Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

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Pittsburgh’s Sala Udin Gets Presidential Pardon, 44 Years Later

Posted by carldavidson on December 20, 2016

20161228-SalaPortrait001 Sala Udin at his Pittsburgh home.

Sala Udin at his Pittsburgh home.

By Tracie Mauriello

Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Sala Udin was stopped for speeding as he drove from a rally in Mississippi to drop off a carload of fellow Freedom Riders in Cleveland before heading home to Pittsburgh. Police who stopped him in Kentucky that day in 1970 searched his car, found an unloaded shotgun and a jug of Mississippi moonshine, and hauled him off to jail.

In 1972, he was sent to federal prison for seven months, with the shadow of his conviction hanging over him for the next 44 years.

No more.

On Monday, President Barack Obama pardoned the civil rights activist and 77 other people across the country. The president also issued 153 commutations to people sentenced for a variety of crimes, most involving manufacturing, selling or possessing drugs.

That brings the president’s total clemency actions to 1,324 — more than any predecessor since Lyndon B. Johnson.

Mr. Obama’s pardons and commutations “exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances,” said Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president. “While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies them all.”

A presidential pardon grants absolution as if a crime had never occurred.

“It’s a second chance, and I think — for most crimes — people deserve a second chance. Some of them would mess up again, but most of them would take full advantage of a second chance,” Mr. Udin said.

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Posted in Civil Liberties, Community, Obama | Leave a Comment »

Aliquippa Crime: Perception Isn’t Always Reality

Posted by carldavidson on June 3, 2016

 

By Kristen Doerschner

kdoerschner@timesonline.com

    ALIQUIPPA — When District Attorney Anthony Berosh speaks to community groups throughout Beaver County, he poses a question to them: How many homicides do you think Aliquippa had last year?

      The estimates people typically give are astoundingly high, he said, often ranging from 20 to as high as 40.

      In reality, the numbers aren’t even remotely close to that high. There was one homicide in the city in 2013, two in 2012 and none in 2011.

      Berosh said when he tells people the actual numbers, they are “flabbergasted.”

      Certain factors within a community tend to correlate to higher crime statistics. Berosh said areas of dense population, a higher proportion of lower-income residents, a large number of rental properties and a large number of residents under the age of 25 tend to have more crime.

      Statistics do show the instances of violent crime in Aliquippa have been on a downward trend over the past decade.

      “You can’t deny that crime occurs in Aliquippa. You can’t deny that crime occurs in any of our communities,” Berosh said.

      The problem is the perception many people have regarding that crime.

      Berosh is quick to point out the perception problem isn’t Aliquippa’s problem.

      “The problem we have as a Beaver County community is the perception we have of Aliquippa,” he said. “They don’t have that problem of perception. We do.”

      Residents and community leaders in the city are frustrated by the view so many people seem to have.

      Herb Bailey moved to Aliquippa from Nashville, Tenn., nearly two years ago to run the ministry at Uncommon Grounds, a popular coffee shop on Franklin Avenue. He quickly found the city to be an inviting place that he made home and moved his family to Franklin Avenue.

      He said he has no hesitation about living in the city or letting his teenage daughters walk through town on their own. He doesn’t view the city as a dangerous place.

      But Bailey learned in short order how others view his new home.

      He said his daughters — who have an interest in art and attend Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland — would invite friends to visit, but their parents were afraid to let their children go to Aliquippa.

      Slowly that is changing, and more parents are allowing their children to visit, he said.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Economy | Leave a Comment »

      Hard-Pressed Rust Belt Cities Go Green to Aid Urban Revival

      Posted by carldavidson on June 1, 2016

      A community farm in Detroit, which has been a leader in green urban renewal.

      Gary, Indiana is joining Detroit and other fading U.S. industrial centers in an effort to turn abandoned neighborhoods and factory sites into gardens, parks, and forests. In addition to the environmental benefits, these greening initiatives may help catalyze an economic recovery.

      By Winifred Bird

      Beaver County Blue via Environment 360 Yale.edu

      May 31, 2016 – Depending on how you look at it, Gary, Indiana is facing either the greatest crisis in its 110-year history, or the greatest opportunity. The once-prosperous center of steel production has lost more than half its residents in the past 50 years. Just blocks from city hall, streets are so full of crumbling, burned-out houses and lush weeds that they more closely resemble the nuclear ghost town of Pripyat, near Chernobyl, than Chicago’s glitzy downtown an hour to the northwest. Air, water, and soil pollution are severe.

      Yet in the midst of this, Gary has quantities of open space that more prosperous cities can only dream of, and sits on a stretch of lakeshore where plant biodiversity rivals Yellowstone National Park. Now, the big question for Gary, and for dozens of other shrinking cities across the United States’ Rust Belt — which collectively have lost more than a third of their population since the middle of the 20th century — is how to turn this situation to their advantage.

      The answer that is beginning to emerge in Gary and other cities of the Rust Belt — which stretches across the upper Northeast through to the Great Lakes and industrial Midwest — is urban greening on a large scale. The idea is to turn scrubby, trash-strewn vacant lots into vegetable gardens, tree farms, stormwater management parks, and pocket prairies that make neighborhoods both more livable and more sustainable.

      These types of initiatives have been evolving at the grassroots level for decades in places like Detroit and Buffalo; now, they are starting to attract significant funding from private investors, non-profits, and government agencies, says Eve Pytel, who is director of strategic priorities at the Delta Institute, a Chicago environmental organization active in Gary and several other Rust Belt cities. “There’s a tremendous interest because some of these things are lower cost than traditional development, but at the same time their implementation will actually make the other land more developable," she said.

      Or, as Joseph van Dyk, Gary’s director of planning and redevelopment, put it, “If you lived next to a vacant house and now all of a sudden you live next to a forest, you’re in better shape.”

      Van Dyk noted that city planning in the U.S. had long been predicated on growth. But, he added, “That’s been turned on its head since the Seventies — Detroit, Cleveland, Youngstown, Flint, Gary have this relatively new problem of, how do you adjust for disinvestment? How do you reallocate your resources and re-plan your cities?”

      Detroit, which has at least 20 square miles of abandoned land, has been a leader in envisioning alternative uses for sites that once would have been targeted for conventional redevelopment. The city has 1,400 or more urban farms and community gardens, a tree-planting plan so ambitious the local press says it “could serve as a model for postindustrial cities worldwide,” and $8.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement green infrastructure projects and install solar panels on other vacant lots.

      But while demolition itself has added an estimated

      $209 million to the equity of remaining homes in Detroit, Danielle Lewinski, vice president and director of Michigan Initiatives for the Flint-based Center for Community Progress, said hard data on the value of greening projects is more difficult to come by.

      “There’s opportunity in Detroit to see an impact in surrounding property values, and therefore people’s interest in that area,” said Lewinski, who has been involved in land-use planning there. “The key, though, is that it needs to be done in a way that is strategic and links to other attributes that would attract a person to move into a neighborhood. My concern is that green reuse, absent a connection to a broader vision, may not be nearly as successful from an economic value standpoint.”

      In Gary, the broader vision is to concentrate economic development in a number of “nodes,” each of which would be surrounded by leafy corridors of “re-greened” land. The corridors would separate the nodes, helping to give each neighborhood a more distinct identity, as well as bring residents the benefits of open space and serve as pathways for wildlife moving between existing natural areas. A land-use

      plan for preserving Gary’s core green space is already in place, and officials are currently revising the city’s Byzantine zoning regulations to make redevelopment of the nodes easier. Read the rest of this entry »

      Posted in Community, Economy, Environment, Organizing | Leave a Comment »

      Monaca to Install 200 Solar Panels at its Reservoir

      Posted by carldavidson on January 16, 2016

      By Jared Stonesifer

      Beaver County Times 

      MONACA — The borough plans on installing 198 solar panels at its reservoir that could produce more than $200,000 worth of electricity over their lifespan.

      Borough Manager Mario Leone said the project, which has been in the works for several years, could be up and running by April.

      The borough will install the solar panels on the ground and buildings at the reservoir, although it also plans on building a new garage-like structure that will house at least half of the panels.

      The panels will cost $150,000 to buy and install, half of which was paid for by a state grant.

      Leone said it won’t take long for the panels to make up the cost through savings realized by the efficiency of solar energy.

      “We’re looking between a 7 1/2 to nine-year payback on our $75,000 contribution,” he said. “The solar system over 20 years is expected to generate over $200,000 in electricity.”

      That number could be higher, Leone said, if the solar panels exceed their typical lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

      The solar panel project is just one of several that have led to Monaca being designated a gold-certified municipality in sustainability. The latest solar project means the borough could soon be certified as platinum, Leone said.

      “The borough is a leader in sustainability,” he said. “I believe with the installation of the solar panels and other things we’re working on, we will probably achieve that higher standard.”

      Another exciting aspect, Leone said, is that the amount of energy generated from the solar panels will be able to be viewed on the borough’s website.

      A public hearing will be held Jan. 26, when the project is expected to receive the green light from borough council.

      Leone said the panels will take about two weeks to be installed after being delivered.

      The panels will generate about 63,000 kilowatt hours annually.

      Posted in Community, Green Energy | Leave a Comment »

      Nation’s Supermarkets Fall Short of Promise to Combat ‘Food Deserts,’ Including Many in Beaver County

      Posted by carldavidson on January 4, 2016

      By Kyle Lawson

      Beaver County Times

      Aliquippa resident Taishawn Harris said she’s satisfied with the selection and prices at the new Aldi store on Shaffer Road. The challenge is getting there.

      “It’s affordable, and they have enough produce,” said Harris, 40, as she waited for her ride on a December evening with a cart full of groceries. “But I definitely wouldn’t walk here, I’d have to get a cab.”

      Aliquippa is among thousands of areas nationwide the federal government has classified as “food deserts,” based on the poverty level and access to a supermarket.

      In conjunction with Michelle Obama’s healthy food initiatives, major retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 markets in and around food deserts by 2016, but by their own count are far short.

      The nation’s top 75 food retailers opened nearly 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015, of which 2,434 were grocery stores. But only about 250 were in food deserts.

      Beaver Falls, Vanport Township, Ambridge, Midland, Pulaski Township, and sections of Monaca and Freedom are located within food deserts in Beaver County, according to a formula administered by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, and Health and Human Services.

      An urban town qualifies as a food desert if the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and at least 500 people live more than one mile from a supermarket. A rural town qualifies if the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and more than 500 people live more than 10 miles from a grocery store, according to the agriculture department website. Read the rest of this entry »

      Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Poverty | Leave a Comment »

      ‘Unfortunately in Pittsburgh, We Have a Tale of Two Cities.’

      Posted by carldavidson on December 9, 2015

      Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development. - PHOTO BY HEATHER MULL

      Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development

      Pittsburgh is poised for growth for the first time in 60 years. Will the city’s African-American community grow with it?

      By Ryan Deto

      Pittsburgh City Paper

      It used to be that community activists, politicians and developers would fight over allowing the gentrification of city neighborhoods. If you eliminated affordable housing and replaced it with housing that was not as affordable, most people agreed it was at least the start of gentrification.

      These days, the battle is apparently a little more nuanced. 

      On Nov. 5, for example, Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted: “So far Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has avoided gentrification while reducing crime & improving investment,” with an accompanying study by local analytics firm Numeritics.

      The study claims gentrification is “obviously not the case in East Liberty” because all new market-rate development happened on vacant land, and because neighborhood demographics from 2010 to 2013 remained the same.

      However, Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey feels differently.

      “The [report authors] certainly knew the story they wanted to tell and chose to ‘back up’ that story with the facts that happen to support it,” wrote Ivey, who documented the demolition of an East Liberty housing project in 2006, in an email to City Paper.

      Ivey notes there has been a demographic shift in East Liberty since 2000, with the numbers of blacks declining three times as fast as whites, according to U.S. Census data. Census data also indicate that the northern tract of East Liberty lost hundreds of African-American residents since 2000, and that the median black income there went up 14 percent as a result — or, as Ivey puts it “poor blacks moved out.”

      Another statistic foregone by the study was homeownership. According to statistics compiled by Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), from 2011 to 2014, East Liberty saw 55 homes purchased by whites, while only three homes were bought by blacks.

      So while some may argue whether what’s gone on in East Liberty and other city communities is gentrification, one fact is uncontroverted: African Americans are leaving some of their long-time Pittsburgh neighborhoods in droves because they can no longer afford to live there, and that urban flight could get worse before it gets better. 

      With thousands of residential units slated for development, the city is seemingly poised for growth for the first time more than 50 years. But will Pittsburgh’s black population grow with it?

      Historically, many African Americans came to Pittsburgh in the years between World War I and World War II. During this era of black migration, African Americans settled in the city neighborhoods of South Side, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, with the Hill District becoming the preeminent black neighborhood.

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      Posted in Community, Housing, Pittsburgh | Leave a Comment »

      Agencies of Social Change Often Wear a Clerical Collar

      Posted by carldavidson on December 21, 2014

      Faith making a difference in Aliquippa

      Resurrecting Aliquippa: Faith

      Kevin Lorenzi/The Times: Chris Ingram speaks to a church gathering at a "Black Lives Matter" service Dec. 14 at New Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Aliquippa.

      By Tom Davidson

      Beaver County Times

       tdavidson@timesonline.com |

      ALIQUIPPA — Beyond the facts and figures in the sheaf of 150 pages that is the city’s Act 47 recovery plan are the people who live and do business here.

      They’ve endured decades of economic downturns and slow decay since the industrial lifeblood of the community — Jones & Laughlin Steel and its successors — left with the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s.

      But the city’s people have leaned on another institution, one that many say is even tougher than steel: their churches and what springs forth within them, namely their faith. Despite the city’s financial woes, it has a strong spiritual foundation, and scores of people of all faiths are working to help the city resurrect itself.

      "We see united … clergy like we’ve never seen before" crossing congregational and racial boundaries to unite for the city’s common good, said Rich Liptak, pastor of Wildwood Chapel in Hopewell Township, just across the border from Aliquippa.

      "There’s genuine love and care for each other. It’s been great," he said.

      More than 300 people attended a September service billed as Aliquippa Celebrates Faith, and for five years, each Saturday morning, a group of clergy has gathered to pray at various places in the city, Liptak said. He remembers times when there would be a shooting or stabbing on a Friday night, and the next morning they’d gather to pray near the scene of the crime.

      But in the five years, the Saturday group has prayed in every neighborhood of the city, and it’s made a difference. After a stretch of more than a decade where there was at least one homicide each year in Aliquippa, the city saw a 16-month stretch in 2012 and 2013 without a murder, Liptak said.

      "We see answer to prayer," he said.

      He himself been a witness to the demise of the mills and the jobs they provided. His father, uncle and grandfather were all steelworkers. "It’s been a slow spiral downward" is how he puts it.

      Liptak has listened to people longing for the mills to come back since they were shuttered. But the mills haven’t come back, and for 30 years, the city has been stuck in the state’s Act 47 program for financially distressed communities. The city’s latest recovery plan was approved earlier this year, and city officials are working to exit the program and foster a renaissance in town.

      "I think we’re poised for improvement," Liptak said. He serves as president of the Greater Aliquippa Ministerial Association, a vibrant group of pastors who work together to make a difference in Aliquippa.

      Making an impact

      There are also groups including Aliquippa Impact that work to help youth.

      Steve Rossi, executive director of Aliquippa Impact, said its main aim is to "foster tangible hope to youth" in the city.

      "It’s not just spiritual in nature; it’s practical," Rossi said.

      Aliquippa Impact has an after-school program at Linmar Terrace, a one-on-one mentoring program, a city camp, arts education and several summer programs for youth in the city. They try to teach kids what they can do themselves to ensure they have a bright future, Rossi said.

      "A lot of it is common-sense stuff," he said. "We want you (the youth they serve) to own it."

      The youth in the city are full of potential, he said, and they try to teach kids that they have the answers to the problems they face.

      Many of the people involved with Aliquippa Impact, including Rossi, aren’t Aliquippa natives. They came to serve and not to "fix Aliquippa," he said, but to help the people there "fix themselves."

      "It is a long-haul ministry," he said, with the long-term goal being that the kids served now will one day be a part of the ministry’s leadership.

      A big part of it is "just showing up" to be there for the kids. "We can go so far through love," Rossi said. "It brings hope to families."

      Offering coffee — and hope

      Another group that’s active in Aliquippa is Uncommon Grounds, a coffee shop and ministry program based on Franklin Avenue downtown that was founded in 2005 by Church Army evangelist John Stanley, an Australian who has since returned to his native land.

      The ministry lives on, thanks to Herb Bailey, whose first impression of Aliquippa differed from the persistent negative perceptions of the city that are common in Beaver County.

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      Posted in Aliquippa, Community, Organizing, Solidarity | Leave a Comment »

      Defend the EPA, Keep Our Water Clean

      Posted by carldavidson on October 11, 2014

      Posted in Community, Environment | 1 Comment »

      Where Is Plan B? How About Manufacturing for Clean and Green Renewables if the ‘Cracker’ Fails? Or Even if It Doesn’t?

      Posted by carldavidson on August 16, 2014

      Site of proposed Shell ‘cracker’ plant across from Beaver and Vanport

      Shell Acquires Pennsylvania Shale Gas Rights as Part of a $2.1B Deal

      By Alex Nixon
      Tribune Review

      Aug. 14, 2014 – Royal Dutch Shell is shuffling its portfolio of natural gas holdings to increase attention on the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in northern Pennsylvania.

      The energy giant announced on Thursday that it is selling drilling rights to mature gas producing areas in Wyoming and Louisiana in separate deals in exchange for $2.1 billion in cash and 155,000 acres in Potter and Tioga counties, where it operates gas wells.

      The announcement followed a deal on Tuesday in which Shell said it was selling 208,000 acres in Western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to Rex Energy for $120 million.

      “They already know what they have” in Potter and Tioga counties, said Lyle Brinker, director of equity research at IHS Energy in Norwalk, Conn. “It’s an area where they already know what they’re getting into.”

      Shell spokeswoman Destin Singleton said the seemingly contradictory moves in Pennsylvania are part of the company’s regular review of its mix of energy production assets to improve value for its shareholders. Shell is working to focus its onshore drilling program on a few of the more prolific formations in an effort to boost profitability. The company wrote down the value of its shale acreage in the United States by $2.1 billion last year amid lower natural gas prices.

      “We continue to restructure and focus our North America shale oil and gas portfolio,” Marvin Odum, Shell’s Upstream Americas Director, said in a written statement. “We are adding highly attractive exploration acreage, where we have impressive well results in the Utica, and divesting our more mature, Pinedale and Haynesville dry gas positions.”

      In one of the two deals announced on Thursday, Shell said it will sell its Pinedale acreage in Wyoming to Houston-based Ultra Petroleum for $925 million plus the land in Potter and Tioga counties. Shell and Ultra have been partners in a joint venture in northern Pennsylvania. Shell will acquire 100 percent of the joint venture.

      In the second deal, Shell will sell its gas assets in northern Louisiana, known as Haynesville, to Dallas-based Vine Oil & Gas LP for $1.2 billion.

      Shell and other major oil and gas explorers regularly sell rights to fields where production is flat or declining. They then use that cash to fund exploration programs designed to discover new or more prolific fields that oil giants need to fuel growth. The Pinedale and Haynesville formations produce dry gas, which is less profitable than oil or so-called natural gas liquids, at relatively moderate rates.

      “It’s a good sign that they’re still committed to the Marcellus,” Brinker said.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Posted in Community, Economy, Environment, Marcellus Shale | 2 Comments »

      ‘New Economy’ Events in Pittsburgh, March 21-22

      Posted by carldavidson on March 17, 2014

      We Need a New Economy

      East End Food Coop is one small piece of the ‘new economy’

      By Molly Rush
      Post-Gazette Op-Ed

      March 17, 2014 – More and more people have come to distrust our economic system. Low wages, job insecurity, underemployment and loss of pensions stress the social fabric. Compounding the effects on our communities is a growing distrust of a political system driven by the power of major financial donors to candidates and officeholders.

      The billionaire Koch brothers, for instance, not only have a war chest of $400 million for targeted campaign contributions, but they also manipulate public discourse by underwriting so-called think tanks that justify legislation benefiting Koch investments in extractive industries, petrochemicals and poisonous pesticides.

      The Koch brothers are just one powerful vested interest bent on confusing the public about complex political and social challenges. Add the power of banks and mega-corporations to stack the deck against small businesses and families, and you have a collision between the public good and an unsustainable economy. It is no wonder that so many people feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

      “What Is to Be Done?”

      That is the title of a book by political economist Gar Alperovitz. He is behind what is being called the New Economy, which is taking root around the United States and right here in Western Pennsylvania.

      The idea is to develop an economy that gives people a decent livelihood in a thriving community. We already have the makings of a new economy here in Western Pennsylvania due to some creative initiatives now underway.

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Posted in Community, Cooperatives, Economy, Organizing | Leave a Comment »

       
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