Poverty's Edge

The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley's take on poverty, how it affects our communities, and what we're doing about it.

Executive Director

19 Sep

Audio: September 13th on WDIY’s Lehigh Valley Discourse “Party Officials on the 2012 Election”

Labor Day is the historic “out-of-the-gates” day for elections. While many have been paying attention for some time, over the next several weeks the candidates and their parties and surrogates will be pummeling voters with attempts to convert them to their side or fire up their side to get out and help them win. Below is an archive of September 13th’s Lehigh Valley Discourse, as we discuss the 2012 election with guests Tom Carroll, vice chair of the Northampton County Republican...

17 Sep

Audio: August 30th on WDIY’s Lehigh Valley Discourse “The Politics of Welfare “with Maryann Haytmanek and Kathleen Daugherty

It’s a storied tradition in American politics: pick on the weakest among us. “Welfare” was (re-)introduced into the national political debate recently.  Join me this Thursday at 6 PM on Lehigh Valley Discourse with my guests, Maryann Haytmanek and Kathleen Daugherty, both of whom have decades of expertise on the issue. They’ll talk about the facts, including how many people receive benefits, how much they receive and how many obstacles are in place that are designed to keep people from...

05 Sep

TOWARD A NEW MARKET, A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD, A NEW TOMORROW

Over the weekend, The Morning Call reported that CACLV had offered a proposal to ensure that the benefits of $500 million in new development resulting from the Neighborhood Improvement Zone had a lasting impact on the downtown, its neighborhoods and the residents who live there.  The proposal is printed in its entirety, below. Matt Assad’s article was well done.  However, as usual, some of the people in the region who couldn’t find a good word to say about anything, especially our...

15 Aug

Lehigh Valley Discourse – 2012-08-09

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has a problem. Actually, like all mayors trying to make their cities viable in Pennsylvania, the mayor has big problems. Having cut city spending to the bone, he still has major obligations such as meeting its pension obligations for retired city workers. So Mayor Pawlowski is proposing some bold measures, including unloading some major operations to private and/or outside interests. ...

08 Aug

THANKS TO THE NEW MAJORITY ON LEHIGH COUNTY’S BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, THE AGENDA IS GETTING CLEARER

The new majority on the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners wants to kill the decades-long campaign to extend critical public health services to all residents in our two counties.  I won’t go into a long account of the many merits of making sure people have access to immunizations, that restaurants be inspected so we are reasonably safe from cutting corners that can lead to ugly little diseases like salmonella or even being prepared for a terrorist attack on, say, our...

28 Jun

FAIR HOUSING PRESS CONFERENCE ON JUNE 26, 2012

Allentown, like so many cities, has challenges that, under the best of circumstances, cause disinvestment, concentration of poverty, diminishing tax base, substandard housing and public school issues that feed on each other, accelerating as they do.   Even a mayor as good as Ed Pawlowski must wonder whether God is on his side. The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley has a long history of joining the cause, fighting the good fight, hoping to improve the odds.  Our approach rejects the...

25 Jun

A REVELATION

It all fell into place at the grocery store tonight. Have you ever wondered why people who just aren’t very nice through much of the normal course of the day are so polite, patient, deferential and even friendly when they encounter you in the grocery store? I think it’s because there is such anonymity when we’re driving or on the phone with a stranger.  In a grocery store, on the other hand, it’s too uncomfortable when you can’t help but look...

29 May

THE FRAY

CACLV has at any time an array of public policy initiatives.  Sometimes we are fighting policy retreat that takes past gains away, sometimes we’re fighting to advance a progressive agenda.  But we’re always in the fight.  Following are some key issues we are watching or are in the middle of the fray: GOVERNOR TOM CORBETT’S PROPOSED 2012-2013 BUDGET To study this budget proposal, one would think our problems are over: deep cuts in human services, education, community and development, and still no...

12 Jan

Responding to a Pot-Shot

The Morning Call published a letter from former Allentown Redevelopment Authority director Karen Beck Pooley in which she lauds the decision of the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board for its rejection of the variance Rite Aid sought in order to move to Seventh Street.  Our subsidiary, the Community Action Development Corporation, operates an award-winning Main Street Program on Seventh Street.  In her letter, Karen takes a pot-shot at us for siding with the company.  No mention of the remarkable work we’ve...

27 Dec

2011: DON’T LOOK BACK

WE’RE DEAD It looked like doomsday.  The President of the United States, anxious to demonstrate toughness on the budget in his State of the Union Address, offered up just one domestic spending cut – the Community Action Agencies.  And the cut was devastating:  50%.  Did I just hear him right?  Did he just single us out for cuts?  A black president attacking the program that the civil rights movement spawned, the same movement that enabled him to cross the threshold of...

23 Aug

SO FIRED UP, SO MUCH TO SAY

AFTER ALL THE CHURN, WE’RE BACK TO WHERE WE STARTED BEFORE THE PREDATORY LENDERS STUCK IT TO US  According to Bloomberg.com, the American homeownership rate has fallen from its high of 69.2% in the boom year (my term) of predatory option arms, 2004, back to 65.9%, the level it was in 1998.  That was about the time, oddly enough, when a bunch of scoundrels started making big bucks ripping off lower-income and minority households.  So, we’re back to where we started. ...

21 Jul

Blaming the Victim

How do they do it?  How does an industry develop outrageously usurious products, seduce gullible homebuyers wanting what they have been told is the American Dream into loans that should have been illegal, cause the predictable collapse of the international economy, then convince regular folks into believing that it was the victims, not these predators, that were the perpetrators of this outrage?  But, folks, that is what we’ve got.  The unemployment rate has been more than 8% for some three years.  Property...

20 Jun

Our Battle Isn’t Over

We dodged yet another bullet this Spring.  Despite being abandoned by the President, and the House Republican leadership proposing elimination of the Community Services Block Grant, our many friends in Congress, including our own Charlie Dent, prevented a calamity, with the result being a 3% cut in CSBG, our core funding.  However, years of stretching, stretching and more stretching meant that even that 3% cut snapped our ability to sustain all of CACLV’s programming. The Board of Directors just adopted a...

25 May

Just Like We Predicted

The people in the state legislature who have been hearing the ire of their constituents over the governor’s proposed cuts in education are making the kind of adjustments that advocates for education had pushed.  Not enough, of course, because they hate to raise the revenue needed to address public issues, but they heard their constituents and are making adjustments. Here’s the problem:  they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Peter, as always, is poor folks, folks with special needs, the elderly; to...

17 May

What will you do to live in a civilized society?

David Bradley is the Executive Director of the National Community Action Foundation, the lobbying arm of the nation’s more than one thousand Community Action Agencies, including CACLV.  David spoke at our Annual Meeting in October and pretty accurately predicted the outcome of the November election that changed the course of our nation’s politics and its policies. What is clear is that the concentration of wealth in this nation and the decline of the American middle class...

15 Apr

CACLV Praises Dent for Support of Continuing Resolution

It’s hard to believe that it has come to this:  that deep cuts in spending that make underfunded attempts to level the playing field are a relief.  This is because there is a bad moon rising in American politics, an ominously mean streak that suggests we’re all on our own, that if you can’t make it, tough.  It’s the wild, wild west: fend for yourselves and let me have my guns so that I can defend myself when you get desperate...

14 Mar

DESPERATELY SEEKING HOPE IN OUR NATION’S CAPITOL

Well, I visited Washington last week with CACLV Board members Alicia Karner, Lori Sywensky and Jeff Byrne.  Hundreds of Community Action people from all over the country were there to fight back. We are fighting a nasty streak in this country that has us acting like we have abandoned fundamental values that have defined America since its inception:  “…liberty and justice for all;” “…to promote the general welfare;” “all [people] were created equal.”  That nastiness was illustrated by the Republican House leadership when it one-upped a...

01 Mar

The Morning Call Feeds the Cynicism that is Tearing Our Communities Apart

Leave it to The Morning Call to make things worse (“Gas blast victims to charities: Where’s the money?” March 1).  We have dozens of families whose lives were shattered or even lost.  We have untold damage to those lives and the neighborhood.  We have an emergency response system that can only accomplish so much in a few short days, and one that generally doesn’t provide money directly to victims.  And we have many companies, groups and individuals who...

18 Feb

Save Community Action

Poverty is everyone’s problem.  Some try to act like poverty is just a problem for poor people.  But wasted labor affects us all.  Ghettos affect us all.  Jails affect us all.  Surely you see that.  If you don’t, keep reading.  The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley has been targeted for deep, deep federal budget cuts. (In case you missed it, I responded to these cuts in a post earlier this week.) This is the...

15 Feb

Mr. President, We Don’t Appreciate the Irony

Mr. President, in the Shakespearean tragedy that is politics in this century, you have introduced irony.  You have abandoned the network of anti-poverty programs that were the vehicle for the implementation of the War on Poverty, spawned by the same civil rights movement that kicked open the doors that were closed to so many.  Among those doors were the doors to the White House into which you so gallantly strode.  It was an honor to be seated near to the...

03 Feb

America, Why Do You Hate Your Poor?

What is it about ourselves that makes us hate those on the margins?  Do we really think people like it there?  How bad off would you have to be to be willing to be seen in line at a soup kitchen or food pantry?  How much pride would you have left?  What is especially puzzling to me is why people exert so much emotional energy on hating the welfare system. Let’s start with some facts. YOU CAN’T GET RICH ON WELFARE A mom...

31 Jan

Far Left, Eh?

Blogger extraordinaire Bernie O’Hare recently put your friendly executive director on the “far left.”  Others have done that, too.  Of course, the check-points on the political spectrum are relative.  Folks who were once moderate to conservative are now liberals in the eyes of the extreme right that seems to be taking over the Republican Party.  The Jim DeMints (senator from South Carolina) and Rand Pauls (newly-elected senator from Kentucky) are far more common these days than the Susan...

24 Jan

The End of the Fairness Doctrine and the Rise of Meanness

When I started doing this work in December, 1980, the Federal Communication Commission had a very powerful tool for regulating comment on the airwaves called the Fairness Doctrine.  The rationale was that nobody can own the airwaves and, therefore, those airwaves are in the public domain.  An FCC issuing licenses to use those airwaves has, it was argued, the right to insist on, in exchange for those licenses, an obligation to be truly “fair and balanced.”  So, if opinion was...

19 Jan

The Passing of an Icon

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=r5SMfHhRROg] One early-Spring day several years ago, I headed to Baltimore to be a part of the excitement that comes with Opening Day.  Being the hero-worshipping dork that I am, I got there early enough to hang around hoping for an autograph.  My main target?  The Iron Man of Baseball, Cal Ripken.  I had a program with Cal featured on the cover and staked out a position in the front row (my seats are in the upper deck, where the regular...

17 Jan

On King, Cynicism, and the Challenge

The color issue has moved me since I was a kid. One of my heroes was Frank Robinson, an outfielder with the Baltimore Orioles, my favorite team (I was born in Hagerstown, Maryland). I never understood why guys that looked like my father were beating up guys who looked like my hero just because of their skin color. It made me mad as hell. Added to the fact that I was a middle child (nothing is fair to a middle...

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