NATIONAL CLIPS

OAKLAND, Calif.: Dellums seeks ‘model city’

Participants from many East Bay community and labor organizations gathered for the Socially Responsible Network’s 2006 kick-off Jan. 21 and heard former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums deliver a ringing vision of Oakland’s future as a model city.

“Oakland — it’s the city of the future of America,” Dellums, who is now running for mayor, told the audience at the city’s First Presbyterian Church. “It’s probably the most diverse city in the nation,” he said. “Black, white, Latino, Asian, African, Middle Eastern — we’re all here. Let’s embrace the brilliance of our diversity.”

Citing good jobs, universal health care, quality education and affordable housing as elements in the struggle against poverty, Dellums told the crowd, “If we come together, begin to think these things out, we can begin to bring pressure, not just at the city level, but to the state and others.”

Emphasizing that governing involves taking daily responsibility for practical issues, Dellums said the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “blew into everyone’s living room that poverty exists in America.” He challenged the audience, “Join in helping us try to eradicate poverty!”

The program also featured a discussion on the network’s next steps, by panelists including Alameda County Central Labor Council head Sharon Cornu, James Rucker of ColorOfChange, and youth activist President Davis.



BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Bring the troops home

For two weeks, 22 reporters from the Birmingham News, the state’s largest newspaper, fanned out and interviewed 192 people in every county in the state to see what was on their minds. Although not a scientific poll, the results indicated that almost 66 percent said the Iraq war was their biggest worry, had gone on long enough and it was time to bring U.S. troops home.

Other issues Alabamans were concerned about included the cost of gasoline and heating, health care, underemployment, education and the dimming prospects for retirement. Immigration ranked high on their list as well.



TRENTON, N.J.: State declares moratorium on executions

New Jersey became the first state in the country to suspend executions by legislative action. On Jan. 9 the General Assembly, the lower house, voted 55-21 to halt all executions until an independent bipartisan commission submits a report focusing on racism and flaws in the death penalty system. Earlier, the state Senate voted 30-6 for the same thing. Gov. Richard J. Codey signed bill into law Jan. 12.

“By any measure, the death penalty has failed the people of New Jersey,” said Celeste Fitzgerald, director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the coalition that spearheaded the grassroots campaign for the law’s passage. “[They] have come to know that it risks executing the innocent, is unfairly applied, fails victims’ families and law enforcement.”

The new law creates a 13-member commission to examine racial and geographic bias, cost, risk of wrongful execution and alternatives to the death penalty. Their report is due by Nov. 15.

The New Jersey Policy Institute estimates that the state has spent $253 million to enforce the death penalty since 1982. “That’s more than $10 million every year we’re not investing to hire police officers, help families, help victims or anything else,” Fitzgerald said.



TAMPA, Fla.: DNA frees man after 24 years in prison

Alan Crotzer, 45, was sentenced to 130 years for the crimes of rape and robbery, but after DNA evidence was presented to the court, he walked out a free man, having served 24 years in prison. Crotzer was convicted on eyewitness testimony in 1981. DNA has cleared 172 people since 1989, including some sentenced to the death penalty, according the Innocence Project.



BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Bring the troops home

For two weeks, 22 reporters from the Birmingham News, the largest newspaper in the state, fanned out and interviewed 192 people in every county to see what was on their minds. Although not a scientific poll, the results indicated that almost 66 percent said the Iraq war was their biggest worry, had gone on long enough and it was time to bring U.S. troops home.

Among other issues Alabamans are concerned about is the cost of gasoline and heating, health care, underemployment, education and the dimming prospects for retirement. Immigration ranked high on their list as well.



RIVERSIDE, Calif.: Fighting for clean air

Going to Riverside-San Bernardino area? Don’t breathe the air. This metropolitan area has the highest concentration of toxic particles from diesel soot and other sources in the country. Scientists have linked the particles to heart disease, cancer, stunted lung growth in children and premature death.

According to a study by Environment California Research and Policy Center (ECRPC), six of the 10 areas in the country with the worst air are in California, starting with Riverside-San Bernardino and including Los Angeles, Bakersfield and several agricultural communities in the Central Valley.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed looser air standards. The ECRPC is leading the fight to not only halt Bush administration proposals, but for stricter air quality standards. The EPA is gathering public comment and a decision is expected in September. “They are clearly protecting the polluters at the expense of public health,” said Moira Chapin, an associate with the environmental center.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Terrie Albano and Marilyn Bechtel contributed to this week’s clips.