Fair Housing Act Accessibility Policy Training on Thursday in New Haven

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST is an initiative designed to promote compliance with the Fair Housing Act design and construction requirements.

The program, being held FREE at The Study at Yale, 1157 Chapel St. in New Haven on Thursday, March 30, 8-4:15, provides the information that disability and housing advocates, as well as those who must comply with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements, need to do their jobs effectively.

The training is sponsored by the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development along with New Haven’s own Neighborhood Housing Services. Registration is necessary.

Who Should Attend?
* Anyone with an interest in the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act
* Attorneys
* Architects and Designers
* Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects
* Contractors
* Developers and Builders
* Disability and Housing Advocates
* Enforcement Officials
* Housing Consumers
* Property Owners and Managers

Seniors and Activism: A Perfect Match

There was a large turnout for the immigrant Accompaniment Training this Sunday (see the blog post on it), and a great majority of attendees were senior citizens. At 62, I felt young.

This is a great thing. Accompanying immigrants to check-ins with their ICE officer and immigration court hearings (both in Hartford) consumes a great deal of time, often the better part of a day. Retired and semi-retired individuals can fit this into their schedule or schedule around it. Most other people cannot.

Against expectations, although seniors have more free time, historically they volunteer less than middle-aged people. And it is not just because of health problems. But as the Baby Boom generation retires (and about 40% consider themselves retired already, even though the median age of the generation is around 62), it appears that, at least for those on the left, they will bring values and a history of activism that will make them give more of their time than past generations of retirees. That is what I felt at the church where we met on Sunday.

I found myself with a group of retired women who are members of a literacy program for those speaking English as a second language. They wanted to direct their compassion toward another form of service to immigrants in our community.

We Baby Boomers have the skills, the time, and the independence to do more than we’ve done so far, and to do more than any retired generation has ever done. We will increasingly have more space in our life to think not only about ourselves and our families, but also about the legacy we will leave to future generations.

As we move into the last stage of our lives, what some people call “the third chapter” or “the third age,” it’s important to ask ourselves (à la Jonas Salk), What kind of ancestors will we become? Will we be what some commentators predict: the only growth industry of the next few decades, defenders of our entitlements who insist we’ve given and now it’s time to take, the creators of a Generational Storm, a Boomer Bust, or even a Boomergeddon, where taking care of us and paying our pensions will stretch the country’s resources beyond the breaking point, leading to tax hikes, high interest rates, and hyperinflation? Will there be intergenerational warfare that will make the Generation Gap of our youth look like a lovefest?

Or will we Boomers find it in our hearts to give as we take, to serve rather than be served (the AARP’s motto), to use our experience, skills, and free time to change the nature of aging and of caring for the aged; to serve our communities, especially the poor, the young, and the disabled; and to advocate less for our own interests and more for those who come after us? Can we turn ourselves into the Generative Generation, a generation that sees itself as the trustees of future generations, with an obligation to protect and further their interests?

The current political mess might be just the thing the Boomer generation needs to throw itself into activism. I hope that this blog helps CT Boomers decide where to turn their energies, and I hope that Boomers share their experiences and ideas here, as well.

What We Do Now – I

I’m in the middle of reading an anthology of short essays on how to live post-election called What We Do Now, edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians (Melville House, Jan. 2017). I want to share some of the quotes that struck me.

Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American legislator (MN state rep), writes, “It is essential we recognize the inherent obligation of humanity: to build community. Surviving life in a refugee camp at a young age, I find this obligation to be very real; hope and unity were essential to a fervent community.”

Omar also quotes Solon, an ancient Athenian lawmaker, as saying, “Wrongdoing can only be avoided if those who are not wronged feel the same indignation at it as those who are.” For me, this is the most important theme in this volume:  solidarity, cross-movement unity.

Cristina Jiménez, director of United We Dream, refers to it as “showing up for each other when we come under attack, and showing up for each other when we have an opportunity to advance the cause of justice.”

Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian director of the Arab American Association of New York, writes,”One of the most important things we can all do as Americans is to begin investing in relationship building. Do you know your neighbors? Do you know who leads the local community-based organizations in your neighborhood? Do you know the heads of local churches, local mosques, and temples? Do know who your local elected representatives are? If no, start now. If yes, how can you deepen those relationships so that they are transformative and not simply transactional.”

And she asks us all to “Stay vigilant. Stay focused. Stay outraged. Perpetual outrage is what’s going to fuel our movements right now.” And she concludes, “The question is: What are we willing to sacrifice? What history will we write together?”

In a post-election sermon, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum put solidarity in very concrete terms: “The president-elect has said he intends to register every Muslim in this country. Well, let him try. Because if he tries to register Muslims, there are going to be a lot more Muslims to register than he ever imagined. Millions of us Muslims.”

Many of the authors in this book, especially the ones who are not household names, argue that “we need to shift much of our energy from the national stage to the local,” as M. Dove Kent, director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, puts it. She also writes something it is very important to keep in mind: “We’ve got to find new frameworks for common ground, and and the litmus tests that separate us. … The thinner lines in the sand that previously divided us must be erased. We will need to find a way to get over ourselves, and quickly, if we are to be of service.”

More wisdom comes from Brittany Packnett, cofounder of Campaign Zero and author of my favorite piece so far, “White People: What Is Your Plan for the Trump Presidency?”: “The work of freedom is messy, dangerous, and intentionally uncomfortable. Here’s a simple test: if the action step you’re taking isn’t really costing you your comfort, chances are you’re not doing enough. … Getting in the way to protect the vulnerable, building something new that empowers the marginalized, and endangering yourself to shield others are the acts of an accomplice. We need no more allies — we need accomplices.” Powerful stuff.

I’m just halfway through this sometimes enlightening, sometimes provocative anthology. There should be another blog post in it.

New Haven Climate Movement’s To Do List (For Us)

At the hearing this week on the New Haven Climate and Sustainability Framework (see March 20 post), I talked with Jeremy Shulik, a member of the New Haven Climate Movement, which was greatly responsible for getting the Framework process going.

Jeremy was handing out a flier that focuses on a few things each of us can do to make a difference with respect to climate change. Some are commonly known, such as insulation and solar panels. But others are not, such as simply consuming less, because “most of the carbon footprint is in the manufacturing.”

When it comes to food, the flier reminds us that livestock (mostly cattle) are responsible for 15% of climate-warming emissions, more than all transportation combined.

One thing that made me especially happy was the recommendation that, since large banks tend to support fossil fuel projects by, for example, lending money for pipeline construction, you can make a difference by moving your account from a large bank to a credit union (which are cooperatives) or a community bank such as Start Community Bank in New Haven (which is a Community Development Financial Institution). This also keeps your money in the area. The flier also notes that cities, universities, businesses, and even countries (such as Ireland) are divesting from fossil fuel companies (and there is a push to get Yale and the City of New Haven to do this). But we can all do our little part, even if we don’t play the stock market.

Last but far from least, we can switch our electricity supplier to one that provides 100% renewable energy. The options have recently increased, and some are even less expensive than regular UI or Eversource service (see the Energize CT site to learn how to make the switch, the options one has, and the cost of each option).

But don’t think that wind and solar energy is suddenly going to flow into your house or apartment. Instead, these companies are purchasing renewable energy credits from other New England and Northeast states that are ahead of us in producing renewable energy. It’s not that Connecticut produces none of it; it’s that what we produce (about half of all energy produced in the state) comes from the Millstone Nuclear Facility in Waterford. And nearly all the solar energy produced in the state is private, that is, on top of houses and businesses.

The New Haven Climate Movement is also interested in public art projects to promote climate change awareness. One that caught my eye is to draw a chalk line where it is expected that the water will rise to in New Haven at some point in the future. Check out this map that shows this line in 2100 with two scenarios:  3.6 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit increases. This sort of public action could go a long way to raise consciousness in the area.

The Climate Movement’s goal is to get New Haven to become a 100% renewable energy city, like Burlington, VT. It would even be better if the entire area could reach for this goal, but that would require a great deal more work in the more conservative towns and cities of Greater New Haven.

Immigrant Accompaniment Training in Hamden This Sunday

An immigrant accompaniment training session will be held in Hamden this Sunday afternoon, from 3 to 5, at the Spring Glen Church, 1825 Whitney Avenue, across the street from Best Video.

Here is a description of the program from the website of the New Sanctuary Coalition, which is holding a train-the-trainer program this evening at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in New Haven. After a lecture, newly trained trainers will lead groups of those attending.

“The Immigration Accompaniment Program helps support families who are going through the immigration process in 3 ways:

  • Provides a support structure to strengthen those caught in immigration proceedings
  • Keeps family members informed at every step of the process as their loved ones move forward
  • Holds legal officials accountable for providing accurate information and serving due process

The program pairs immigrants in final removal proceedings with volunteers who accompany them to their required, periodic check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP).”

This training should also be helpful if other arrangements are made for volunteers to help immigrants remain and feel safer in our community. I will be attending the Sunday training session. If you would like to attend, please let Pastor Paul Fleck know at paul.fleck@nyac-umc.com.



Final New Haven Climate & Sustainability Framework Hearing This Evening

The final hearing on the New Haven Climate & Sustainability Framework draft reports will be held this evening from 6 to 8 at the Hillhouse High School library, 480 Sherman Avenue. This is a huge endeavor, encompassing six areas, for each of which there is a report on goals and recommended actions:  Buildings, Electric Power, Food, Land & Infrastructure, Materials Management, and Transportation. The reports (in PDF format, in English and in Spanish) can be found here. The reports are more interesting than their titles sound; in fact, Materials Management is one of the most interesting reports.

The New Haven Climate and Sustainability Group, consisting of municipal and community stakeholders, wants to hear from citizens about its reports. If you can’t make the meeting, you can fill out a survey (but only if you live in New Haven itself) and send comments electronically at the bottom of this page (where you can also enter your e-mail address for announcements of future meetings and activities). You can see others’ often enlightening comments by clicking the links on this webpage. At the bottom of the same page, you can sign up to receive further announcements.

The Group hopes to have final reports completed this summer. After attending the meeting this evening, I will report back on further things that individuals can do to help turn these exciting recommendations into real programs.

Campaign School in New Haven

For those interested in getting involved in Connecticut political campaigns and activism, there is an all-day program Saturday, March 25, in New Haven, called Campaign School. It has three tracks:  for activists, for those who want to run for office, and for those who want to work in municipal or state political campaigns. I’ll be attending, on the activist track. Hurry, because it’s nearly sold out (28 tickets left as of going to blog).

After Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman’s keynote address, there are four concurrent 80-minute sections throughout the day, covering such practical topics as Field Operations, Social Media, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers, Ballot Access & SEEC Compliance, and Effective Strategies for Peaceful Crowds and Civil Rights Protections. Section leaders include alders, state senators and representatives, a state elections staff member, Democratic party operatives, a civil rights advocate, environmentalists, and the program organizer, Alyson Heimer, who lists herself as a member of Hamden’s Democratic Town Committee, but also holds a position I once held: Administrator of the New Haven Democracy Fund, the city’s public campaign financing program. The schedule can be found here.

The program costs only $50 (and I believe there are scholarships). It will be held [new location!] at Wilbur Cross High School, 181 Mitchell Drive, from 8:30 to 6:00, followed by a reception at Anna Liffey’s Irish Pub at 17 Whitney Ave.