Sounds of Independent News- Headline 1 - April 2011

Sounds of Independent News- Headline 1 - April 2011

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Hello World! This is the very first segment of our new Baltimore-centric (although not exclusive) headline-news-round-up called Sounds of Independent News. We are committed to posting snippets of independent news to help equip and inform local social justice activists and organizations. We are committed to posting regular segments and updates. We solicit your important news and announcements, as well as any suggestions and ideas. Email us at: indypendentreader@gmail.com

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Headlines for early April 2011:

Steel (Steal) Again at Sparrows Point                  
After being officially closed since last August, the steel making plant at Sparrows Point is to restart steel making operations in May. It is expected that many of the 1000 laid off workers from last year will return to work. This is according to members of  Local 9477 of the United Steelworkers (USW).

The site was recently purchased by the Renco Group, a New York based holding company that amasses large profits from using junk bonds to buy bankrupt companies.  The group is also know to have a poor environmental track record at it’s other holdings, having faced environmental lawsuits, and exorbitant fines and fees for it’s pollution

Sparrows Point, better known as Bethlehem Steel, was for more than a century the world’s largest steel producer and employed more than 35,000 workers.  

Bikeshare Program Delayed
Last month a plan was released to start a bikeshare program in Baltimore. This program would involve around 250 bikes in around 25 different stations. A potential biker would simply swipe a card to pick up a bike, then drop it off to any approved station.

Many bike advocates approve of this plan- hoping that it will make the city more bike-friendly – and help pass further efforts like more approved bike lanes, signs, and biker-safety rights and protections.

Some critics point to bikeshare programs, in places like DC and Europe, that have been forces of gentrification. Stations were set up in recently “redeveloped” areas setting bikers off from one area of commerce to one needing a tourist's helping hand.

The plan will likely be delayed for a year as it seeks for greater upfront private investment. The potential need for public investment has been discussed.

Waste to Energy or Waste to Waste?
There is controversy over whether to give state subsidizes to new ‘waste to energy’ facilities in Maryland. The facilities which would burn collected trash and convert that into electricity, are facing fire from environmentalist groups as being more costly and ecologically damaging than even fossil fuel burning plants such as coal.

According to an article posted in the Baltimore Brew on April 6th, opponents to the subsidies underscored how the facilities would produce 25% more CO2 emissions than coal burning plants, are much costlier in operations, and would create less jobs than other renewable energy options such as recycling plants and alternative energy sources such as wind or solar. It would also detract funding and resources from those other renewable energy options.

Rewriting Women's Rights
On Thursday, April 14, 2011, legislative proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, eliminate Title X Family Planning Program, reinstate the Global Gag Rule, and redefine rape, are promised an up or down vote in the Senate. These proposals passed a Republican-led House earlier this year.

This past Thursday, April 7th, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and allies turned out to the National Mall in pink-clad droves to rally for women's rights. Some cite that attendance was up to 4,000. Many attendees said that defunding Planned Parenthood didn't only take away abortion rights but also damaged the ability for uninsured women to obtain breast and other cancer screenings, sex education, contraception, and numerous other women's healthcare resources; as well as both the reversal of decades hard-fought and won feminist victories - and a very slippery slope that would inevitably damage other women's and sex-positive rights.

President Obama promises to veto this legislation. Senators like Charles Schumer have publicly stated that, “... all those who want to stomp on women’s health and women’s rights can hear us loud and clear. The dangerous, ideological cuts to Planned Parenthood that passed the House are never, never, never going to pass the Senate.”

With a Conservative-led Senate, that statement remains to be seen.

In Maryland's own 2011 legislative session, a conservative-led effort to enforce stricter requirements over abortion procedures was rejected.

A Small Victory for Undocumented Immigrants:
This past Friday in Annapolis MD, the House voted to approve an extension for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. This legislation, which had already passed in the senate and has the backing of Governor Martin O’malley, would grant qualifying immigrants the ability to enroll in public colleges and universities at discounted rates.

This comes months after the National Dream Act - a bill to grant undocumented youth the ability to enroll in four year colleges and later access to legal citizenship - was essentially killed in the US senate.

However, this small victory cannot be understated as it comes amid wider anti-immigrant legislation being introduced in states across the country and amid a climate of greater discrimination against migrant and immigrant communities. This local victory and the other victories nationally to halt anti-immigrant legislation cannot have been made possible without the tireless pressure from undocumented youth, students, activist groups and immigrant advocacy groups.

Two Essential City Hearings
On Monday, April 11th, 2011, The Baltimore City Council agreed to hold two key hearings. One set of hearings is to explore the possibilities of corporate sponsorship in order to maintain historical buildings and programs. Recent threats to shut-down many community recreation centers and the historical Read's Drugstore, where a landmark civil rights' sit-in protest was held in 1955 to fight racial discrimination. Supporters hope that by finding corporate sponsors, these and other historical city centers can be maintained. May 17th is the scheduled hearing.

The second set of hearings is scheduled for April 26th and is meant to make Baltimore's Housing Authority discuss what is being done about the $12 million that they were ordered to pay to public housing residents that were poisoned by lead paint. Baltimore's Housing Authority is the fifth largest in the country, with an annual budget of $300 million. Yet, the Housing Authority publicly states that they cannot afford to pay these orders and they should not have to, as most of their assets are with the federal government rather than the city. Last week lawmakers ordered the Housing Authority to state how they were going to make these payments. When they refused, they caused angry waves throughout the city.
The City Council declares that they will enforce The Housing Authority to abide by a payment plan.

Money for Tourism but not the People:
The 2012 Baltimore City spending plan was released this past month with some major cuts to community and neighborhood programs but with some pumping of funds into the city’s tourism industry. The $2.29 billion budget includes slashing funds for city pools, the Enoch Pratt Library system, HIV treatment programs, youth summer job programming, and emergency health services.

This is in comparison to granting $540,000 more, (adding up to $9.9 million),  to organizations seeking to increase Baltimore tourism and convention gatherings. Higher funding will also go towards the maintenance and operation of the more than 515 police cameras that are presumably used to reduce crime in the city.

Although there have been severe cuts to neighborhood and community funding, the Baltimore City School System was spared the major funding cuts that were being discussed and projected.