“We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you.” President Obama’s Tweet upon winning re-election
“The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?” Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, 11/6/2012
Last Tuesday I walked the four blocks from my house to Euclid Elementary School in City Heights to vote. The election notices were in five different languages and the citizens lined up in the hallway were conversing in those languages. Young people had small children in tow and pushed baby carriages. Elderly people moved slowly using canes and walkers. The poll workers were all young and ethnically and racially diverse; the voting process went smoothly and quickly. Despite all of my anxieties regarding the electoral outcomes, I felt that “rush of democracy” Megan Burks described so well in her Speak City Heights article about election day in City Heights.
San Diego Free Press contributor Brent Beltrán wrote that Barrio Logan looked and felt the same the day after the election as it did the day before. I felt pretty much the same way about my City Heights neighborhood. There were the usual early morning sounds of car engines starting as my neighbors left for work on Wednesday and a little later kids chattered as they walked past the house on their way to school. The only noticeable change was that my mailbox was not stuffed that day with campaign fliers, to Bill the postal carrier’s and my great relief.
City Heights residents want economic justice and opportunity, or as Bill O’Reilly puts it-stuff As usual, we have also continued our advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life in City Heights. Bill O’Reilly, in his post election wealthy white man’s lament for what he views as the end of civilization opined “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.”
Emily Serafy-Cox of Mid-City Can had called me last week to let me know that an effort is being made to get free bus passes for students up to the age of 25. The Metropolitan Transit Board (MTS) met yesterday morning to discuss the next fiscal year budget and there was concern that the free bus passes, which would start as a pilot project in City Heights, wouldn’t be included in that budget.
These free bus passes would no doubt qualify as OReilly’s definition of “stuff.” For my transit dependent neighbors with school age children, these free passes affect a parent’s ability to get to work and their children’s school attendance. An adult monthly pass costs $72. Regional Youth Passes for children aged 6-18 are $36/month.
It is a grim struggle for low income households to absorb the beginning of the month hit of rent and bus passes. It is not uncommon for households to try to “share” one pass until there is sufficient household money to buy additional ones. It is not uncommon for residents to pay as they go instead of buying a much less expensive monthly pass. They don’t do this because they are stupid and don’t know how to budget money- they do it because of the hole these passes punch in a minimum wage pay check which has to cover more expenses than possible.
It remains to be seen whether the MTS budget will indeed include the proposal for free student bus passes. It also remains to be seen whether Mayor elect Bob Filner will make good on his promise to invest public funds in San Diego neighborhoods, which I take as a riff on “we’re all in this together.” When the City Heights Area Project Committee submits its Capital Improvement Project list, it will reflect a distilling of resident requests for sidewalks, street lights, parks, and drainage projects. Or in O’Reilly speak- “stuff.”
Beyond free student bus passes and city parks and water pipes, there remain over arching issues that need to be resolved. If we are truly all in this together, then we must acknowledge the need not only for jobs, but a livable wage and access to affordable quality health care as critical to lifting people out of poverty and providing some vestige of stability to middle class people.
The challenge is to find the opportunities to meet those needs. Will Papa John’s Pizza in the Urban Village, for example, present an opportunity or an obstacle? Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter said he “plans on passing the costs of health care reform to his business onto his workers. Schnatter said he will likely reduce workers’ hours, as a result of President Obama’s reelection.”
The company had $51.4 million of net income in the US in 2010. Only 1 in 3 workers currently has health care coverage and Schnatter has now threatened to reduce the hours for workers who would receive mandated coverage under Obamacare. That is not exactly a “we’re all in it together attitude.”
The International Franchise Association (IFA) has been opposed all along to the Affordable Care Act. Now look at all of the fast food corporate chain businesses in City Heights. Yes- they provide jobs to residents here and god knows my neighbors are happy to have a job. But how many of these jobs are minimum wage? How many are part-time? How many provide health care benefits?
The elections are over. For the majority of adults in City Heights, jobs are our fiscal cliff. The job market remains fragile. My neighbor was laid off a few months ago and is agonizing over how to pay the property taxes on her home.
John Schnatter had the option of raising the price of the Papa John’s ten buck pizza to ten dollars and ten cents, which would have absorbed the cost of the health care mandate. It doesn’t seem as though he agonized much over his ultimate choice. How willing are we to advocate for the stuff we want with our pizza?
PS. John Schnatter, whose net worth is six hundred million dollars, likes his “stuff” too.
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