The National Institute for Restorative Justice
"Educating for Advocacy"
1464 East 105 Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

rjusticeinc@aol.com
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Mittie's Musings: A Message From The Chair
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you the
strength, the patience,
and the
passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
Harriett Ross Tubman
Join The
Drum Majors
For Justice!
Social Justice

Economic Justice

Legal Justice
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Photograph by Jeff Ivey
www.restorativejusticeinstitute.org
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Renewing Inalienable Rights, Rebuilding Communal Confidence, Re-energizing Sustainable Economy, Reviving Unbridled Spirit
May 2012
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Communities to reduce unemployment and "revitalize high-poverty, economically distressed communities."  Through
both the Clinton and Bush administrations
, a series of Congressional Acts in 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2004, allocated
nearly $15 billion
through a mix of $5 billion in grant funds and tax benefits for community development initiatives, loans
guaranteeing subsidized housing, and $11 billion in tax break incentives for businesses to establish and upgrade facilities
for the
purpose of creating new jobs for EZ, EC and RC populations.
Funding for these initiatives were extended by President
Obama
through 2011 by Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Acts to "encourage and support business investment, economic
revitalization and expansion of job opportunities for residents in the designated high poverty and high unemployment
census tracts."
 

In addition to proof of high levels in poverty, unemployment and general distress,
eligibility requirements for the programs
included
strategic plans based on four key principles: 1) economic opportunity; 2) sustainable community development;
3) community-based partnerships; and 4) strategic vision for change.

In carrying out its mandate to "report on EZ, EC and RC programs and their effect on poverty, unemployment and economic
growth," The 2004, 2006 and 2010
Government Accounting Office Reports have each concluded that the lack or
limitations of the data collected by the administering agencies -
Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human
Services (
HHS), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) - has made it difficult to
accurately evaluate the overall program's effectiveness.
 For example, data collected from the individual program
administrators indicate that
while poverty and unemployments fell in some of the designated communities, it could not be
determined that the rate of decline was directly tied to the programs
because census information on these communities
was only collected every ten years.  Therefore
the possibility that the decline in the poverty and unemployment rates
could be tied to shifting demographics
, including the overall decline in the population of the communities. That said, HUD's
2011 Community and Planning Development EZ/EC/RC Summary Statement on the initiatives reported $3.5 billion dollars in
employment tax credit claims allowed between 1999 and 2008.

While the GOA in Washington can not determine the effectiveness of billions of dollars being poured into
municipalities
for the purpose of improving the socio-economic quality of life of "economically distressed communities," with
majority black and brown populations,
those of us living in EZ's, EC's and RC's can resoundingly report that the money
did not make it to the predesignated existing residents and businesses
.  The majority of the money has gone to new and
rehabilitative construction, which did not create significant or sustainable business, employment or affordable housing
opportunities for the residents of the designated zone.  And perhaps one of the most startling disclosures in the GOA's report
with regard to the "Qualified Zone Academy Bonds" was that there were  "no interest bonds issued in the EZs/ECs by state or
local governments to finance school programs, with purchasers receiving interest payments as tax credits."  Yet, hundreds of
schools have closed in the zones.  

While no funds or tax credits were utilized to help stabilize traditional academic institutions, millions of EZ funds, combined with
Department of Labor funds were channeled into
temporary youth and adult vocational training programs that resulted in
no specific skills, and no permanent employment opportunities.
 Or as one young man so poignantly stated, "we got
programs, they got jobs."

Hundreds of academic reports, newspaper articles, and grassroots advocate complaints make it very clear that the best interest of
the existing residents and businesses at the time of fund designation simply went unrepresented in negotiating the disbursement of
the funds.  
Abuse was rampant, including geographic expansion of the designated zones to include businesses that would
not have otherwise qualified
, and, of course, a preponderance of your basic "too many politicos - and friends - hand in the
till."  

Through the Sustainable Community Controlled Development - Indigenous Community Leadership Development Initiative,  The
National Institute For Restorative Justice aims to train and advocate for a shift from externally controlled, paternalistic
community development organizations, to true community controlled design, development and implementation, with actual
residents of the community receiving primary benefits from government infused funds.   

This first summit comes on the heels of our seven-week book discussion series,
Organizing A Movement, Struggling Toward
Freedom
, in which we explored the life, work and legacies of A. Phillip Randolph, Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall
and Ella Baker.  Coming off this educational journey, we are encouraged and confident that when Black folk get "sick and tired of
being sick and tired," and are armed with capable, committed leadership, we can move mountains to change our situations and
circumstances for the common good! We also understand that change does not come easy or quickly.  It takes hard work,
sacrifice and perseverance.  We hope that you will consider joining us in being equal to this task!

Faithfully,

~ Mittie Imani Jordan, Chair
They are turning off street lights in poor communities inside Detroit.  Black male
unemployment in Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Detroit - all urban cities
on Great Lakes - is over 52%.  Thousands of public schools and transportation routes
are being closed throughout the nation.  Inner-city properties are being seized for code
violations, bank and tax foreclosures, and forced probate sales.  Blocks of houses are
left abandoned and dangerously accessible for vagrancy and crime.  Medical trauma
centers are being shut down.  Massive juvenile detention centers are being erected.  
Welcome to the tragic reality of too many urban Black American communities.  

We are told that there is no other choice.  Municipal tax bases have decreased, and
therefore cuts must be made.  Something has got to go.  Lights, jobs, schools,
transportation, fair housing, accessible health care, equal protection...  

The greatest tragedy is that the majority of the communities being impacted by these
legislative decisions to balance municipal budgets were designated as Empowerment
Zones - targeted communities collectively receiving nearly 15 billion dollars through
three presidential administrations, over a decade.  These funds were specifically
designated to reduce unemployment and "revitalize high-poverty, economically
distressed communities."   

Adding insult to injury - as the saying goes - dead smack center, tucked away in the
midst of almost all of these deteriorating communities, are flourishing educational and
cultural centers, emerging commercial districts, and new and restored residential
housing development -  of which nearly all out prices the ability of the existing
population to take advantage.

Recognizing that the needs and concerns of poor and predominantly black
communities are of little interest to local power brokers, it is clear that it is time for the
identification and empowerment of indigenous leadership within these communities, to
work toward organizing, stabilizing and sustaining what little we have left.  It is too
that end that The National Institute will hold its first Indigenous Community
Leadership Development Summit, Friday - Saturday, May 25 - 26, 2012.  You can
read more about the summit by clicking on our link at the end of this article.

Since 1993 the United States Congress has passed legislation to establish
over two
hundred  Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, and Renewal
We Got Programs, They Got Jobs!