Project 21: Papers

School Choice Ruling Sends Struggling Black Kids to the Head of the Class, by Mary Katherine Ascik

Black Americans won a significant victory when the Supreme Court recently ruled that a Cleveland school vouchers program created to help children escape from substandard schools was constitutional. The Ohio state legislature established the Ohio Pilot Scholarship Program in 1995 as a direct response to the failure of the Cleveland public school system. According to USA Today, public schools in Cleveland "fell short on every state standard for minimum acceptable performance in the mid-1990s."1 Students in the program receive scholarships to attend participating local private or suburban public schools. Parents can, alternatively, keep their children in local public schools but ...

EPA’s Regulatory Turnaround an Example of Compassionate Conservatism in Action, by Syd Gernstein

Just the thought of new environmental regulations can make people groan. Nobody wants to breathe dirty air or drink toxic water, but government policies to protect the planet can be unnecessarily expensive - especially for those who can least afford it. Environmental regulations need not ravage our pocketbooks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not always understand this notion, but the Bush Administration does. This is especially fortunate for poor Americans who don't have much money to spare (and who disproportionately are minorities). During the Clinton Administration, EPA officials proposed new regulations governing storm water runoff that characterized the ...

Historic Preservation Saves Buildings But Robs Residents of Goods and Services, by Syd Gernstein

Homes of black heroes such as Frederick Douglass and Carter G. Woodson, where roofs leak and walls are collapsing, are historic landmarks located in our nation's capital that need protection.1 A still-operating grocery store and a boarded-up hardware store, however, are less obvious candidates for historic preservation. Yet some think these retail sites are historic landmarks. By doing so, they risk denying city residents basic goods and services which suburban residents take for granted. In their zeal to preserve everything they deem historic, preservation activists often fail to balance desires with a community's needs. Since many sites designated for preservation ...

Senate Puts Black Arkansas Jurist at the Back of the Bus

Bill Clinton used the fact that he was born in Hope, Arkansas to campaign for president as the "man from Hope" - using the name of his birthplace to enhance his image. Lavenski R. Smith, a trailblazing black jurist, is another son of Hope. Unlike the former President, Smith was not just born, but also raised in Hope. There's another difference: Smith isn't blessed with Clinton's skill at advancing himself. Smith's current nomination to a federal judgeship, in fact, is "hopeless." At least until the liberals controlling the Senate quit stalling. On May 22, it will be a full year ...

Who’s Afraid of the “No Fear” Bill? by Syd Gernstein

If a federal agency is found guilty of violating someone's civil rights, the Department of Justice pays any monetary damages. Taxpayers foot the bill, while the offending agency is all but unaffected. The "No Fear" bill (officially titled the "Notification of Federal Employees Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2001"), considered the first civil rights legislation of the 21st century, would make government agencies responsible for their actions. Under the provisions of the bill, an agency would have any monetary damages paid from their own budget. The bill also provides additional protections for whistleblowers who expose abuse, mismanagement and fraud.1 No ...

Closing the New Digital Divide: African-Americans Call Upon the FCC to Allow Improved High-Speed Internet Access, by John Meredith

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other leaders of the African-American community have not had the opportunity to be "up to speed" with the rest of America when it comes to computer technology - the so-called "digital divide." As Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), former chairman of the CBC, once said: "Until we eradicate the divide that is growing between those who have access to the Net and those who do not have access, we must press on. We cannot afford to leave behind any of our children in this Information Age. Failure to bridge the gap will relegate ...

Giving With One Hand, Taking Away with the Other: Competing Government Policies Both Promote and Deny Homeownership Opportunities for Minorities

It's three steps forward, but two steps back. Policies removing barriers to minority homeownership are favored by governments, but the competing objective of combating the perceived threat of urban sprawl by some of these governments is simultaneously restricting homeownership opportunities for people of color. More than 70 million American families own their own homes. Of that number, 6.1 million families are African-American, 4.2 million are Hispanic and 2.2 million are Asian-American.1 African-American homeownership is at 47 percent.2Financial institutions such as Fannie Mae advertise their commitment to raising the level of black homeownership, and it is one of many sponsors of ...

Who Will Monitor the Monitor? Commission on Civil Rights Chairman’s Uncivil Manner Screams for Scrutiny

National Policy Analysis #389 /
We are taught that there are three official branches to our government: the executive, legislative and judicial. Some consider the media a fourth because it shapes public opinion. But there is reason to believe one person - Mary Frances Berry, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights - considers herself a fifth branch. Although she's only a political appointee, Berry engages in behavior setting her apart from the rules normally governing her pay grade. Her actions spur charges that she's turned the Commission and its $9 million budget1 into a soapbox for her liberal political views. When challenged, she ...

Civil Rights Commission Should Address the Economic Impact of Environmental Justice Policies

Over the past few years, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hasn't been known for promoting racial harmony. Chairman Mary Frances Berry is a stalwart liberal who rules the Commission with an iron fist. Critics accuse her of using the government agency to promote her own political agenda. Commission reports critical of both the 2000 presidential election results and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's policing policy just as he began his run for the Senate, plus Berry's current refusal to seat a Bush-appointed commissioner, have tarnished the Commission's reputation. On January 11, Berry and her fellow commissioners have an ...

Brownfields Revitalization Cuts Urban Blight, Suburban Sprawl, by Syd Gernstein

As concern over "urban sprawl" intensifies, the Bush Administration is coming to the rescue by making it easier to revitalize decaying city infrastructures. This will both lessen the need for cities to expand and create new jobs and new sources of revenue. Previously ignored, blighted urban areas can be rehabilitated into productive space. "Brownfield" revitalization received a boost from President George W. Bush in January when he signed into law increased funding for clean-ups and protections for those seeking to beat back urban decay and help the inner cities through brownfields restoration. The White House is also expected to seek ...

A Different Standard for the Powerful Means no Environmental Justice from Washington, by Syd Gernstein

Laws are supposed to make our society orderly and protect the public interest. But red tape can overwhelm and actually cause more harm than good. The process can also be corrupted. Take, for instance, "environmental justice." This policy empowers the government to stand up for the rights of the poor and minorities who may not have the political clout to stop a polluter from coming into their neighborhoods. A success story occurred when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) second-guessed the Missouri Department of Natural Resources approval of a proposed landfill. The EPA feared porous rock and geological faults in the ...

Patience or Panic? The EPA Seems to Let Demographics Decide, by Syd Gernstein

National Policy Analysis #380 /
Residents of the affluent Spring Valley community in Washington, D.C. will wake up this Christmas morning to open presents, eat coffeecake and maybe even brush snow off their SUVs and Mercedes as they have the past 15 years. Despite Spring Valley's exposure to a potential environmental threat literally under their feet, the government has yet to move them off the land. That wasn't the case in Times Beach, Missouri in December of 1982. While residents exchanged Christmas gifts, they received holiday greetings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that were anything but cheerful: "If you are in town it is ...

Is it Better to Have a Raise or a Job? How a Minimum Wage Hike Would Increase Unemployment, Harm Undertrained Workers

Is it better to have a raise or a job? It's a no-brainer. A raise is worthless without a job. The federal government reported October 5 that 199,000 jobs were lost between mid-August and mid-September, reflecting a national unemployment rate of 4.9%.1 Private sector economists are predicting that, thanks in part to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the unemployment rate will climb to six percent by early 2002.2 Against this backdrop, some in Congress want to increase the minimum wage. Somehow it makes sense to them to raise the cost of labor during a shrinking job market. Led by Senator ...

Global Warming Policies Could Unfairly Harm Minorities and the Poor, by Rep. John Peterson (R-PA)

National Policy Analysis #357 /
While the world continues to ask if global warming is occurring and, if so, if human beings contribute to it, most Americans have overlooked the effect that complying with the Kyoto Protocol would have on minorities and the poor. Let's examine the science surrounding global climate change. Although media reports indicate it is conclusive that man-made global warming is occurring, quite the contrary is true. Computer models say the first area to warm owing to the air's increased CO2 content should be the lower atmosphere. However, NASA satellite data have shown no warming here.1 Many scientists, such as Dr. Sallie ...

Hopping Across the Digital Divide, by Melissa Wiedbrauk

National Policy Analysis #362 /
There is an ongoing concern that the poor and minorities are not up to speed with the rest of America when it comes to computer technology. It's called the "digital divide." But, like many other modern complaints about race, class and equality, claims of technological segregation are more hot air than true discrimination. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) claim this technology gap is enormous. They portray anyone who doesn't own a computer as a victim - condemned to financial and intellectual slavery. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) once said, "Until we eradicate the divide that is growing between those ...

Often for Better and Sometimes for Worse, Lawyers Played Key Role in Black History, by Council Nedd

Even though Black History Month just passed, let's pause for a moment and reflect on the notable role lawyers have played in championing - and, in some cases - blocking the progress of African-Americans. Lawyers have been involved in many memorable cases affecting the black community. Some have been wonderfully inspiring and others tragically depressing. Among the most notable: * Former president John Quincy Adams buoyed the abolitionist movement in 1841 when he persuaded the Supreme Court that the Africans who seized the slave ship Amistad should be returned to the homeland as free men. * The lawyers who argued ...

Agency Under Fire: Did NHSTA Speed Up Rollover Ratings to Aid Clinton’s Personal Injury Lawyer Friends? by Kevin Martin

Have I got a deal for you. Want to buy a new car designed by federal bureaucrats? What, no takers? No wonder! Designing anything - be it welfare systems or the postal service - isn't the forte of the vast army of paper shufflers who show up each day at government offices in the nation's capital and its affluent environs. After all, the welfare system they came up with doomed millions of people who could have been hard-working, productive citizens to the indignity of low self-esteem and subsistence living. The postal system would be out of business if it actually ...

Choking Black Prosperity, by Syd Gernstein

National Policy Analysis #306 /
At a cost of somewhere between $25 and $35 billion in taxpayer dollars, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990.1 It is the mother of hundreds of regulatory laws across America that are supposed to address air pollution. Environmentalists are extremely protective of them, even if it means hurting poor and minority Americans in the process. Sadly, for those who are harmed by its provisions, these regulations may not be needed at all. Scientists have found that many of them go beyond merely failing to achieve their goal of cleaning the air;2 many of them actually hurt the ...

The Time for Superfund Reform is Now, by Michael Centrone

National Policy Analysis #307 /
There was a time when the Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation in Toms River, New Jersey, employed nearly 2,000 workers. Today it employs none. The plant was forced to shut down operations in 1996 for violating the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) controversial Superfund law. But, as is often the case with Superfund violations, Ciba Corporation did not intentionally pollute the area. Indeed, the company had actually been following the law in disposing of its waste products.1 The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, commonly referred to as Superfund, granted the EPA the authority to list areas where ...

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