Protect the Mueller Investigation to Resist Neo-Fascism

An expanded version of remarks made by Kevin Cross of the Ft. Collins Community Action Network at the Ft. Collins Rally to Protect the Mueller Investigation held on November 8th, 2018

 

Does anyone here think we live in normal times? We do not live in normal times!  Instead, we live in a transitional time.  We are in the process of transitioning out of the era of neoliberal capitalism and into a new era.  That new era will either be a new version of fascism – neo-fascism, if you will – or democratic socialism.  Why is a transition coming, and why those two possibilities?

 The countries of the Triad – the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan – began moving toward neoliberalism in the late 1970s.  Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were two of its biggest champions.  Though riven with injustice, it worked well enough for enough people to be a viable political-economic system for some four decades.

However, it has become increasingly clear since the crash of 2008 that neoliberal capitalism is incapable of solving two major problems confronting humanity: wealth and income inequality on the one hand, and multiple linked environmental crises on the other – the foremost of which is climate change.

 

The election of Donald Trump two years ago signaled the beginning of the end of the neoliberal era in the United States.  Did his election surprise you?  It certainly surprised me.  Trump’s solutions to our two major problems have been to deny the reality of the linked environmental crises while attempting to keep environmental and economic refugees out of the U.S., and to divide the home population into those who supposedly deserve the American dream and those who don’t.  In the first category are white, Christian, Republican native-born citizens of our country.  In the latter category is everyone else, including people of color, non-Christians, non-Republicans, and recent immigrants.

These false solutions to our problems have been accompanied by the continued erosion of democracy, curtailment of civil liberties, and violence against those framed as the other.  To say nothing of random mass shootings that seem designed to keep all of us in a permanent state of fear.  We can expect those trends to intensify if we continue to move down the road toward fascism.  Yet despite – or perhaps better because of all this – the stock market has soared to new heights, and few if any murmurs against Trump are raised from the corporate suites.

 The solutions democratic socialism would offer – if we can dream for a moment – would be a green New Deal that would lift everyone up while addressing the climate crisis and other environmental crises, Medicare for all, and post-secondary education for all who wanted it.  Democratic socialism would extend democracy to the economic sphere, instead of curtailing it in the political sphere.  And we can also hope that it would bring about a foreign policy, a trade policy, and financial assistance to other nations that would help people stay in their own countries and not be forced to emigrate abroad due to extreme levels of violence, environmental crises and lack of economic opportunity.

 But back to the present moment! The day after the mid-term elections, in which Democrats – including two who identify as democratic socialists – regained control of the House of Representatives, two remarkable – in a bad way – things happened.  First, CNN reporter Jim Acosta confronted Trump at a post-election news conference for labeling the caravan of refugees from Central America as a group of invaders.  Trump attacked Acosta for doing this, and a heated exchange ensued.  Acosta wound up being banned from the White House – all for defending a group of impoverished, miserable refugees from countries that have suffered as a result of U.S. military, political, and economic intervention for the past century and a half or so.  The message sent to news organizations was that they need to avoid comforting the afflicted and afflicting the powerful – namely, Trump.  If this trend continues, Fox will perhaps soon be the only news organization allowed to report from the White House.

 

And of course right after this outrageous treatment of Jim Acosta, Trump announced that he was going to fire Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and replace him with Matthew Whitaker.  Now in most ways, I won’t be at all sorry to see Jeff Sessions go.  Jeff Sessions did just about everything his boss wanted him to do – except for one thing.  And that was that he recused himself from the Mueller investigation.  As a former senior member of Trump’s presidential campaign, Sessions knew that it would be wrong for him to oversee an investigation into potential wrong-doing by that very campaign.  We have to credit him for that shred of decency. But of course, Trump could not accept that.  He waited until after the mid-term elections, though, before pouncing on Sessions.  Matthew Whitaker, who has called the Mueller investigation a witch hunt, would likely quickly quash that investigation if left to his own devices.  And then Trump could avoid the legal consequences for any wrong-doing Mueller might uncover, and continue to operate above the reach of the law.

 

John Gascoyne just spoke of his willingness to engage in civil disobedience if the Mueller investigation is indeed halted.  That’s awesome, but there is something all of us can do now to help prevent that outcome.  And that is to call our members of Congress immediately and insist that they support legislation – which has already been introduced in both Chambers – to protect the Mueller investigation.  Jared Polis – though recently elected Governor – is still our Representative in the House.  We need to call both of our Senators, too – Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner.  Making our voices heard on this matter is an important step to take in resisting the neo-fascism personified by Donald Trump.  Please do it, and do it soon!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stand up for Disability Justice in Fort Collins

As members of Barrier Buster/ Public Transit Action Group, we advocate for the rights and dignity of people living in our community that have disabilities. We also stand in solidarity with undocumented, unsheltered, and other vulnerable people.

In fact, BB/PTAG was started over 20 years ago when a group of low income, disabled community members, along with CSU students came together to create a community organizing group to push for disability justice and access in Fort Collins. Ever since then, BB-PTAG has made significant gains which benefit not just low income, disabled people in Fort Collins but everyone- this includes Sunday Bus Service, which became a reality only after much solidarity and activism by BB-PTAG for many years, continually pushing City Council to hear our voices and invest in measures that will lessen the burdens of structural ableism and oppression.

From this experience, we can speak to the myriad ways in which Fort Collins’ unreliable and underfunded public transit makes it especially hard for those living in poverty to access jobs, healthcare, quality groceries, and good schools. That is to say- there’s a difference between preference and necessity. Public transportation is desired by many but is even more critical in times like these where particular groups of people must risk being arrested, deported or harassed- just by performing acts of survival, like trying to get to work, or visit your doctor or attend a community meeting downtown.

This Tuesday, November 6th is the last opportunity for community members in the Fort Collins to attend the City’s public hearing on the 2019-2020 Citywide budget.  y.

It is in this tradition that BB/PTAG presents you with our suggested funding offers for the 2019/2020 Fort Collins City Budget. None of the following offers have made it above the line in the City Manager’s Recommended Budget.

If you can- we encourage you to show up at City Council on Tuesday night to speak about the following proposals and if you can’t make it in person- you can email cityleaders@fcgov.com to express your support! 

Public Transportation is about more than just moving people from point A to point B. It’s also a system that can either limit or expand the opportunities available to people based on where they live.

This blog identifies the many benefits to increase funding of a variety of proposals to provide service when people need it, reducing wait times, increasing the availability of bus transfers and improving reliability. These offers also support many strategic initiatives that the city has.

The first budget item is 45.6, which would expand Sunday Service. We are thrilled that Transfort 365 service has exceeded ridership projections by 52%, for a total of approximately 2,000 passenger trips on an average Sunday. Our community deserves expanded Transfort 365 service so that this positive trend can continue both for fixed routes and for paratransit. The Fort Collins Community Action Network is a not for profit organization that has a 501(c)(3) classification from the internal revenue service. Your gift is tax deductible as provided by law.

The second budget item is offer 45.8 2019 which focuses on improving the Southeast Transit Fixed Route and Dial-A-Ride Service. Funding this offer would provide new fixed route transit service and demand response paratransit service (Dial-A-Ride) to a portion of the southeast area of Fort Collins. Currently, there is limited transit and paratransit service in areas south of Harmony Road along College, Trilby and Lemay. Residents and social service agencies regularly request service to the area. This offer would provide access to a fixed route and paratransit for low-income residents in communities such as Province town, clients of social service entities such as Foothills Gateway, senior housing residents, and others living and working along the College, Trilby and Lemay corridors.

Third, offer 45.10 enhances the Dial-A-Taxi service availability.Funding this offer will allow 15 additional Dial-A-Taxi trips per day for Dial-A-Ride customers. Dial-A-Taxi is a supplemental program that provides voucher subsidies for Dial-A-Ride passengers, individuals who are unable to use the fixed route bus system as a result of a disability. The cost of adding 15 additional Dial-A-Taxi trips per day is $109,500 annually. An eligibility process is used to determine if someone is eligible for the service.

Fourth, offer 45.12 will provide additional fixed-route transit service and enhancements along the North College corridor, resulting in expanded transit service on and east of North College. The specific request is to fund two additional buses exclusively operating on North College with 10-minute frequencies, realign Routes 8/81 to east of College, expand Route 81 days/hours of service with 20-minute headways (60-minute on Sundays), and add shelters to existing bus stops.

And next is offer 45.17; funding this offer will provide increased frequencies and more reliable service to several existing Transfort routes. This offer would transform the City’s worst performing routes (6 and 12) into vibrant, dependable routes. Right now, Route 6 is amongst one of the system’s worst performing due to poor reliability, with just 50% of trips on time. Additionally, it would provide for reliable service to the MAX Drake station. Community members would be able to take buses from their neighborhoods to the MAX Drake station, so that the need for a costly and unsustainable parking garage in that location would no longer be necessary.

The last offer we recommend city leaders consider funding is 45.20, which improves bus stops. Funding this offer will provide the necessary resources to continue upgrading bus stops to be accessible and meet applicable federal regulations and design standards. Providing ADA accessible bus stops to the community is the responsibility of the City government, and it needs to be a priority. The Fort Collins Community Action Network is a not for profit organization that has a 501(c)(3) classification from the internal revenue service. Your gift is tax deductible as provided by law.

All of these important offers support the following Strategic Objectives:

– TRAN 6.1 – Improve safety for all modes of travel

– TRAN 6.3 – Improve transit availability and grow ridership

– NLSH 1.7 – Guide development through community planning, historic preservation, and efficient and effective development review

– ENV 4.1 – Achieve Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2020 goals and continue progress toward the 2030 goals

To conclude, the lack of reliability of public transportation has to be addressed, and quickly, especially in the face of growing economic disparity and criminalization of poverty and immigration status. We need to think about how important reliable and accessible forms of transportation are to quality of life for everyone in this town. And we have to prioritize and actually invest in this, not just talk about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yo Soy una inmigrante en Fort Collins- Una Mensaje de Fuerza Latina

Click here for the English translation.

Separación de familias es la amenaza más triste y aterradora que sufrimos los inmigrantes en este país. Cada día, inmigración está separando familias y con ella destrozando vidas.
Yo como abuela, siento este sentimiento de impotencia recorrer mi ser cuando veo en las
noticias o escucho los comentarios de como ICE llega a las viviendas de madrugada y arresta a las personas y las deportan, y con ello quedan las familias destrozadas, los sueños truncados, las esperanzas de una linda vida deshecha por una ley sin sentimiento e inhumana.

No hay leyes, no hay leyes que defiendan a los inmigrantes para ayudarles a obtener una
residencia legal y poder quedarse a lado a sus hijos, sus nietos y sus bisnietos. Ni tampoco
existen leyes que puedan proteger a los inmigrantes una vez que ellos caen en la ley de
migración. Todo esto ocasiona una vida llena de miedos e inseguridades.

Siempre vivir a la sombra es algo muy triste. No puedes disfrutar plenamente a tu familia, ni darle la seguridad que cada individuo merece porque nosotros mismos no nos sentimos
seguros frente a las leyes de migración. Todos nos sentimos vulnerables, temerosos, siempre expuestos a ser deportados, sin importar cuantos años has estado vivido en este país, o si eres una persona de buena conducta moral.

Nada de lo que hagamos tiene valor para que podamos tener derecho de permanencia en este país junto a nuestras familias.
Hay otro punto muy importante al que me gustaría tocar y exponer … la discriminación que sufrimos los inmigrantes y nuestras familias, nuestros hijos, nuestros nietos, nuestros sobrinos experimentan el desprecio del odio racial en su entorno.

Esto esta fuertemente marcado en la secundaria, cuando los niños están buscando su identidad y son un poco o mucho atrevidos por demandar el territorio que es de su propiedad. Es cuando agreden y insultan a nuestros hijos porque no son del mismo color de su piel, o tienen cabello de color oscuro, y piensan ellos que no deberían estar aquí en este país por ser diferentes, los acosan y hasta les dicen que “Regresen a su país de origen”.
Hoy en la actualidad, estamos viviendo en medio de una ola de odio racial gracias a nuestro respetable Presidente, el Senior Trump. Ha desatado con sus palabras y actitudes el sentimiento de odio contenido en las personas que piensan ser los dueños de esta nación.

Nuestro presidente ha sembrado fuertemente, sentimientos de desprecio hacia todas las
personas que no tengan su estatus económico, político o social. Va en contra de todo aquel que tenga un ideología diferente a la que el tiene.
Las familias de inmigrantes tenemos doble preocupación que las familias de estatus legal, ya que todas estas preocupaciones que hemos mencionado aquí – la salud, educación, etcétera – son también preocupaciones que deben manejar nuestras familias, pero con el sobrepeso de la amenaza de ser rechazados a causa de la discriminación y ya aun más fuerte la amenaza de ser deportados en cualquier momento, y su familia quedaría sin nada de lo antes mencionado.

Entonces, ahora tiene sentido hacer una invitación a todos ustedes que me están escuchando y que tienen el derecho a ejercer el voto, si a caso estás considerando no votar, déjenme decirte que estamos rodeados de personas que anhelan salir a votar y con ello conseguir mejores reformas, mejores servicios, mejores beneficios para todos y no pueden hacerlo porque no tienen derecho al voto.

En nombre de todos ellos, hoy te exhorto a ti que me estas escuchando en este momento,
ayúdanos a hacer un cambio en las reformas y leyes saliendo a votar. Ejerce tu derecho al voto.

Si no quieres hacer por ti, hazlo por todos aquellos que desean tener este derecho y las leyes no se los conceden.

-Luz Valenzuela es una inmigrante de México, una madre y abuela. Es voluntaria activa en La Iglesia Sagrada Familia, miembro de la Junta Directiva de Fuerza Latina y organizadora de la Asociación de Propietarios de Casas Móviles de Poudre Valley.

***

For immigrants in this country family separation is the saddest, most terrifying threat that we suffer. Each day, ICE is separating families and as they do this, destroying lives.
As a grandma I experience this feeling of impotence running through my body when I see on the news or hear of how ICE comes to homes at the crack of dawn and arrests people, deports them, and with this, families are left destroyed, dreams are interrupted, the hope for a good life undone by an unfeeling, inhumane law.

There are no laws that defend immigrants in order to help them obtain legal residency and stay alongside their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Neither are there laws that can protect immigrants once they fall into the net of immigration enforcement. All of this causes one to live one’s a life full of fears and insecurities.
Constantly living in the shadows is a sad reality. You cannot fully enjoy family life nor give your family the security that every individual deserves because we ourselves don’t feel safe. We feel vulnerable, afraid, always at the brink of being deported. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived in this country, or if you are a person of good moral character and conduct. Nothing that we do or have done has any worth when it comes to whether we have the right to permanence in this country alongside our family.
There is another important point I would like to touch on…the discrimination we immigrants and our families suffer. Our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews experience the contempt of race-based hate in our environment.
This is especially true at the high school level, when children are searching for their identity and perhaps take some- or lots- more risks in terms of demonstrating that their territory. This is when they insult and harass our children because they do not have the same skin color, or they have dark hair, and they think that they shouldn’t be here in this country because they are different, they harass them and even tell them to “return to their country.”
In reality, today we are living amidst a wave of race-based hate because of President Mr.
Trump. He has unleashed with his words an attitude and feeling of hate among people who believe themselves to be the owners of this country.
Our president has planted- strongly- sentiments of disdain toward all people who do not share his economic, political or social status. He is against anyone whose worldview doesn’t match his own.
Migrant families have twice the worries of families with legal status since all the worries which have been spoken about this evening (health, education, etcetera) are also topics immigrant families worry about and have to manage, with the additional, constant, burden of the threat that we will be rejected at any moment due to discrimination, or even be deported, leaving our family with none of the above.
So, at this point it makes sense to invite all of you out there who hold the right to vote, in case you might be considering not voting, please hear me when I say that we are surrounded tonight by people whose deep wish is to get out and vote and with this achieve better laws, better services, and better benefits for everyone, and they can’t do this because they do not have the right to vote.
In the name of all of these people, today I urge you, if you are really hearing me in this moment, support us in changing laws by going out to vote. Exercise your right to vote! If you don’t want to do it for yourself, then do it for all those who wish to have this right, but for whom the laws do not allow participation.

-Luz Valenzuela is an immigrant from Mexico, a mother and a grandmother. She is an active volunteer with Holy Family Catholic Church, a member of the Fuerza Latina Board of Directors, and an organizer of the Poudre Valley Mobile Home Park Homeowners’ Association.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The City of Fort Collins’ Lockers Decision Demonstrates Bias Against Homeless People

A statement by the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition

Community members showed up outside of City Council to rally in support of 24-7 lockers last Tuesday.

 

Last Tuesday, City Council approved the small lockers project at the Fort Collins Mennonite Fellowship (FCMF), but with new conditions that impose an absurdly heavy burden on the church. FCMF is committed and resourceful, so perhaps they will find some way to continue to meet this need in our community. But this decision reflects deeply-held prejudices on the part of our elected leaders that must be addressed.

City Council imposed two new burdensome restrictions on the lockers program: restricting the hours of operation to 6am-8pm, and requiring supervision while the lockers are in use. These restrictions are based around two presumptions: that simple human acts, such as storing belongings, become inherently dangerous when homeless people do them; and that homeless people aren’t fully competent to make their own choices, including when to access their own possessions.

No other properties in the area, with the possible exception of those serving alcohol, face a similar restriction on operating hours. Residents with housing are free to access their house and belongings 24/7. Nearby ATMs are accessible 24/7, and customers are trusted to make their own decisions about when to access them. The public library’s book drop and an all-hours public restroom are both just a block away from the lockers, and have unrestricted hours.

What is different about the lockers? Not their use to store items – personal possessions are stored in residences, money is stored in ATMs, library property in the book drop, etc.. The difference lies in the people using the lockers, and the assumptions City officials are making about them.

For decades, Americans have been taught to think of poverty as a moral failing on the part of poor people – something that results from bad choices or bad character. In fact, poverty, inequality, and homelessness result from public policy decisions on the part of elected leaders. Our current wave of mass homelessness began when the federal government drastically curtailed funding for public housing and related programs in the late 1970s and early 80s, and has been extended by subsequent policy decisions.

Prejudice and paternalism prevent people from identifying or contributing to humane solutions. The stereotypes around homelessness are apparent every time we have a “community meeting” on any related topic.

Again and again, we hear self-proclaimed “concerned neighbors” express fears similar to those used to exclude other marginalized groups throughout history — that crime, trash, danger, decreased property values, and untold social harms are caused by the mere presence of people who belong to a stigmatized group.

There is no research or evidence to back up any of these claims. Rather, the fears and tears of “concerned neighbors” are framed around dehumanizing stereotypes and the language of victimhood. These fears are used to argue against practical solutions, identified by people who are simply trying to survive and make a living in an increasingly unaffordable city.

Evidence demonstrates that people of all income levels commit crimes and engage in dangerous behavior. However, when the news reports on a crime committed by a domiciled person, they rarely (if ever) mention their housing status. But when the news reports on a crime committed by a person without housing, the headline often includes a description like “homeless” or “transient.” Similarly, when Fort Collins’ City Council gets updates on homelessness from their staff, the reports always place a strong emphasis on crime (sometimes euphemized as “disruptive behavior”) – helping reinforce the false idea that there is a relationship between housing status and supposedly criminal behavior. No front page story in The Coloradoan, or presentation by City staff, has ever led with the information that mass homelessness is a public policy decision, one that we could change by working together.

On Tuesday night, we saw our elected leaders accept claims that homeless people are inherently criminal and dangerous as the basis for limiting necessary services. At no point was any evidence introduced to support the idea that lockers give rise to any safety issues. The Mayor even asked repeatedly about camping tickets on the property, without explaining how sleeping creates a safety issue, much less how sleeping is caused by lockers.

Sleeping is a necessary act of human survival that causes no harm to others, but is precisely the kind of behavior that becomes criminal when engaged in by a person experiencing homelessness.

Again and again, the presumption that simply having homeless people in an area makes it less safe was accepted by City officials without challenge. The paternalistic presumption that homeless people need “experts” to regulate their access to necessary services received even less scrutiny.

Stereotypes, stigma, and paternalism contribute to bad public policy and human rights violations in our community. These are serious and real concerns, which lead to  injustice and perpetuate the criminalization of poor and unhoused persons. The same logic that led City officials to limit the lockers informs policy decisions to criminalize homelessness and cut social services. Practical, humane solutions are overlooked, or blocked by wildly disproportionate controversy. Our community deserves better than this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FCCAN Public Statement against the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh

October 3, 2018-

The Fort Collins Community Action Network (FCCAN) categorically opposes the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Much like the violence inherent in racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of oppression, which FCCAN recognizes as directly impacting our community, the senate hearings which we’ve all witnessed in the past week are about control and domination.

 

The nomination of Judge Kavanaugh exposes the intention of United States judicial system. It wasn’t built to bring any sort of justice for Dr. Ford or anyone else. Instead, it was built to maintain the power of those in control, namely white male colonizers and their heirs.

 

We received a very clear picture of how those in power act when that control is challenged. But the system is starting to waver- Indigenous, Black and Brown women have a long history of leading us in imagining a transformative future that is equitable, accountable and liberated, since the cusp of colonization of this land.

 

FCCAN is ready to follow their lead and stands in solidarity with those who have been resisting the violence of a patriarchal, white supremacist, colonizing ideology that this country was built on.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment