Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Victory!



The Fire & Police Commission officially restored protections for immigrant community members! 

Mayor Tom Barrett had made significant changes to the Milwaukee Police Department policy regarding immigration status, specifically Standard Operating Procedure 130. These changes strengthened collaboration between MPD and ICE.

On Thursday, July 13th during the Fire and Police Commission’s monthly meeting Assistant Police Chief James Harpole explained the agreement reached by the Mayor’s office, the Chief of Police, LULAC and Voces de la Frontera to amend the new policy that had gone into effect on July 6th.  Assistant Chief Harpole explained both the changes that remained in the policy and those that were amended.  The Fire and Police Commission then voted to accept the amended version of the policy. 

Great relief swept through the crowd of over 2000 as they listened to the amended version as well as the unanimous vote by the Commission.  Cheers broke out in the adjoining committee rooms and the corridors of City Hall as those assembled recognized the enormous victory that had been won. Through community presence, phone calls and emails, the mayor and police chief reconsidered the unnecessary language that had struck fear into the whole community.  The response:“Si, se pudo!”  (Yes, we did it!)

After the vote was taken on the amended policy, the Fire and Police Commission members listened to community comments. 


Daryl Morin from LULAC spoke to the lack of democratic processes that had led to the July 6th policy being put in place.  Christine Neumann-Ortiz thanked all the members of the community who showed their support for immigrants and refugees who were targeted by the policy.  Pastor Joseph Ellwanger from MICAH said, “We need to have courage in Milwaukee, the courage to practice radical hospitality.”

A TESTIMONY given at the hearing held by the Fire and Police Commission on July 13, 2017.

A basic law for the Faith Community, Jews, Christian, Muslims and others, is: love God and your neighbor. A corollary of this law – equality – is carved in the keystone of our institutions.

But fifty years ago Mayor Maier of Milwaukee wanted to make an exception.  He opposed fair housing.  Under the leadership of Father James Groppi the people marched in opposition with success

Mayor Tom Barrett also wanted to make an exception.  Barrett, with the new protocol for the police denied the people in the Latino Community Police protection.  The people are marched again and were successful.

Bill Lange

These are excerpts from the Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement newsletter, summer 2017 issue.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Working Catholic: Rehabbing Foreclosed Houses by Bill Droel



I moved into Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood in the late 1970s and within seven years bought the home there in which my family still resides. Neighborhood stability and the quality of housing were of concern in the 1970s and with ebbs-and-flows remain so today.

Prior to the real estate collapse of 2008, we were plagued by sub-prime lenders who deceived immigrant homebuyers. Thus, from the late 1990s and into the early years of this century our community organization, Southwest Organizing Project (www.swopchicago.org), made regular visits to those culpable lenders. I recall one Saturday when we went to a storefront loan office on Cicero Ave. bearing a nationally-known name. The manager who greeted us, I was surprised to see, was a young woman I had known since her grammar school days. She had no prior experience in real estate or in banking and thus, unsurprisingly, had no acceptable answers to our questions. On another day, in the company of our local bishop and many neighbors, SWOP took a walk and put a symbol on each property owned by a specific predatory lender. (No, we did not graffiti the property; it was a warning symbol.)

The international real estate collapse of 2008 hit our neighborhood hard. Late that year SWOP, which has 33 institutional members (several churches, a synagogue, a Muslim network, schools and agencies), produced a neighborhood map with a dot on each foreclosed property. Except for the 320-acre park area and some industrial property, the dots nearly blotted out the entire map. (For those who know Chicago: The map covers east of Midway Airport to Western Ave.; from 55th St. on the north to Marquette Park itself on the south. This map, by the way, proved useful to those attorneys representing our neighbors in eviction court. Despite their disgrace from the 2008 collapse, a handful of nationally-known banks continue to haunt our neighborhood with their zombie-like properties.)

SWOP leaders started to think about getting ahead of the problem. They decided to get into the housing rehab and rental business. As a pilot area, those leaders picked what until recent years was called the Lithuanian Corridor, a few blocks within the southeast corner of our neighborhood.

Back when I came to Chicago (the late 1970s) the Lithuanian Plaza was a fun spot—at least for me. Dinner in one of the small restaurants was hearty and inexpensive. A big wave of Lithuanian-Americans arrived in Chicago early in the 1900s. Many worked in the stockyards and related industries. In fact, the well-known novel about those stockyards, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906), featured a Lithuanian-American protagonist. (For an update, get Slaughterhouse: Chicago’s Union Stockyard by our former neighbor Dominic Pacyga, University of Chicago Press, 2015.) In recent years several absentee landlords owned the houses in the former Lithuanian-American area. Then came the predatory lender invasion; a favorite tasty restaurant gave way to a shuttered storefront, other businesses closed and eventually the foreclosed houses appeared. The only remnants of a once vibrant Lithuanian-American community are a motherhouse for Sisters of St. Casmir, Draugas newspaper office several blocks away, a museum over on Pulaski Rd. and a monument in the park. 

To meet its initial goal of reclaiming 100 housing units, SWOP sought help from Brinshore Development (www.brinshore.com), Local Initiatives Support Corp. (www.lisc-chicago.org), Neighborhood Housing Service (www.nhschicago.org) and the local affiliate of Industrial Areas Foundation, United Power (www.united-power.org).

In late May of this year my family, along with about 120 of our neighbors and some visitors from other areas around Chicago, gathered in the well-kept St. Adrian Catholic church in SWOP’s initial target area. The purpose was to launch an expansion of the rehab project to eventually total 70 blocks. SWOP estimates a need for $10million to complete this second phase. There was excitement at the meeting when LISC Chicago immediately pledged $1million.

Eviction has spillover effects, as Matthew Desmond compellingly details in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Penguin Random House, 2016). The foreclosure crisis in SWOP’s target section of our neighborhood, for example, was accompanied by private school closings, an uptick in crime statistics and general transience. Thus, SWOP’s challenge of finding $9million is in a sense not the top priority. Hardware alone does not get us ahead; in itself it does not make for neighborly conviviality, for safety, or for educational attainment. SWOP wisely makes a priority of one-by-one relationships and consequently reports some reduction in crime in its original target area and somewhat improved standard test results in nearby public schools. Can the software side of neighborhood rehab continue along with the hardware side? And, is there some way SWOP’s success can be replicated elsewhere in our city? To be continued…

Droel edits a printed newsletter about faith and work, INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629).  To offset misinterpretation about our neighborhood, allow me to quickly share that over the first 20 years after our purchase, the value of our home increased three-fold. This period included the run up to the recession, after which we took a hit. Now, the property value is back again to in excess of two-times our original purchase.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Working Catholic: Eviction by William Droel

  

         An imprecise distinction can be made between the working poor and the poor; between episodic poverty and persistent poverty; between functional poverty and totally debilitating poverty. Matthew Desmond compelling portrays the downward slide from “stable poverty” to “grinding poverty” in his study of housing in Milwaukee, titled Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Penguin Random House, 2016). Although several interdependent factors weave in and around his report, Desmond shows that eviction causes poverty (not the other way around). Further, eviction is contagious—each one dragging relatives and neighbors into deeper poverty. And, each eviction degrading nearby housing and putting stress on nearby institutions.


From one perspective those working poor who slide into deep poverty can be faulted. Some of them abuse drugs; some choose irresponsible sexual partners; some physically attack a partner or friend and some are into petty crime. Desmond is upfront about self-defeating behavior, including buying premium food items rather than staples, investing too much in pets (or in one case, keeping a cat with an asthmatic child), and seeking advice (legal, parenting or spiritual advice) from people who obviously have failed. However, Desmond is patient as he explores the psychology of those on the margin, that tenuous area between working poverty and desperate poverty, between unpleasant housing and eviction.

           He finds “a hazy depression” on the downside of that divide. Eviction saps confidence and convinces people that they are destined to be poor forever. Those sliding down are overtaken by small tangible problems and lose any appetite for political agency. A righteous observer, including an elected official or a minister in Desmond’s story, can say that a person is poor because she frivolously spends her money on steak or lobster. The other way around is probably more accurate: The person spends frivolously because she is poor.

Desmond goes inside the daily experience of landlords—vividly in one case. This woman is intelligent and clocks many hours. She is enterprising, acquiring her first 36 rental units within four years. She uses each property as collateral for a loan on the next. She is compassionate in some situations, or so it can seem.

Yet, the landlord welcomes each new tenant to one or another apartment that has a door off its hinges and/or a cracked window and/or serious plumbing issues and/or mold and/or furnace problems. Why? First, as Desmond explains, because landlords (at least in Milwaukee) are “allowed to rent units with property code violations…as long as they were upfront about the problems.” Second, because landlords know it is “cheaper to deal with the expense of eviction than to maintain their properties.” The eviction court processing fee is $89.50. Third, these landlords can sometimes make more money from an eviction (by way of penalties and a lien, for example) than from collecting delinquent rent. This is why some landlords, including one of Desmond’s main subjects, do not screen out apartment seekers who have prior evictions or misdemeanors. Though it is counter-intuitive, there is “a business model at the bottom of every market.” Providing housing for the poor is only a sideline in the model that Desmond details.

The essential character of Desmond’s principal landlord, along with the nature of this business, is gradually revealed. Early in the book she is whining about a tenant who is $30 short on monthly rent. She is more disturbed, however, because of an earlier “bad job for the painting.” The tenant, the reader learns, is disabled. At one point the landlord agrees to forgive $260 in back rent in exchange for painting the apartment. Upon inspection, the landlord reneges on the agreement with a passive-aggressive sentence containing two profane adjectives. Eventually, the tenant is evicted.

What this landlord says about her purchases of foreclosed houses applies to her attitude toward tenants: “You know, if you have money right now, you can profit from other people’s failures.” Yet for all her aggravation and irregular hours, this landlord gains unappealing rewards: a modest home and occasional gambling excursions to the Caribbean.

These predatory landlords, famously including Jared Kushner (see N.Y. Times Magazine, 5/28/17), are impervious to moralizing. They are part of a larger business and a culture that, as Desmond explains, goes back to the late 1400s. In the modern economy “piles of money [can] be made by creating slums” and thereby compounding poverty. Through the detailed stories of a handful of Milwaukee individuals, Desmond opens readers’ minds to the bigger dynamics of real estate and poverty.

Are there alternatives to exploitative rent situations? A subsequent blog will present some positive examples.


Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a newsletter about faith and work.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DACHAU – A TRAGIC COLLECTIVITY


         Joanne and I travelled from London to Munich, Germany with our son and his family to visit Legoland – a ‘Disneyland’ without Donald, with rides and Lego building block structures that are enjoyed by both kids and adults.  Joanne and I took a side trip to the concentration camp memorial outside of Munich – Dachau.


Memorial Sculpture at Dachau by Nandor Glid, erected in 1968

   
There is no complete explanation for the camp at Dachau that I can offer – just stunned horror and a few comments. Dachau was a model for the other German concentration camps, a training ground for S.S. troops and it mirrored German society of the time.  Consider the words of Martin Buber before World War II started:

Collectivity is not a binding but a bundling together; individuals packed together, armed and equipped in common with only as much life from man to man as will enflame the marching step.  But community is the being no longer side by side but with one another of a multitude of persons.  Collectivity is based on its atrophy of personal existence, community on its increase and confirmation in life lived towards one another.  (Between Man and Man, translated by R.G. Smith, written in pre-WWII Germany)

   Our tour guide told us over 4,500 people died at Dachau in its twelve year existence from 1933 -1945.  It remains a white-washed but empty tomb, the smell and horror has faded into imagination, but the camp is still there as a crucial memorial.

   It was explained that Dachau was originally for political prisoners.  Hitler’s dissolution of civil rights meant that political dissidents were sent to Dachau without legal due process.  We were told of a sixteen year old sent to the camp for doing political graffiti.  Scholar Bruno Bettelheim was a prisoner at Dachau.  The camp was not an extermination camp such as Auschwitz, but Jews died there as political prisoners placed in slavery along with others.  The basic absurd lie of the camp was printed over the camp portal – Arbeit Mach Frei. (Work sets you free.)

   Of course Buber was not the only German intellectual who saw what was coming.  Karl Jaspers wrote:

   Irrational Existenz which rests upon feeling, experiencing, unquestioned impulse, instinct, or whim, ends up as blind violence… (Karl Jaspers, "Existenzphilosophie," reprinted in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Meridian Books, p. 131)

   In contrast Martin Heidegger, often credited as a founder of the existentialist movement in philosophy, supported Hitler.  When Heidegger was named Rector of the University of Freiberg, Heidegger gave a ringing endorsement of the Nazi weltenshauung – world view.  Heidegger replaced the world-renowned and philosophical innovator, Edmund Husserel who was Jewish.

   Our guide showed us where Medical experiments on human beings were carried out at Dachau.  This was a reminder that absurd Nazi pseudo-science provided a rationale for the murder of six million Jews.  I pointed out that the neighboring town of Oberammergau has had a famous periodic passion play since 1634 that blamed execution of Jesus of Nazareth by the Roman Empire on the Jewish people. The play is based on gospel stories written in the context of religious factions in competition for dominance.   Our guide claimed that religion was not a motive for the Jewish massacre because the Nazis were not religious.  It was suggested that the Nazis also blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I.  The guide did agree that religion was a background for the holocaust.

   Can we relate our present politics to the absurdities of Nazi Germany?  Fourth amendment rights against search and seizure have been weakened, a travel ban against Muslims is being attempted.  Lies to labor and catering to the aristocracy, a wall to prevent Mexicans and Central Americans from entering the country is promised.  The politics of nationalism and hate is open and evident. 

     Labor, university professors, faith communities, the media, must take a stand.  Trump is not going to bring back the 50’s – we are looking at a hologram of Germany during the 30’s.  Our country struggles in an atmosphere of existential completion instead of cooperation.   Again Martin Buber:

 God’s speech to men penetrates what happens in the life of each one of us, biographical and historical, and makes it for you and me into instruction, message, demand.  Happening upon happening, situation upon situation, are enabled and empowered by the personal speech of God to demand of the human person that he take his stand and make his decision.  (Martin Buber, I and Thou, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1958.)     

Schwesterobein:

"Das alles war ganz ganz schlim."  

  
  


Saturday, May 13, 2017

LETTER FROM A MOM DETAINED AT THE COUNTY JAIL, MOTHER’S DAY 2017


Our Father Who art in heaven …”  Is God “Our Father”?  The great Jewish theologian, Moses Maimonides thought that human names weren’t sufficient for God. Let us use another insufficient but perhaps more powerful analogy – God “Our Mother”.

The prophet Isaiah reported:

Zion says, (49:14) / ”The Lord has forsaken me. / My Lord has forgotten me.”/ (15) Can a woman forget her baby, Or disown the child, the child of her womb?
Can immigration law be so absurd as to threaten to separate a mom from her dying child?  It is. – she sent a letter from the jail and described her son as one of God’s angels.

Mater Dolorosa pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Can immigration law be so absurd to deport a man – a grandfather with a family who arrived as a child, then graciously allows him to return to his mom in a casket?  Yes – and she buried him piously in Faith – she knows there is more to the story.

Mater Dolorosa pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
The hope of a Honduran family with several young children, born in Honduras and the U.S., is to work to get enough money in the U.S. to afford to get enough land and tools to own a small farm in Honduras.  The family moves quite often to avoid detection.

Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Can immigration law be so absurd as to depend on the competence of a lawyer to avoid the separation of a family?  Such is the case of a mom whose husband could be deported because their lawyer was late in filing papers. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


“Behold! the angels said, ‘O Mary Allah has chosen you and purified you chosen you above the women of all nations.’ “ (Qur’an,  39:42)

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Working Catholic: Common Good




By Bill Droel

“Your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care,” says a former Congressman from Illinois. He has apparently forgotten the definition of insurance (a hedge or cushion against risk), which is normally achieved by spreading the cost of a problem (a car accident, a fire, a surgery) among a more-or-less random pool of people. More importantly, this former legislator (now a radio commentator) and many others like him have forgotten a crucial part of moral philosophy.

Our United States culture prizes liberty. It is a marvel the way our country’s founders and its citizens to this day have woven liberty into our laws, our civic affairs, our business practices, our expressions of faith and more. This is something new in the long history of civilization. We correctly invoke the virtue of liberty or freedom at sports events, in schools, in discussions of military deployment, in TV commercials, in policy debates and more. Frequently, however, we forget that liberty is a social virtue and that it is part of a constellation of other virtues. Instead, we too often equate liberty with ragged individualism.

Individualism is now the default position of our culture. It says that goodness is achieved when at the end of the day (or the end of the financial quarter or fiscal year) the greatest number of people gets the best results possible. The mechanism is individual choice. The maximum number of choices, says individualism, will somehow yield maximum benefits—though not for all people, but for the most people. This is a philosophy for lazy thinkers. It reduces liberty or freedom to choices or options. Should we install a dish or connect with cable? Should we marry or simply live together? Should we help one another with health insurance or allocate for our own family exclusively? 

Individual liberty is an achievement, but individualism, particularly as currently presented by some ideologues in our society, is destructive. Yes to communitarian individuals; no to extreme individualism.

The principle of the common good recognizes that many important things cannot be obtained by individuals. Many good things can only be obtained in common: public safety, effective fire-fighting in urban areas, roads and airports, libraries (including all cyber-research), clean water and access to health care. No matter how wealthy the former Congressman might be, he cannot have all these good things unless he cooperates. In fact, many people never use an airport but their taxes subsidize the airport that the Congressman uses. Many never go to college, but taxpayers underwrote his education. His tuition did not fully cover the costs of running those schools.

The common good, which was always part of the United States experiment in democracy, complements the so-called free market and in fact it makes the market better. The common good is not reducible to the sum total of individual choices. It imposes considerations on those who are expressing an opinion and acting on a calculated choice. If we forget about the common good, we sooner or later lose society.

Of course, the common good does not give wholesale endorsement to the Affordable Care Act. It does not endorse Trump/Ryan Care. Reasonable citizens can reasonably differ about the delivery of health care. In fact, the common good does not even necessitate a health insurance system. Theoretically, normal health care (the requirement of the common good principle) could be inexpensively available to all if pharmaceutical executives, doctors, hospital administrators and others were paid the same wage as their patients.

The former Illinois Congressman, who lists himself as a Catholic, puts the matter of health care delivery under the virtue of compassion. “It is compassion for me to voluntarily help someone else,” he says. It is not a virtue for the government “to forcibly take the money I make.”

Here again, he and many others don’t realize that compassion or love is a commandment or a requirement. It is not merely optional. Likewise, he forgets to put compassion into the constellation of social virtues. For example, distributive justice is the virtue that obligates an authority, like the government, to allocate resources so that all have the common goods.

Extreme individualism is bad for our culture, bad for business, bad for United States image abroad and bad for legitimate debate about government meddling in health care, about tax incentives for domestic job creation, about improvements in education outcomes, about women’s reproductive health, about enforcing the civil rights of gays and lesbians, about reform inside civil service unions, about extraction and use of domestic natural resources. Extreme libertarians on the right and on the left are hurting our society.

From its earliest days, visitors to our country have been impressed with our teamwork, our sense of community, our voluntary associations, our inclusiveness and our collective dedication to the common good. We prosper and pursue our happiness to the extent that we pull together and that we refute mindless comments about “my own health care.”


Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a print newsletter about faith and work.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vatican II Pioneers



Pat and Patty Crowley

Hope and anticipation for Vatican II was fostered by the Christian Family Movement which was founded by a Chicago couple, Pat and Patty Crowley.  Essentially a lay movement within the Roman Catholic Church it fostered ecumenism, status for the laity, liturgical reform, and Catholic action with the goal of a better world.  Vatican II was encouraging but Pope Paul VI's Encyclical, Humanae Vitae, prohibiting artificial birth control, restricted progress.  This disappointed the Crowleys, but they continued in their efforts for church reform.  I am confident you will find the following story about the Crowleys moving and insightful.  It is  written by their oldest daughter - Patricia Anne Crowley, O.S.B.                                Bill Lange


Our 103 year old Sister, Vivian Ivantic, has been urging me to write about my parents for a couple of years now.   However, until William Lange invited me to write about my parents for his blog, I kept procrastinating saying to myself,  I am just too close to this topic…..I will try to write next week…I just don’t have time right now, etc.

So let me at least begin.   My father, Patrick F. Crowley, the son of Irish Catholic parents, was a fascinating combination of traditional religious practices and creative avant-garde spirituality.  His lifelong friendships from his early years at St. Mary of the Lake grammar school and Loyola Academy persisted even though those men were of various political persuasions and religious practices. He adored my mother and with her and those friends, formed what was known as “The Poker Club” or, at one point as “The Stork Club”.   He used his professional career as a lawyer to serve both sides of the family as their corporate counsel as well as to provide for his immediate growing family and to help all who came to him for legal advice and / or financial support.   He was a learner par excellence and reached out to emerging voices in our world to come and share with the hundreds of couples who gathered each year at Notre Dame for the annual conventions of the Christian Family Movement.  My impression always was that no one could bring themselves to dislike him and hardly anyone could say “no” to him!  What I suspect that people seldom saw in him was a soul that felt great anguish at other people’s suffering.  His disappointment was particularly evident to me when the encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae, was published.  He took that turn of events to heart and felt keenly the pain of couples around the world at that time.

Patty Caron Crowley, my mother, was the daughter of a Jansenist French-Canadian father and a Baptist mother, who converted to Catholicism when Patty was young.  She was often misunderstood by her mother, when as a student of the late Father John A. Ryan at Trinity College in D.C., she learned of Catholic social teaching and began to make decisions based on what she had learned.    Her social and political views were even more radicalized when she connected with the handsome Pat Crowley, who had been formed to think broadly in his years at Notre Dame University.  When they met, Pat was smitten immediately.   Patty, probably to please her mother who did not think a poor Irish law student was good enough for any daughter of hers, went off to Paris for a year and there dated several continental guys.  She apparently always remembered those times and never ever regretted her acceptance of Pat’s proposal for marriage upon her return home.

Pat and Patty were soul mates. Their personalities could not have been more different!  Their relational complementarity was their gift to all of us.  Their roles fit their personalities – he the visionary and she the organizational and practical one.  Together they graciously welcomed people of all faiths and origins into our home.

 In the 31 years between their deaths, I came to know and appreciate my mother’s strength and determination.  She, too, suffered greatly from the Church’s decision to go against the majority opinion of the Birth Control Commission.  It took her 25 years after Humanae Vitae was published, to speak out publicly about their “conversion” experience. They, along with the vast majority of that group, were convinced by letters from couples around the world, by scientists and theologians on the Commission that birth control was not intrinsically evil.  The official Church chose not to follow that advice and, as a drastic result, lost much of its authority among many of its members.


That is the context in which I grew into adulthood.  The family I knew in the first decade of my life was pretty typical of the times – as many children as possible, parochial school for the kids, daily mass at 6:30 a.m., family rosary after the evening meal, regular visits to grandparents, nightly family dinners, summer camp experiences and so much more.  That all changed during the next decade of my life.