Lyman Terrace Tenants File Suit Against City of Holyoke and Holyoke Housing Authority.
Holyoke, MA, 01-August-2012: Attorney Peter Vickery on behalf of a group of Lyman Terrace residents filed a lawsuit today at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the City of Holyoke and the Holyoke Housing Authority which manages the 167 unit public housing project where the tenants reside, located in Ward 1 Holyoke near High, Lyman and Front Streets. The expectation is that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will file an injunction in Superior Court to stop the planned demolition of Lyman Terrace. A total of five legal claims are presented in the complaint: Violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act 42 USC § 3604; Federal Environmental Protection Regulation 40 CFR Part 7, Subpart B; Article 1 of The Massachusetts Constitution; and Massachusetts General Law 151B § 4 & 121B § 32.
Introduction to the Complaint is as follows: The City of Holyoke and its Housing Authority have decided to seek permission to demolish Lyman Terrace, a public housing project in the downtown area. Because most of the Lyman Terrace residents are Hispanic, the destruction of their homes – and the residents’ relocation away from Holyoke – would have a disparate impact on a protected class and would, therefore, constitute unlawful discrimination. Complainants are asking the Commonwealth to seek and injunction from the Superior Court to stop the demolition.
Attorney Vickery comments: ”We are asking for an injunction to stop the demolition of Lyman Terrace. This is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that the commonwealth considers an environmental Justice Community, meaning that government has to meaningfully involve the community in land-use decisions to ensure equality and equity. Our legal basis is the anti-discrimination law, which prohibits land-use decisions that have a disparate impact on certain protected classes. We are saying that demolishing Lyman Terrace would be unlawful because it would have a disparate impact on Hispanic people. We are absolutely not accusing the mayor or anyone in city government of racism or bigotry.”
I am sure that many people on the internet will now elevate themselves to the status of constitutional lawyer and make fast claims as to the merits of this landmark case. However, I will not. I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be one. I do try to be up on my civics and I admit that it does seem unprecedented to have the courts agree with the government that all citizens must fork over to corporations but I have not read case-law or precedent for this decision -I have not even read the decision itself. I am only assuming that it is the changing of times rather than a decision based on the intent of our Founding Fathers and their codified constitution (which probably should be scrapped by now)… it is all up to interpretation after all, and this is the post-Citizen’s United / post-TARP era, so who am I to question corporate welfare? I mean, already the majority of tax receipts go to build weapons via private and publicly traded corporations – also, we are on our way to privatizing schools and prisons. I can hardly wait for the fallout from all that craziness. We might was well put the two in the same building, germinate prepubescent drug war participants with prescriptions stimulants to treat non-diagnoses – that way we can sink tax dollars into private health care, charter schools and the prison–industrial complex all at the same time – even better, add a police / military recruiting center so those that actually graduate can come back into the system as law enforcement, drone operators or cracked-out soldiers for cannon fodder in future Imperial Wars. (see the films Girl From Monday and Stingray Sam if you have not, both satirize our prison-state similarly). That said I am not surprised that our government and courts would force citizens to be consumers rather than provide to them what should be a benefit. I am rambling… sorry. What I am trying to say is that I could not care less about the issue of constitutionality or how this decision landed; it is the very fact that the decision had to be made to begin with that is my concern.
I find it funny is that this “Health Care Reform” is a partisan issue as it is a massive corporate welfare scheme that both parties seem to embrace in their own terms. It is also curious that people have such short memories: It was Bob Dole with Liz Fowler (she’s the former WellPoint CEO and Health Insurance Industry leader that wrote the current bill) that were together working on the same plan back in 1992 – and eerily very similar to Romneycare in Massachusetts. It only happened now because the insurance companies were looking for the hat-trick of House, Senate and Executive to grease it through. Democrats happened to have two good years to work on this and it happened. AS THE INDUSTRY WANTED. In a shark-like feeding frenzy DNC members jump in to get a few years of campaign financing and promos from the insurance industry PACs and lobbyist and the Republicans lose out. It could have easily been the other way around if the GOP was in charge – except with the Republican plan would try to privatize Medicare along with this welfare to the insurance industry all while the Democrats opposing and pretending to attempt to tack on a public option to the RNC plan. After all, it was Obama, in Greenwich, CT addressing some of the wealthiest people in the country who actually laughed and mocked a person that asked him about his promise of a public option. If you look through Obama’s campaign trail speeches while he was in a race against Hillary the words “public option” came from his mouth more than 1,000 times. It was this that was partly responsible for is being mislabeled a “socialist” by the teabaggers. Of course, Democrats were not listening to his promises because they were talking about his style, or the fact that he was black, or the fact that he was not a Republican, or the fact that he was not a Clinton. (FYI: I originally had remorse not voting for Obama because of the history making possibility of a black president but I could not let myself vote for a Republocrat).
Of course, EVERYONE should have access to the healthcare that they need… and there are indeed small victories in HCR, but in the end REFORM should be a single payer plan that competes with private insurance. For three decades every accounting office (GAO, CBO) from either RNC/DNC administration that did a study showed that a full socialized plan would save everyone money. Cutting profit out and the huge pool of a public plan would soon put private insurance out of business. The last result that I saw published was a potential savings of $60 billion for health care consumers (No surprise that it would not float. With a total of 1200 different insurance plans in the country $60 billion would be around the annual salary of all board members of all insurance providers). But no, a national – socialized – single payer plan is not a possibility and now we can only anticipate cost going up and employers skimping on their employee benefits with high deductible or health savings account plans. Also, what could be more “pro-business” than lifting the health care responsibility from the employer?
If anything has driven health care costs up in the past it is insurance… In my own experience working in a clinical laboratory for four years and a NICU for three, it was often said that insurance companies were practicing medicine by deciding what they would cover and how much they would reimburse on claims. For example, symptoms could indicate two different diagnoses, doctor orders tests – one test rules out one diagnosis, and one test proves another. Patient is then assigned an ICD-9 code to indicate a specific diagnosis. Insurance only funds claims for the tests that are related to that result, we keep billing them, we bill the patient, we bill the insurance, we bill the patient, and then we have a pileup of unpaid receipts so we then hire more staff with the sole job description of chasing insurance payments. And what happened after insurance companies paid only 80% of claims plus the costs of addition staff? Prices went up for everyone. Non-insured and their non-payment resulting in free care also drove costs up, but that would be cured by a Medicare for all. Anecdotal, for sure, but that really was the way it worked at three different places in my experience.
There are, of course, consequences to labor. If you were a business that employed non-skilled workers and in this job market where the unemployed are taking jobs where there attraction of benefits are secondary to a regular income and you had the option of paying a $2000 fine per employee, or $10,000 in health insurance premiums for each employee what would you do? You might dump workers guilt free into government subsidized insurance exchanges. These once employer-covered people then would be forced to buy from an exchange that is less comprehensive and more costly than what the employer ran away from. Companies that don’t follow suit will be at a competitive disadvantage. …and even since before the Health Care Reform employers were continually hiring more part-time staff or scrimping on health care by paying an absolute minimum towards the employee plans and then going with the cheapest possible high-deductible or health savings account type coverage. Increasingly over the past few decades there has also been more and more outsourcing and layoffs. This will still continue; only now they will blame it on health care costs the same way they cite the minimum wage, Social Security, the abolition of slavery etc. etc. for the need to be “competitive”.
Lastly, the biggest fear that opponents have to socialized healthcare (and to welfare, Medicare, EBT, WIC, etc) is that it would be rife with corruption… Absurd because I cannot think of anything more potentially corrupt than the thought of politicians making sweet deals with corporations like we see here with Health Care Reform (Fowlercare).
For some reason I tied in three films above… so here is another one, this time unrelated to Democrats and Republicans (well, there is a bunch of sheep in it). The Colour of Pomegranates is one Netflix streaming. You should check it out:
How a Holyoke CASINO Will Affect You and Your Family
(and why your vote on Tuesday, November 8th matters)
A casino has been proposed for Wyckoff Country Club. Word is that a proposal for a casino in a different Holyoke neighborhood may be forthcoming soon. And outside casino developers are spending significant amounts of money to elect pro-casino candidates to influential positions.
With the Holyoke election just a few days way, you might want to consider how your vote could seriously affect your home, your family and your neighborhood.
Here are some troubling statistics on what casinos bring to their host communities:
within 5 years of the opening of a new casino:
• robberies are up 136%
• auto theft is up 78%
• larceny is up 38%
• aggravated assaults are up 91%
• burglary is up 50%
• rape is up 21%
• Incidents of prostitution, drunk driving and embezzlement also skyrocket
• all this happens despite significantly increased police staffing and increased police budgets http://uss-mass.org/crime.html
Casinos cause nearby property values to plummet by as much as 20%
Casino developers and proponents are touting “potential” property tax reductions, but you might want to do the math first. If your $200,000 home loses just 10% of its value after a casino comes to town – and assuming the City lowered your yearly taxes by $500 (which is way more than projected) – it would take 40 years for you just to break even.
If you own a business – or work for someone who does – you should be concerned:
Casinos siphon money away from locally owned businesses and into the pockets of distant owners. They bleed local businesses dry. Businesses close or move out of town, along with their owners. Neighbors lose their jobs. In Atlantic City, the number of independent restaurants dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of the city’s retail businesses had closed.
“There has been no economic development spin-off from the casino. Businesses do not come here. Tourists come mainly to gamble. Gamblers have one thing in mind: get to the casino, win or lose their money, get in their cars, and go home.”
– Mayor Wesley Johnson of Ledyard, Conn (home of Foxwoods casino in Connecticut)
Telling Statement from CEO of the American Gaming Association:
“If someone were to come along and tell me that they were going to put a casino in McLean Virginia, where I live, I would probably work very, very hard against it. What’s the old saying . . . ‘not in my backyard’. Now I may be in favor of ‘gaming’, but I just don’t want it in (my) area.” — Frank Fahrenkopf CEO of the American Gaming Association
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT IF A CASINO COMES TO HOLYOKE:
Report after report shows that casinos negatively affect their host communities. They create traffic gridlock. They increase crime by an alarming percentage. They decrease property values. They siphon money away from local businesses, causing them to close or eliminate jobs. They discourage other businesses from moving into town. They increase the transient population. The middle and upper classes move out. Low-wage casino workers move in, often living in dorm-like arrangements. They ruin neighborhoods and communities and scare potential new residents away.
This effect has been repeated in community after community that has hosted casinos, and it is well documented. You don’t have to go to a fortune teller to know that all these problems are in store for Holyoke if a casino is built here.
Even the CEO of the American Gaming Organization – the very organization charged with promoting casino development – has said he would fight against a casino that wanted to locate in his home town.
While every one of us is for creating jobs, the “jobs, jobs, jobs” argument made by developers and proponents is irrelevant to Holyoke and is deliberately misleading. Virtually every applicant who would be qualified to work in Holyoke will be just as qualified to work in Palmer. So, if it’s not really about jobs, what is it all about? The answer is money – how much and to whom. But no amount of money can make up for the permanent damage casinos cause to their host communities. And every one of those problems happens despite significant amounts of money being paid by casinos to host communities. Money doesn’t prevent the decline!
The City of Holyoke is poised to take its first giant steps forward in decades. With the green, high-tech Computing Center (and all the forward-thinking businesses and residents it is already attracting to Holyoke); with the budding artist community and the rejuvenation they bring to older communities; with the restoration of the Victory Theater; Canal Walk and Heritage State Park. A casino will stop much of that progress dead in its tracks and will only serve to send many of those investors, entrepreneurs and new residents fleeing in another direction.
ANTI-CASINO VOTER’S GUIDE:
On Tuesday, November 8th, casting your vote for the following candidates is the best way to stop a Holyoke casino:
MAYOR: Alex Morse
(Reflects those in contested races who replied indicating opposition. Note: casting less than the 8 allowed votes in the At-Large race improves your candidates’ chances of winning.)
Gordon Alexander (Ward 7)
LEANING OPPOSED (SERIOUS RESERVATIONS OR TALKING SHIT?):
I’d like to welcome all our readers from the Valley Advocate.
On Thursday October 13th the Valley Advocate ran this story.
Tom Vannah wrote the story based on a letter that I sent to him, which is essentially the same text of a previous post here on H.U.S.H. with the exception of the last paragraph which was replaced with this:
Personally, I am offended by CRUSH’s decision to capitulate to her bullying but that is not what is important and it is not why I write. I am writing in hopes that this would make for a story. I think it is indeed a good one something here about the story deserving the attention of a publication like The Advocate to give a well balanced account, something the daily newspapers do not have either the time for or interest in doing. When I talked to Mike Plaisance (the Republican reporter) I was let known that he did see the threatening email that Patti sent to the Chamber of Commerce and the Taxpayers Association. However, the way that the Republican handled the story it only dealt with nuance and some of the drama. It did not go into what I think is the real story which is a government official using threats and bullying to suppress legitimate public speech because it was criticism and satire directed at her.
I am pleased to see the image in print. The story does hit to the heart of the matter but does seem to leave out a bit of detail. We were supposed to speak about the article before it went to press. I was away for the weekend and when Mr Vannah contacted me I was not in an environment that would have allowed discussion. We were not able to connect when I tried to get back to him and then it was past deadline. I did want to discuss my reasons for the image and what I thought of the C.R.U.S.H. admin peeing in their boots in the face of baseless threats, but alas, that did not happen.
I have had a number of dialogs in person, in email and on Facebook about Mr Vannah’s comments over publication and submissions at the Valley Advocate. He says:
That said, the Valley Advocate doesn’t publish every word or image that its staff or freelance correspondents produce or that it receives from outside sources. The material that makes it into the paper each week has survived fairly rigorous scrutiny; in the end, we reject far more —endless press releases; mountains of op-ed pieces; scads of political cartoons; product pitches; a suprising number of unsolicited manuscripts and artworks from fledgling writers; staff-written pieces that need more work before they’ll see the light of day—than we accept.
I have heard people say that this is a parallel to the idea that CRUSH is a publisher or has editorial control over the content. I don’t read it as such. I cannot speak directly to what Mr Vannah’s intent was here but I do think that the next paragraph speaks quite clearly:
So when I heard about the troubles of Holyoke artist James Bickford and the decision by the activist group Citizens for the Revitalization and Urban Success of Holyoke (C.R.U.S.H.) to remove a series of his images from its public forum, claiming that the images constituted a form of “harrassment,” I groaned. I suspected that although Bickford’s images would fall completely under the protection of the First Amendment, they would also be highly offensive, perhaps lewd and probably gratuitous. I braced myself for the disagreeable job of defending something disagreeable.
He’s saying that the images were valid and he puts “scare quotes” around “harassment” (and later “harassing”) because they were indeed not. The Steering Committee had a disclaimer that Libel and Harassment were reasons to delete content. My work was not harassment but the Steering Committee called it so to fit with the disclaimer. They had no reason to censor. Mr Vannah’s comments on the publishing of the story was the result of his finding humor in the images when his expectation was that C.R.U.S.H. deleted something that was offensive.
No country values free expression more highly than does the United States, and no case in American history stands as a greater landmark on the road to protection for freedom of the press than the trial of a German immigrant printer named John Peter Zenger. On August 5, 1735, twelve New York jurors, inspired by the eloquence of the best lawyer of the period, Andrew Hamilton, ignored the instructions of the Governor’s hand-picked judges and returned a verdict of “Not Guilty” on the charge of publishing “seditious libels.” The Zenger trial is a remarkable story of a divided Colony, the beginnings of a free press, and the stubborn independence of American jurors.