Strong Communities, One Crisis at a Time

It's been said that when your neighbor loses his or her job, the economy is in recession, but when you lose your own, the economy is in depression. In addition to being overly glib, this idea has always struck me as a fundamental underestimation of the strength and compassion of our communities.

From the surge in volunteerism to the heroic efforts of food banks to meet increased demand, we are responding to the current economic downturn not by retrenching, but rather by recommitting ourselves to our obligations to one another.  This may seem like a fairly dull silver lining to such an overwhelming crisis, but if you believe, as I do, that economic events are temporary but cultural events are lasting, then it is fair to assume that the current spirit of community-mindedness will drive the creation of an economy that is fairer to all of its participants.  And this new, fairer economy may in fact be what prevents the recurrence of the type of events we are currently experiencing.

Perhaps no group better exemplifies this reinvigoration of community values than Millennials. As the cohort of Americans who are roughly 18 to 30 years old today, Millennials have come of age in an era of skyrocketing inequality.  Their backlash to this inequality has been a commitment to community service and political participation. They understand, intuitively, that we're all in this together and that we rise and fall together. If that's the future of America, we have plenty to be optimistic about.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda's blog.

Healthy San Francisco Clears Another Hurdle

Access to quality health care isn't something that affects us as individuals; it impacts us as families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  Health care is fundamental to the well-being of us as persons and equally fundamental to the well-being of communities, cities, states and the country.  It was with this understanding that the City and County of San Francisco undertook a bold and audacious effort to ensure that everyone in the City By The Bay has not just the promise of health care in the form of insurance, but actual, delivered health care.

The program, Healthy San Francisco, currently provides health care to over 27,000 uninsured San Franciscans, including an estimated 37% of the City's uninsured adults, and looks to triple in participation by the end of 2009.

The program is funded in part by a per employee health care tax, levied by the City upon local businesses, requiring them to spend a certain amount on employee's health care or to pay into a City fund if they spend less than the requirement.  By establishing a tax rather than creating a "mandate" for employers to provide health care to their, Healthy San Francisco avoids a federal law--the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, known by the acronym ERISA--that prohibits states and localities from regulating or interfering with employer-based health insurance or pension benefits.

As with any innovative program, however, Healthy San Francisco faces some challenges to its continuation, one being the question of whether the program does actually escape running afoul of ERISA.  Yesterday, the entire federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court that includes California) upheld the ruling of an earlier panel of the appellate court's judges, finding that Healthy San Francisco can continue without running into ERISA problems.

The case will now likely go before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The decision by the Supreme Court may have a major impact on the ability of states and cities to attempt health care reform absent Congressional action.

The case is Golden Gate Restaurant Association v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 07-17370 (9th Cir. Mar. 9, 2009).

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ATTN: Call for Sex, Gender & Body Bloggers and Writers.

I am beginning a new blog that deals with individuals and communities that identify around some aspect of Sex, Gender or Body.  I have pasted a copy below of a post I just published on my blog.

I hope that it is not in bad form to announce it here on an existing community blog.  Since this blog focuses on politics, and my new one will only deal with politics as it pertains to the larger body of conversations on SGB, I do not believe that I am undermining this blog's reader base.  If anyone has an objection to my posting this, please let me know and I delete this entry.

- gadfly

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The Pentagon (Finally) Displays Some Pragmatism

Urgency has a strange way of making people more pragmatic.  In the context of a crisis, outdated prejudices become stumbling blocks and, consequently, not so deeply held.  It's surprising, then, that it took the Pentagon so long to realize that, at a time when our military is stretched thin in two combat wars, turning applicants away from the armed forces due to immigration status was not a workable solution.

An article in this past Sunday’s New York Times discusses an Army pilot program which will allow immigrants with temporary resident status, but no green card, to enlist, provided that they have lived in the United States for at least two years and bring needed skills.  Enlistees will then have the opportunity to become citizens in as little as six months.

Opinions of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aside, this move can easily be seen as recognition by the Department of Defense that excluding any group of individuals from full participation in our nation’s rights and responsibilities weakens us all.   As Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, said, “The Army will gain in its strength in human capital, and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream.”Opinions of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aside, this move can easily be seen as recognition by the Department of Defense that excluding any group of individuals from full participation in our nation's rights and responsibilities weakens us all.   As Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, said, "The Army will gain in its strength in human capital, and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream."

The Department of Defense has now joined the ever-growing list of employers who understand that integrating immigrants into our social, civic and economic life is the only way to remain competitive and uphold our commitment to economic mobility.  Now if only we could find a way to give every employer the ability to grant citizenship.

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White House Farmer and Organic Gardening - UPDATE

A few days ago, I posted a diary about a grassroots push to change part of the White House lawn into an Organic Garden or Farm with Carrie Anne Little being chosen to be the White House Farmer.

Please check the previous diary here:
http://www.mydd.com/story/2009/1/23/1926 1/2857

Since that time there has been a huge out pouring of support and some decent media attention. Not only for Carrie Little, but for the whole concept and for all of the other people that are bringing attention to Organic Farming and Gardening.

More below...

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