“Over ten thousand people used to live here—” Pastor Bruce Davenport says as we gaze from the steps of St. Johns #5 church out across the street at what used to be the St. Bernard’s Housing project—“and we’ve lost over half of our congregation.” Demolition of this housing project in the 7th Ward of New Orleans began in February and has continued to date. It is very noisy, and as we watch, dust from the rubble is being kicked up into the air.
Its nearing the 3 year anniversary of Katrina and not only are thousands of residents still recovering from the disaster, but thousands no longer have housing to come home to. Many of the displaced residents who are trying to return to New Orleans have found that they cannot stop HUD from tearing their housing (more than 4500 housing units) down. “The damage to these buildings was not that bad, this was fixable, but they decided that it would be better if they were gone,” Bruce tells us.
We often hear more from the proponents of gentrification than from the critics. The term “urban renewal” invokes images of well-to-do neighborhoods and the economic prosperity seen in gentrified communities like Haight-Asbury in San Fransico. Critics of this phenomenon often point to the human toll—dispersal of communities that can no longer afford to live there and often the costs often fall into the laps of the less-fortunate. What’s happening—what’s happened— to the St. Bernard Housing Project has happened before in places like Park Slope, Brooklyn (1970’s) and Harlem (1980’s). Future plan are to build mixed-income housing. This will include some affordable units for people with low income, but will be predominantly working-to-middle class families.
As we stood in front of the ruins of St Bernard, Bruce spoke about recent meetings with politicians and local community members regarding using water to wet-down the rubble in order to reduce the amount of airborne impurities. The demolition company continues to be out of compliance with regulations that require watering this type of debris down every time it is moved. Pastor Bruce, and his wife, Deborah, with the assistance of community advocate group, ACORN, and Lena Stewart, from City Council, are fighting back and planning legal action against the demolition company. They have not won anything yet. One small concession that the demolition company has made was to stop working on Sundays during church time, because the noise and shaking of the ground was disturbing the congregation.
Bruce is a strong presence in the community. He continues to be optimistic that his community will bounce back. As in many other communities in the 9th and 7th wards and around the country, Pastor Bruce and the church play a vital role in providing much needed support and hope in time of uncertainty and despair.
In an unabashed and disturbing comment regarding the plight of thousands from St Bernard, Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from Baton Rouge, reportedly said just after the hurricane: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it. But God did." Pastor Bruce, no doubt, would have a different take.
Ithaca HOURS: Local currency
‘backed by relationships'
By ANNE JU
Ithaca Journal Staff
October 19, 2005
ITHACA — As has always been the
case, Ithaca HOURS aren't backed by gold, silver or any other commodity.
“Ithaca HOURS is backed by our
relationships,” said Rebecca Nellenback, HOURS board member. “That's what we
want our town and our community to be.”
HOURS users and those interested in
joining will celebrate that fact at an annual meeting next Wednesday, from 7 to
8:30 p.m. at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. The whole community is
invited to learn about the local currency system, join at a discounted rate and,
for current members, elect new board members.
It'll also be a chance to promote the
local nonprofit's Web site, ithacahours.org, which recently went on the upswing
by hiring a Web specialist. Board of Directors President Stephen Burke said
they're in the process of getting the 800-plus member directory on the Web, in
part because of the worldwide attention HOURS continues to receive.
For example, just last year a
representative from Japan's Ministry of Finance stopped in Ithaca to talk to
Burke about HOURS before boarding a plane to Washington for his next pit stop —
with U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
“That's how seriously they were
considering our local currency,” Burke said.
Circulating in Ithaca now is about
$100,000 worth of Ithaca HOURS, which translates to 10,000 HOURS, according to
Burke. In recent years, the program has grown to the point where, at some
businesses, employees can be paid part of their salary in HOURS.
At ABC Cafe on Stewart Avenue, employees
can opt to be compensated an HOUR in exchange for an hour of labor. An HOUR of
labor ends up slightly more than an hour's wage in regular money, explained
owner Ken Hallett. It's only about 1 percent of the payroll that chooses that
option, but it's enough so that the restaurant, just two years ago, started
giving customers the option of purchasing entirely in HOURS.
“I think it was once we realized there
were enough outlets for using them,” Hallett said. “The idea of using local
currency, and having it staying in the community, was attractive.”
Another boost for HOURS has been the
availability of $2,000 to $5,000 worth of interest-free HOURS loans, which have
bolstered small businesses and also infused relatively large sums of HOURS into
the community at once, Burke said.
In general, encouraging people to earn and
spend locally is, and always has been, the goal of Ithaca HOURS, according to
Burke. It creates local wealth while freeing up one's own money for savings.
“It's definitely a community spirit
thing,” said Burke, who owns Small World Music on State Street and, of course,
accepts HOURS. In America, “money is so divisive,” Burke said.
“We want to turn that completely on its
head,” he said.