Benjamin L. Cardin

Marc Morial

Marion Wright Edelman

 


After Interior Exempts Florida from Controversial Offshore Drilling Plan, Cardin and Van Hollen Call on Trump Administration to Ban Drilling Off Maryland’s Coast Too
Twenty-two senators from Rhode Island, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Maryland say their states don’t want oil & gas drilling off their coasts and demand equal treatment

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of U.S. Senators representing coastal states is telling the Trump Administration that they don’t want oil and gas drilling off their coasts, and are demanding the same respect for their states that was recently given to Florida, which was granted a special exemption by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

In a letter sent to Secretary Zinke today, 22 U.S. Senators, including Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), requested that their states be given the same treatment that the Trump Administration gave Florida and be immediately exempted from any new offshore oil or gas leases. This follows their letter last week to Secretary Zinke protesting the move.

Last week, the Trump Administration announced a controversial plan to dramatically expand drilling leases across 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf, including the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and parts of the Arctic Ocean. Soon thereafter, the Interior Secretary had a discussion with Florida’s Governor and took the offshore drilling expansion off the table for federal waters off the coast of Florida without any public hearings or input, stating: “I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” The Trump Administration denies that Florida received a special exemption because President Trump owns property along the state’s coastline.

The Senators want an immediate exemption for their states too, writing: “Just like Florida, our states are unique with vibrant coastal economies. Providing all of our states with the same exemption from dangerous offshore oil and gas drilling would ensure that vital industries from tourism to recreation to fishing are not needlessly placed in harm’s way.

“We urge you to honor the commitment of this Administration by listening to the local and state voices that we represent and to respect their overwhelming opposition to oil and gas drilling off our coasts. Instead of focusing on short term benefits for oil and gas companies, our country should be looking toward a clean energy future. We hope we can work with you to protect our natural resources, our environment, and the livelihoods of coastal residents so that they remain for future generations.”

In addition to Cardin and Van Hollen, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

These Senators strongly oppose the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling plan, which is bad for the environment and public health and could devastate coastal economies.

A copy of the letter text follows:

January 11, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke,

Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We write to you today regarding your recent decision to remove Florida from inclusion in the Trump Administration’s new proposal to open up the vast majority of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling. We request that our states also be immediately exempted from any new oil or gas leases as a part of this plan.

In the statement on your decision to remove Florida, you indicated that President Trump had directed you to reestablish our country’s offshore oil and gas leasing program in a way that “takes into consideration the local and state voice.” In addition to Florida, the states of Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, California, Oregon, and Washington have all opposed this plan for new leases off their coasts. Coastal cities and towns across the country have also passed resolutions in opposition while local residents, businesses, scientists, the military, and others have publicly raised serious concerns.

Just like Florida, our states are unique with vibrant coastal economies. Providing all of our states with the same exemption from dangerous offshore oil and gas drilling would ensure that vital industries from tourism to recreation to fishing are not needlessly placed in harm’s way.

We urge you to honor the commitment of this Administration by listening to the local and state voices that we represent and to respect their overwhelming opposition to oil and gas drilling off our coasts. Instead of focusing on short term benefits for oil and gas companies, our country should be looking toward a clean energy future. We hope we can work with you to protect our natural resources, our environment, and the livelihoods of coastal residents so that they remain for future generations.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

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2018 Marks the 50th Anniversary of a Momentous Year in Civil Rights

“It is not an overstatement to say that the destiny of the entire human race depends on what is going on in America today. This is a staggering reality to the rest of the world; they must feel like passengers in a supersonic jetliner who are forced to watch helplessly while a passel of drunks, hypes, freaks, and madmen fight for the controls and the pilot’s seat.”

—Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, 1968”

 

As we embark upon the new year of 2018, we step into the 50th anniversary of a year that shook the world, in particular the world of civil rights in the United States.

Perhaps the most momentous of these events are the assassinations of Martín Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Both of these tragic deaths hold personal significance for my family. My parents, civil rights activists, were personally acquainted with the Rev. King. My mother, Sybil Morial, and King were students together at Boston University while she pursued her Masters Degree in education and he his PhD in theology. In her memoir, Witness to Change, she writes of the moment on April 4 when she learned of his death:

I could hardly grasp the words: Martin Luther King has been shot to death in Memphis. Dutch was in the study. I called to him, and he came and stood by me. “Martin has been killed.” I could hardly say the words; I could hardly believe it. Not Martin. Dutch and I watched the gruesome footage in silence.

She recalled the words of his final speech, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

He knew it, but we didn’t. And we didn’t understand his death. I was inconsolable … I said to Dutch, “Now that Martin is gone, what will become of the movement?” “It will go on. It must.”

My late father-in-law, Ross Miller, was a trauma surgeon and Kennedy campaigner who was present at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5. When the shots rang out, he bravely stepped forward and tried to save the lives of Kennedy and others who where wounded.

These deaths are but two of the civil rights milestones of that historic year half a century ago.

On February 8, the Orangeburg Massacre took place in South Carolina. Highway Patrol officers opened fire on a crowd of 200 student gathered on the campus of South Carolina State University to demonstrate against the continued segregation at the bowling alley. Three young men were killed and 27 other protesters were injured.

On April 11, amid continuing unrest triggered by King’s murder, President Lyndon Johnson signed one of the most significant laws of the era—the Civil Rights Act Of 1968, more commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. The Act prohibited not only racial and religious discrimination in the sale or rental of a home, but also racially-motivated threats, intimidation or retaliation in relation to housing.

In a move often cited as inspiration by current-day activists, on October 2 Black Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos African-American athletes raised their arms in a black power salute after winning the gold and bronze medals in the men’s 200 meters.

November 22 saw the first interracial kiss ever to air on television in the United States, between the characters Captain James Kirk and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, on the program Star Trek.

In the coming year, we will observe many of these anniversaries in-depth. We begin the year reflection on a half-century of civil eight progress, and the progress that lies ahead.

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Missed Opportunities to Help Homeless Youths

Home for the holidays. For many people that’s a happy phrase, just as for many Americans the last few weeks included welcomed vacations and celebrations—a time of plenty, gratitude, and family that marked the joyous holiday season. But “home for the holidays” is an empty promise for thousands of young people who didn’t have a place at anyone’s holiday tables and have little hope for a better 2018. Instead they move into the new year trying to survive the bitter temperatures and with still nowhere to call home.

Too often they are forgotten in the cold and the shadows. The new report Missed Opportunities from Voices of Youth Count, an initiative of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, is the first in a series aimed at shining a spotlight on the quiet but enormous crisis of unaccompanied youth homelessness in America. It notes one in 10 young adults 18–25 years old—3.5 million—and at least one in 30 teenagers 13–17 years old—700,000—experienced some form of homelessness in a recent year. It opens with Natalie’s story:

“At age 14 in a small town in Washington State, Natalie’s experience with homelessness began. Natalie’s dad left her family, and her mom fell into depression and started using methamphetamines. ‘[I]f she wasn’t drunk or high, she was gone’ … For the next six months, Natalie cared for her four younger siblings. She started to miss school and ultimately dropped out. The stress of her circumstance mounted. Through friends, she encountered meth, a drug that had become tragically common in her community. She started using. This only added to conflict with her mom, and, after a fight with her mom’s new boyfriend, Natalie was kicked out.

“Natalie then cycled between couch surfing and trap houses, where illegal drugs are sold. She exchanged sex with an older man so that she could ‘have a roof over [her] head.’ Natalie traveled to other cities for housing and informal support. By 17, when chemical dependency had taken a strong hold, she stayed for extended periods in the shed of someone she knew. Natalie found herself regularly returning to juvenile detention—where she says she was grateful for a bed to sleep in and respites of safety … “

Natalie is not alone. Missed Opportunities highlights results from a national survey that

captured youth homelessness broadly, including couch surfing, sleeping on the streets, in cars, and in shelters. There is constant movement. The survey found that one half of the older group and one quarter of the younger group involved couch surfing only and half of those who experienced homelessness faced it for the first time.

In addition to documenting how shockingly widespread youth homelessness is, the report highlights some specifics: Rates are similar in rural and urban areas. Black youths had an 83 percent higher risk and Latino youths a 33 percent higher risk of being homeless than youths of other races. Poor youths, LGBT youths, unmarried young parents, and youths with less than a high school diploma or GED are all at especially high risk. It notes: “Adolescence and young adulthood represent a key developmental window. Every day of housing instability and associated stress represents a missed opportunity to support healthy development and transitions to productive adulthood.” Missed Opportunities adds, “While the deprivation of housing stability was the common thread in Voices of Youth Count research, the stories of youth homelessness—and the opportunities for intervention—rarely centered on housing alone.”

Chapin Hall’s findings reinforce a similar message that came out of Sao Paulo, Brazil in November at the American Bar Association’s International Summit on the Legal Rights of Street-Connected Children and Youth, a conference focused on the global need to ensure legal rights and human rights for children and youth who spend time living on the streets, including those in the U.S. Around the world homeless youths are at high risk of hunger, poor health outcomes, physical violence, rape, and sexual exploitation. The dangers are real, but so is the opportunity for positive intervention if we are willing to act.

This crisis requires action by the United Nations but also by our United States Congress, state legislatures, and county social services. Missed Opportunities’ key recommendations include building prevention efforts where youths likely to experience homelessness are already in care, especially the child welfare, juvenile justice, and education systems. It recommends funding housing interventions, services, and prevention efforts on a scale with youth homelessness. Right now the Department of Health and Human Services’ Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program offers entry into transitional housing to only about 3,000 youths a year, a number far below the overwhelming need. And the challenges will increase. The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Republican majorities in Congress and the indefensibly huge deficit it will create to help billionaires and corporations are likely to rip apart the still inadequate safety net for babies, children and youths left behind and impose deep cuts in funds allocated to homeless youths and housing programs, health, social services and education programs in the future. It is profoundly cruel to turn our back on these youths and so many others in dire need.

Our most vulnerable young people deserve so much more in our rich nation. I hope everyone will realize the opportunity to improve the odds for unaccompanied homeless youths by being that neighbor who shows interest and kindness to teenagers, volunteering as a mentor or tutor, ensuring local schools and clinics are reaching out to homeless youths, and organizing and speaking up locally to ensure adequate levels of services to meet youth needs in small towns and large cities. If the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs could make significant strides in the past decade to ameliorate veteran homelessness, we can do the same for youths. As we end the season where many in America focused on the call in all major faith traditions to give and share, what better time could there be to make a warm home a priority and a plan for the future for all these young people. It will take all of us—as individuals, communities, and governments—to prepare these young people, our next generation, for successful futures and a more successful nation.

 

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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