Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thoughts on Senate Vote/ Unemployment Extensions

Is it just me or doesn’t it seem like the US Senate has quite frankly lost its marbles recently. For those that don’t already know, since June 1st, an estimated 325,000 jobless workers have lost their unemployment benefits. As this is happening, members of the US Senate have decided to sit idly by and filibuster the issue. Ultimately, the problem here is getting 60 votes to overcome the obstacles imposed by the Republican minority. So anyway, while the Senate is getting its act together, many Americans are still suffering. The Great Recession is real ladies and gentleman, make no mistake about it. If it hasn’t already touched your life in some significant way (whether it be a friend or family member), then you must be living an airtight bubble. Nevertheless, for many people this economic downturn has meant foreclosed homes, lost jobs, and countless unpaid bills. According to the New York Times, an estimated 1.2 million Americans will be left without their unemployment benefits by the end of June if the Senate or Congress does not approve the extensions. What this means in much more concrete terms is that many individuals and their families will be without the necessary resources to put food on their tables and keep their lights on. This state of affairs begs the question: where is the sense of urgency or moral outrage when you really need it? Quite frankly, too many people are sleeping on this issue. Sadly, we have been lulled to sleep by consumerism and other distractions. However, now is not the time to get comfortable and start sleepwalking. Now is the time to stand up and state unequivocally how deplorable it is for the Senate to be stalling and stonewalling while a significant number of Americans are in dire need of assistance. Indeed, the Senate's refusal to act on this matter ought to be openly condemned not simply on economic grounds, but more importantly because it's just the wrong thing to do, plain and simple. We must courageously lift our voices, so that moral pressure is put on our elected officials to do the right thing and approve the extensions.

You might ask, how do we lift our voices, well I am glad you asked, the first thing you should do is reach out to your state senator. For your convenience, I have added the United States Senate link to this blog so that you might be able to reach your representative more easily: This is a great place to start, there are online methods for contacting your senators, but there are also phone numbers too. If you want, you can also send a letter via snail mail. Why stop there, maybe you can initiate a protest. The options are out there. But the larger point is to give these things a try. In life, persistence is the key. As the old political saying goes, 'the squeaky wheel gets the old'. This adage applies equally to this issue confronting our families today. And for those out there that suggest that unemployment is not their problem because they have a job, I suggest that you open your eyes and realize that we are all tied together in an inescapable garment of destiny, meaning that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly as Dr. Martin Luther King is often quoted saying. Indeed, we all live in an interconnected world. Just because this issue is not at your front door step at the present moment doesn't mean it wont be a few months from now. As a result, we must act now to help those in need. Speak up and be heard. Believe it or not, but the world needs your voice too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thoughts on Trenton's Runoff Election

Change, transition, and even more change has truly been in the air recently. With Trenton's runoff election taking place just this past week, change has definitely been the hallmark. As the cliche goes, out with the old, in with the new. But even as we bask in the possibility of new beginnings and anxiously await what the newly elected Mack Administration will do once its sworn in, we must never forget the love and service Doug Palmer gave during his 20 year tenure as mayor. Despite what his critics might say, Doug Palmer did in fact develop parts of this city. The Marriott Hotel and Sun Bank Arena are but two examples where he has added value to the state's capitol. However, now is not the time to rest on those laurels. Now is the time to build upon that vision and fill in those gaps in between the arena and hotel. Even as we celebrate the progress made there, we must never lose sight of all those streets and sections in between that are still catching hell unnecessarily. Indeed, it doesn't take a genius to see that the city of Trenton has seen better days. At this critical juncture, Trenton finds itself saddled with a budget deficit, high unemployment, and unacceptable levels of crime. The question becomes: what will we as a people do to address these ongoing issues? This is truly a difficult question that quite frankly resists any easy answers. As a result, tough decisions must be made by a bold and visionary leader. The people have chosen Tony Mack and others to represent their interests in this city. Let us hope and pray that they are courageous enough to be attentive to the humble cries of everyday people instead of cowering to the rich and well-to-do. The new administration must keep their eyes open and their ears close to the street to avoid becoming out of touch with the people. Nevertheless, we as concerned citizens also have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep these elected officials honest and accountable. If we don't put pressure on them and hold them accountable for their campaign promises, the people will become disempowered and suddenly the quality of life in the city becomes seriously threatened. We must not sit idly by and allow this to occur. We must straighten our backs up and fight for a better Trenton where people have genuine hope and opportunity. This is no time to take the easy way out where one succumbs to political indifference and civic disengagement. Now is the time to take bold and vigorous action.

What you might ask can I do as an everyday citizen to hold members of the new administration accountable: Well, the first thing we should do as concerned citizens is identify and define the issues plaguing our community. This shouldn't be hard as we are all well acquainted with rising property taxes, budget cuts, and the like. Once we identify these issues, we should then reach out to our respective council representatives to find out when and where community meetings are held. At these meetings residents are given updates on their individual ward, and also afforded the opportunity to express any concerns they may have. This is a great venue to speak up and truly be heard. Try to consistently attend these meetings. If you cannot make it to the meetings, by all means follow up by phone or if you're technologically inclined, follow up by email. (Here is the city's website: As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, meaning that your grievances will only get addressed if you are persistent and determined to have things changed around you. If you are lax, things remain the same. If we're really sick and tired of the issues afflicting our city, then we must stop drinking from the enticing cup of sour cynicism that insists on not voting or contacting our elected representatives. No more lame excuses. Hillary Clinton is often quoted saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child' I would venture to say that a city, much like a child, needs a whole host of characters (both elected officials and everyday citizens alike) to bring about the sort of changes we wish to see in the world. To put it simply, everybody has a responsibility. Now please don't get me wrong, taking this route will be far from easy, however the work must be done nonetheless. I challenge each and everyone of us to take this journey. Let's get to work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thoughts on Arizona's New Law

Is it just me or does Arizona's new immigration law appear to be completely at odds with what America truly stands for. For those that don't already know, this new legislation essentially gives law enforcement officers the authority to arrest people if it is believed they’re in the country illegally. So if you're strolling down the highway and just happen to bear the resemblance of someone that might have recently hopped the fence and is not in possession of proper ID, then you might have some 'splaining to do' as the great Desi Arnaz used to say on I Love Lucy. All jokes aside, many people have not been shy in voicing their concerns about this new measure. On one end of the spectrum, there are those that wholeheartedly reject it saying that the measure is patently racist and will lead to blatant profiling. On the other hand, there are those that staunchly advocate the law because they believe its desperately needed to prevent undocumented workers from taking all the jobs and other resources away from people who are here legally. However, both sides of this debate have truly missed the mark because they both oversimplify the matter. Quite frankly, we can't just label an individual a garden-variety bigot simply because he or she thinks stricter immigration laws are needed, in much the same way we shouldn't stigmatize a person for speaking out against profiling by calling them some run-of-the-mill liberal tree-hugger.

We must remember that with any explosive issue like immigration reform, there is going to be heated debate. No one is naive enough to honestly expect all of the parties involved to forge a consensus overnight and start singing in unison Kumbaya My Lord. In the real world, the democratic process does not work like this. In fact, the process can be quite messy and takes considerable time. However, in this case the new law in Ariziona does not strike me as the product of tough, thoughtful choices but rather the result of rash decisions and hasty thinking. Indeed, this law has brought to light the hard-to-swallow truth that no one wants to acknowledge, namely that the era of rational discussion and vigorous debate has degenerated into a thoroughly nasty shouting match. It seems as though the debate has gotten so thoroughly polarized that no one is willing to listen to each other any more. The voice and viewpoints of zealots and extremists alike are gaining leverage all the while portraying themselves as rational voices of the mainstream (Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh being two glaring examples). Nevertheless, our country has not always been this way. We have a long and rich history of healthy and robust dialogue. Why, you might ask, have so many people embraced these divisive and hyper-partisan visions and perspectives? Sadly, in my humble opinion, it is because the media inundates us with this stuff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The media knows all-too-well that the sentimental and sensational sells and keeps people tuned in. Fair and balanced discussion aren't as trendy or exciting as they used to be and hence their disappearance from mainstream journalism. Alas, what the media will do for a buck. However, we must not become so easily influenced by what the media has to offer. We must have the courage to think for ourselves and state without reservation the unpleasant reality that the Arizona law will not, in the end, solve or alleviate the severity of this illegal immigration problem. Now don't get me wrong, something is desperately needed to reform immigration law in this country. Maybe greater governmental enforcement. Or perhaps what we need is private industry becoming more thoughtful about abiding by federal regulations instead of trying to reduce their costs by hiring undocumented workers under the table. Both these things, among many others, should be put on the table and rationally discussed. However, Arizona's new law doesn't seem to weigh the costs and benefits of taking the steps it has. To me, this law will only flare up even greater division in a already fragmented country. Just a thought....