Archive for November, 2009
Food Stamp Stigma
New Orleans One day I write that receiving food stamps is the “new normal,” as we say in New Orleans, and the next day there’s a front
page story in the Sunday Times by Jason DeParle and Robert Gebeloff with a headline that includes the words: “stigma fades.” Wow! Am I ahead of the curve or what?
Probably “or what?”
Looking county-to-county and expounding on the research of Professor Mark Rank of Washington University in St. Louis, there are plenty of “I told you so” points the story makes:
- Almost 1 in 8 people in the USA are on stamps. More than 36 million people.
- Almost 25% of the nation’s children are on stamps.
- Cities like Memphis, New Orleans, and St. Louis have more than half of their children on stamps.
- Racial differences in participation are significant with 28% of African-Americans, 15% Latinos, and 8% whites.
- The head of the federal program is clear that, in the words of Citizen Wealth, we need “maximum eligible participation,” and must enroll the 15-16 million people who are not yet enrolled.
- The key one can find in reaching many of the new enrollees, as I have demanded in Citizen Wealth, is outreach.
I could go on, but it would get boring, and the point of this piece is not crowing. Quite the opposite.
Reading the article, just like being on the streets and out on the trail, I could not find the any real evidence for the proposition that the “stigma” of receiving food stamps is fading, as trumpeted by the headlines. In fact the actual interviews in the story, particularly with recent white participants who have signed up for the program, all seemed to carry the weight of regret, shame, and sense of exceptionalism about their own participation in the program that I have found talking to my Tea Party friends. Where whites are still 1 of 12 compared to blacks now moving to almost 1 in 3, the stigma still seems certain and stunning, and a huge barrier to enrollment.
The barrier seems to only collapse for two reasons from what I can tell on close examination of the story’s argument: (1) desperation pure and simple (which hardly reduces the stigma) and (2) outreach where someone convinces a recalcitrant but eligible family that they need to enroll for the good of their family, particularly the children.
Nothing about this story signaled to me “problem solved.” Instead the only real point seemed to be that in one beautifully written sentence: “Across the country, the food stamp rolls can be read like a scan of a sick economy.”
Where Under Secretary Kevin Concannon is right, and the article (or at least the gratuitous and missleading headline is wrong!) is that now is an opportunity to finally have the federal, state, and city governments put up, so that others will shut up about the fake dependency of receiving some benefits that help working families take care of their families. There is something so fatally wrong about a society that would invest more weight (and the attendant psychic damage) in having people care about what their neighbors think and their potential scorn, than in the first priority of making sure that your family is taken care of fully no matter what.
Changing the name of the program from food stamps to SNAP, and talking about nutrition rather than hunger, are not real changes, nor will they help us get the rest of the job done and done permanently, not just during these desperate times. We need a real effort that puts thousands of staff, volunteers, and others on the street and in the job centers to make and win the case to get all eligible families enrolled.
Christmas lights and music, so cool, back in across the street, put stero on 100.5 fm and be amazed, it’s wonderful christmas spirit
- Show Dates & Times:
Friday, December 04, 2009 – 8:00 pm
- Ticket Prices: from $54.95
- Venue: Beau Rivage Theatre
- Restrictions: No Smoking
For those who missed out on the Black Friday bargains, there’s still time to bag the best buys without leaving home. CyberMonday, touted as one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, will get underway Monday, November 30th. A good place to start bagging the bargains on CyberMonday [November 30th] is cybermonday.com. More than 700 companies like Macy’s, Nine West and Best Buy are on the site offering discounts, free shipping and gifts with purchases. For those who sign up, hourly specials will come directly to Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Dealio.com is also an online site to comparison shop. The site, however, also offers online coupon codes, some with savings up to 60%, for online shopping at Old Navy, Target and Toy-R-Us.
If you’re looking for bargains at local stores and restaurants, check out retailmenot.com. The site allows you to type in a zip code and check out special deals like we found for restaurants like Al Fresco Italian Bistro in Biloxi and Los Tres Amigos in Gulfport. You might, however, check with the stores before you go to make sure the deals are still valid. The site also offers printable coupons on a wide array of products from retail to grocery items.
The Biloxi Chamber offers discounts to local stores on its website www.biloxi.org. The Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce is working to offer something similar on its website.
One last note, if you get alerts from your favorite stores already, keep an eye on your inbox Monday. You’ll likely receive some CyberMonday specials from those stores.
STONE COUNTY, MS
C.T. Switzer and his wife Patty live on several serene acres in south Stone County, serene that is until the sound of gunfire cracks through the air. They say deer hunters and their dogs are destroying their peace of mind. They can even see the hunters through the windows of their well kept home.
Switzer says it’s another accident waiting to happen, just like last week’s accident in which two horse riders were shot. He tells WLOX News. “We’ve had the horse accident but we also have problems as landowners with them running dogs across our property and sitting out in front of our property in trucks and actually, they say they’re not hunting but they’re lined up every hundred yards apart on the road waiting for the dogs and the deer to come through.”
The Switzer’s and their neighbors gathered today, talking about the problem and comparing photos they have taken, even meeting with a conservation officer. Switzer even home video clearly showing a hunter on the side of the road, carrying a shotgun. He remembers a very close call involving a family member several months ago. “The guy cut through the woods on our property and actually shot the deer on our property and we caught him and he was ticketed for trespassing.” Switzer added, “It was close enough to my son that my son hit the deck scared he was fixing to get shot.”
A mile up the road, Kevin and Peggy Cuervo are planning on building a home on their property. They have posted signs, even installed video cameras on the trees to catch the trespassers, but they still come. Cuervo believes things would change if lawmakers had to live in fear like they do. She says “I don’t believe that people who are regulating the forest would live here and would tolerate it, if they did, they would move or change it.”
Even though the roads through the property are public, the land itself is not and Stone County property owners say that until the laws are enforced, the problems, and their fears will continue.
Maddog helps unload a truck full of toys Sunday at the Knights of Columbus in Biloxi during the 25th annual Asgard Toy Run.
Bikers dressed in leather, and some in Santa suits, revved up their engines Sunday to deliver thousands of Christmas gifts for children during the Asgard Motorcycle Club’s 25th annual Toy Run and Charity Motorcycle Ride.
The weather was cooperative as more than 700 bikers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama gathered at three locations along the Coast to converge in Biloxi for the ride to the Knights of Columbus Hall on Water Street to deliver the toys.
The procession of motorcycles, more than a mile long, attracted a crowd of onlookers along the way.
“This year has drawn the largest group of riders we have had for the ride, including about 10 motorcycle clubs,” said Asgard spokesman Smokey Stepputat. “It goes to show you that although the economy is rough the spirit of giving and sharing is still strong during the holidays.”
Harrison County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Federico said the logistics of traffic control for a motorcycle ride this large take some manpower, but the efforts are well worth the extra work.
“Our officers provided the escort for the riders, using about 11 units, but it is for the kids,” Federico said. “There was that huge 18-wheeler truck filled with toys and people were also lining the road to step up and give donations to the bikers so they could buy even more toys for the children.”
The Asgard Motorcycle Club holds the annual charity ride on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season of giving.
Also participating in the charity ride were members of the Biloxi Fire Department, and the new Thunder Riders biker club, who pitched in to purchase more than 30 bicycles for children.
“The firefighters chip in and do this every year themselves because it is a way to take care of the community we serve,” said Biloxi Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Boney.
After the ride, bikers helped unload the trucks, cars and trailers packed with toys, which are now on their way to the Catholic and Community Services of the Biloxi Diocese.
From there they will be sorted and distributed to needy children in Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, Forrest and Lamar counties.
Organizers said last year’s Asgard charity ride collected enough toys to bring Christmas to about 1,100 children.
“This charity ride is the main provider of toys for hundreds of children at Christmas,” said Jennifer Williams from Catholic and Community Services. “There are hundreds of children who benefit from this ride and many who would not have any gifts to open if it were not for this event.”
After unloading the children’s gifts, the bikers rode to the Cedar Lake Harley Shop to celebrate the overwhelming number of toys collected at the charity ride.
“I rode today because of the fellowship with other bikers and to help the children for Christmas,” said biker Buddy Small. “It is just the right thing to do.”
For information about Catholic and Community Services, call 702-2137.
After more than a year of planning, the new $2.2 million East Hancock Public Library is moving closer to reality.
The library is a first for the Diamondhead area, which has never had a public library.
Resident Evelyn Necaise said the library could not have come at a better time.
“We have so many children now in Diamondhead. The families and our senior citizens have been making that 20- to 30-minute drive to Bay St. Louis just to get to the nearest library,” said Necaise.
“Residents here have been asking when are we getting our own library. I know that this new facility will be greatly appreciated by all who will use it on a daily basis.”
The new 5,000-square-foot library is in the design phase. It will be built near Hancock Medical Center in Shepherd Square, behind Diamondhead Shopping Center.
Scheduled to open within a year, it will serve the Diamondhead, Fenton and Dedeaux communities.
“We have been aware of the need for a library in that area for some time,” said Patty Furr, director of the Hancock County Library System.
“We installed a book drop near the Diamondhead Fire Station about four years ago, and we had to replace it recently with a much-larger one, as it was always full to overflowing. I couldn’t be more delighted to have a full-service branch in that area, as the Library Board of Trustees and I believe it is clearly needed.”
Funding for the new library is part of the $200 million federal Community Block Development grant awarded to Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Pearlington to rebuild community infrastructure.
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors recently approved the library project; it is being planned by the Hancock County Library System administrative team, along with Dean and Dean Architects.
It will be a full-size, full-service library and will include a public-access computer area, a large meeting room, a children’s library and a teens’ section, and will have a modern book, CD and DVD collection available to patrons.
“The design and colors will be based upon the theme of the river life,” Furr said.
County officials said once the design process is completed the blueprints can be released to begin the bid process.
“There is nothing we would like better than to have a beautiful, finished library ready for the East Hancock residents by late next fall or Christmas,” Furr said.
U.S. District Judge Peter Beer, a member of the Fans of the Nydia, stands next to a model of the historic sloop Nydia at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans. The actual vessel will becom an exhibit at Biloxi’s Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.
NEW ORLEANS, La.
A Biloxi museum is getting a sailboat that was left to Tulane University — along with nearly $390,000 — in exchange for a promise to preserve it for at least 99 years.
The Nydia, built about 1898 at the Johnson Shipyard, “represents the ultimate in boat-building skills, a pure example of Biloxi boat building,” said Robin Krohn-David, executive director of the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi.
In the 1950s, a youthful Ralph Wood Pringle joined a short list of mariners allowed to take the helm of Albert Baldwin Wood’s beloved sailboat.
“She was very fast and a lot of fun,” Pringle, of Diamondhead, said of the sloop.
“She was balanced perfectly,” he said . “You would hold the tiller and there would be no pressure on it. He had the mast raked just right, tilted just a little aft.”
Pringle — a great-nephew of Wood, the brilliant general superintendent of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board during the 1940s and 1950s — recently wrested the Nydia from Wood’s alma mater, Tulane University. He and others have secured a new, high-profile home for the nautical treasure on the Mississippi Gulf Coast: the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi.
The Nydia “is the only known Johnson boat left,” said Krohn-David. “It represents the ultimate in boat-building skills, a pure example of Biloxi boat building.”
Alongside Biloxi’s Back Bay, the Nydia was constructed of cypress and steam-bent oak at the shipyard owned by William N. Johnson, a Biloxi native with a reputation for fabricating fast boats.
“She will be placed on display in the main atrium with her mast rigged,” said Krohn-David, when the museums restoration is complete.
The return of the Nydia marked the end of a court challenge questioning Tulane’s stewardship of the sailboat.
Wood, who also had a house in New Orleans, had a powerful electric spotlight mounted outside his house in Biloxi to shine on the sloop. He arranged an extraordinary pact — aboard the boat he loved — with Tulane for his beloved boat to be cared for long after his death.
Wood died at a heart attack shortly after setting sail for Horn Island on May 10, 1956. He was 77.
In his will, Wood agreed to provide Tulane with his “residuary estate” in exchange for a commitment to carefully preserve the Nydia for at least 99 years. An internal university e-mail said Tulane received $388,000 from Wood’s estate in the mid-1970s.
It had been on display since the early 1960s, said Robert Bruce Jr., secretary of the Friends of the Nydia — a group informally created in 2002 and formally organized in 2004 to preserve the wooden gaff–rigged sailing sloop and celebrate the local history of recreational sailing.
Pringle and Wood’s great-niece, Jane “Susie” Pringle Seal of Bay St. Louis, filed a state lawsuit in April 2007, saying Tulane was not living up to its agreement. But Wood’s descendants had complained the boat was neglected years earlier.
A check on Sept. 24, 2003, found “overgrown vegetation obscured the view of Nydia, bullet holes were in the glass portion of the enclosure, standing water was on the floor of the enclosure, bird or animal droppings were on the forecabin and loose-leaf paper and a hair comb were on the foredeck,” according to one exhibit in the suit.
An internal Tulane communication noted the Wood heirs had written university President Scott Cowen about the boat’s condition on Oct. 1, 2003.
The Nydia was moved from storage Aug. 9, 2005 — weeks before Hurricane Katrina — and moved to a Tulane research center in Belle Chasse.
Tulane has never said it failed to keep its promise to Wood. “Tulane has cared for and exhibited the boat for close to 50 years,” said Michael Strecker, a Tulane spokesman.
The lawsuit was settled out of court July 1.
The next day, the “Nydia was moved from Tulane’s Belle Chase campus to … the Seaway Marine Center in Gulfport,” Bruce said.
Strecker said both sides agreed that other details about the settlement will stay private. The Nydia’s scheduled inclusion among other maritime artifacts in the Biloxi museum will begin a new exhibition phase for the vessel. And it will allow the sloop to again receive the adoration and care desired by the engineering genius who died in its embrace.
“There was really no public viewing of it” since its removal from the Uptown campus, said U.S. District Judge Peter Beer, chairman of the Friends of Nydia. “Now, of course, it is going to get a lot of viewing at the museum.
“The whole thing is a happy ending for everyone,” said Beer. “The heirs are happy. The Friends of Nydia are happy. And Tulane’s happy it does not have to search for a spot to put the boat on display.”
Sixteen firefighters and seven fully loaded trucks will leave New York City on Tuesday, bound for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
They will be met here by another 16 firefighters, who will fly in, and Mississippi Santa organizer Charles Green with another loaded truck from Pensacola, Fla.
The toys they’ve all collected will be distributed Saturday to needy children in Bayou La Batre, Ala., Moss Point, Biloxi, Gulfport and Hancock County.
This is the fifth year the firefighters have participated in Mississippi Santa, which started as a supply run to the Coast following Hurricane Katrina and has evolved into a huge holiday toy-distribution project.
“It snowballed from water and blankets to a full-fledged toy drive,” said FDNY Battalion Chief Jim Jacobs.
Jacobs enjoys the interaction with the children.
“I don’t consider myself rich, but when you see people with so little who are so grateful, it’s humbling,” he said.
The active-duty and retired firefighters will arrive Thursday. They’ll get police and fire escorts in Bayou La Batre and make their way to Steep Hollow Baptist Church in rural Hancock County, unloading by hand the pallets of gifts and treats at the five distribution points.
On Friday they’ll split up and visit the Head Start programs in the areas where the toys will be distributed, handing out books and firefighter helmets to the children and sharing fire-safety tips. Volunteers from Junior Auxiliaries and other groups along the Coast sort the items dropped off at each location by age, and create Teddy Bear Mountain — a huge mound of stuffed animals from which children can select a friend, Green said.
Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, children age 10 and under are escorted through the lines at each distribution spot to choose two gifts and visit with Santa.
Green, originally from Pascagoula, said he’s grateful to the businesses who shower the New York firefighters with Southern hospitality during their visit. The Isle of Capri gives them two nights of rooms and meals and they also get meals from IP, Hard Rock and Beau Rivage casinos.
Felix’s Fish Camp Grill in Mobile hosts a dinner in their honor and Bobby Mahoney of Mary Mahoney’s Old French House hosts a lunch for them as well.
Last year the group brought toys for more than 10,000 children, Green said. With the addition of a Biloxi drop, he is sure that number will increase.