May 6th, 2020
Thinking for Ourselves
For many Detroiters, Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments that states should consider declaring bankruptcy was as frightening as that of the President’s pushing bleach to cure Covid-19. Certainly, it is as ill informed.
McConnell’s support for state bankruptcies came in the midst of an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. McConnell argued that the reason states are facing financial problems is because many of them, controlled by democrats, have been overspending all along.
In response to congressional efforts to increase funding to states and cities to fight costs of Covid 19 McConnell said, “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.” Singling out Democratic-led states such as New York, California and Illinois, he said, “We’ll certainly insist that anything we’d borrow to send down to the states is not spent on solving problems that they created for themselves over the years with their pension programs.”
Just to be sure his position was clear, after the comments, McConnell released a statement entitled “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.”
“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he said. “It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available.”
No one really thinks state governments will face bankruptcy. Nor are people blind to the partisan politics at play here. But for most Detroiters, these comments are very familiar. They are the same ideas that were used to drag Detroit into bankruptcy proceedings against the will of the City Council and the people. Always at stake was the argument that our “pension funds” were the real problem. Our retirees living too beyond what we could afford. In 2013 the newly appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr commented to the Wall Street Journal that “For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich.”
It was this way of thinking that ultimately resulted in the 80% of the Detroit bailout being borne by Detroit retirees. As investigative reporter Curt Guyette concluded after a careful analysis of the results of the bankruptcy, “The real story of Detroit’s bankruptcy is the unprecedented hit retirees are taking.”
As McConnell spews hatred toward elders, unions, and states that have attempted to protect people and policies with some intergenerational responsibility, it is important for us to recognize the ripple effects of ideas held by men who put profits before people. Ideas that lead to decisions steeped in racism and illusion.
For those decisions are now finding their ultimate expression in hospital beds around our city. They are surrounding our elders, dying alone after life times of giving to families, neighbors and communities.
Make no mistake. One of the main reasons our elders are so vulnerable is that their lives were made immeasurably more difficult by this so called “comeback” of our city.
Everyone knew this was the real cost of bankruptcy. It was clearly reported that “The biggest hit comes in the form of health care cuts.” Retirees saw their insurance costs “skyrocket.”
At the time, long time activists Cecily McClellan, who spent 18 of her 23 years with the city working at the health department, said her health care costs jump to about $500 a month.
“If nothing changes,” McClellan warned, “this will be devastating. Many people who thought they had a decent nest egg are going to find themselves living in poverty.”
Since the bankruptcy the devastation of poverty has been the the slow erosion of life. Evictions, water shut offs, heat interruptions, chooses made between medicine and food. Step by step our elders endure the conditions that allow this virus to spread.
Comments have consequences. The ideas of austerity and limited government, of dehumanization and devaluing essential city workers, have found their final extensions in the bodies stacked in refrigerator cars.
We need very different values as we move beyond this crisis. We can see the consequences if we continue the ideas that brought us here.
RESOLUTION OPPOSING PREMATURE LIFTING OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING MEASURES AND URGING THE ADOPTION OF BUSINESS POLICIES TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC UNTIL A REASONABLE DEGREE OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION CAN BE ENSURED
By Council President Brenda Jones and Council Member Roy McCalister Jr.
WHEREAS, In the face of the historically unprecedented Covid-19 novel coronavirus global pandemic, during the months of March and April 2020, millions of Americans dispersed from workplaces, schools, houses of worship, restaurants, bars, concert halls, sports stadia and other places where people congregate in public, practicing stringent and comprehensive physical distancing measures that have apparently spared the country even worse contagion and death as a result of this virus and the evident inability of the federal government or the U.S. health care system to cope with an intertwined public health and socioeconomic crisis of this magnitude; and
WHEREAS, Notwithstanding the incredible sacrifices and promising results to date of the broad physical distancing measures:
1) The loss of health, life, prosperity and value in the pandemic has already been huge;
2) Detroit has been one of the communities hardest hit;
and 3) Some irresponsible, public leaders have been arguing without any significant supporting evidence that Americans should stop or at least drastically limit these successful public health protections in the interest of “reopening” the economy, sending people back to inherently dangerous and unhealthy spaces for work, school, worship and commerce before the virus is adequately controlled; and
WHEREAS, the Detroit City Council vigorously and adamantly opposes any premature lifting of physical distancing measures unless and until the proponents of such regression to mass exposures can prove that it will not adversely affect public health; and
WHEREAS, the burden of demonstrating that ending physical distancing precautions would unreasonably harm public health, perhaps leading to a “second wave” of uncontrolled contagion and many more deaths, should not be placed on advocates of public health who oppose ending the current comprehensive, common sense restrictions on public assemblies; and
WHEREAS, Covid-19 has to date taken an extremely painful toll in the African American community, with a vastly disproportionate amount of coronavirus deaths in Michigan so far reportedly suffered by African Americans. Although making up only approximately 14% of the State of Michigan’s population, African Americans so far account for 33% of the coronavirus cases in the state, and 40% of the deaths; and
WHEREAS, the extreme racial disparity in Covid-19 cases and deaths among African Americans must be taken into consideration when considering the removal of the common sense physical distancing measures and state requirements that appear at this time to be working impressively to reduce the pandemic’s spread; and
WHEREAS, since none of the above conditions can currently be met, significantly easing or lifting the current measures in place for physical distancing to slow the spread of the pandemic at this time would be premature and would unreasonably risk even more severe damage to our country, state and city; and
WHEREAS, as the federal, state and local governments gradually increase their capacities to deal with this crisis, and additional data about the dimension of contagion and the incidence of death becomes available, there will be further opportunities in the future to responsibly and intelligently assess risk, gradually increase the size and frequency of social gatherings, and aggressively monitor and treat any further spikes in the transmission of Covid-19;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council opposes premature limitation or lifting of physical distancing measures adopted in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, unless and until the following conditions can be conclusively shown to be in place:
1) mass testing of millions of Americans per day to identify those who are infected; \
2) comprehensive contact tracing based on any and all future diagnoses, to isolate other
people who may have been infected;
and 3) availability of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline health care workers from the risks of contagion in the course of treating any flare-ups in the pandemic after easing physical distancing;
and 4) sufficient capacity of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, mechanical respirators and other hospital medical space and equipment to adequately treat the foreseeable surge in need for care; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council will work with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others to continue the practices of physical distancing and suspension of ordinary social, economic, business and entertainment gatherings, at least until the necessary conditions of adequate mass testing, contact tracing, protective equipment for frontline health workers, and adequate hospital and ICU resources are in place to protect public health; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council urges businesses across the City of Detroit to adopt the following policies:
1) Mandating wearing masks when employees and customers have the propensity to be within
6 feet of another individual.
2) Adopt procedures to meet the environmental cleaning guidelines set by the CDC, including by cleaning and disinfecting frequent touchpoints throughout the day such as point of sale terminals at registers, shopping carts, and shopping baskets.
3) Prohibit employees who are sick from reporting to work and send employees home if they
display symptoms of COVID-19.
4) Allocation of at least two hours a week of shopping time for vulnerable populations.
5) If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, establishments must notify other employees
without infringing on a worker’s private personal-health related information.
6) Require checkout employees or those handling food to wear some form of covering over
their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief.
7) Require all food handlers at restaurants to wear some form of covering over their nose and
mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief.
8) Accommodate employees who fall within a vulnerable population by providing lower- exposure work assignments or giving them the option to take an unpaid leave of absence with a return date coinciding with the end of the states of emergency and disaster.
9) Develop and implement a daily screening program, as described herein, for all staff upon
or just prior to reporting to work sites.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution shall be provided to Mayor Duggan, Governor Whitmer, mass media, City of Detroit residents and others in an attempt to clarify the life and death issues at stake in the decisions to be made in the near future about maintaining physical distancing measures, or “re-opening” the economy, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you are old enough, you will recognize that snippet from a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. If not, I am here to tell you that on May 4, 1970, four students were shot to death by members of the Ohio National Guard on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Nine others were wounded.
The students weren’t doing anything wrong. Actually, they were doing something right. They were peacefully assembled to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia. They were part of an eruption of nationwide campus protests that followed President Nixon’s announcement that the United States had launched a bombing offensive of Cambodia. KEEP READING
National Student Strike and the
Killings at Kent State, Jackson State
& the Chicano Moratorium
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Songs by Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary
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Black educators were essential to the legal victory that was Brown vs. Board of Education, but over time, they saw the promise of greater access and greater equity grow dimmer, undermined by the way this now-iconic legal milestone was actually implemented. In a forum ranging widely over the past, present, and future of the long fight for justice in American schools, Emory University historian Vanessa Siddle Walker will explore the pedagogical and advocacy models that black educators developed, despite Jim Crow, that they hoped would be enhanced with the dismantling of racist school policies. She’ll describe how these practitioners came to make sense of what ultimately became a desegregation compromise, as the ruling took effect. And in a follow-on conversation moderated by HGSE assistant professor Jarvis Givens, Walker will be joined by Edith Bazile, the president of the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts, to examine the contemporary legacy of Brown – and how the perspectives of those earlier practitioners can create a new lens through which to view the continuing critical challenges of race and education today. WATCH