Local City Criticized for Not Having Same Percentage of African-American Employees who Live in the Community

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A local mayor, facing public criticism, set up a human rights committee to outline problems in civil rights and propose solutions to address concerns raised. The committee is chaired by a retired history professor who taught at the local university. One concern that was brought up was that the city government only has three African-American employees at present, which is a much smaller percentage of blacks working for the city than the percentage of African-Americans who live there. A recent public meeting at city hall drew 60 people, and audience members were allowed to comment. The mayor suggested that further gathering of statistical data is needed before moving ahead with new hires to better reflect the composition of the city's population, but an audience member criticized the mayor's cautious approach, saying that there is already more than enough data available to show the existent discrepancies. The city has a black population of about 15%. The Latino population is 7%. An audience member said that the police department should consider hiring a new officer with an Hispanic background who could better relate to the Latino residents. Another person said that the needs of the disabled should be considered and better addressed.

In a few days, a group of private, non-profit organization representatives is going to have a public meeting to continue their ongoing attempt to bring affordable housing to the city and county for low-income people. The cost of rents in the county is much higher than a certain percentage of the population can afford. The group is interested in using the Housing First model to help people to find and obtain permanent housing. Reports indicate that there is a national crisis among those who rent in terms of rent increases and the cost of renting compared to the stagnation and inadequacy of wages for an increasing number of households. San Francisco perhaps has seen the highest rent increases, but the situation there is not as difficult as it is elsewhere, because of the relatively high wages that many San Francisco residents are able to earn. Washington, D.C. is one of the most expensive cities and metropolitan areas with the highest increase in rents of any city. Many residents of suburban counties of Washington, in Maryland and Virginia, struggle with high housing costs. Several years ago, public housing residents from Montgomery County, MD held a protest on the lack of affordable housing and subsidized housing in their suburban county, which is among the highest-income counties in the country.

Back in my county in Indiana, mental health services are not always affordable or available to those who need them. There is no specialized training program for mentally or physically disabled people. A local agency has some jobs for developmentally disabled people, but nothing that would be for higher-functioning people who are unable to complete a college degree in some career field. Vocational Rehabilitation uses a few local agencies to help disabled people find jobs, but one person commented that you have to do everything yourself; they don't do much to help you find openings or provide much job counseling, so why even spend time being in some program that isn't very helpful? Supported employment assists mentally ill people who are already employed. It is designated as an evidence-based practice. Yet, it is not available to people who are not eligible for Medicaid which may pay for this type of service. Peer counselors are being used to an increasing extent in the mental health field. These are people who have had a mental illness and are intested in helping others. They are not professional therapists but usually undergo a brief training program. They are able to provide useful information and encouragement to others through their own experience. They do not bill for their time but are paid from general funding. The mental health center in this county has people who have been trained to provide the Certified Recovery Specialist training to others, but the facility does not have any of these Recovery Specialists available, unlike other mental health centers in the state. A psychology professor at a university medical school once told me that peer couselors is a growing area, the "coming thing," in the mental health area.

The city government recently granted approval for a developer to build a luxury apatment complex in the city, but an attorney I heard interviewed opposed the project, saying that the apartments are unneeded and would be too expensive for most people in the area to afford. This is an example of how local governments through "gentrification" often only serve to increase socioeconomic inequality through their biased decisions.

Robindell's picture
Robindell
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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What has this city done for the disabled? They did start a citywide bus service a number of years ago, which allows disabled and elderly people without a car or who cannot drive to have transportation in the city. There isn't much in this city, so that isn't saying a great deal. In terms of housing, the city government, which does not have a public housing authority, has done nothing for the disabled or low-income people. HUD's idea of helping is to provide financing to rich developers so that some apartment complexes are temporarily subsidized. When the financing is paid back, the property owner is no longer required to offer reduced rents based on income and can suddently hike the rent to market prices. I attended a meeting on affordable housing at the United Way offices many years ago. Only a very small number of people were present. There is a non-profit organization that owns a few apartment buildings and offers rent based on income, but there are are not enough units to take care of all of the disabled or other low-income people who need housing. Since that meeting years ago, nothing really has been accomplished in building more affordable housing. The effort seems to have picked up steam, recently, and some outside housing organization has apparently been consulted with or brought in to see if something concrete can be developed. Sending people to Chicago or anywhere else in Illinois seems like a lost cause, given the precarious financial condition there, with budget cuts for disability programs being insisted upon by Republican Governor Rauner. When Pat Quinn was still governor, Chicago closed several city-owned mental health clinics, and Illinois closed the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, a state-owned facility that was fairly modern and served the south suburbs.

Robindell's picture
Robindell
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm