Oklahoma City Persecution of the Poor: A Short Bill of Particulars

In an interview with a reporter from the national publication Politico, our Mayor said —

As for the poor, Cornett says, his city offers them opportunities to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. About one in six residents live below the poverty line in his city, whose 3.6 percent unemployment rate compares well with a national urban rate of 4.8 percent. “The government isn’t really capable of handling complex social problems,” Cornett tells me. “My goal is provide jobs, to encourage people to find work and start businesses.” While the poor may not find it as easy to move up the ladder of success as they used to, he says, “In Oklahoma City I think the opportunities are pretty much available to you. I don’t think it’s good for government to send a message that they are not.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/oklahoma-city-weight-loss-what-works-213445#ixzz3yHLMDRPK

Au contraire, Mayor, Oklahoma City is already stirring the pot regarding its policies towards poor people.  But instead of helping the poor “pull themselves up,” Oklahoma City is busy cutting those bootstraps so that people who are poor stay poor.  If the prerequisite for employment is owning a car, then many lower income people are condemned to unemployment, or underemployment.  That’s a government policy, not a free market activity.

And while the Mayor brags about our low “unemployment” rate, everyone knows — or should know — that the unemployment figures are not very respectable. Like the statistics of the old Soviet Union, these figures are politically massaged to understate the problem.  This chart at the Shadow Government Statistics website suggests that the real unemployment rate may be nearly five times the rate reported by the government and accepted uncritically by most of the press.

So herewith I present this short “Bill of Particulars” regarding the persecution of the poor by Oklahoma City, demonstrating how Oklahoma City’s policies and ordinances create a system of social cruelty that persecutes the poor for the profit of those who are not poor.

Persecution via the city courts

OKC finances its court system on the backs of those least able to pay and is making a profit on the deal. Fines and costs received by OKC are about double the cost of operating its court system. Besides much pious rhetoric, zero progress has been made to reduce the impact of Oklahoma City’s unjust court rules and practices that specifically target poor people for punitive sanctions and jail time. The commission set up to study this system and recommend “changes” is packed with rich white men with a history of backing demagogic politicians with public reputations for hostility to poor people.

Persecution via the misallocation of funds, transferring resources from the poor to the wealthy.

The #1 thing the City does that persecutes the poor is its continual refusal to adequately fund a bus system, claiming “the money just isn’t available.” This city policy functionally requires that anyone who wants to work must be able to afford to buy and operate a vehicle. Some argue that bus service is subsidized, while “cars pay their own way with fuel taxes and registration fees.  However, the facts show that all forms of transportation are subsidized. Each Oklahoma City general obligation bond includes hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain streets. The bonds are paid by all citizens, not just those who drive cars. By some estimates only about half of the expenses related to automobile and truck transportation is paid for by fuel taxes and registration fees, leaving the rest of the tab to be picked up by the general taxpayers.  Since transportation is obviously a public amenity, paid for by the taxes of all citizens, not just those who drive cars, the City should not discriminate against those who ride the bus by not properly allocating the available transportation resources so that we have an effective bus service that gets people to work, to shop, to play, and to worship.

  • The Council campaigned for a hundred million dollar capital expenditure for a “street car to nowhere,” and has yet to announce where those operating funds will come from.
    The City is quick to extend four lane streets to new developments at the far edges of the City, thereby subsidizing sprawl that benefits upscale developers and households and picks the pockets of the poor and working class households in older areas of the cities. Why is the convenience of newly built suburbs of greater importance than the transit necessities of older, lower income neighborhoods?
  • The City has written hundreds of millions of dollars of welfare checks to wealthy developers and corporations via the TIF system, yet the transit system in the TIF project areas has never been considered for additional funding. TIF funds could be used to operate and enhance transit services in such districts, thereby freeing up funds for service enhancements and operations outside of the TIF districts.

OKC actually has plenty of money that could be used to provide a proper bus service. But it has a problem allocating its money. If we follow the dollars, we see that the City consistently under-funds services like the bus system that benefit lower income residents so that it can fully fund and increase services to the wealthy and politically well connected.

Persecution via a politicized process that finagles property prices to drive up rents.

City zoning laws concentrate mobile homes into “trailer park ghettos”. City ordinances restrict the ability of homeowners to add garage, basement, attic, and backyard apartments. Under the guise of “redevelopment,” the City has used eminent domain to ruthlessly destroy entire neighborhoods of poor people, scattering communities who have lived together for generations, paying them cheap prices for their properties, and transferring those properties via various sweetheart deals to wealthy and politically well connected developers. (That’s the real story of the ethnic cleansing of the Deep Deuce for the benefit of rich white people.) Thousands of units of low income housing have been destroyed by this politicized process, which raises the rents for everyone. The City sets standards requiring minimum lot sizes, minimum set backs, and minimum square feet for houses and apartments. All of these combine together to reduce the amount of housing available to low income people and increase the cost of housing via these non-free market, policitized processes.

Persecution via poor city maintenance in low income neighborhoods

The City routinely defers maintenance on streets in lower income neighborhoods. Conditions that would never be tolerated in Heritage Hills or Mesta Park are perennial realities in lower income neighborhoods. A good example of this is the “car bomb sized pothole” at SW 26 and Virginia that was cited by the Politico eHealth article referenced above.

Persecution via policies and ordinances that criminalize poverty.

City policies effectively criminalize poverty in general and homelessness in particular. The anti-panhandler crusade is a particularly egregious example of this process.

Persecution via business licenses, zoning, and the regulatory process

  • A business license is required to be a street entertainer. This prevents Oklahoma City from developing a fun street music scene that would benefit the community, the performers, and be an attraction for people visiting our City.
  • People can’t grow vegetables in their back yards and sell them to their neighbors in their front yards unless they are zoned for commercial activities.
  • People who can afford to buy a whole acre of property are allowed to have chickens and other farm animals. Anyone who can’t afford an acre of urban property is prohibited from having backyard chickens.
  • The Oklahoma City-County Health Department exceeded its authority and applied an abusive and hostile interpretation to the home bakery law passed by the state legislature in such a way as to effectively gut the law so that it is not practical to use it to start a small home business.

Favoritism to the wealthy and politically well connected.

When three of the wealthiest guys in the state showed up at City Hall with a plan to snatch grab the Seattle Sonics to create the OKC Thunder, the Mayor did not say. . . “What a great idea!  I’ll support you all the way as you bootstrap your way forward.”  No, he reached for the City checkbook and said, “Would $120 million help?”  When Devon wanted to have a new streetscape around its new 50 story building, but didn’t want to pay for it, did the Mayor say, “What a great bootstrap project!” No, he said, “How about a nice TIF district that will take much of that increased tax money away from the schools, the health department, and the libraries, and spend it to redecorate downtown?  And we’ll borrow 20 years of tax receipts from you and pay you a high interest rate on the money. Is that a great deal or what?”

The Mayor makes demands on the poor that he would never make of his rich and politically well connected friends.

So it comes to pass that in Oklahoma City, the poor definitely sit in the back of the bus.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, Corporation shenanigans, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Earthquakes and the Oklahoma oil bidness

In 2015, Oklahoma experienced 857 earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.0 or greater. 30 of them were 4.0 or greater.  This is more earthquakes than the rest of the United States combined. We had 106 in 2013 and 585 in 2014. From 1978 to 2008, we average two earthquakes a year that were greater than 3.0.

Meanwhile, back at the oil patch. . . The oil business has pretty got whatever its wanted from the state government since the beginning of our state government. But I saw an upper middle class woman from Edmond on tonight’s news making a statement that these earthquakes are a threat to hundreds of millions of dollars of residential and business property, and something needs to be done.

Personally I’ve been somewhat surprised at how quick the Corporation Commission has been to move to regulate underground injection wells. That suggests to me that there is real science behind their concerns because the default in Oklahoma politics has always been to not afflict the oil bidness. It’s not as if the three Corporation Commissioners are liberal Democrats.

So my 2016 prediction is that one of the interesting situations to watch is how this plays out over the coming year, especially since given the year-end wrap ups of the 2015 news, the message seem to be that as the year has progressed, the number and intensity of earthquakes has increased.

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An Open Letter to Oklahoma City Municipal Court Judges

In the recent discussion about an ordinance banning panhandling in the center medians of streets, assurances were given that Oklahoma City municipal courts do not persecute poor people who cannot pay their fines. Instead, it is said that such people can request a hearing to determine that they are indigent, in which case they will be referred to community service.

I am the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. We work in food security for low income people. So I know lots of poor people. Since the panhandling issue came up, I have been attempting to find someone who has experienced this mercy from the Oklahoma City court system. Last week I attended an arraignment court session to see how the system works. At the beginning, a representative of the city attorney gave a presentation about what would happen. He mentioned several times that if people needed time to pay their fines, they could simply ask for time and receive it. He never stated that if people were indigent, they could do community service instead of paying a fine. The judge never mentioned it either.

A right that no one knows about is not much of a right. Therefore, I ask that you send me a paragraph about the rights of people in the Oklahoma City Municipal Court system to a hearing to determine if they are able to pay a fine and the procedure for exercising that right. I would like to publicize this right widely among low income communities in Oklahoma City. This paragraph should be read out at every court session where people are entering their pleas and included as a printed statement on their paperwork.

While it may be said that “justice is blind,” in practice we all know that it isn’t and that fines levy injustice as well as punishment.. A $150 fine on someone whose income is above the median for this state is a much different “penalty” than it is for someone who makes minimum wage. For the former, it is simply part of the price of doing business. For the latter, it could mean not enough money to pay rent and thus an eviction leading to homelessness and maybe also time in jail. By the time a payday lender gets through with it, that $150 fine may be $500.

Further –- there is an accumulating body of evidence that indicates that municipal court systems around the United States are making a substantial profit off of the fines and costs paid by poor people. Indeed, this kind of economic persecution for municipal profit was one of the drivers of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. I am sure we all hope to never see such a situation in Oklahoma City, so if the City isn’t unduly profiting from the legal and economic persecution of poor people, the municipal courts (and the City!) should make a point of ensuring that people know their rights so that they don’t feel trapped in a system that seems designed to grind them into the dust.

I appreciate your assistance in helping ensure that Oklahoma City is not profiting from the persecution of poor people. I don’t anticipate that there will be any problem with this because of the assurances referenced above. Assuming those are true, I eagerly await your response.

Bob Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

1524 NW 21 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106

405-200-8155 + www.justpeace.org

On the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, December 3, 2015

Posted in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My testimony at today’s public hearing on the panhandler’s ordinance

My name is Bob Waldrop and I speak in opposition to the proposed restrictions on the free speech rights of panhandlers and charitable solicitors.

The claim is made that this is a public safety issue. Yet, nobody has been hurt in Oklahoma City soliciting for charity or panhandling from these center medians. Stories circulate about assaults and aggressiveness, but that is a different issue. Assault is a matter of public safety, and it’s an issue because we have the same number of police today that we had 20 years ago, and more of our police are assigned these days to special squads. So we don’t have many cops on beats, they’re all out responding to 911 calls. A useful response to these problems would be to figure out a way to get police patrolling on bicycles in the areas where these kinds of incidents are most likely to occur.

In the public conversation about this, someone said, “Oklahoma City has plenty of charitable resources.” That it is not true. My organization, the Oscar Romero Catholic worker House, delivers food every month to about 350 households who don’t have transportation. I stop taking requests for deliveries on the third day of the month. If I had the people to do the deliveries and the food, I could deliver to a thousand households, and this would still only be a fraction of the need.

Contrary to some claims in the public conversation on this issue, it’s not easy to be poor in Oklahoma City. I often tell poor people that they would be much better off if they left Oklahoma City and went somewhere else, to a city with a decent public transportation system and a state which went with the federal expansion of Medicaid.

In this context, the speech of panhandlers is the last gasp of the social safety net. It is the cry of those who are the weakest among us. Much has been made about how some panhandlers are allegedly “scamming” the system, whatever that means. Some even claim that panhandling is a way to “make a lot of money.” Obviously, these claims are made by people who have never stood all day in the hot sun, the freezing cold, or the driving rain, asking people for money. I think these urban myths are stories we tell ourselves so that we feel less bad about ignoring the economic structures of sin that are the reason we have so many poor people.

Instead of picking on panhandlers, why don’t we do something about the laws and regulations that prevent people from becoming micro-entrepreneurs and starting their own part time businesses that with work could grow into full time jobs? One of the tragedies of this proposal is that it takes direct aim at the one local program that fosters an entrepreneurial approach to poverty, the Curbside Chronicle.

The economic cost of this law will have to include the cost of fighting the legal challenges, because there will be people lining up to violate this law, who will go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary in defense of our First Amendment rights to speech and religion.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A response to the outrageous lies about panhandlers propagated by the Neighborhood Alliance in support of Meg Salyer’s Anti Free Speech Ordinance

There’s an anti-free speech, anti-poor people mob forming in Oklahoma City.

It’s been ginned up in the Nextdoor neighborhood social media app.

People are  upset about panhandlers.  They are upset about free speech! It hurts their eyes to see panhandlers on the streets. They don’t want to be reminded that the actions of the politicians they vote for have consequences in real life for real people. They demand that the government make this evidence of the failure of our government policies go away! Heedless of the potential consequences, they demand limits on free speech!

Crucify them! Crucify them! Crucify them!

And so it comes to pass that the Oklahoma City Council is poised to pass an ordinance limiting our right to free speech by forbidding panhandlers and those soliciting for charity from standing in the medians at stop lights to solicit funds.

God forbid that we do something about the economic and government issues that cause panhandling.  It is much easier to propagate outrageous and absurd urban myths about panhandlers.

  • People are getting rich off of panhandling!
  • There are plenty of resources to help poor people in Okie City so no one has to panhandle for essential needs.
  • All panhandlers are out for money for drugs and alcohol.
  • Panhandlers ruin property values and devalue businesses.
  • There’s a “panhandling church” in San Antonio that trains people to panhandle and then buses them to Oklahoma City!

Folks, you can’t make up this kind of stuff!  It would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so socially cruel.

In support of this social evil, the Neighborhood Alliance, in a letter sent to their entire email list, says —

(Panhandling) degrades our neighborhoods and gives the appearance that we are a thoughtless and callous society, one that doesn’t even care if our fellow citizens have to stand in the middle of a busy intersection to beg for their existence. It hurts our businesses, our property values, and perceived or real safety issues abound.

But of course, we do live in a thoughtless and callous society, and it is evident from their actions, that for Oklahoma City, County, and State governments, the needs of poor people are low on their priority lists.  Who gets the big checks from Oklahoma City, County, and State? Big businesses! Politically connected developers!  Street and road contractors! Campaign contributors!

The Oklahoma Standard policy is that if you are poor and sick, you should just suffer and if you die, well, it’s a tough life buster.  Just ask Governor Mary Fallin about that.

So instead of taking action on the structural issues that lead to such grinding poverty, the Oklahoma City Council plans to limit the free speech rights of anyone who wishes to publicly solicit funds for personal use or for charity.

I guess Oklahoma City has lots of money to spend on legal challenges, because I think there might be a line of people ready to stand in the median and raise money for charity.  And if the police want to write me a ticket, I’ll be happy to take that all the way to the United States Supreme Court, in defense of my religious and free speech rights.

This ordinance is evidence that those in power in this society are as clueless as the Romanov’s in 1917, King George in 1776, and the French Aristocracy in 1783.  Every day we get closer to the ash heap of history, and these political attempts to make the evidence of our political, societal, and economic failures go away are likely to become more frequent going forward.

Here’s the back story of this proposed ordinance.

First they came for the panhandlers, and I cheered that on because of course everybody knows that panhandlers are gaming the system and making big bucks and we can’t have poor people making big bucks doing anything, can we? They’re poor, so they simply don’t have the same free speech rights that we middle class people have. Besides, we shouldn’t have to look at them. They are so pathetic. And they’re bad for business and property values.

Then they came after the hair braiders who hadn’t paid their dues and got their licenses, and I didn’t say anything because who cares about what happens with lower income people anyway. Everyone knows that poor people are bad for business and property values so the government really should make all of them just go away.

Then they decided that political speech had to be regulated, because  some people were getting uppity and protesting against the many political, economic, and societal failures of our system.  They have opinions that are offensive and dangerous to the State! And we can’t have anybody getting offended or being dangerous to the State can we? That’s not good for business OR for property values either.

Then my next door neighbors disappeared. There was a big commotion, early in the morning, I heard screaming. Not sure what happened, but I’m not saying anything. It’s the nail sticking up that gets hit, you know.

Now my son is gone. I don’t know where they’ve taken him. The Homeland Security people won’t tell me. He was at some stupid rally advocating peace as a national policy. I’m told he is being held indefinitely in detention “for his own good” pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

If you don’t think that regulating free speech is a slippery slope, then you aren’t paying attention to history.

City Councilperson Meg Salyer, and the Neighborhood Alliance, make big noises about safety.  This is a meaningless argument.  if Meg Salyer and the City Council really cared about public safety. . . well. . .  we have the same number of police officers in 2015 that we had in 1985, but our population is 130% of what it was in 1985, and we have more police officers on special squads.

So we have no police “patrolling beats” in neighborhoods.  All the police not assigned to special squads do is answer 911 calls. The whole safety argument is at best specious.

And in any event, when it comes to “safety and the goobermint,” those who forget the advice of Benjamin Franklin, do so to their own mortal peril and that of future generations:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Finally, a reminder of this text of the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew seems most appropriate:

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

 

 

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Catholic, Collapse, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

On the political theater of modern life: a resolution. Of sorts. Probably not popular but that could change.

Warning: outpouring rant/lament follows

A Satanic church wants to put a statue on the lawn of the Oklahoma
Capitol featuring Satan with little children sitting in his laugh. A big
Baphomet style Satan. They’re citing the 10 commandments statue as a
precedent. The State Supreme Court rules that the 10 commandments statue has to go.  So there is moaning and groaning from the political establishment, much gnashing of teeth and threatening of IMPEACHMENTS and AMENDMENTS to the Oklahoma Constitution.

I refuse to invest much in this tempest in the Oklahoma goobermint
teapot. It’s all political theater, designed to distract ourselves from
REAL IMPORTANT questions whose answers could make a difference if
demanded and secured and acted upon.

Same with the “woe is us we are going to be oppressed Christians because
homosexuals can now get a civil marriage.”

As far as I am concerned it is blasphemy to say that the United States is a Christian nation, because we are not now, and we never have been, at any point in our history, anything remotely like a “Christian nation”. (Hint: Jesus is not about genocide and greed.)

But I also say So what?

Christendom has always been a curse to the Church of Jesus Christ! It’s
a concept crafted in the mind of demons who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. The Catholic Church and the Protestant and
Orthodox Churches (and the Latterday Saints and all the rest) have all
trifled with Christendom for so long the leaders believe their own
propaganda.

The reality is: The government of the US is not our friend. It is not
doing the work of the Lord. It is an evil dark regime crafted in the
bowls of hell, disguised like Satan himself as an angel of light. All
who invest in it will lose everything and then some. This indeed is the
time to check the signs of the times, and note the dust of the
approaching legions rising over the hills, and get the you-know-what out
of Babylon-Dodge. By that I don’t mean a panic
evacuation into the countryside, but rather cutting your emotional and
mental ties to the rulers of this world and building new structures in the midst of the collapsing ruins of the old. With a sense of urgency, as though time is running
out. Because it is.

The chess pieces are falling into place worldwide.
US sends heavy equipment to Eastern Europe and the Baltics while the
Russians pledge tit for our tat. Meanwhile, the Chinese are creating
real estate, facts on literally new ground they are building, in the midst of contested ocean
waters. Syria is a murderous grinding machine producing death and
despair but its hard to see who’s got the advantage, if any. Iraq is
being dismembered, Iran is maneuvering and people speculate about the
Saudis buying nukes from the Pakistanis.

The show always goes on. Every few months there is a New and Improved
Evil Enemy, and each one is more barbaric and terrible than the
previous. There are new weapons, sure to ensure our success! A soap
opera prevails in international affairs. People endlessly fret and
obsess on big names and consent is manufactured to order.

Greece may be on the verge of a Grexit (obviously a deliberate attack on
the world economy by fanatical and obdurate Greeks) and Russia is
standing right there, egging them on and arms out-stretched, ready to do
solidarity with its Orthodox Grecian Brothers and Sisters. Much more so
than the Catholic and Lutheran Germans, that’s for sure. Those German
bankers and politicians are really something, aren’t they? They already
seem to have forgotten what kind of results extreme economic
exploitation of a nation can call forth. Let us with sadness remember
the Weimar Republic, hyperinflation, and the rise of the nazis. You
would think that being destroyed twice in a century would have taught
them something but apparently it was less than we might have hoped.

Everywhere, people in governments are running around, stomping big black
boots in patterns dictated by that Ministry of Silly Walks, making great
huffs and puffs about the evils of the rival and the glories of the
homeland.

Here’s the deal, and it’s simple. If we live, we live to the Lord. If we
die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live, or whether we die,
we are the Lord’s. And I recall something about Peter and the Rock and
the Gates of Hell not prevailing. See also Paul to the Romans — “Do
not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” And both Paul and
the Romans should know something about that, considering what Rome ended
up doing to Paul and most of that early first Church.

So why not just give up fretting about things and get busy doing
something about this on rush to doom? We may not be able to evade it,
but maybe we could manage it. There’s no way to design that response,
it involves everybody, necessarily, and everyone can do something.
Don’t wait for doom to become obvious to mitigate its consequences.
Grow beyond yourself. Find new reservoirs of knowledge we didn’t even
know that we knew. Commit deliberate works of beauty, justice, love, and mercy in the face of structures of evil, domination, war, and subjugation.

There are those things we discovered that we don’t know, we should work on those.

And for all the things that we don’t know that we don’t know, may the consequences of our ignorance be merciful.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Catholic, Climate Instability, Collapse, Corporation shenanigans, Environmental Sustainability, Financial Crisis, international issues, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma Living, Peace, Permaculture, Safe Community, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why is affordable housing so scarce?

Why is affordable housing so scarce?  I am primarily speaking of Oklahoma City, but it’s a problem everywhere.  And in fact, some people elsewhere would look at our situation here and say “your housing is very affordable.”  Maybe if you have a California income it is affordable, but if you have an Oklahoma income, especially a working class Oklahooma income, our housing is increasingly not affordable.

Unlike some problems, this is a situation with an easy answer.

This is the government’s fault.  The scarcity of affordable housing is an artifact of foolish government regulations.

Zoning regulations are the primary culprit.

Consider the modern “tiny house” movement.  Here’s an article about a tiny house community in Portland, which allows tiny houses in back yards.  This particular house has seven tiny houses, and it looks pretty nice to me.

http://www.lifeedited.com/a-very-big-idea-in-tiny-house-living

Oklahoma City’s planning commissars would have litters of kittens if someone wandered in and wanted to do something like this.

And then of course there’s urban renewal, which has destroyed thousands of units of housing, many of them gorgeous period architecture such as we see in popular areas like Gatewood and Ten Penn, for the sake of highways and greed.

None of this is an accident.

  • Racism is one of the drivers of the situation.  The way our zoning regulations work, we have very cleverly resegregated many of our neighborhoods based on economic class.   Gentrification is a code word for “driving out the poor people.”  This of course is every bit as pernicious as segregation by race, and often it amounts to the same thing. People who claim to not be racists don’t have a problem demanding that “those” kind of people not be allowed to live in their neighborhood.  “Those” of course being “poor people.”  A real estate agent in OKC once told someone I know “don’t worry about the neighborhood, the neighborhood association is using code enforcement to get rid of the riff raff.”
  • The greed of landlords is a second driver.  The Chamber of Commerce will tell you that rising rents are “good for the economy” even as they ravage the budgets of ordinary people.  But then, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce doesn’t represent ordinary people, it represents people with money, who want more money, and who don’t shrink from rigging the system so that they will make more money. Every time the City government destroys a lower income neighborhood, it helps drive up rents.  Every time the City govenrment imposes single residence house zoning, it drives up rents. Every time the City government restricts “mobile” and “manufactured” homes to small ghettoes on the fringes of the city, it drives up rents.  Renters of OKC take note — City government is your enemy!  City government is acting against your best interests.

So that’s the situation and as long as we have the kind of local governments that we have, this sad situation will continue.  It’s a shame people take so little notice of their city council elections.  All that is necessary for good to fail, is for good people to do nothing on election day.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, Corporation shenanigans, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

OKC is once again threatening the abundance of my urban garden-yard.

Oklahoma City has served me with a code violation and is claiming that I can’t have anything taller than 18 inches between the sidewalk and the street.  This is something new, as in the 16 years I have lived here I have yet to hear this claim.  I also seem to be having a problem finding it in the municipal code.  Not light reading, that’s for sure.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the abundance that Oklahoma City finds so threatening.

15 - 1 (1) 15 - 1 15 - 3 15 - 4

 

Here is a list of the plants in this area:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Comfrey
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Oregano
  • Walking Onions
  • Nanking cherries
  • Prairie roses
  • Maximilien sunflowers
  • Liatris
  • Butterfly weed
  • Butterfly bush
  • Yarrow
  • Native sunflowers
  • Scarlett runner bean
  • Loofa vine
  • Morning glories
  • Cannas
  • Delphinium
  • Eupatoria
  • Lambs ears
  • Hollyhocks
  • Prickly pear
  • Hairy vetch
  • White Dutch clover
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Pole beans
  • Alfalfa
  • Daylilies
  • Buffalo currants
  • spearmint
  • Crimson clover

The mayor’s email is mayor@okc.gov if you have an opinion about this.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, food, garden, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejoicing in the Beatification of Msgr Oscar Romero of El Salvador

At the beginning of our Catholic Worker community, July 1999, there was no doubt about its patron. Msgr. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was chosen because of his fidelity to the Faith — his commitment to the poor — his courage in standing for the Faith even when threatened with violence and death.  However imperfect are our attempts, our goal has always been to follow his holy example to build the Reign of God right here and right now.

The United States is guilty of grave crimes against the people of El Salvador.  Msgr. Romero was assassinated just three weeks after he wrote a letter to President Carter, asking him to not send more guns and munitions to the El Salvadoran army, because . . .

The current ruling Junta, and above all the armed forces and security forces, have unfortunately not demonstrated their capacity to resolve the grave national problems through political practice and structural means. In general, they have only resorted to repressive violence, producing a volume of dead and wounded that is greater than that of recent military regimes whose systematic violation of human rights was condemned by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

The brutal way in which the security forces recently evicted and assassinated the occupants of the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party despite that the Junta and the government (it would appear) did not authorize that operation is evidence that the Junta and the Christian Democrats do not govern the country, but rather, the political power is in the hands of military men without scruples, who only know how to oppress the people and favor the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.

After the assassination of Romero, gunned down during the Offertory of Mass, the violence continued and more than 85,000 people in El Salvador were killed, one million were displaced, and 8,000 went “missing”, over the next decade.

While that civil war ended, the violence continues in the form of gang warfare.  This is not a surprise, given the trauma of the years of civil war.  That much violence sowed the seeds of the bitter harvests we see today.  The murder rate in El Salvador is 68 per 100,000 population — the highest in the world.  The US rate is 4 per 100,000.

So his intercession is greatly needed today.  We give thanks to God for his beatification.  May his example inspire all of us to  repent of our individual and national sins of empire, to stop cooperating with the structures of sin that support violence, greed, and injustice, and to work for reconciliation, peace, and justice in solidarity with all the peoples of the world.

A Prayer to the Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador

Blessed Romero,

During a time of grave evil,
you spoke with courage to rebuke the powerful,
pleading with them to cease their violence,
and repent of their murders.
You called upon the rich to end their greed,
to embrace just economic systems,
and to relinquish their power.
In solidarity you comforted the poor,
gave them hope and strength,
and witnessed the crimes against them,
always speaking truth, justice, mercy, and love.

Teach us to understand our complicity with the sins of empire.
Help us end our support for the structures of sin that
bring violence and injustice into the world.
Be our guide as we build structures of justice, mercy, love, and beauty.

O God, who by the preaching and teaching of Oscar Romero
has given us an example of love and fortitude in the face of violence and greed,
grant that we who reverence his life and ministry
may also imitate his fidelity to truth, justice, and peace.
Soon come the promise of Mary,
that all tyrants will be cast down,
the proud scattered,
the lowly exalted,
and the hungry filled with good things.
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Printable version (4 to a page).  This prayer is in the public domain and may be freely copied and shared.

Posted in Catholic, Peace, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Oklahoma continues to eat its seed corn.

The news is in on the Oklahoma state budget: we’re cuttin’ it while we are also drawing down our state’s savings accounts and raiding the unclaimed property fund to avoid even deeper cuts.

Any way you look at it, we are gobbling up our seed corn.  That’s a sign, folks, as clear as if angels of God flew over Oklahoma City blowing trumpets of doom.

Lots of people are working busy as bees.  But somehow the resources for the common good continue to shrink.  The unwillingness of the Legislature to do something simple like postpone their programmed tax cut is rooted in an ideology driven by fear.  Those who have are worried because these days they have less than they used to have.  In such a situation, the common good gets left behind for the wolves to devour.  We’ve seen this in history before and now we see it unfolding in our own lives and neighborhoods.

While the Legislature starves the common good, it continues to reward its friends with generous corporate welfare checks. But here again, there isn’t quite enough to go around. So we’ve seen some entertaining fights among the various Republican special interests over the remaining  loot.  Rural versus urban. Chamber of Commerce versus the Tea Party.  Oil versus wind.  (Wind lost, btw.)

There are a few bits of good news from this session.  There’s been some minor movement on our over-criminalization and over-incarceration problems.  That in itself is a sign of how dire our situation is getting as the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” crowd is getting a dose of reality.  And the legislature reduced the signatures necessary to place a new party on the ballot.

But the bad news is dominant: we continue to gobble up our capital and misallocate our resources.  Something wicked this way comes — the day when the seed corn is gone and our savings are depleted.  That will be an interesting session of the legislature, you bet.

The song the Republican Caucus is singing these days:

This is the way to collapse the state, collapse the state, collapse the state.  This is the way to collapse the state, so early in our history.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis, Oklahoma Living | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment