Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Archive for April, 2017

Local Peace Organizations Hold Discussion at CCBC

Posted by carldavidson on April 26, 2017

 

Michael McPhearson, Vets for Peace, at BCCC

By: Christina Sheleheda

Beaver County Times

April 24, 2017, MONACA — For national peace activist Kevin Martin, the current state of our country can be best described with one word: Resolute.

Martin, along with Michael McPhearson, national executive director of Veterans for Peace; and Nancy O’Leary, president of the Beaver County Peace Links, hosted Prospects of War, the Need for Peace, Saturday at the Community College of Beaver County’s Health Sciences Center.

Presenting to a group of about 50 people, Martin, who currently serves as the national president for Peace Action, kicked off the event, which was hosted by the Beaver County Peace Links. He asked the audience to say how they felt regarding the current administration.

“Scared.”

“Disappointed.”

“Hopeful.”

Having devoted over 30 years to peace activism, Martin believes the election simply drove a deeper wedge into an already divided country.

“We were divided before the election,” Martin said. “The contradictions of election are fascinating to me.”

Martin explained that three “evils” that have been discussed for decades – racism, militarism and economic exploitation – were first cited in Dr. Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech.

“My assertion,” Martin said, “is that militarism is the one that’s the worst of our society.”

Militarism is defined as “the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.”

“Progressives often link all struggles together. They list every progressive struggle, but won’t list peace and anti-war discernment, and I have a real problem with that,” Martin said. “We are not going to win if we don’t overcome militarism. That’s where all of our money goes. Not to economic or social justice issues, and certainly not to the environment,” Martin said.

Martin, who grew up in Lancaster, Pa., had both his father and uncle serve in the United States Air Force. He does not believe opposing militarism correlates with being anti-American.

“If you understand militarism as a problem, weapons, nuclear bombs, etc., that is separate from members of our military. [Militarism] has nothing to do with individuals in the military; their service is incredible. I believe that forced patriotism is coercive,” Martin said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Posted in elections | Leave a Comment »

Going Solar in West Virginia

Posted by carldavidson on April 15, 2017

It’s an uphill struggle, but solar entrepreneurs have begun building the state’s post-coal future.

By Manuel Madrid

American Prospect

April 14, 2017 – Former Congressman Tom Perriello makes the case for why he’s got the “insider pragmatism and outsider populism” to win Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

The only reminder Robert Atkins has of his coal days are a hardhat and a heart-shaped scar on his right hand, a souvenir from a voltage explosion in the mines.

Starting right out of high school with a shovel and sledgehammer, Atkins was pulling down a six-figure income by the time he was 23, working 70-hour weeks in the mines as an underground electrician. He didn’t imagine that in just four years he’d be laid off, with a newborn daughter to take care of. Much less that soon after, he’d be a crew chief overseeing solar panel installations.

“If you’d told me I’d be working in solar, I would’ve never believed you,” Atkins says. “I always thought I’d bounce from coal job to coal job until all the mines closed and I had to leave.”

Atkins is one of a small but growing number of West Virginians who’ve said goodbye to coal mining and who’ve staked their future on an industry still distinctly out of place in the state: solar power. West Virginia’s government makes no major investments in commercial solar companies, and offers no tax credits or rebates to residents who install solar panels on their homes. Indeed, state legislators have actively blocked efforts to expand the renewable energy industry. In West Virginia, where Donald Trump, promising to revive mining by slashing regulations, beat Hillary Clinton by more than 40 percentage points, coal remains king.

But Atkins and his colleagues in the nascent renewable energy industry have made a bet that the golden days of coal, hammered by both automation and the boom in natural gas, are gone. They now work for Solar Holler, a Shepherdstown-based venture firm that crowdfunds residential solar installations through an innovative community rebate program. Solar Holler invites supporters to install energy-efficient devices in their homes for free. Instead of keeping the rebates they’d receive for the energy saved, homeowners direct the proceeds toward solar panels and installations on other buildings. This recycling of funds has enabled nonprofits, homes, and businesses to go solar, some for the price of an LED light bulb.

(Photo: Coalfield Development Corporation)

Solar panel installation in Wayne, West Virginia, in 2016

It’s taken awhile to get Solar Holler off the ground. So far, crowdfunding has produced nearly 80 kilowatts of solar energy across West Virginia, enough to power only ten homes—but the company is rapidly expanding. In 2017, Solar Holler expects to install a minimum of 750 kilowatts, equal to nearly a sixth of the state’s currently installed capacity. The company’s model is changing the way people think about solar and has played a part in gradually expanding West Virginia’s solar infrastructure. The surge in demand following Solar Holler’s first major project, a 60-panel installation in Shepherdstown, overwhelmed the limited manpower of installers statewide. Since then, the number of solar companies in West Virginia has grown steadily, from 15 solar companies in 2014, to 26 in 2015.

The driving force behind Solar Holler is Dan Conant, a Jefferson County native with a master’s degree in energy policy from Johns Hopkins, who founded the company in 2013. Conant isn’t just bringing sustainable energy to West Virginia. He’s now helping bring jobs to out-of-work coal miners. Solar Holler had a watershed moment in 2015 when it decided to create the state’s first solar training program in partnership with the Coalfield Development Corporation, a community organization that helps low-income West Virginians in the state’s southern region find jobs and affordable housing.

Since 2012, Coalfield, led by executive director Brandon Dennison, has been offering full-time construction work and training in specialized fields to laid-off miners. The organization’s first foray into solar came as an addition to one of their construction projects, and demands for installations began to balloon soon after. It was around the time that Dennison realized he was onto something big that he got a call from Conant. They struck a deal. Solar Holler would find projects and take care of logistics through crowdfunding, and Coalfield would retrain miners and provide the installation crews.

Denison dubbed the new program ReWire Appalachia. Expanding job training into the solar energy industry, he says, was strictly a market decision. The ReWire crew led by Robert Atkins started with four people, and now boasts a dozen workers.

“Coal miners are smart people,” says Dennison. “It’s important for the country to understand: They make use of hi-tech, sophisticated equipment to do their jobs. They have incredible skill sets to build off of.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in elections | Leave a Comment »

Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter Join Forces on Anniversary of MLK’s Death

Posted by carldavidson on April 4, 2017

Christopher Smith, right, leads chants during a protest for higher wages for fast food workers outside a McDonald’s in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Forty-nine years after King was assassinated, the left’s organizing vanguards seek to continue his work. 

By Justin Miller

American Prospect

April 4, 2017 – On the April 4, 1968, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support the city’s striking sanitation workers, virtually all of them African American. The workers were embroiled in a heated labor dispute with the city government over low wages, dangerous working conditions, and its unyielding opposition to recognizing their union.

Forty-nine years later, much has changed, yet much more has stayed the same. Despite landmark advancements in civil rights, black Americans still face staggering levels of systemic social and economic inequities and rampant state-sanctioned violence and discrimination. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, and are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white men. Meanwhile, black men make 22 percent less in wages compared with white men who live in the same areas, with the same levels of education and work experience. Black women make 11.6 percent less than their white counterparts. On average, white households hold 16 times the wealth of black households. Today, 54 percent of African American workers make less than $15 an hour.

And 49 years later, black activists are still leading large-scale movements to address these injustices. On the anniversary of King’s assassination, Fight for 15 workers and Black Lives Matter activists—many already involved in both movements—are joining together for a series of protests across the country to elevate their intersecting demands for racial justice and economic justice. The actions today not only seek to emphasize and build upon African Americans’ inextricable and intertwined struggle for both civil rights and economic justice of the 1960s, but create a broader front of intersectional progressive power to face off against the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back both.

Activists in 24 cities will be mounting demonstrations and teach-ins under the banner of “Fight Racism, Raise Pay.” They plan to call attention to the systematic targeting of communities of color—ranging from abusive local police departments that harass people of color, to Republicans in the states advancing anti-protest legislation in response to Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15 while at the same time stifling local minimum-wage hikes through state legislation. Activists will also call out the Trump administration for advancing an anti-worker agenda, supporting voter suppression, and threatening immigrant communities.

“Our two movements have a common bond in fighting the racism that keeps down people of color everywhere,” said Latierika Blair, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker in Memphis, in a statement.

The actions center on Memphis, Tennessee, where thousands of workers, activists, and civil rights leaders will march to and hold a memorial outside the Lorraine Motel. In the mid-South city, Fight for 15 activists have encountered aggressive resistance as fast-food workers organized for higher wages and union rights. As The Guardian reported, organizers alleged in an a lawsuit filed in March that, with the “authorization from the president of McDonald’s,” the Memphis police department was authorized to arrest McDonald’s employees and engaged in a “widespread and illegal campaign of surveillance and intimidation.” Last November, the suit states, police officers allegedly followed organizers home after meetings, banned activists from entering city hall, and in one instance even stepped behind a McDonald’s counter to stop workers from signing a petition demanding better working conditions. Based on these and other allegations, the lawsuit argues that the police department was acting in concert with McDonald’s. 

“White supremacy and corporate greed have always been linked in America,” said Chelsea Fuller, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, in a statement. “The fast-food workers who are going on strike for $15 an hour and the right to a union are resisting the same institutional racism and oppression that fuels police violence across the country. We are stronger when we stand together, and so our movements are going to keep fighting back against the twin evils of racial and economic inequality that continue to hold back black and brown people.”

Less than 250 miles southeast, in Alabama, the state legislature, dominated by white lawmakers, passed a law prohibiting localities from instituting their own minimum-wage laws after the city council in majority-black Birmingham had passed legislation in 2015 to phase in a $10.10 hourly minimum wage. The NAACP promptly responded with a lawsuit claiming that the GOP super-majorities in the statehouse and the Republican governor rammed through the legislation in 16 days in order to block Birmingham’s ordinance—which would have largely benefited black low-wage workers—from going into effect, a move that the lawsuit claims was tainted with “racial animus” and undermines the power of the city’s black electorate. A judge has since thrown out the case. (Continued)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in elections | Leave a Comment »

Casey to White House: Action, Not Studies, Needed for Western PA Locks And Dams

Posted by carldavidson on April 4, 2017

 

Montgomery Locks in Beaver County

By Tom Fontaine

Tribonline

March 31, 2017 – The Army Corps of Engineers has spent more than $17 million over the past 15 years studying what to do about crumbling locks on Western Pennsylvania’s portion of the Ohio River.

Now the White House’s Office of Management and Budget wants it to spend more, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

“We don’t have time for any more studies, nor are they needed or justified,” Casey said Friday during a stop at the Emsworth Locks and Dams, about six miles downstream of Pittsburgh.

Separately, in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Casey said a proposed $2.7 billion project to build new, larger lock chambers at the Ohio River’s Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery facilities is being “unnecessarily delayed” by the office’s request for additional study and economic analysis “to determine whether the proposed project is consistent with the policy and programs of the president.”

The Office of Management and Budget did not return a message.

The three Ohio River facilities began operating between 1921 and 1936. They were built to last 50 years. Beaver County’s Montgomery is in the worst shape. Its two locks share a wall that is cracked. If the crack gets bad enough, authorities could be forced to close both locks in a move that would halt river traffic in both directions, said Col. John P. Lloyd, commander of the Army Corps’ Pittsburgh District.

“Surely, maintaining the health of this significant commercial inland waterways corridor, saving project costs and using taxpayer dollars wisely, and protecting and creating thousands of jobs are more than consistent with the president’s policies,” Casey said in his letter.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

Posted in Infrastructure, mass transit | Leave a Comment »

Clearing the Air on Islam through ‘Spread Hummus, Not Hate’ events in Beaver

Posted by carldavidson on April 1, 2017

Interfaith meeting with Muslims in Pittsburgh

By J.D. Prose

Beaver County Times

March 31, 2017 – BEAVER — If any two things bring Beaver Countians together, it’s food and religion, and Center Township resident Toni Ashfaq will incorporate both to educate residents about Islam during events in Beaver.

“There are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of false information floating around,” said Ashfaq, a Muslim and the organizer of two Spread Hummus, Not Hate: Meet Your Muslim Neighbor gatherings Wednesday and Saturday at Beaver Area Memorial Library. “We just want people to meet us and see that we’re just like everybody else.”

A Wisconsin native and convert from Catholicism, Ashfaq said she and two friends — Julia Chaney, a Christian, and fellow Muslim Dr. Raniah Khairy, an OB/GYN specialist at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township — began brainstorming ideas “just to kind of build bridges and promote understanding” because of the “current political climate.”

That brainstorming has resulted in the Spread Hummus, Not Hate gatherings at the library from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Ashfaq said they got the idea after learning of a group in Australia doing meetings.

“We thought it was a pretty catchy title,” Ashfaq said with a laugh. Just one gathering was initially planned, but after receiving an “overwhelming” response, she said a second one was added.

Islam has been distorted by politicians and certain media, she said, not naming anyone specifically. Regardless, Ashfaq said Muslims are “not in denial” about Muslims committing violence, but the media too often focuses solely on Islam.

“People get the wrong idea that those people represent the whole faith, and they don’t,” Ashfaq said, recalling a recent conversation in which she told a woman that equating terrorists with Islam would be akin to equating the Ku Klux Klan with Christianity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in elections | 18 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: