On Tuesday, April 23, Bob Edgar, the executive director of Common Cause, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 69. Born in Philadelphia, Bob Edgar served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His district included sections of Delaware County where PICO staff person Monica Sommerville was raised. Monica remembers the impact that Bob Edgar had on her and her community in the following essay:
In 1974, as a fourteen year old growing up in a housing project in Chester, Penn., it was easy to be pessimistic and disillusioned about the political process.
My generation’s first glimpse at politics included a series of assassinations of inspirational leaders, the protracted Vietnam War that had taken its toll on so many families including my own, and the first ever resignation of an American president shamed by the Watergate scandal.
Locally, Delaware County politics had long been under the control of a political machine that corrupted the democratic process as party loyalty impacted every aspect of community life from garbage pick-up to municipal jobs. Kids of blue-collar Democrats grew up understanding that their dads would not get one of those decent-paying city jobs and political candidates that challenged the entrenched power structure did not stand a chance of getting elected.
That was true until 1974, when Bob Edgar, a young, ordained United Methodist pastor – and a Democrat – successfully ran and got elected to represent the 7th Congressional District. He was the first Democrat elected from this district in 36 years. For the next 12 years, as I grew up and got married, Bob Edgar represented me and my family in Congress. I recall feeling represented as Rep. Edgar pushed for good government and, a stronger democracy, and improving conditions for families like mine. Read the rest of this entry »
In one afternoon, my canvassing partner and I knocked on more than 120 doors and talked with about 30 people in the Wendell Phillips and Key Coalition neighborhoods of Kansas City, MO.
We dropped door knockers on every home, reminded folks about the election date and told them their voice matters even if their neighborhoods sometimes get treated like the gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe. Our route was bound by the historic 27th street boundary on the north (a line of demarcation African Americans once couldn’t cross after 6:00 p.m.) and Bruce R. Watkins Drive on the west (a highway that swiftly cut the east side down its belly while decimating its central shopping corridors).
We passed by dead cats in the gutters, houses with busted out windows and vacant lots strewn with garbage. Roofs and porches caved in like a natural disaster hit and FEMA never showed up. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jose Luis Marantes
Director, Miami Expansion
PICO United Florida
For more than six years I’ve been on a journey, guided by my Creator, to give all I have to those whom society has cast aside. I recognize that what I have can’t be described in dollars and cents, or other tangible resources, yet it’s in the intangibles – love, creativity, conviction, determination, belief in others- where I found an untapped well of reserves that accumulated over years of family hardship and the grace and love, provided by my faith that filled me, when I was most empty.
I will never forget August 15, 2012.
I was invited to participate in a summit announcing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) victory. I shared a stage with a former Miami mayor, a university president and three amazing DREAMers. Read the rest of this entry »
by Tim Lilienthal,
Bank Accountability Campaign Coordinator
PICO National Network
For nearly three weeks now, a growing group of mostly young people have been camped out in lower Manhattan to protest the corrupting impact that Wall Street is having on our democracy.
What started out as a loosely organized public display of anger over the economy has garnered increasing media attention and support from people across the United States. So many people in America are suffering through what increasingly feels like a permanent state of economic stagnation. And rather than see their elected leaders stand up against powerful interests on Wall Street – interests that are keeping millions of Americans stuck in debt and holding back recovery – they watch their representatives continue to protect the interests of the banks that got us into the mess in the first place.
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by Bishop Dwayne D. Royster Pastor,
Living Water United Church of Christ, Philadelphia PA
Executive Director, POWER Philadelphia
I and several other clergy recently met with the Philadelphia Police Commissioner. In preparation for the meeting, David, the community organizer working with us asked who we were thinking about as we prepared for the meeting – whose pain was fueling our desire for change?
I thought of the youth in my church. The faces of Candace, Russell, Char, Brianna, Jezeray, and countless others came to mind. These children have seen and experienced life in painful ways. One Sunday morning, we couldn’t get to the block where our church is located. Police were everywhere and several intersections were taped off. Someone had fired an automatic rifle on one of the adjacent blocks in an altercation.
Spent bullet casings littered the sidewalk and street as police forensics units worked to collect the evidence. Yet, this act of violence that hit so close to my church home wasn’t even covered on the news. It was painful to realize that crime and violence has become so commonplace in some of our communities that it is no longer newsworthy.
Our young people, in fact all of our residents, deserve better than this.
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By Rev. Errol Thompson, Pastor New Fellowship Baptist Church
Chairman, PICO United Florida
Last summer, Ray Mercado and his wife began to struggle to keep up with their mortgage payments on their Orlando home. Like responsible homeowners, they reached out to their bank, JP Morgan Chase. Ray – a disabled veteran – estimates that he has spoken to 37 different bank representatives in his quest to get help. A barrier to negotiating an affordable payment: their home is worth $100,000 less than what they bought it for just four years ago.
Ray’s story is all too common. CoreLogic, which tracks negative-equity rates, estimates that 46 percent of mortgage-holders in Florida owe more on their loans than their homes are worth. Only Nevada and Arizona have higher rates of “underwater” homeowners.
Big Wall Street banks like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase fueled the meteoric rise in housing prices in Florida, making billions of dollars along the way. But when this bubble inevitably went bust — due in large part to reckless lending — they left homeowners and taxpayers to pick up the tab for the resulting foreclosures and billions in negative equity.
These banks enjoyed all of the upsides of the boom while facing little of the consequences of the bust. Any attempt to make them forgive even a modest amount of this negative equity has been met with arguments from Wall Street CEOs that we need to ensure “fairness” in the modification process and warnings about moral hazard.
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By Rev. Ryan Bell Senior Pastor,
Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church, Hollywood, CA
LA Voice/PICO in Los Angeles.
“How do you respond when you see this chart?”
That was the question Scott Reed, Executive Director of the PICO National Network, asked a room of about 25 pastors and rabbis who had gathered in Washington, D.C. for the first meeting of the new National Clergy Leadership Council.
“How does it feel to be faith leaders during such a time?” he asked.
A few people had seen this already during a presentation by Josh Bivens, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute and author of the recent book, Failure by Design: The Story Behind America’s Broken Economy, but it was brand new to me. It took me, and others, a few minutes to digest what we were seeing here. One by one we commented about what we thought caused this. We tried to explain it, justify it, and rationalize it. Then Scott said something that stopped me cold in my tracks.
“This happened on your watch!”
Indeed it had. In fact, PICO was founded in 1972 to organize the religious community to address just such injustices in our country; at precisely the time these two lines diverge. That realization touched something in me. What had happened to religious communities during this time? Had we completely fallen asleep? Read the rest of this entry »