker used racial slurs directed at Freeman and co-worker Chinica Lillard, who is also African-American, while working on the assembly line, court documents state. "Freeman felt threatened" so she reported his comments to her co-worker Kim Wheeler, who is white. Then, Wheeler reported the comments to their supervisor, Fisher, who spoke with Baker, Freeman and Lillard separately about the matter.

Fisher told Baker and Freeman to ignore each other and not talk to each other except if necessary. But Freeman contends that immediately after that meeting, Baker approached her in the break area and began harrassing her again. When she told Fisher, he allegedly told her to go ahead and have sex with Baker so that he would leave her alone.

"One of the supervisors in a sense said 'to go sleep with him and get it over' — not an appropriate response to a sexual harassment case," said Andy Allman, a Hendersonville lawyer who represented Freeman.

Whirlpool argued that "Baker's conduct, if it occurred at all, was not what a reasonable person would find to be race-based harassment."

On March 26, 2004, Baker told the human resources director Fred Contreras that he felt threatened by Freeman and that he had reported this to Fisher. Contreras didn't believe Freeman was threatening to Baker, but thought Baker could be the target of co-worker harassment, according to the judge's order. He asked the human resources manager for the La Vergne division to look into the situation.

Later that day, Baker walked up to Freeman and punched her in the face knocking her onto the assembly line where she was hit by air conditioners coming down the line, documents state. He continued trying to punch her until Lillard got Freeman on the floor. "Baker picked up a steel valve and threw it at the two women yelling 'I'm going to get you too' at Lillard."

Baker said Wheeler told him Freeman had a gun, so he hit Freeman.

After an investigation, he was terminated for "gross misconduct." He was convicted of assault.

Freeman returned to work the next day and took an "open-ended leave of absence." She later resigned upon the advice of her psychiatrist and psychologist.

Whirlpool contended that Baker's assault on Freeman was not racially or sexually motivated, "but by his delusional belief that Freeman had a gun at work."

The court disagreed and found that "Baker's behavior escalated in response to the only intervention by Whirlpool management in his harassment of Freeman — the March 22 meeting called by Fisher."

Several medical experts testified that Freeman had developed chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and couldn't participate in normal activities.

"She's completely disabled, not able to work because of the incident," Allman said. "She is pretty much a complete introvert, rarely leaves her home anymore."

The court ordered Whirlpool to pay Freeman a little more than $1 million.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[Whirlpool's plan to profit from public legacy would make all public land vulnerable to privatization]

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over Jean Klock Park
By Eartha Jane Melzer 1/19/10

A federal judge in Grand Rapids has dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers failed to follow environmental laws when they allowed Benton Harbor’s Jean Klock to be developed as a private Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course.

Opponents of the conversion of the public park say that a critical concern is the trade of majestic dune views in a globally rare ecosystem along Lake Michigan for 38 acres of environmentally contaminated, former industrial land.

“We’re taking an appeal because there were several major factual errors and legal flaws in the ruling, which, if left unchallenged, open local and state parks across the country to privatization just because a powerful entity has a plan to profit from the public’s legacy,”
Terry Lodge, attorney for the plaintiffs said in a statement.

Cornerstone Alliance President Wendy Dant Chesser told WSJM that last week’s ruling validates years of hard work on the part of Harbor Shores developers.

A separate case remains pending in the state Court of Appeals.

Plaintiffs in that case claim that the privatization of the park violates the terms of the deed that granted it to the public as well as a 2004 consent judgment in which the city of Benton Harbor agreed to preserve the park for public use.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, HBO program from Botswana

If you are lucky enough to see this wonderful detective show, you will delight in the methods used with those who commit crimes. Framing? Arrest? Conviction? Jail? Prison? Quite the opposite: forgiveness and restitution, among others. And, one can understand how these methods are effective.

We know that Resorative Justice programs exist in the US, certainly not in Berrien County, one of the harshest and most punitive areas of the country where lives are permanently destroyed on a daily basis. Maybe someday citizens will come forward to establish a RJ program in Berrien, and through some miracle, will succeed.

(After doing a search, we found that some libraries carry DVD's of the first season (08-09) of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Interview with Dorothy Pinkney By Joseph Peery

Joseph Peery: Dorothy, what happens when young people are arrested in Benton Harbor?:

Dorothy Pinkney: They tell them to plead guilty and you’ll just be fined. By hearing this they get excited and think “I can do this, I can say I’m guilty and I’ll go home.” But it doesn’t happen like that. It’s not set up that way. The powers that be know that the poverty level in the city is so high and there are not many jobs. So when they give these young African American guys their jail sentences, they know they cannot afford to pay their sentence. So what do they do? Go to jail. Then the jail becomes overcrowded. I’ve seen so many mothers, wives, girlfriends, packed into the Berrien County Jail just to visit their boyfriends, their husbands, their fathers. It was too much to handle. I didn’t know it was this extreme.

JP: Many families don’t have a bread winner at home. And during winter, there’s a lot of homes that don’t have water or gas. Can you speak to this.

Dorothy: You’re just adding misery to people’s lives. It’s like you take a nail and hammer and you hit that nail. It’s going to pierce the wood, but you keep nailing and hitting and it goes deeper and deeper. There’s so much poverty. The city is being drained.The government doesn’t care. Why do you keep beating someone down when people are saying “we can’t take any more.” Instead of helping, you’re steady nailing deeper and deeper.

JP: What do you feel people in other cities need to do?

Dorothy: I think we can all come together and unite as one, fight for one particular thing, get that accomplished, and then go to the next thing. It’s a slow process but we can do it. It’s never too late.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another Victory And Another Defeat

By Attorney Hugh “Buck” Davis

The Berrien County Circuit Court finally acknowledged Reverend Edward Pinkney’s victory in the Court of Appeals on his “biblical prophecy” probation violation, but continued draconian conditions of probation amounting to house arrest, even though those conditions were not in the original probation order and no notice or due process hearing had been held on them. As the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU prepared to appeal those conditions, Judge Butzbaugh “remembered” that they had not been a part of the original probation order and modified them on his own, while maintaining the prohibition against Pinkney coming within 1,000 feet of the courthouse, the judge or his home, as well as prohibiting him from speaking in a “demeaning” manner about the City of Benton Harbor, or its officials. Doug Mulkoff is going to appeal those conditions

When Kelly Flint, acting as Pinkney’s clemency counsel, called the Governor’s office recently, she was informed that Governor Granholm had denied Pinkney’s clemency petition on July 20, 2009. The Parole Board claimed that Pinkney had been informed. He had not. He was in prison and his wife was always at home. No letter came from the Governor or the Parole Board denying commutation.

Regardless, we are eligible to reapply in April 2010, and Pinkney plans to file again. If Pinkney fails in his pending application to the Supreme Court on the underlying violation and/or subsequent habeas corpus petition, he could renew the clemency process in the form of a request for a pardon.
-- Pinkney is now free to travel. He will speak in Detroit on January 18, at 12 noon, at the Martin Luther King Day Rally and March for Jobs, Peace and Justice at Central United Methodist Church, 23 East Adams at Woodward (contact 313-702-5558).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Current Status of Damage Done by Whirlpool in Benton Harbor

“It bothers me that these allegations are out there,“ he said, “somebody maybe ought to be doing a criminal check and either exonerate or bring criminal charges.”

Controversial golf development gets new tax credits as state board probes failed promises
Harbor Shores awarded $12.6 million in brownfield redevelopment money

By Eartha Jane Melzer 12/21/09

The private golf-centered luxury housing development that took over Benton Harbor’s public lakefront as part of an economic development scheme endorsed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm received $12.6 million in new tax credits last week, even though a state board has begun pursuing the company for failed commitments.

Locals say that Jean Klock park is being damaged by Harbor Shores which just received $12.6 in brownfield redevelopment money (photo courtesy

The Harbor Shores development is backed by the appliance giant Whirlpool, which maintains its corporate headquarters in Benton Harbor despite having moved most of its manufacturing jobs elsewhere, leaving the city one of the poorest in the state.

Much of the formerly industrial land slated for development in the project is polluted with chemicals and heavy metals. Whirlpool has donated some parcels to the project.

In the latest round of public financing for the project, announced by the governor last week, the state agreed to subsidize the costs of building high end second homes and condos and a portion of a trail that is to link the homes to the golf course and other attractions.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved $12.6 million in brownfield redevelopment tax credits and stated that the project is expected to generate $123 million in investment and create 45 jobs.

Brownfield credits are given to businesses who take a contaminated parcel of land, clean it up and make it usable again.

But some locals — who have been fighting the development though lawsuits still pending in state and federal court — say that the project is not worthy of public support and should not be seen as environmentally positive.

They accuse developers and public officials of side-stepping rules intended to protect natural resources and they warn that by building a golf course on top of a delicate lakeside sand dune, new areas of contamination are growing in what was once a pristine public park.

Three of the holes in the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course that is the centerpiece of the planned development have been built in the center of Jean Klock Park, which was donated to the residents of Benton Harbor in 1917.

Developers said that the breathtaking dune views of Lake Michigan were needed to ensure a commercially viable project, and negotiated a long term lease with the city of Benton Harbor.

The conversion of the park required approval from the state because the state has funded park improvement grants. In October 2006, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board voted 3-1 to approve a conversion plan that offered new parkland and a trail system in exchange for the dune parkland.

Developers have not delivered on promises

Now the board is asking whether the developers have held up their end of the bargain.

Excavation, tree removal and new parking lots have transformed part of Jean Klock Park into a private golf course, but the trails and new parks promised in exchange have not materialized.

In presentations to the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board locals have also complained that some areas of the park that were supposed to remain public are now difficult or even dangerous to access, and they’ve warned that chemical run-off from the golf course is contaminating the park as it flows into drainage ditches that were not shown in plans presented to the public.

In October, the Trust Fund Board established a working group to investigate the ways in which the Harbor Shores project has diverged from the plan approved by the board.

At the Dec. 2 meeting of the board, commissioner and board chair Lana Pollack expressed frustration over Harbor Shores’ assertion that the park conversion plan approved by the board was a concept rather than a commitment.

“When we approve a project we are approving a project not a concept. It is disturbing to see that used as a justification for going outside the bounds of what was approved.”

Pollack acknowledged that the patchwork of former industrial parcels traded for the park contain hazardous levels of contaminants.

“We have extreme concerns about the use of mitigation parcels because they are part 201 facilities, a toxic stew. They have to be dealt with in a way that is respectful of today’s and tomorrow’s children.”

Commissioners seek possible legal investigation

After listening to Benton Harbor resident Nicole Moon give a slide show and a litany of the shortcomings of the Harbor Shore project at the Trust Fund Board’s December meeting, commissioner Bob Garner suggested that it may be appropriate for the attorney general to examine Harbor Shores practices.

“What is coming up here are matters that strongly suggest that mitigation needs to take place, and allegations … that criminal activity has taken place,” Garner said.

“At some point we might ask the attorney general to step in and try to set the law straight on that.”

Garner said that he was not sure whether the trust fund board had authority to refer matters to the attorney general, but he said he was disturbed by questionable practices associated with the Harbor Shores development.

“It bothers me that these allegations are out there,“ he said, “somebody maybe ought to be doing a criminal check and either exonerate or bring criminal charges.”

Commissioner Dennis Muchmore also encouraged Moon to bring the Harbor Shores issues to the attorney general.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Whirlpool Corporation featured in this article - "...white male Whirlpool supervisor gave an African American female employee a letter so incredibly racist and demeaning, most companies following an ethics [code] would act immediately to fire the supervisor. But not Whirlpool..."

Barack Obama: Impersonating a Black Man

by Larry Pinkney,

“Just as the slave master of that day used Tom—the house Negro---to keep the field Negroes in check, the same old slave master today has Negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms…It’s like when you go to the dentist and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and ‘cause you’ve got all that novocaine in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. ‘Cause someone has taught you to suffer---peacefully.”

--Malcolm X

When one recognizes the substantive difference between being supposedly black due mere partial pigmentation versus being black by virtue of color, consciousness, and collective memory it becomes crystal clear that Barack Obama, wily servant of the corporate / military elite, is by no means black. Rather he is, as Reverend Edward Pinkney [no relation] poignantly stated on a recent radio program: “Impersonating a black man.” Obama is a descendant of U.S. slaveholders, not slaves; nor does he genuinely empathize with the plight of masses of ordinary, every day, Black, Brown, White, Red, and Yellow peoples who are being savaged by the corporate elite’s banks and insurance companies, etc., while simultaneously being used as so much cannon fodder in bloody foreign wars, at the behest of the military elite of this nation. Indeed, Barack Obama is the corporate / military elite’s 21st century “novocaine” to the masses of people.

“To be Black in America is (in fact) an unflinching necessity,” which means that: “Beyond mere color, being Black is first and foremost a conscious political, social, and economic commitment to the struggle for the betterment of the descendants of the Black slavery holocaust in what has now become the United States of America, in conjunction with other people of color and humanity as a whole.” Barack Obama is anything but black. He is the epitome of the 21st century Willie Lynchisized ‘house Negro;” and in this instance, White House Negro.

Sadly, but certainly not surprisingly, the U.S. corporate media overwhelmingly and shamelessly, bombarded and deluged Black America and the U.S. citizenry at large with the myth that then U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama was somehow substantively different from those who had occupied the White House before him. He certainly was not and is not. He is the willing and active servant of the corporate and military elite, and who like a well trained slave, speaks the Euro-centric King’s English of his masters whose interests he serves, at the expense of every day people of all colors. As he serves his corporate and military masters economic and political interests, he hides behind his pigmentation—his so-called blackness. Indeed, to be black and head of the U.S. Empire is an irreconcilable contradiction in terms.

This man, Barack Obama, who escalates the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, who urges the continuation of the unconstitutional & anti civil liberties Patriot Act, and who extends the international U.S. program of kidnapping known as “rendition,” cynically and opportunistically dares to feign admiration and respect for the assassinated peace and “civil rights” activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in his day, opposed the very disgusting and hypocritical actions which Barack Obama is so vigorously purveying.

We should have collectively known who Barack Obama really is when he, in complicity with the distorting and obfuscating U.S. corporate media, publicly and opportunistically castigated his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, to the boundless glee and approval of his corporate and military puppet masters and political handlers. We should have collectively known who this man really is when he publicly derided black men, as if black men, and in particular black fathers, must accept total responsibility without being accorded total economic, social, legal, and political human rights by and in this society; and as if the deep wounds of slavery and ongoing and worsening economic exploitation and deprivation have somehow mysteriously simply disappeared today. As long time political activist Ralph Poynter so clearly puts it: “There can be no legitimate responsibilities without concomitant rights.” We should have collectively known who this man really is when in his inaugural speech he praised those who had “traveled across oceans in search of a new life” and “settled the West,” as if these alleged settlers and their so-called “new life” on this continent did not directly result in the genocidal holocaust of millions upon millions of Indigenous Native peoples, and the degradation and destruction of their cultures and way of life right down to the present day.

We should have collectively realized that Barack Obama did not and does not represent change, but the continuation of the ‘American’ myth; while ordinary Black, White, Brown, Red and Yellow peoples are ruthlessly exploited and discarded by Obama’s corporate and military masters. This is all being carried out under the “guise of reform” which is, as the Soledad brother George Jackson wrote, nothing more than de facto “fascism.” Barack Obama is a gift to the corporate / military elite, not the people of this nation and world.

Back in the April 19, 2007, issue of The Black Commentator, I warned of the enormous danger posed by Barack Obama, when quoting the words of former Oakland, California, City Council member Wilson Riles, I wrote, “Obama has signaled where he stands—he passed the powers-that-be vetting. For example, he took neoconservative pro-war Senator Joe Lieberman as his Senate mentor, voted to re-authorize the Patriot Act, blames concentrated Black poverty on ‘cultural issues’ and not on white supremacy, and he favors keeping troops in Iraq and keeping the bombing of Iran ‘on the table’ Obama is not the one.” In the January 17, 2008, issue of The Black Commentator, I noted that, “Whereas Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. abhorred the U.S. war in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world, Barack Obama, cloaking himself in the guise of a ‘peace’ candidate has repeatedly stated his support for ‘unilateral’ military actions in other nations…This is not the position of a candidate of PEACE. It is the position of a candidate promoting a PIECE of war.” Moreover, in the January 31, 2008, issue of The Black Commentator, I wrote that Barack Obama is a “deeply corporate / military U.S. Presidential candidate” who “has called for ‘unilateral’ military actions in other nations.” Repeatedly and continually, throughout the year 2008, and beyond, I attempted to sound the alarm—but most of the corporate media, supposed ‘progressives,’ the petty bourgeois black elite, and much of the so-called black intelligentsia disgracefully embraced the pro-corporate, pro-military, and pro-apartheid Zionist candidacy of Barack Obama; instead of honestly, intelligently, and quickly stepping away from the confines of the salivating foxes and wolves of the Democrat and Republican Parties respectively.

Whirlpool Corporation and Other Corporate Scoundrels

Even as the Obama / Biden / Rahm Emanuel regime, under the guise of “reform” makes an enormous gift of profit to the corporate elite of insurance companies, et al; U.S. corporate greed is on an unprecedented rampage with the people of this nation as its front line targets and economic hostages. And as the corporate media spouts nonsense about a so-called “jobless economic recovery,” the masses of people of all colors throughout this nation lose their homes, educational opportunities, etc. and any viable hope of a decent, dignified life. Especially does this horror hit home with Black America.

U.S. corporations from the infamous Blackwater Corporation (which has now conveniently renamed itself)--to the corporate banking and insurance elite--to Whirlpool Corporation, headquartered in the de facto apartheid township of Benton Harbor, Michigan---function with enormous disdain for every day people and virtual impunity.

For example, the Whirlpool Corporation, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, despite its phony ‘Whirlpool Code of Ethics,’ clearly supports workplace abuse, and demeaning and racist 21st century--Willie Lynch style activities against Black workers at its corporate headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Recently, in this instance, it is reported that a white male Whirlpool supervisor “gave an African American female employee a letter so incredibly racist and demeaning, most companies following an ethics would act immediately to fire the supervisor. But not Whirlpool.” Instead, the black female worker was fired and the racist male supervisor kept. The enormous economic and emotional pain, distress, and degradation that this black female worker is being put through by Whirlpool Corporation is absolutely unacceptable by any human standards. It should be kept in mind that this is certainly not the first time that Whirlpool Corporation has demonstrated its contempt for decency, justice, and fair-play. And this pattern on the part of Whirlpool Corporation must be forthrightly exposed and rejected.

It should be remembered that Whirlpool is a national and international corporation, and all justice-loving people, irrespective of color, should be appalled at this corporate behavior on the part of Whirlpool Corporation. THE TIME HAS COME TO BOYCOTT WHIRLPOOL products nationally and internationally.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The peoples of the United States of America, and indeed the entire world are at a perilous crossroad. We must act locally, nationally, and internationally to struggle for an end to the Obama / Biden / Rahm Emanuel regime’s perpetual war, subterfuge, and fear mongering.

We must face and act upon the fact that Barack Obama has unequivocally demonstrated that he is an enemy of every day people and a friend and ally of the corporate / military elite. We can no longer bury our heads in the proverbial sand. Our own futures and those of our children and their children are at stake. Blackness is so much more than a mere color. It is an attitude which envelopes the real advancement and uplifting of all of humanity.

Onward brothers and sisters. Onward to do what must be done! Editorial Board Member, Larry Pinkney, is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities in opposition to voter suppression, etc., Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS NewsHour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book). Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

This is a repeat posting from August 2009, but I think it is a worthwhile reminder of the social climate of St. Joseph, Michigan.

These photos were taken Aug 15, 2009 prior to the NAACP organizational meeting in Benton Harbor, MI.

The first 4 photos are of signs found on every corner in the lavish downtown area of St. Joseph, MI where the white town has parks, a huge beach, band shell, art center and sculptures. It is a destination for the wealthy and the white as evidenced by the signs.

The two sculptures are part of St. Joseph summer art.

About one mile away, over the bridge one can see Benton Harbor where a new road (federal stimulus dollars?) is going toward the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course with an approved strip club. Benton Harbor land was taken by Harbor Shores (Whirlpool) for the huge development.

These two buildings are indicative of the overall infrastructure of Benton Harbor. There is a small gentrified area of Benton Harbor where artists have purchased buildings cheaply and put their studios, etc. Overall, Benton Harbor has one little fountain surrounded by a fence so that no one can get close to it, an old house as an historical museum, and a large police presence.