Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting back to our roots

This summer, HSC will turn 15. We're going through some changes, as adolescents do, and we wanted to take a look back at where we came from. What was going on in Miami and the nation in 1995? What was HSC's role in these events? Find out in the first in a series of videos about our history.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Miami Dade Budget Cuts

After reading Matthew Haggman’s article in the Miami Herald, I am appalled that with all of Miami-Dade County’s cuts to jobs, spending and services over the past year, employees and officials still receive excessive benefits. I understand that the benefits subsidize their salaries but the amount that some receive is outrageous.

For example, County Manager George Burgess receives a $101,787 benefit package which in my opinion is not really necessary when his salary is $326,340. The median income in Miami-Dade is $43,921; it is hard to justify a $428,127 salary package. Court Manager George Burgess makes more than 7 times the median income of Miami which is declining due to job loss.

I’m not trying to pick fun at George Burgess but at what point is it enough? We have to keep our officials accountable and sometimes that means sacrificing a brand spanking new luxury sedan for a more economical option.

Car allowances have been a debate issue for so long and it still has yet to be resolved. In the state of our economy, we need our commissioners, mayor and other Miami-Dade county officials to step up to plate and lead by example. If the budget is so bad that people’s jobs will no longer receive funding, how can Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez expect tax payer’s dollars to go towards a brand new 2010 BMW 550i Gran Turismo sedan when our city is cutting teachers? Get a Chrysler, Ford or GM and help stimulate our national economy for a portion of the cost.

It’s time to lead by example and prove that the public’s best interest is at heart. Currently, public sentiment towards our government is low and to regain public trust our leaders have to make sacrifices just as other sectors. According to the Miami Herald article, Mayor Alavarez expressed, “erasing the perk for all county leaders is a legitimate question at a time of economic austerity, but he's not ready to make the leap unless others do too.” A mayor is like a president, a leader chosen by his constituents. Imagine if President Obama said that. It’s like a campaign based on, “Yes, people are struggling but I won’t create change” Who would support that? We need a leader who will take the initiative in making decisions and not make excuses for indecision; by not acting a decision is made. Stand by decisions and deal with the repercussions.

These budget cuts will have grave repercussions on the lives of the people that use services that are funded by the county budget. Now more than ever is the time for our government officials to rise up and start to deal with these budget cuts. For it’s the actions that are taken right now that will have an effect on our future. We all, not only the government, need to take the necessary actions to stop or at least lower the impact of cuts to the budget. It’s the kids, teacher, survivors of violence and anyone who utilizes social services whether through government or organization that will be impacted. I’ve taken it upon myself to do something that could benefit my community. I signed the Penny Wise Campaign in order to show county leader that there are constituents like myself that cuts to the budget show not impact the social services that save people’s live.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Speech and Debate

Last Friday, Human Services Coalition hosted its annual fundraiser at the Gable Stage Theater at the Biltmore in Miami. The event honored Linda Carmona-Sanchez, the executive director of A+ Early Learning Center, and Miguel Milanes. The featured show, Speech and Debate, drew applause from everyone in attendance and the auction beforehand proved to be a crowd-pleaser. After the event, HSC hosted a reception at the Biltmore Lounge, which contributed to the night’s proceeds. Below are images taken at the reception. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Penny For Your (Vocal) Thoughts

Last Tuesday, advocates for the Penny Wise Campaign rocked out during our press conference and subsequent special delivery of the gigantic Penny & Petition Duo to Mayor Alvarez's office--only the first of many Penny Wise actions to come. Jessica wrote about this team effort a few blog entries below, and now you can see it for yourself. It attests to the power of collective action to respond to this budget crisis; it announces the entry of our voices--"They say cut back, we say fight back!"--into the equation. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen, and let's keep it up!

Spreading the Wisdom

Star HSC interns Luke Soto and Daniel Rebello were invited to talk about the Penny Wise Campaign on the airwaves. Their interview will feature on the show "Life Changers" on Tuesday, June 22 and Friday, July 9 at 5:30pm on station 1080 AM. Or you can always check it out here!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Goodbye, Farewell, to You, My Friend

On this partly cloudy Friday, the Penny Wise Intern Organizers, Human Services Coalition and the City of Miami bid farewell to our most valuable player—Lucas Soto (Penny Wise Campaign, Faith-Based Organization Petition Outreach Coordinator). After four incredibly fruitful weeks, Luke is leaving to study abroad in Spain, an experience that will surely pale in comparison to his time at Human Services Coalition. Luke has been the most dedicated contributor to the Penny Wise Campaign, compiling contact lists, e-mailing and calling organizations, recording radio interviews and dabbling in video-editing. His passion and determination have been an inspiration for all of us, motivating us to truly impact our community and protect social services and jobs from county budget cuts.

Yesterday, Luke, along with another intern Daniel Rebello, recorded an interview for the 1080 AM radio show Life Changers. The interview will air on June 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM. The purpose of the interview was to spread the word about the campaign and direct people to the online petition. Please support Luke, Penny Wise and HSC by tuning into the interview and signing thepetition. Let us make sure his efforts were not in vain.

Click below to watch Luke’s farewell video message—it’ll give you a taste of the crazy character we’ve come to appreciate!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interview with Trudy Krasovic of SwitchBoard of Miami

In a recent conference call, I spoke with Trudy Krasovic of SwitchBoard of Miami about the potential budget cuts to social services and jobs and how they would affect her organization. Switchboard of Miami provides a confidential crisis hotline for people who find themselves in desperate situations. This organization receives approximately 180,000 calls per year. She commented that “If we lose funding, it would mean that we cannot hire as many counselors as we need…It’s very hard to find volunteers.” This would result in increased wait time for people who, for the most part, don’t have seconds to spare. Unfortunately, Switchboard of Miami serves as the only link that many of these people have to the outside world. Drastic cuts to social services would adversely affect not only numerous organizations receiving county funding, but also the hundreds of thousands of people that rely on these services to survive. Please support social services, such as SwitchBoard of Miami, and jobs by signing the Penny Wise Campaign PETITION!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Penny Wise Campaign Press Conference 6/15

Today, the Penny Wise Campaign held its first press conference at the Government Center in Downtown Miami. In attendance were representatives from various organizations, including: Human Services Coalition, MUJER, Curley’s House, Switchboard of Miami, Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy and Jewish Community Relations Council. WSVN-7 Fox and Telemundo 51 documented the event and filmed interviews. Numerous community members listened as representatives discussed how their organizations would be affected by massive budget cuts to social services and jobs. The Penny Wise Campaign brought along a 5-foot-tall penny and an enormous petition and delivered these items to Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s office after the press conference. Throughout the event, Penny Wise Intern Organizers gathered signature from community members, all of whom voiced enthusiasm about the campaign.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Social Works according to Shannon Jackson

Listening to the opening remarks at the Performance Studies International conference in Toronto, I'm inspired by scholar Shannon Jackson's observations that radical artists who oppose the state often find themselves in the awkward position of sharing the neoconservative (aka Tea Party) position that government should be "hands off." But how, she asks, do we reconcile the impulse to say "hands off" when what we are calling for (especially for Jackson, as a professor at UC-Berkeley during massive state budget cuts), when what we really want is a government that's hand on? Her answer is something she calls "infrastructural avowal."

What does that mean? That rather than blindly celebrating independence and pretending that the ideal citizen is autonomous -- with no need for welfare or state-funded education or health care -- we recognize that all of us need each other. And the government is uniquely suited for helping us care for each other. Maybe the image we're all looking for is not "hands off" or "hands on," but hands together.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Penny Wise Campaign Training Session Recap

Last Thursday, HSC hosted training sessions downtown and in South Dade to educate community members about the looming budget cuts and provide them with public speaking techniques to be able to discuss the objectives of the Penny Wise Campaign. The Penny Wise Campaign is an initiative that represents many organizations and numerous individuals who stand to be adversely affected by funding cuts. The loss of county funding would mean drastically reduced resources at a time when the need for these community services and jobs is at an all time high. One of the principal goals is to gather 10,000 signatures and present them to undecided District Commissioners in the hopes of convincing them to vote for a minimal property tax increase that will offset the budget cuts to social services and jobs. I, along with several organization representatives, attended the South Dade meeting. Those organizations that were represented included: MUJER, We Care, enFamilia, We Count and the Hearing & Speech Center of Florida. The executive directors of all of these organizations proposed ideas for spreading the word about the Penny Wise Campaign. They suggested creating color-coded t-shirts to represent each district at upcoming events, as well as creating video testimonials from people that currently receive social services. All of the 16 people in attendance voiced interest in participating in the campaign and making a strong impact on South Dade, principally districts 8 and 9. They planned to meet again in the near future to delegate specific tasks.

Overall, the meeting was a good indication that there are many organizations and individuals interested in protecting social services and jobs.

HSC has formed a team of interns and staff that is in charge of coordinating the petition outreach effort. It is the goal of the Penny Wise Campaign to gather 10,000 signatures from districts 4, 5, 6, 9, 11 and 13 in the next 5 weeks. These districts are of particular importance because their commissioners are undecided on the matter. Please sign the petition and forward it to as many friends and contacts as possible so that we can effect change in Miami-Dade County!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Penny Wise Training Session TONIGHT

This evening, from 6 to 8 pm, the Human Services Coalition will host training sessions at 1900 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 200, and at the South Dade Regional Library. The sessions will discuss the Penny Wise Campaign, which was formed to convince constituents of the need to prevent Miami-Dade Commissioners and the Mayor from cutting $400 million from social services and other important county jobs. The premise behind the campaign is that an increase of approximately $100 in property taxes would allow the county to avoid cutting important social services. Without these services, numerous community members would find themselves without the means to survive and prosper. The session will train community residents on public speaking techniques that can be used to garner support for the campaign. We hope to gather 50,000 signatures for our petition in favor of a property tax increase, which would amount to a few pennies per month and would serve to protect social services and county jobs. The signatures will be presented to district commissioners once they have been gathered. This will hopefully serve to convince commissioners that they need to vote yes on a property tax increase.

Summer in Miami: shows, summits and freebies

Amnesty International presents: Taxi to the Dark Side

Amnesty is screening the film Taxi to the Dark Side, which won the 2007 Academy Award for a documentary feature. The film portrays the murder of an Afghan taxi driver who was beaten to death by American soldiers while being detained at the Bagram Air base. A discussion about the documentary will follow.

Where: Freedom Tower--600 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
When: June 4, 5 pm

Public Allies Showcase in the Garden

As a Public Ally myself I have to offer a shameless, completely biased plug for this event. Here's what you need to know:

1. There will be food, drinks and live entertainment. A few of my fellow Allies are performing (spoiler: there will be break-dancing), along with a few Allies-allies (friends).
2. It only costs $15 to spend the evening at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Even if you aren't interested in partying down with the Allies (we're fun!), having a chance to relax in a beautiful garden has to be worth $15.
3. Public Allies rocks. As Allies, we spend 10 months working for community organizations, creating our own service projects and attending leadership trainings. This is rewarding for the participants, but also for the community. Your donations at this event will support PA-Miami.

You can buy tickets online or at the door.

Where: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden--10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables
When: June 10, 6 pm

Speech and Debate

I think we could all use a laugh these days, and HSC can use your support. Proceeds from this showing of the comedy Speech and Debate will support HSC's programs. There will be a cocktail reception following the show and HSC will honor some of our dear community partners, Linda Carmona-Sanchez and Miguel Milanes.

Where: GableStage--1200 Anastasion Ave., Coral Gables
When: June 18, 7:30 pm

The Greater Everglades Food Summit

"A conference to envision a local food system that is vibrant, healthy, just, sustainable and resilient! This summit will include a who's-who of local food professionals and enthusiasts from South Florida, providing and unprecedented networking and partnership-building opportunity...." Learn more and register.

Where: Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus--300 NE 2 Ave, Miami, room 3201

When: July 12, 8 am - 6:30 pm; July 13, 8 am - 1:30 pm

Free Sundays at Fairchild

Fairchild is offering free admission on Sundays in August. You had me at "free." These kinds of opportunities are what make living in Miami so wonderful. Fresh air, beautiful plants, no cost: yes, please.

Where: Fairchild, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables
When: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, Sundays in August