news3-e2f32bc6c814fad3A group of Oakland residents are campaigning to radically transform the city’s budgeting process — transferring power from City Hall to one hundred newly established Neighborhood Assemblies throughout the city. At farmers’ markets, civic events, protests, and heavily trafficked areas, volunteers with the Community Democracy Project (CDP) have been collecting signatures to bring a “People’s Budget” to the ballot. The initiative would amend the Oakland City Charter to allow citizens to decide how the city spends taxpayer funds — a process known as participatory budgeting. If the initiative gets the 32,000 verified signatures necessary, and if voters approve it next year, the results would be unprecedented.

To date, some cities have designated parts of their budgets to participatory budgeting. Vallejo has set aside nearly $2.5 million for it, and residents in 24 of the 51 council districts in New York City vote to allocate $25 million in discretionary funds. As of this year, Paris, France has the largest participatory budget, after it allocated 20 million Euros in 2014, and then committed an additional 426 million Euros through 2020. But there is no city of significant size that has created a participatory budget for 100 percent of general city funds as CDP’s initiative seeks in Oakland.

“It’s a big change, but the great thing about our initiative is that it provides a lot of the infrastructure to make it happen,” said Allee Rosenmayer, a co-director of CDP. “We’re not just pushing this radical change to the city charter through then leaving others to figure it out.”

Read more at East Bay Express

news2When Tia Katrina Taruc Canlas studied at UC Berkeley School of Law, she learned from one of her professors, Nancy Lemon, that many survivors of domestic abuse aren’t told of all their legal options. Lemon insisted that some enterprising young lawyer should use the civil code some day to seek justice for domestic violence victims. The seed was planted.

Today, Canlas, a Berkeley lawyer, has taken her professor’s advice to heart, and is employing a surprisingly underused, survivor-based approach to tackle domestic violence — holding batterers financially accountable in court for their actions. “Since our criminal laws are applied so unevenly and unfairly across races, it’s not really good to have imprisonment as the goal for justice,” said Canlas, as we sat in a worker-owned cafe below the architecture firm where she rents space. “I wanted to find better ways to deal with domestic violence and rape, and I think taking [abusers’] money is one of the best.”

Canlas’ childhood was shaped by domestic abuse. She said her father punched her mother Tina Taruc in the stomach while she was pregnant with Tia. After more abuse, Taruc threatened to leave. Canlas’ father then hired an attorney and divorced her mom. Lacking funds to take recourse of her own, Taruc was left with nothing.

Read more at East Bay Express…

Also read at counterpunch.org

Over the course of the past year I have flown from Oakland to Seattle numerous times. On those trips I have always considered AmTrak’s Coast Starlight service as an option. The trip via tracks connecting Oakland to Seattle goes through beautiful landscapes in northern California and into the Cascades of Oregon and Washington. On those trips I also considered the carbon footprint of the options, which is more environmentally friendly, train or plane? But after those considerations I realized my thought was so 2008. The big question is who cares and why and they don’t.

The most obvious answer is the Great Recession and its continued assault on the global economy. It seems the economic power moguls, politicians, and in turn the media, are more interested in bringing the economy back to where it was, rather than forging ahead with a new economy that doesn’t inherently generate climate and market chaos.

Yet, on many terms the movement to combat climate change became a huge success, while as of right now it’s a huge failure. What started as only a scientific concern among climatologists, environmentalists and a niche group of politicians globally, exploded into arguably one of the biggest issue of the past decade, at least when terrorism and economic collapse weren’t making headlines. Yes, Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” with mainstream distribution gave the issue a national awareness it lacked before 2006. But Gore also helped solidify the ideological lines of the concern and domestically turned it into a Democrat and Republican debate. There was also the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina that gave the idea of a climate in flux a sense of immediacy. But the real tragedy of Katrina was political not environmental, the government got away with what amounts to ethnic cleansing by not allowing a third of the New Orleans black population to return to the city.

Continue reading “Train, Plane, or Who Cares?”