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Remember that old song describing the wonders of living in a “little grass shack” in Hawaii? Those days are long gone. Why? Because there are almost no little grass shacks left in Hawaii any more (probably due to building codes) — and as a result, there are a lot of people here who are homeless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMRxbFkO6gU
On Waikiki Beach alone, I recently counted approximately 23 megalith-style high-rise hotels and/or condos. And I might have missed some too. Each hotel charges at least $200 a night — but usually a whole lot more. Two-bedroom condos here sell for a million dollars a bedroom. What homeless person can afford that?
For many people in Hawaii these days, those little grass shacks have been replaced by shipping container boxes — but this is actually a good thing. As the State of Hawaii, like the rest of America, discovers that more and more of its citizens are becoming homeless, the government here has tried everything it can to house as many people as it can by any means that it can — hence the wide-spread use of shipping container boxes as homes.
According to Mike Zint, a national advocate for the rapidly increasing homeless population in America, “What does it take to get off the streets? Money? Affordable housing? Employment? Of course the answer is yes, but none of those things is the first step. The first step is stability. And stability is the one thing that is most commonly removed [from the homeless].” So Hawaii is at least making an effort to get some stability into the lives of those who are forced to go homeless. https://occupysf.net/index.php/2017/03/12/stability-first-says-homeless-leader-mike-zint/
Hawaii also offers many boot-strap-like services to get homeless Hawaiians back on their feet. Some of these efforts are working. Some of them are not. And as the native Hawaiian population becomes less and less able to afford housing in their beloved Hawaii, they are being forced to move over to the mainland in droves where the rent is cheaper.
According to one native Hawaiian I met here, “So many of us are now moving to Las Vegas due to its lower rents and warm climate, that Las Vegas is now known as Hawaii’s ninth island.”
But this migration to the mainland is also a two-way street. “Many of the colder mainland states are purchasing airline tickets in order to send their homeless population here. This is true. I have seen it myself.”
In addition, “We also have a lot of people who come here from Micronesia who get priority for our HUD housing because they can no longer live on their radioactive atolls because many of them have become really sick due to cancer from the nuclear weapons tests. So they move them here — out of sight, out of mind.”
Another factor in the severe limitation of affordable housing in Hawaii is the huge US military presence here. The so-called “Pivot to Asia” apparently starts here. “The US military is our number-one economic factor,” said my Hawaiian friend. Even greater than tourism? Apparently so. I saw some pretty posh military housing spread out all around the island of Oahu — definitely not little grass shacks.
I’ve been living on pineapple and macadamia nuts here for too long — and also French fries. Remember what happened in “The Martian”? He lived on potatoes for a whole year because of their protein? A whole year is too long to live on potatoes, even in beautiful Hawaii. It’s time for me to fly back home to Berkeley — where the 1000-plus homeless population just manages to squeak by on pizza-by-the-slice.
PS: Am currently reading a book called The Up Side of Stress, and apparently one way to reduce stress is to be altruistic. “Caring for each other amplifies our resources,” says the author. “Human beings have a basic need to help others…and the more that they help others the happier they are because altruism both creates hope and prevents the defeat response.”
This need for hope is apparently one of the reasons why the State of Hawaii is so compassionate towards its homeless citizens. Hawaiians try to honor the human “tend and befriend” response to stress instead of the more well-known “flight or fight” response. Hawaii even has a word for this befriending response to stress. It’s called “Aloha”.
PPS: Remember that bumper-sticker from back in the day that read “Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds”? Or as they said in Lawrence of Arabia, “Allah favors the compassionate”. And this truism is still true, no matter how many Americans die from lack of housing and healthcare here and how many babies our war contractors murder in the Middle East. https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/1a9e93f1-5667-415d-b0ab-53c169aaa2f1
Am I pissed off by all this lack of compassion here at home and heartless slaughter in the Middle East? Hell yeah. Once people in power in America found out that there are huge profits to be made by stealing homes and murdering babies, there appears to be no stopping them from stealing and slaughtering again and again — both here and abroad.
(Contributed by Mike Zint)
March 9, 2017 (SFGate.com)
Photo: Mark Lennihan, AP. Shriya Gupta of Cherokee, N.C. strikes a pose with a statue titled “Fearless Girl”, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in New York. The statue was installed by an investment firm in honor of International Women’s Day.
NEW YORK (AP) — A new statue of a resolute young girl staring down Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull was erected by a major asset managing firm for International Women’s Day to make a point: There’s a dearth of women on the boards of the largest U.S. corporations.
State Street Global Advisors, the Boston-based investment giant, had the statue created to push companies to increase the number of women directors.
Artist Kristen Visbal‘s “Fearless Girl” drew crowds Wednesday that initially came to pose for pictures with the bull, but the novelty quickly became a New York hot spot.
The girl is sculpted in bronze, her hands firmly planted on her waist, ponytailed head held high.
“Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” reads a plaque at her feet.
“As a steward of nearly $2.5 trillion of assets, we want to engage with boards and management around issues that we think will drive core results,” said Lori Heinel, State Street’s deputy global chief investment officer. “And what you find repeatedly is having more diverse boards and more diverse senior management will actually drive better results for companies.”
Twenty-five percent of the Russell 3000 — a broad index of U.S. companies — have no women on their boards, according to State Street, which manages many of their assets.
According to ISS Analytics, a business research firm, just 16 percent of board seats on companies in the Russell 3000 are held by women; the average board of directors has eight men and one woman.
“It’s going to happen to the end of time unless you change something,” says Erik Gordon, a lawyer and professor at the University of Michigan‘s Ross School of Business. “It’s got to not just be the rules. It’s got to be the culture.”
State Street has three women on an 11-member board. Heinel said her company also will urge those in Great Britain and Australia to add women to their leadership.
One man working in corporate America needed no convincing.
“But when it gets to 50 percent, that’s when I think it’ll be right,” said Sundaram, a Dallas resident and native of India who was visiting New York with his family — with the Charging Bull as one of their stops.
The mammoth bronze was a “guerrilla art” act, dropped in the middle of the night in Bowling Green Park in 1989 without permission, by an artist who created it as a symbol of Americans’ survival energy following the 1987 stock market crash. The city gave its permission for the bull to remain.
This week, McCann New York, a top advertising agency, installed the statue of the girl before dawn Tuesday — with a city permit for one week. Negotiations are underway for the piece to remain longer.
Why choose the Charging Bull as the site to place the girl?
“Well, we really wanted the bull to have a partner, and a partner that we thought was worthy of him,” Heinel said. “And so we got a very determined young woman who is fearless and is willing to drive the change that we believe we need.”
Sundaram’s 8-year-old daughter, Sankaribriya, got the message.
She wanted to pose with the sculpted girl “because I just wanted to look at her and wanted to feel like her.”
Associated Press Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed to this report.
An internationally renowned all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble: this is Sweet Honey in the Rock, whose name was derived from a song, based on Psalm 81:16, which tells of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed from them.
“Would you harbor me” was written by Ysaye Barnwell and comes from the album “Sacred Ground” (1995). One of their albums “Raise your voices” (2007) has the cover shown at the beginning of the video.
The group was formed in 1973. In 1979, Ysaya Barnwell joined the group. She is a prolific composer who has been commissioned to create music for dance, choral, film and stage productions. She holds a B.S. and an M.S in speech pathology, a Ph.D. in cranio-facial studies and a post-doctoral degree in Public Heath. She also taught in the School of Dentistry for a decade.This woman is extremely multi-talented.
She leads this group who express their history as women of color through song and who address other topics such as motherhoood, spirituality, freedom, civil rights, domestic violence and racism.
Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew,
A heretic, convict, or spy?
Would you harbor a runaway woman or child,
A poet, a prophet, a king?
Would you harbor an exile or a refugee,
A person living with AIDS?
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garret, a Truth,
A fugitive or a slave?
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean, or Czech,
A lesbian or a gay?
Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
Cultural notes (names referred to in the song):
a Tubman: refers to Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) who was instrumental in rescuing and guiding slaves to freedom. One of her nicknames was “Moses” because she led her people out of slavery towards a “promised land”.
a Garrett: refers to Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), a great humanitarian who helped 2,700 slaves escape to freedom in his career as “station master” of the Underground Railbroad.
a Truth: refers to Sojourner Truth, a woman who championed the cause of equality for black women. Born inbto slavery, she became a remarkable preacher who delivered her most famous speech at a woman’s convention during which she said her legendary phrase, “Ain’t I a woman”
the “Underground Railroad”: refers to a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada.
The 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election was held on 26 March 2017 for the 5th term of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (CE), the highest office of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Former Chief Secretary for AdministrationCarrie Lam beat former Financial Secretary John Tsang and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, receiving 777 votes from the 1,194-member Election Committee.
The election came after the government’s controversial electoral reform proposal was rejected by the Legislative Council (LegCo) in the wake of a series of controversies and massive Occupy protest. As a result, the Chief Executive remained being elected by the Election Committee of narrow electorate.
The two front-runners, Lam and Tsang, emerged after incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying surprisingly announced he would not run for second term. Both resigned from their posts in the government; while Lam’s resignation was approved by the central government within days, Tsang’s resignation was delayed for a month, which sparked speculation that Tsang was not Beijing’s favoured candidate.
Despite leading in the polls, Tsang struggled to receive nominations from the pro-Beijing electors and had to rely heavily on the pro-democrats, who did not field their own candidate in order to boost the chance for an alternative establishment candidate. Lam, with the Liaison Office actively lobbying for her, took away 580 nominations, almost half in the Election Committee and only 21 votes short of winning the final election, while Tsang and Woo received 165 and 180 nominations respectively, most of which came from the pro-democracy camp.
In the final election on 26 March, Lam received 777 votes, beating Tsang’s 365 votes and Woo’s 21 votes, higher than Leung’s 689 votes in the last election, becoming the first female Chief Executive in history. She also became the first Chief Executive to be elected without being the most popular candidate, as John Tsang led in all major public opinion polls.
Further information: Leung Chun-ying as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, 2014–15 Hong Kong electoral reform, and 2014 Hong Kong protests
The highest office of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive, is currently elected by a 1,200-member Election Committee (EC) which is divided into various subsectors and dominated by pro-Beijing politicians and tycoons. Since the Article 45 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong states the “ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures”, the progress to universal suffrage has been the dominant issue in Hong Kong politics since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, in which the pro-democracy camp has demanded the full implementation of Article 45. In 2004 the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) ruled out universal suffrage in the 2012 Chief Executive election, but in 2007 ruled that the 2017 Chief Executive election “may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage”.
During the constitutional reform debate for the 2017 Chief Executive election, the NPCSC on 31 August 2014 imposed the standard that “the Chief Executive shall be a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong” and be nominated by a nominating committee, mirroring the present Election Committee, to nominate two to three candidates, each of whom must receive the support of more than half of the members of the nominating committee. The pan-democrats viewed the restrictive nominating process as a violation of international standards of free elections, as candidates unsupportive of the central government would likely be screened out. The “831 decision” triggered a class boycott in Hong Kong which escalated into an unprecedented 79-day large-scale occupy movement, internationally known as the “Umbrella Revolution”.
On 18 June 2015, the Legislative Council rejected the electoral reform proposal 28 votes to 8, with 33 principally pro-Beijing legislators controversially absent, thus the selection method and procedure remains unchanged.
|Candidate||Born||Party||Most recent position||Campaign||Nominations
|13 May 1957
|Chief Secretary for Administration
Announced: 16 January 2017
Nominated: 28 February 2017
580 / 1,194 (49%)
|13 January 1946
|Deputy Judge of the Court of
First Instance of the High Court
Announced: 27 October 2016
Nominated: 27 February 2017
180 / 1,194 (15%)
|21 April 1951
Announced: 19 January 2017
Nominated: 25 February 2017
165 / 1,194 (14%)
|Candidate||Born||Party||Most recent position||Campaign||Nominations
|24 August 1950
|New People’s Party
|Member of the Legislative Council
and New People’s Party
Announced: 15 December 2016
Withdrew: 1 March 2017
|27 March 1956
|League of Social
|Member of the Legislative Council
|Announced: 8 February 2017
Withdrew: 25 February 2017
Other minor candidates included insurer Jenny Kan Wai-fun, Vincent Lau Chi-wing, barrister Albert Leung Sze-ho, ex-DAB member Wu Sai-chuen and Professor Yu Wing-yin.
Expressed interest but did not run
Other potential candidates
Individuals listed below were mentioned as potential 2017 Chief Executive candidates in at least two reliable media sources.
- Norman Chan Tak-lam, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
- Antony Leung Kam-chung, businessman and former Financial Secretary
- Bernard Charnwut Chan, businessman and member of the Executive Council
- Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, director-general of the World Health Organization
- Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, former chairwoman of the Civic Party and former member of Legislative Council
- Emily Lau Wai-hing, former chairwoman of Democratic Party and former member of Legislative Council
- Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and member of Legislative Council
- Leung Chun-ying, incumbent Chief Executive of Hong Kong
- Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, chairman of the Council of the University of Hong Kong
- Frederick Ma Si-hang, chairman of the MTR Corporation
- Henry Tang Ying-yen, former Chief Secretary for Administration and 2012 Chief Executive candidate
- James Tien Pei-chun, honorary chairman of Liberal Party and former member of Legislative Council
- Peter Woo Kwong-ching, former chairman of Wharf Holdings and 1996 Chief Executive candidate
October 2016: Emergence of potential candidates
The Chief Executive race started as early on 27 October 2016 when retired judge Woo Kwok-hing became the first candidate to declare his campaign. He launched an offensive campaign against incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, questioning his achievements during his term, while Woo was being questioned for his lack of experience in public administration.
Around the same time, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip, a 2012 candidate who did not receive enough nominations, expressed her interest in running for the second time. She criticised a potential candidate, Financial Secretary John Tsang, for not doing much in the last decade. Tsang responded by saying that “if one can be idle at it for 10 years, [he] has quite a bit of talent.” He refused to clarify if he would run, only stating that it was “heaven’s secret”. Leung Chun-ying, who was expected to seek a second term, also unleashed a thinly-veiled attack on Tsang, suggesting ministers should be “responsible” and focus on the upcoming policy address and budget rather than thinking about joining the race. Leung also argued, “will those pushing for the city’s independence stop what they are doing? Will those insulting their own country shut up?”, referring to the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy. He went on by asking “will the land and housing problems that have accumulated become easier to solve under a new leader or government? Will the cabinet continue to touch on vested interests in the property market with courage and determination, and amid difficulties, to solve the housing problems?”
November to December 2016: Pro-democrats’ ABC campaign
Further information: Hong Kong Election Committee Subsector elections, 2016
The pro-democrat professionals and activists formed a loose coalition called “Democrats 300+” hoping to snatch over 300 seats in the Election Committee Subsector elections based on the common platform of opposing Leung Chun-ying’s second term, many of whom adopted the slogan “ABC” (Anyone but CY). The camp decided not to field a candidate in the election, but rather boost the chances of an alternative establishment candidate. On 9 December, two days before the election, Leung surprisingly announced he would not seek re-election, citing his daughter’s ill health, which made him the first Chief Executive to serve only one term. After Leung’s announcement, Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, who previously said she would retire, expressed that she would have to reconsider running for Chief Executive in order to continue Leung’s policies.
Despite Leung’s announcement, the pro-democrats still managed to win record 325 out of 1,200 seats in the Election Committee election, more a quarter of seats with a surge of the turnout nearly 20 percentage points higher than that in the last committee election in 2011.After the election, the two potential candidates, John Tsang and Regina Ip, resigned from their Financial Secretary and Executive Councillor posts on 12 and 15 December respectively, being expected to run.
On 14 December, Woo Kwok-hing became the first one to unveil his electoral platform under the slogan of “Good Heart, Right Path, Bright Future for Hong Kong”. He proposed to expand the electorate base for choosing the Election Committee from the current 250,000 to one million in 2022, rising to three million by 2032 and eventually quasi-universal suffrage. His attendees included Andy Ho On-tat, former information coordinator during the Donald Tsang administration from 2006 to 2012.
Regina Ip received the New People’s Party’s endorsement on 14 December and resigned from the Executive Council on the next day. She announced her candidacy on 15 December under the campaign slogan “Win Back Hong Kong”, the same one used in her 2016 Legislative Council campaign. She called for a relaunch of the electoral reform process under Beijing’s restrictive framework as decreed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on 31 August 2014. She also pledged to enact controversial Basic Law Article 23 with “suitable measures”. Her campaign launching rally was attended by former colonial Chief Secretary Sir David Akers-Jones and businessman Allan Zeman as special advisers to Ip’s campaign office.
In late December, Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), laid out four basic criteria for the next Chief Executive in an interview with a pro-Beijing magazine: loves China, loves Hong Kong, who Beijing can trust, and capable of governing and supported by the Hong Kong people, in that order.
Mid January 2017: Carrie Lam and John Tsang enter the race
On 12 January 2017, Carrie Lam resigned from her Chief Secretary post and announced her plan to run for Chief Executive if her resignation was approved. In a closed-door meeting, she laid out an eight-point “achievable new vision” for Hong Kong and told participants that God had called on her to run. On 16 January, the two Secretaries’ resignations were simultaneously approved by the central government. Some pro-Beijing politicians saw this as a sign that Lam was the central government’s favoured candidate, as Tsang had resigned a full month before Lam. Lam officially declared her candidacy on the same day, promising good governance with greater transparency and “new blood” in her cabinet, at a press conference in which she was joined by Executive Councillor Bernard Chan, director of her campaign office. The chairman’s council of her campaign office included prominent figures, former Hong Kong Stock Exchange chairman Ronald Arculli among them.
As Lam declared her candidacy and Tsang was expected to run, political analysts observed that Regina Ip’s chances of getting the minimum 150 nominations were reduced. Ip revealed that two or three electors, including Allan Zeman, had turned their backs on her to support Lam. A teary-eyed Ip told a media gathering on 17 January, “[i]n the past ten years I started from nothing, working hard bit by bit, splashing out my own money, putting in much mental and physical effort. Can you say I had not taken on responsibilities for Hong Kong society? When I handled Article 23, I did not perform satisfactorily?” Ip’s remarks came after Leung Chun-ying praised Lam for her “ability and willingness to take on responsibility”.
John Tsang officially declared his candidacy on 19 January with a slogan of “Trust, Unity, Hope”, after more than a month-long delay in the acceptance of his resignation by the central government, which put his campaign in limbo. To contrast himself with Lam, who was perceived to follow Leung Chun-ying’s hardline and divisive policies, Tsang described himself as a good listener accepting of different views. He appealed to “all 7.35 million Hongkongers so that together we can make Hong Kong a better place.” Retired senior civil servant former Permanent Secretary for the Civil Service Rebecca Lai Ko Wing-yee and former Permanent Secretary for Food and Health Sandra Lee Suk-yee became director and officer of Tsang’s campaign office respectively, despite a number of his supporters switching to Lam’s camp amid reports suggesting he failed to get endorsement from Beijing. Tsang also launched his election Facebook page, which drew more than 100,000 likes in a day.
In a closed-door meeting with senior media executives on 20 January, Lam reportedly said she decided to run to prevent the election from being won by someone not accepted by Beijing, which would cause “constitutional crisis”. Woo Kwok-hing criticised Lam for using a “despicable tactic” to attack her opponents. Lam’s campaign office later clarified that Lam was only making a general comment without targeting anybody in particular. She was also criticised for being out of touch with ordinary people after she appeared unfamiliar with how to use an Octopus card to pass through a turnstile in the MTR. A similar gaffe followed shortly thereafter when it was reported that Lam did not know convenience stores do not sell toilet paper and had to take a cab back to her former official residence to get one, which was dubbed “loo paper-gate” by English media. She was further under criticism for being ignorant after giving HK$500 to an illegal beggar who was allegedly “trafficked” from China.
Late January to early February 2017: Canvassing nominations
After days of candidates meeting with the Election Committee members from different sectors to canvass at least 150 nominations in order to enter the race, by 27 January multiple reports speculated that Carrie Lam had already secured 300 to 400 nominations. Heung Yee Kuk and the New Territories Association of Societies (NTAS) stated that they inclined to nominate Lam. Together with pro-Beijing parties Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), and Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), as well as Import and Export subsector and Sports and Culture sub-subsectors, Lam was estimated to grab more than 500 nominations. In contrast, despite topping the public opinion polls, John Tsang was speculated to have secured fewer than 100 nominations. Tsang stated “[t]here is no reason for me to believe that the central government does not trust me,” as pro-Beijing electors felt pressured if nominate him amid the speculation that he was not Beijing’s choice. Regina Ip was speculated to hold about 20 nominations from her New People’s Party, while Woo Kwok-hing, who had not revealed any electors’ endorsement, repeatedly said he was confident in receiving enough nominations.
Hours before Carrie Lam’s large-scale election rally on 3 February, John Tsang launched a crowdfunding website. The website went down within minutes due to overloading. The public responded actively, with more than one million Hong Kong dollars being raised in just the first few hours. Former Secretary for DevelopmentMak Chai-kwong, despite being the former top aide to Carrie Lam, also showed support for Tsang in a Facebook video. Under the campaign slogan of “We Connect”, including the catchphrases “We Care, We Listen, We Act”, Lam’s campaign rally was attended by nearly 800 pro-Beijing figures and tycoons from both the Henry Tang and Leung Chun-ying camps in the last election. She also revealed a star-studded campaign team, which included a council of chairpersons consisting of Ronald Arculli, Laura Cha, Moses Cheng, Jonathan Choi Koon-sum, Timothy Fok, Lam Tai-fai, Eddy Li Sau-hung, Victor Lo, Lo Man-tuen, Anthony Wu, Yu Kwok-chun and Allan Zeman; senior advisers consisting of heavyweights including senior pro-Beijing politicians including Chan Wing-kee, Cheng Yiu-tong, Hung Chao-hong and Rita Fan, tycoons such as Robin Chan, Aron Harilela, Xu Rongmao, Robert Kuok, Peter Lam, Lee Shau-kee, Vincent Lo, Robert Ng, Peter Woo and Charles Yeung and others such as Lawrence Lau, Lau Chin-shek, Li Fung-ying and Joseph Yam.
On 5 February, Woo Kwok-hing updated his election platform, including the implementation of the Basic Law Article 22, which states that no mainland authorities can interfere in Hong Kong internal affairs. On the next day, John Tsang unveiled his 75-page election platform entitled “Convergence of Hearts, Proactive Enablement”, with the promise of revisiting Article 23 national security legislation and political reform. Other policies included introducing a progressive profit tax, developing New Territories North and East Lantau and abolishing all Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) and Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) tests, among others.
Radical pro-democrat legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats (LSD) formally announced his Chief Executive bid on 8 February through a “civil nomination” mechanism conducted by post-Occupy group Citizens United in Action, in which he would seek to secure 37,790 votes from members of the public, one per cent of the city’s registered voters before he would canvass for the nominations from the Election Committee. He explained his decision was to urge the pro-democrat electors not to vote for any pro-establishment candidate who could not represent the pro-democracy camp at all even if they view as “lesser evil”, as some pro-democrats had inclined to support John Tsang, the relatively liberal pro-establishment candidate to prevent hardliner Carrie Lam from winning. He also aimed to reflect the spirit of the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the voice of those low-income people. His bid was supported by four radical democrat legislators People Power‘s Raymond Chan, Demosisto‘s Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai and Eddie Chu, while the mainstream pro-democrats cast doubt over Leung’s candidacy, believing it would contribute to the victory to Carrie Lam.
Being the only one of the four candidates who had not published an election platform, Carrie Lam held a press conference titled “WeConnect: Manifesto Step 2” on 13 February, one day before the nomination period, to reveal some details of her manifesto, including boosting education spending to HK$5 billion, tax cut to small- and medium-sized enterprises, and creating more land for housing through reclamation, urban redevelopment, and developing brownfield sites or country parks.
Allegations of Beijing manipulation
There were reports that central government officials had given a “red light” to John Tsang running in the election and had allegedly asked John Tsang not to run more than ten times, including rumours of him being offered the deputy governor post at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in return for not running. Tsang refuted such claims, only saying that there were “friends” who supported him and some who did not.
On 17 January, New People’s Party deputy chairman Michael Tien complained the election had “lost its shape” due to the increasing interference of “an invisible hand”. He revealed that many of the 1,194 Election Committee members had received phone calls asking them to nominate certain candidates. Tien did not disclose the name of the candidate backed by the “invisible hand”, even though the Liaison Office had reportedly informed senior editors of the local pro-Beijing newspapers that Carrie Lam was Beijing’s preferred candidate, and had actively lobbied for Lam. The senior editors were told to “gradually devote more extensive coverage” to Lam. However, several political observers, as well as the pro-Beijing Sing Pao Daily News who has launched months-long headline editorial attacks on the Liaison Office, said the Liaison Office does not reflect Beijing’s wishes on the matter as the election has become part of the power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party in which the Liaison Office tries to keep its grip on Hong Kong. In late February, Sing Pao staffs began to be harassed and stalked by unknown individuals. A residence of a staff member was also splashed with red paint and threatening leaflets were thrown around the staff members’ homes.
Carrie Lam dismissed speculation that the Liaison Office had been canvassing for her behind the scenes, saying that she did not see any evidence or the need for the Liaison Office to lobby for her. Lam later added that she has no power to tell the Liaison Office not to lobby the electors to vote for her in an interview. She admitted that it would be counterproductive if the public believed a “visible hand” was behind the election.
On 6 February, multiple media reports said National People’s Congress (NPC) chairman Zhang Dejiang, who was also head of the Communist Party’s Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, and Sun Chunlan, head of the party’s United Front Work Department, were in Shenzhen to meet with some Election Committee members from the major business chambers and political groups. It was reported that Zhang told the electors that the Politburo of the Communist Party (headed by General secretary Xi Jinping) had decided to support Carrie Lam in the election.
During the nomination period, it was reported that HKMAO director Wang Guangya told the electors at a meeting in Shenzhen that John Tsang was the contender with the least support from the central government. Few days later, Hong Kong Economic Journal cited unnamed sources that Tung Chee-hwa, former Chief Executive and vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) said in a closed-door meeting that Beijing may not appoint Tsang as Chief Executive even if he wins the election. He said this was the reason he asked Carrie Lam to run in the election in order to prevent an “embarrassing situation”. 30 electors of the Legal subsector in the Election Committee expressed “deep concerns” about Tung’s comments in a joint statement, stating that “such action undermines the fairness of our Chief Executive election and shows a callous disregard for the aspirations of most Hong Kong people to have free and fair elections without ignorant and insensitive interference.”
Regina Ip also said in an interview that someone claiming to have close relations with Beijing had offered to compensate her with top posts at the NPC or the CPPCC if she quit the race, but she had refused the offers, stating that she was not interested in any “consolation prize”.
The nomination period ran from 14 February to 1 March 2017. A minimum number of 150 nominations from members of the Election Committee must be acquired in order to stand in the election.
On 25 February, John Tsang became the first candidate to submit his nominations. Amid the alleged pressure from the Liaison Office which actively lobbied for Carrie Lam, Tsang struggled to seek nominations from the pro-Beijing camp and had to rely heavily on pro-democrats. Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien was one of the few pro-Beijing electors to publicly endorse John Tsang earlier on 19 January, stating that he would nominate Tsang. Liberal Party’s Selina Chow and leader Chung Kwok-pan also nominated Tsang, making Liberal Party the only pro-Beijing party to nominate Tsang. Thomas Wu, son of tycoon Gordon Wu of the Hopewell Holdings, was among the only tycoon to nominate Tsang, although his father nominated Carrie Lam. Film director Derek Yee became the only elector from his subsector to nominate Tsang.
Out of Tsang’s total of 165 nominations, 127 came from the pro-democracy camp. Five pro-democracy electors from the High Education subsector became the first pro-democrats to nominate Tsang, followed by Democratic Action Accountants, handing 17 nominations to Tsang. On 16 February, the Democratic Party announced its seven legislators would nominate Tsang, making it the first time a pro-democratic party nominated an establishment candidate. Pro-democrat Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) also backed Tsang with its 35 nominations from the Education and and Higher Education subsectors. The other sectors where Tsang received the most nominations included Information Technology, where he bagged 21 of the 30 nominations. He also received half of the nominations from the Medical subsector. Tsang was criticised by pro-Beijing media and politicians for accepting support from the pro-democracy camp. Tam Yiu-chung said that Tsang now clearly represented the pan-democrats while an editorial in the Beijing mouthpiece Ta Kung Pao attacked Tsang for “making a deal with the devils”.
Woo Kwok-hing made an emergency plea for support after getting just three nominations on the first day of the nomination period. As the “Democrats 300+” planned to nominate John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing to boost the competitiveness of the election, Woo gradually received nominations from pro-democrat electors. Six electors from the Higher Education subsector including Civic Party founding chairman Kuan Hsin-chi became the first pro-democrats decided to nominate Woo on 15 February. 46 pro-democrat members from seven Election Committee also decided to nominate Woo subsequently. After Tsang received enough nominations, pro-democrats electors turned to nominate Woo. On 27 February, Woo became the second candidate to be nominated, with 180 of nominations, almost all of them came from the pro-democracy camp.
Carrie Lam submitted a total of 579 nominations on 28 February, and submitted an extra one on the next day, just 21 votes short of the final number needed to win the race. Although she was widely seen to have secured more than a minimum number of 150 nominations in the early stage, she reportedly aimed at securing more than 600 nominations to project herself as a clear winner before the secret ballot. Lam dominated in the business and politics sectors, winning three-quarters of the votes in the business sector, but failed to receive any nomination from the pro-democracy camp. The pro-Beijing Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (CGGC) which commanded the 18-seat Commercial (Second) subsector became the first chamber to declare it would hand all its nominations to Lam on 8 January. The two pro-Beijing parties Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which commanded over 100 votes, also endorsed Lam. However, instead of bundling their votes the two parties allowed their electors to freely nominate any candidate. Some DAB legislators did not nominate Lam at the end, including Holden Chow and Elizabeth Quat. Contrary to observers’ expectations, the Labour subsector, which is dominated by the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), also returned only five out of its 60 nominations to Lam as its legislator Wong Kwok-kin earlier expressed reservations about Lam’s proposed labour policies, although it was seen as Lam’s strategy to reserve her strength. The same happened with the pro-Beijing-dominated Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association and Hong Kong and Kowloon District Councils subsectors, which commanded 73 votes combined but handed only two nominations to Lam.
Other political sectors such as the 27-seat Heung Yee Kuk and 51-seat Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), including deputy chairman of the CK Hutchison Holdings Victor Li, also decided they would hand in all their nominations to Lam, although Li’s father, Hong Kong most influential tycoon Li Ka-shing, had refused to back any candidate despite alleged Liaison Office pressure. “But I would definitely cast my vote,” Li said. “You would offend people by nominating [a specific candidate] but no one would know who I voted for [in the secret ballot].”
In response to controversy surrounding her lack of a full election platform, Lam revealed a manifesto titled “Connecting for Consensus and A Better Future” on 27 February, two days before the nomination period ended. The platform focused on reforming the government structure and boosting the economy, including expanding the Central Policy Unit, establishing a Culture Bureau and a new Tourism Bureau, and dividing Transport and Housing Bureau into two, but did not make any promise on relaunching electoral reform or Article 23 legislation.
Regina Ip withdrew from the election, conceding the number of nominations hours before the nomination deadline on 1 March, for the second time after her 2012 bid. She received a number of nominations “far behind what was needed”, despite backing from her New People’s Party and a few electors from business sectors. Ip also gained a nomination from a pro-democrat elector from the Accountancy subsector, who wished to send Ip into the race to split Lam’s votes. However as Lam aimed to grab more than 600 nominations, Ip faced a uphill battle to secure her nominations. She urged “a certain candidate” not to ask for additional backing since that person had secured more than enough nominations already. She attributed her failure to the restrictive selection process of the 1,200 structure of the Election Committee membership as she was “squeezed out” by the Beijing-supported Lam and democrat-supported Tsang and Woo.
580 / 1,194 (49%)
|Blocs: Agriculture and Fisheries, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, Catering, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong15/18, Chinese Medicine12/30, Chinese Muslim Cultural and Fraternal Association, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Confucian Academy, Culture9/15, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong9/16, EP3010/15, Federation of Hong Kong Industries17/18, Finance15/18, Financial Services16/18, Heung Yee Kuk, Hong Kong Buddhist Association, Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce12/18, Hong Kong Taoist Association8/10, Hotel14/17, Import and Export11/17, Insurance12/18, National People’s Congress31/33, New Territories District Councils53/70, Performing Arts13/15, Real Estate and Construction16/18, Sports, Textiles and Garment14/18, Tourism11/18, Transport8/18, Wholesale and Retail16/18
Individuals: Chan Chun-ying, Frank Cheng Chi-yan, Tommy Cheung, Chow Luen-kiu, Fung Tak-lee, Junius Ho, Lam King, Lam Shuk-yee, Lee Sau-king, Leung Yiu-wah, Ma Fung-kwok, Anthony Vincent Ng Wing-shun, Jimmy Ng, Shiu Ka-fai, Tam Chi-chung, Marco Wu Moon-hoi, Frankie Yick, Yiu Si-wing
180 / 1,194 (15%)
|Blocs: Academics in Support of Democracy13/30, Civic Party, CoVision1613/16, Demo-Social Front18/22, Democratic Action Accountants2/21, Doctors for Democracy14/19, Health Professionals for Democracy 3022/30, Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union, IT Vision8/30, Land5cape 2016, Legal20/30, O Superpower, Progressive Engineering, Together for Social Welfare
Individuals: Fernando Cheung, Chan Kan-tik, James Kwok Tsz-kwan, Joseph Lee, Lee Ka-lun, Shiu Ka-chun, Tsang Yuk-ting, Tung Chung-yin, Haster Wu Ka-yi, Raymond Yeung Chi-leung, Yeung Tak-yu, Yiu Chung-yim, Waiky Yiu Kwok-wai
165 / 1,194 (14%)
|Blocs: ABC.P.A3/4, Academics in Support of Democracy16/30, CoVision163/16, Demo-Social Front3/22, Democrat Professionals Hong Kong, Democratic Action Accountants19/21, Democratic Party, Doctors for Democracy5/19, Health Professionals for Democracy 306/30, Hearts of Accountants, Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, IT Vision21/30, Legal6/30, Professional Commons, Public Doctor HK
Individuals: Fiona Chan Ho-yan, Chan Kin-yung, Pierre Chan, Chan Tong-sang, Ricky Chim Kim-lun, Choi Kin, Selina Chow, Charles Chu Sai-ping, Chung Kwok-pan, Ho Pak-leung, Ronnie Ho Pak-ting, Ip Hing-cheung, Kwan Ka-lun, Kelvin Lau Chi-to, Lee Yu-ming, Leung Ka-lau, Luk Wang-kwong, Mak Suet-ching, Man Ka-leung, Ng Ming-him, Jason Shum Jiu-sang, Tang Wai-yee, James Tien, Tsui Luen-on, Wan Siu-fai, Thomas Jefferson Wu, Derek Yee, Yim Shun-see, Banny Yu Yuen-mau
Pro-democrats’ civil nomination
The pro-democrat group Citizens United in Action, which was formed to promote Occupy Central initiator Benny Tai‘s “ThunderGo” plan in the 2016 Legislative Council election, launched the “CE Civil Referendum 2017” to engage the general Hong Kong population, who had no vote in the election. It conducted a “civil nomination” online, from 7 to 22 February, in co-operation with the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) and the Centre for Social Policy Studies (CSPS) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Any candidate that secured 37,790 votes (one per cent of Hong Kong’s registered voters) from the general public would be a “civil candidate” in a “civil referendum” to be held from 10 to 19 March. On 13 February, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data issued a statement concerning the “existing privacy risks” of the organisers collecting personal data. In response to that, the organisers updated their system afterward and extended the nomination period until 28 February.
On 25 February, Leung Kwok-hung who pledged to only enter the race if he received enough civil nominations announced he would not run for the Chief Executive, as he only secured 20,234 nominations from the general public, about 17,000 fewer than the threshold. Among the 20,234 nominations, 13,440 were collected in public while the rest of them online. Leung stated that his being able to collect more than 20,000 nominations with personal contact information and identity card numbers had proved that “civil nomination” is achievable. None of the candidates received the minimum number of 37,790 in the “civil nomination” as a result.
Debates and forums
There were a few forums organised during the nomination period, including a public forum organised by D100 Radio on 19 February attended by Leung Kwok-hung and Woo Kwok-hing and a forum organised by pro-democracy Power for Democracy on 25 February and attended by Regina Ip and Woo Kwok-hing.
| P Participant. I Invitee.
N Non-invitee. A Absent invitee.
|1||5 March 2017||7:30 p.m.||Path of Democracy||Joseph Tse
|2||6 March 2017||Afternoon||HKFI||Ronnie Ng||A||P||P|
|3||8 March 2017||7:30 p.m.||IT Vision/Charles Mok||Danny Fung||P||A||P|
|4||10 March 2017||10:00 a.m.||HKJA||Shum Yee-lan
|5||12 March 2017||2:00 p.m.||HKPTU||Ryan Lau||P||P||P|
|6||14 March 2017||8:00 p.m.||now TV/Cable TV/TVB/
|Kenneth Ng (TVB)
Mei Wong (Cable TV)
|7||19 March 2017||7:00 p.m.||Preparatory Committee for the
Chief Executive Election Forum
|8||22 March 2017||7:00 p.m.||Legal subsector||Ambrose Ho||P||A||P|
5 March 2017 – Path of Democracy
The first election forum after the nomination period was held on 5 March 2017 by think tank Path of Democracy. John Tsang was absent from the debate, as it was speculated that Tsang saw convenor of Path of Democracy Ronny Tong as Carrie Lam’s supporter. In the debate, Lam tried to distance herself from unpopular current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, dismissing suggestions by Woo that she was “Leung Chun-ying 2.0”, while Woo Kwok-hing was targeted for his lack of experience in finance.
12 March 2017 – Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
An election forum was organised by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) in which all three candidates met on the same stage for the first time. The candidates took turns to answer questions from the electors as well as some 400 educators in the audience. Carrie Lam said she is a victim of “white terror” in response to online attacks on her, as well as on her supporter Josephine Siao. John Tsang refuted Lam, saying that online comments are not “white terror” but suppression on dissent.
14 March 2017 – Seven media outlets
A two-hour televised debate co-organised by seven electronic media outlets took place at TVB City on 14 March 2017. All three candidates received questions from members of the audience and journalists and also directed their questions at each other. Tsang criticised Lam for being “CY 2.0”, the second version of the divisive incumbent Leung Chun-ying, saying that people fear society will have “split 2.0” if Lam wins. Lam challenged Tsang for advocating a progressive profits tax, an idea he had opposed during his office as Financial Secretary. Lam also dropped a bombshell by stating that she would resign if her position was contrary to mainstream public opinion. Former candidate Regina Ip and political scientist Ma Ngok said that Tsang won the debate while Woo was clearly not prepared. On the other hand, commentator Michael Chugani said none of the three was able to deliver a knock-out blow to emerge the winner.
19 March 2017 – Election Committee
A two-hour forum was co-organised by a group of Election Committee members from both the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camp on 19 March 2017 at AsiaWorld-Expo. Some 507 of the 1,194 election committee members attended the forum. The three candidates took 21 questions from the floor, 19 of which were from the pro-democrats as the pro-Beijing electors did not submit their questions. Lam made a dig at John Tsang’s “paperless office” when he was in office as Financial Secretary – an implication of Tsang’s laid-back working style. Tsang retorted by saying that it was more important to “work smart” than “work hard”. John Tsang also mocked Lam by stating that she would be a “three-low” Chief Executive with low popularity, low energy and low legitimacy. Woo criticised Tsang and Lam for passing the buck on the incumbent government’s mistakes. Political scientist Ivan Choy said Tsang was the best performer although Lam also made big progress. According to a poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) after the forum, 62 per cent out of the 717 respondents said they would vote for Tsang if eligible after watching the forum, against 24 per cent for Lam and seven per cent for Woo.
Pro-democrats’ civil referendum
Following the experience of conducting the “civil referendum” in the previous election in 2012, the pro-democrat group Citizens United in Action led by Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai will again launch a “civil referendum” for this election, ranging from 10 to 19 March through online app Telegram or at physical booths at the campuses of the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University on 12 and 19 March. The referendum was said to engage the general public, which lacks the right to vote. The public was asked to pick “support, oppose or abstain” for each of the three candidates. The 325-member “Democrats 300+” on the Election Committee agreed to take either “major reference” from the result or to completely follow it. On 12 March, Tai’s team received a last-minute notification that Polytechnic University Students’ Union couldn’t provide room for the polls due to pressure from the university. Tai called it a “political decision”. About 65,000 people voted with 96.1 per cent of respondents opposing Carrie Lam, while John Tsang received 91.9 per cent of the votes.
After the election debates and forums, John Tsang further expanded his lead over Carrie Lam in the polls. Tsang continued becoming a social media sensation, posting videos of his supporters from the sectors endorsing him including a clip where he cooked and had meal with his core supporters directed by film director Johnnie To, as well as reading out negative comments made about him, a tactic reminiscent of the popular American show Jimmy Kimmel Live, where celebrities are invited to read mean tweets targeting them. Tsang also met with the general public while campaigning in the streets. On contrary, Lam received largely negative comments on social media. According to analysis by the WiseNews electronic data base, 57.8 per cent of internet comments about Tsang were supportive, with only 10.7 per cent were against him. As for comments on Lam, 83.4 per cent were against her. She was criticised for manipulating the University of Hong Kong’s Emeritus Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sang after posting a video of her visiting elderly people in Sham Shui Po with Chow, despite Chow having not endorsed Lam’s candidacy. She was also criticised after one of her campaign staffers said she was “too tired” to make the trip to visit the community in Tin Shui Wai, a New Territories new town with a high proportion of lower-income residents.
Ahead of the 26 March election, Tsang held a rally on the evening of 24 March at Edinburgh Place, Central, the final stop on his half-day bus parade on Hong Kong Island. Around 3,500 showed support at the rally, while some 449,000 people watched the rally on his Facebook page and more than 18,700 comments were left on the page. Film director Johnnie To, Tsang’s wife Lynn and his former political assistant Julian Law Wing-chung were among the six guests who spoke at the rally. In Tsang’s speech, he said: “We are here to show our love for this city of ours … I hope the Election Committee members, who have the power to vote, would heed our call and heal the rift, and make Hong Kong the home we imagined it should be.” He also made a reference to the 2014 Occupy protests, Tsang said: “Here we stand near Lung Wo Road and Connaught Road – Occupy happened near this place in more than two years ago, but I hope our rally today can give a new meaning to this place. I hope you will remembered that on 24 March 2017, we gathered here for the unity of Hong Kong.”
The rally was held after Tsang faced a fresh round of criticism from veteran Beijing loyalist Lo Man-tuen, who was vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s (CPPCC) subcommittee on foreign affairs and member of Carrie Lam’s campaign office. He accused Tsang of being “an agent of [the] pan-democrats” with United States backing when he chose to ignore Beijing’s signals against his running for the Chief Executive. Lo also wrote that Beijing does not trust Tsang because of his “lack of principle on major issues”, namely the Occupy protests and 2016 Mong Kok civil unrest. He said Tsang failed to join the Chief Executive and other principal officials in a signature campaign organised by the Alliance for Peace and Democracy against the Occupy Central movement that challenged Beijing’s authority” and even expressed appreciation for the local film Ten Years, which was considered a smear on “one country, two systems”, in addition to his “laid-back” working style. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also slammed his former subordinate’s lack of concrete plans for housing.
On 24 March, National People’s Congress (NPC) chairman Zhang Dejiang and head of the United Front Work Department Sun Chunlan reportedly arrived in Shenzhen to meet with electors from different sectors to lobby for Lam.
Rebecca Solnit on Climate Change, Resistance, Misogyny and “The Mother of All Questions”
Part 1 of 2
March 26, 2017
The mayor proposed a plan to deal with the homeless crisis (not homelessness crisis) that did not include any homeless input.
Here is the communities input. Please share to the city council and mayor. I am unable to do so from this page.
First They Came for the Homeless Response to the
“Pathways Project To Address
the Homeless Crisis in Berkeley.”
First They Came for the Homeless agrees that, in the absence of available, permanent supportive housing for Berkeley’s homeless, the concept of providing respite from the streets – a period of stability in a sheltered, if Spartan, environment, giving individuals a chance to get back on their feet – is something that we can support.
We disagree on some of the details, we have additional suggestions, and would also like to make a few comments about the long-term plan.
First things first, we suggest that this passage in the introduction be rephrased:
“…this crisis also impacts community enjoyment of streets, sidewalks, parks, commercial areas and neighborhoods, especially in locations with significant concentrations of homeless individuals.”
Would Berkeley be a better utopia if the homeless were equidistantly spaced from each other? Are the homeless, as a special class, not allowed to enjoy commercial areas? And are we not part of the community? We are not where you see us because we want to reduce the enjoyment level of those who have a place to call their own. Again, we remind those who will listen: we have nowhere to go.
The final proposal does not include any reference to how many people would be housed per unit, nor how people would be chosen to live together. This is a modification of the original concept, which suggested that eight to ten people might occupy what appeared to be a single, large room.
We strongly believe that meaningful stability and respite require privacy and the choice of those who one lives with in intimate quarters. Based on our experience, we do not believe that people will voluntarily move into a housing situation in which they cannot choose who they live with, or one with no privacy, or move into an environment where, in aggregate, the housing is too dense. Do not create space where it feels that people are being stored and processed rather than helped.
We are adamant that fencing around any such facilities is not acceptable: first, because it shuts the homeless off, away from the community, symbolically and psychologically; second, because we know, again from our experience, that most homeless on the streets will perceive a fenced-in area as an attempt to herd and manage people, rather than as security. We believe that while security is important
· the most important security comes from the community;
· those charged with security should be hired from the homeless community itself; and
· a guard shack is symbolically inappropriate – a welcome area is a much more reasonable structure and concept.
We are very concerned about the length of time suggested for respite. Again, our experience tells us that the time people need to recover, and just as importantly, the time it takes to deal with all the red tape various government entities make one go through to access support and benefits, is often significantly longer than the one to two month period being suggested for stays in the STAIR center. While we understand that there is a tradeoff between the number of people the STAIR center can try to help in a given span of time versus how long each one can stay, we strongly recommend a more flexible approach, both at the STAIR center and with the BRIDGE housing.
Finally, our most vehement objection is to the idea of coercing people into these facilities. We strongly suspect that the “intense outreach” the project speaks of, involving many weeks of interaction with homeless people still on the street, is overkill: it will not be necessary should the facilities be favorably viewed. If STAIRS is to be successful, people must want to come. They will want to come en masse if the first people invited – not forced – to take up residence there report that they are treated well and with respect. Insofar as there are a thousand or more homeless people in Berkeley and these facilities will be able to handle far less than that number, coercion should not be necessary and makes no sense – beyond being oppressive, if coercion is needed to attract people to the facilities they will fail.
Which brings us to the issue of releasing people back onto the streets.
We recognize the unfortunate reality that permanent supportive housing is in extremely short supply and that situation is not likely to be remedied in the near term. We urge you to create as much low-cost housing for homeless residents in the form of stackable, modular units, Tiny Homes, subsidized ADUs, units in proposed developments reserved for the lowest income and zero-income, and via similar concepts, as fast as can possibly be made to happen.
But if it comes to pass that people must be turned out, put back onto the streets as the project proposal discusses, we cannot imagine putting them back into the very situation they came out of, with the likely loss of much that has been gained via respite. To subject people again to police harassment and confiscation of possessions would be doubly cruel. Perhaps this could be prevented by giving those sent back to the streets from STAIRS and BRIDGE a “Do Not Harass This Person or Confiscate This Person’s Possessions – by Order of the Mayor” badge, but we think we have a better idea.
We have advocated ad naseum for sanctioned encampments. We continue to believe these are a far better approach for those who have no choice but the streets than bushes, benches and doorways. Now we have an existence proof that a quasi-sanctioned encampment of limited size, operating within the scope of rules we have proposed to you in the past, can work and is working. (For a more detailed account, with examples of people we have helped, please read Stability First: A Community Of Tents and Tables; Chairs, Coffee and Camaraderie. https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2017/03/22/18797620.php)
The site at HERE/THERE has existed for almost three months without incident. It has provided shelter, security, stability and privacy to some twenty-five people. Some of its denizens have “graduated” or are about to “graduate” – finding jobs and/or arranging to be reunited with family. Many people have asked to be part of our community but with its limited size we can only accept people as others leave.
If we continue to be stable, we will see more successes (and, to be sure, there will be inevitably be a few problems – we are not mental health professionals or drug therapists – we recognize that). We would be in even better shape, mentally, physically and psychologically, if we could have the simple amenities of a porta-potty or two (if you found yourself at the HERE sign at 3:00 AM and suddenly had to go to the bathroom, where would you go?) and trash pickup.
We suggest that similar sites set up at various locations in Berkeley – perhaps one per Council district? – could serve as destinations for people leaving STAIRS/BRIDGE. This would provide graduates with continued stability and a known location and as such would allow mental, social and red-tape-dealing assistance to continue for these individuals far more easily. The sites would also help stabilize the many other Berkeley homeless who would populate them, providing to them as well the significant benefits of sanctioned encampments we have enumerated in previous discussions.
We believe that some of us currently living at HERE/THERE have the experience now to aid in the creation of additional sites, and we are willing to help the City of Berkeley in this endeavor if you are willing to allow us to do so.
Long Term Measures
We applaud the goal of creating a thousand spaces for Berkeley’s thousand unhoused individuals. Indeed, if half of California’s cities achieved half that many units (in proportion to their population) there would be no more homelessness in California.
What we are concerned about is the vagueness of both the plan and the timeline. It touches on all the bases, but provides little direction to the staff who must develop it. E.g.
“The Plan will address long term housing opportunities and identify service needs and gaps, including but not limited to healthcare, mental health and substance abuse, and pathways to work.”
We think more concrete goals would be helpful, and we still believe in ‘housing first.’ Creating long term housing opportunities is therefore paramount, but creating a thousand units will be a daunting exercise if not broken out into smaller, achievable steps. Such a plan might look something like
· 2017 – Develop legislation that will open up pathways to additional affordable housing, traditional and non-traditional.
· 2018 – Create and populate 100 units, while acquiring real estate for further expansion.
· 2019 – Create and populate an additional 200 units.
· 2020 – Create and populate 300 units, based on the successes and failures of previous years.
· 2021 – Create and populate 400 units.
Thank you for your consideration, and for making the crisis of homelessness a priority for the City of Berkeley.
January 29, 2017
by Dave Welsh
It was the first time I’d ever attended a Police Review Commission meeting in Berkeley, a university town near San Francisco. Together with nine other community members, we went to express our opposition to three terrible policies of the city government and its police department:
- Repeated police raids on homeless encampments, forcing people out of their tents into the cold, rainy winter, causing several recent deaths from exposure.
- City participation in the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and its domestic spying operation, coordinated nationally by the FBI. This was used locally to spy on Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
- City participation in the Urban Areas Security Initiative, aimed at militarizing – and possibly eventually federalizing – local police forces under the baton of the Department of Homeland Security.
Several homeless people testified to the brutality – and smugness – of BPD officers as they repeatedly broke up the neat and well-regulated tent encampments organized by First They Came for the Homeless, a direct-action and advocacy group – confiscating property belonging to homeless camp residents.
One notable feature of the meeting was the presence of Acting Police Chief Andrew Greenwood and three other grim-faced officers, at a special table. Any time the chief wanted to speak, he just started talking and the chair yielded to him, for as much time as the chief wanted. In contrast, we community members had two minutes each at the start of the meeting – under “public comment” – after which we were expected to shut up and listen.
As for the commission itself, a majority supported the police on each of the three important issues before it. I thought to myself: What if 50 or 100 community people came, took over the rigged meeting and let the people speak?
A flashback to the freedom struggle in South Africa
After the meeting, I went for a beer with a friend and described my first experience with Berkeley’s Police Review Commission. It reminded him of something from the history of the African National Congress, at a time when they were fighting to free South Africa from settler colonialism.
There was the famous reaction of ANC and South African Communist Party militant Govan Mbeki, after serving on the augustly-named Transkei Territorial Authorities General Council in the apartheid-era South Africa of 1941. The ANC described the council as “a government-inspired creation which had elected members, such as Govan, and nominated chiefs, which had very limited administrative powers in the Transkei.”
Govan Mbeki himself likened the Transkei council to “a toy telephone – you can say what you like but your words have no effect because the wires are not connected to any exchange.” Similarly, the toothless Bantustan “parliaments” set up by the settler regime were referred to contemptuously by ANC activists as “toy telephones” – giving the appearance but not the reality of participation in governance.
Berkeley has a proliferation of “commissions,” designed to allow community input and advise the city council on various policy matters. Sometimes the commissions can play a useful role, and the people will righteously make use of them to push for needed changes. Still and all, if Govan Mbeki were around today, I bet he’d put our Police Review Commission squarely in the “toy telephone” category.
Liberal Berkeley gets a tank
Recently, Berkeley emerged from an election with a new mayor and a new City Council majority identified as progressive. A few days after they were installed in office, the new City Council debated whether to purchase a bullet-proof armored personnel carrier for the BPD, a $205,000 vehicle of which Berkeley would have to put up $80,000, with Homeland Security funding the balance.
Some 20 people spoke against the purchase, including Veterans for Peace member Daniel Borgstrom, who exclaimed: “Call it what you want, it’s an urban assault vehicle. That’s a tank. And we don’t need a tank!” VFP member Gene Bernardi wondered why the city was collaborating in a DHS-sponsored police militarization program, especially in light of the recent national election.
Other residents deplored the use of military equipment against Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, N.D., and wondered if the new tank might be used against Black Lives Matter protesters in Berkeley.
In the end, the new city council decided that the armored vehicle was something the BPD really needed. Only one member voted against it.
Dave Welsh, a retired letter carrier and delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, is an organizer with the Community-Labor Coalition to Save the People’s Post Office and writes on many issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Courtesy of Mike Zint)
Indybay.org March 22nd
Governments need to take a serious look at how we have succeeded – and how they could help us succeed better. They need to take stability seriously. They need to allow an environment where stability can exist. And that means cities need to change how they are doing things when housing simply does not exist or is unaffordable.
The body of a homeless woman was found Saturday near Berkeley High School. She appears to have died of exposure. – Jan 15th, 2017, Berkeleyside.
What does it take to get off the streets? Money? Affordable housing? Employment? Of course the answer is yes, but none of those things is the first step. The first step is stability. Stability that the housed take for granted.
A lack of stability means the homeless barely survive. Figuring out how to exist with no sense of safety and security and nowhere to go, worrying about the police yet having committed no crime, takes all that someone has. Sometimes it’s too much and a short note appears in a local paper.
In October, 2016, First They Came for the Homeless (FTCftH), a political movement of the dispossessed in Berkeley, CA, tried to bring stability to their lives while at the same time calling attention to the plight of the homeless. Defying the status quo that forced them to sleep unsheltered and alone, they set up a community: tents and tables; chairs, coffee and camaraderie. A community of the homeless, with support from housed friends. Needless to say all hell broke loose.
For months the City and its police chased them around Berkeley, and every raid First They Came for the Homeless endured – all fifteen of them – resulted in chaos. Not only by having gear taken, but by losing a sense of place. Every raid resulted in decreased stability and further unknowns: Where do I go next? How do I replace what I need? When will I get settled again?
Still, the community endured. Despite those fifteen raids, theft of critical gear and medicine, and constantly being relocated, our core held. We helped two of us with work. We sheltered and fed several dozen others. With a budget of $0.
On January 10th, 2017, the raids stopped. First They Came for the Homeless denizens have been stable for more than two months now, and that stability has translated into even greater good. Three examples (names changed):
Andre. Andre had been on the streets of Berkeley for months before joining FTCftH in October. Finding people that accepted him and a community to support him, his lot improved, but he still needed stability – he needed a place his friends could find him, he needed a reliable mail drop. Once the raids ended, Andre was able to settle down, calm him mind, pull together the pieces of his life, get his documentation in order, contact his family, and arrange for them to accept him and his new pup. In a few weeks Andre and his dog will have a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Without that stability, without a respite from the constant anxiety of nowhere to be, he might have wandered Berkeley’s streets for years.
Rita. Rita had been the victim of domestic violence. For one reason or another, she was unable to be placed in a shelter. Unable to go home, with little money saved of her own, despite having a full-time job she was out on the Berkeley streets. Fortunately someone from FTCftH knew Rita, and invited her to be safe in their now-stable community. Rita’s been with FTCftH for a month, protected from what might have happened to her on the streets. She’s stable. She’s saving money and looks forward to soon going to Oregon to see her family and perhaps begin life anew there.
Mother and Son. A mother and her son, a drug user, had been on the streets of Berkeley for a long time, constantly harassed by police, their possessions continually at risk, unable to have more than a few days of peace at a time. When FTCftH took them in in February on condition of no drug use, it changed their lives. They were given clothes, amenities and a secure place to sleep. The man was able to get and hold down a job. The woman is now contributing to the community. Will their condition continue to improve? We don’t know, but without the promise of a stable community they never would have “come in from the cold” in the first place. With the anchor the community provides, they now have a chance.
That’s the kind of need that’s out there. That’s the challenge. And while no one solution, no one path out of homelessness, works for everyone, these examples illustrate a way for some from the nadir of the streets upward. We have demonstrated the importance of stability. We have had our pilot – our proof of concept.
Governments needs to take a serious look at how we have succeeded – and how they could help us succeed better. They need to take stability seriously. They need to allow an environment where stability can exist. And that means cities need to change how they are doing things when housing simply does not exist or is unaffordable:
Step 1 is to allow the homeless tents in a sanctioned campground. A tent solves almost every issue immediately. Shelter, storage, safety, privacy, personal space, community and stability. Cost is minimal.
Step 2 is to allow tiny homes, container homes, cabins, or other housing ideas that are outside the box, inexpensive and mass-producible.
Step 3 is true affordable housing.
Why is it so hard to understand that?
People say housing is a right. We strongly disagree with that. Housing is a necessity! Without housing, you die from exposure. Just like food and water is necessary to live, so is shelter. Denial of shelter is as serious as denial of food and water. That is as true as it gets!
Berkeley and other California cities pride themselves on being sanctuary cities. But they neglect the economic refugees that sleep outside every night. They are everywhere, suffering. At the very least mitigate that suffering by allowing us the stability to shelter ourselves.
Mike Zint is a member of First They Came for the Homeless. JP Massar is a housed Berkeley activist, fighting against the senselessness of homelessness.
March 20, 2017
I just got the heads up that council member Ben Bartlett is making moves to get us removed. He is citing trash and neighborhood complaints, according to the email.
We know why this is happening. We called the city out for the concentration camp concept they are proposing.
Here’s the deal. We saw the proposal as a community. We reacted with rage. Everyone I talked to in this community agrees with concentration camp. And we know that punishment is a possibility. But that will not stop us.
We are fighting for it all. Life. And they are fighting to stop us from providing life sustaining necessities such as shelter from the elements. They remove our choice because we have less money. And they are spending more on stopping us than they would spend helping us to help ourselves.
Help save a life. Tell city council and the mayor to get their heads out of the gentrifiers asses, and help ALL people in Berkeley.
NO CONCENTRATION CAMPS FOR THE HOMELESS!