Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bait & Switch

Greetings good citizen,

Every once in a while you encounter ‘direct evidence’ regarding the current state of what passes for ‘civilization’. tonight’s offering provides us with an opportunity to explore an issue that has cost Lou Dobbs his spot as an anchor for CNN.

Maine Town Is Riven by Housing Dispute

Published: November 14, 2009

MILBRIDGE, Me. — Down a rural road where wood smoke spirals from chimneys in the settling twilight, a five-acre lot thick with spruce trees is the unlikely site of a dream deferred.

This is the intended spot for a small apartment complex for farmworkers, a few hundred of whom are Hispanics living year-round in this remote corner of Down East Maine. They harvest blueberries, process seafood and assemble holiday wreaths, and most live in trailers near the fields and factories where they work.

A local nonprofit group won a $1 million federal grant last year to build the six-unit complex, a first step toward expanding housing options for the immigrant laborers, most of whom come from Mexico and Honduras.

But then ugly words were uttered, a petition was circulated, and voters in this town of 1,300 approved a moratorium on multifamily housing in June, blocking the project. [First thing to ask yourself good citizen is why? Why are Federal funds being used to construct housing for so-called ‘migrant’ workers? Don’t the jobs these ‘migrant workers’ came all the way here from Honduras to perform pay them enough to live on?]

Now the group, Mano en Mano — Spanish for Hand in Hand — has filed a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and the equal protection clause of the Constitution. And Milbridge, which once won acclaim for its efforts to welcome and integrate immigrants, is smarting from accusations of racism. [Missing from this picture is the fact these people ARE NOT citizens of the US. So why should taxpayer funds be used to provide these non-citizens with subsidized housing? More curious is whether or not the immigrant’s EMPLOYER isn’t behind this ‘non-profit’ group.]

“We have always been very open and receptive and accommodating,” said Lewis Pinkham, the town manager, police chief and code enforcement officer. “In my personal opinion, this got blown out of proportion.” [What do you suppose the odds are that big chief ‘Many Hats’ had a gun held to his worthless head by the fucking CHEAPSKATE employer? The bigger question is how these ‘immigrant’s’ came to be 5,000 miles away from where they started?]

According to the lawsuit and local newspaper accounts, some residents opposed the project on grounds that farmworkers’ children overburdened the schools; others predicted it would be a drug haven. The petition, signed by 48 residents, said jobs should be saved for local lobstermen, whose industry is suffering, and not “given out to minorities that may move into these units.” [But that ‘sentiment’ also totally misses the point that these jobs don’t pay enough for the immigrants to survive on. If the immigrants were being paid a reasonable wage, there would be no need to use federal funds to construct housing, the ‘private sector’ would make the housing happen.]

Hispanics are a rare sight in Maine; more than 96 percent of the population is white, tying it with Vermont as the least diverse state. And while most immigrant groups here have clustered in cities — Somalis in Lewiston, for example, and Sudanese in Portland — Hispanics tend to scatter through smaller communities, making their ranks feel even thinner. [FOUL! It’s dirty pool to emphasize the ‘whiteness’ of the region as the ‘cause’ of the so-called dispute. It’s more than a little ‘counter-intuitive’ that Hondurans would travel 5,000 miles, clear across the entire United States to the coast of Maine for jobs that don’t pay them enough to live on…]

Not so in Milbridge, though, where Anais Tomezsko, director of Mano en Mano, said Hispanics made up perhaps 10 percent of the population or more. Washington County, which produces most of the nation’s wild blueberries, draws thousands of them every summer to help with the harvest. And when a sea cucumber processing plant opened here in 1995, offering year-round jobs, some began to stay. [Listen to the BULLSHIT fly! Picking fucking BLUEBERRIES for three or four weeks out of a year doesn’t pay enough to justify travelling 10,000 miles at your own expense. Hell, they can’t live in Maine on what they make ‘helping’ with the harvest. Which is at the base of the argument here!]

“It felt very isolated,” said Edith Flores, 30, who came with her parents a decade ago to work at the sea cucumber plant. “But it was sort of like the town where I come from in Mexico, where everyone knows each other. It was calm, peaceful.”

Beth Russet, a nurse practitioner and founding member of Mano en Mano, said their presence has shored up the town as the population of rural Maine has aged and dwindled. [Did I mention that Maine was in an ‘economic desert’? It’s true…Real Estate is still reasonable there for the exact same reason it is reasonable in the Rustbelt…if you choose to live there you have to bring your job with you because there aren’t any there. Living less than an hour away from the Maine border I know what I’m talking about. It was my sales territory twice and it redefined the term ‘Slim Pickens’.]

“It’s great that there are young families excited to stay here,” she said. [Um, what Beth doesn’t realize is there’d be a lot more of them if the fucking cheapskates paid a damn living wage…but it is apparently more ‘productive’ to discuss how ‘prejudice’ the ‘crackers’ up Maine are!]

But housing has been a constant challenge, Ms. Tomezsko said. The region’s only subsidized apartment complex has a long waiting list, she said, and the few rental homes in Milbridge are usually too expensive for farmworkers — about $500 a month for a one-bedroom. “We have two or three people coming in every week asking about housing,” she said, “and we’re usually at a loss.” [Understand good citizen that $500 a month is ‘dirt cheap’ for New England…you can’t rent a broom-closet around Boston for less than three times that amount. I add that for those of you unfamiliar with real estate prices in the area. Oh, to make matters worse, the price to heat a one bedroom apartment in Maine runs pretty close to the cost of rent…and the ‘heating season’ is 9 months long…]

Ms. Russet said the town initially embraced year-round immigrants, even holding potluck suppers to help them fit in. Mano en Mano gave Spanish lessons — to bank employees who were struggling to communicate with Hispanic customers, among others — and the town won a grant to tutor immigrants.

But the constant drain of jobs has made native residents less receptive, others said, even though most shun the low-paying farm and factory work that immigrants do. [Here’s where the ‘poor immigrant’ argument breaks down…why do you suppose the locals ‘shun’ these jobs that only people unfamiliar with the area are willing to take? And what is the ‘point’ of this article again…isn’t it about building ‘subsidized housing’ for people that aren’t being paid enough to rent decent accommodations? What about people that have lived in Maine their entire lives who can’t afford to stay there so the must leave the state?]

The county’s unemployment rate is 10.4 percent, and 20 percent of its population lives in poverty. In a letter to a local newspaper, one resident pointed out that many native Mainers, not just immigrants, live in tumbledown trailers.

“When there is very little work,” the letter said, “bringing more people in does not solve the problem.” [Bringing in people willing to work for less CERTAINLY does nothing to help the circumstances of the native population…all it does is boost profits for the (absentee) owners of these operations!]

In another letter, the resident, B. J. Seymour, wrote that multifamily housing complexes “are popular as halfway homes for recovering addicts, transients, sex offenders, seasonal workers, parolees and those with limited mental abilities.”

The building moratorium was scheduled to expire last month, but at a town meeting in September, residents voted to extend it. They also voted down a proposal to exempt the Mano en Mano project from the moratorium and let it move forward. [Yeah, let’s have everybody accuse the residents of a small Maine community of being ‘prejudice’ and exclusionary while ignoring the real problem…living wages!]

Tenants at Mano en Mano’s housing project — the first of its kind in Maine — would have to be American citizens or permanent residents who made a certain percentage of their income from agriculture or aquaculture under the terms of the federal grant, from the Department of Agriculture. They could be of any race. [Race isn’t the issue here, although the article is trying real hard to make it the issue! No, the real issue here is using tax dollars to construct (subsidized) accommodations for people a particular employer (group of employers) does not pay (or desire to pay) a living wage to, for the area.]

But Mr. Pinkham said residents were more irked by the fact that Mano en Mano, as a nonprofit group, would be exempt from paying property taxes. [Methinks old Pinky, himself drawing three paychecks from local public coffers, ‘misstates’ the situation.]

“Everybody feels that everybody should pay their own fair way,” he said, estimating that the complex would pay $10,000 a year in property taxes if privately owned. “That’s what I’ve heard the most complaints about.”

As for the charges of racism, Mr. Pinkham said the town “can’t gag people.” “No matter where you go,” he added, “you can have one or two people stand up in a crowd and say some comments that aren’t the sentiment of the entire town.”

Mr. Pinkham said the town imposed the building moratorium not to block Mano en Mano’s project but to revise its land-use laws.

Residents will vote Monday on a zoning ordinance that would likely allow the project to move forward, he said.

Ms. Flores said that during a recent town meeting about the project, the hostility toward it — and toward Hispanics, she said — made her feel like “a cat surrounded by dogs.”

“I’m brown, dark hair, and it doesn’t matter if I’m a citizen of the U.S.,” she said. “Just like everyone else in the Latino community, I’m looked at as a newcomer who’s taking away jobs or asking for more than what we should have.”

Geez Louise, pay the people a living wage and this problem dries up and blows away…but NO, instead we have to build ‘subsidized housing’ so we can keep a segment of the local workforce repressed.

And don’t you think for a minute that the people responsible for bringing these people up to Maine from Honduras won’t point at the fact they live in subsidized housing (that won’t be maintained) when ‘review time’ rolls around.

Um, unlike Mr. Dobbs , we will leave the ‘legality’ issue aside and instead focus on what causes an individual to pack up their family and travel roughly 5,000 miles to perform a job that doesn’t pay him enough to support his family on…

Naturally, if it were just one family, the discussion may turn almost immediately to ‘mental competency’ but no, we’re talking 130 (not necessarily illegal) immigrants who have traveled across the entire US to take jobs in ‘New England’s own economic desert’, the great state of Maine!

Um, key to this particular instance is we have the ‘assertion’ that the immigrants have come (again, around 5,000 miles) to perform jobs that the ‘locals’ shun…

Perhaps more telling is how the ‘dispute’ itself centers on FEDERAL FUNDING for PUBLIC HOUSING to provide these (not necessarily) ‘migrant laborers’ with suitable lodging.

The little community that currently ‘hosts’ these migrant workers has altered their zoning laws in a way that prevents these units from being constructed.

The article, er, ‘emphasizes’ the fact that these people are Spanish speakers…thereby masking the true issue here and it’s the same issue we encounter EVERYTIME immigrants are lured to work sites the local labor force shuns.

Why don’t the locals take up these jobs? Apparently the people who write these articles think you’re too stupid to understand that the problem is these jobs don’t pay enough to live on (Which is why they are using ‘FEDERAL FUNDS’ to build these people a place to stay! Worse, the apartments will be ‘subsidized’ so whoever gets to be the ‘lucky landlord’ will be collecting the difference between what the migrants pay and what the apartments would attract from ‘fair market’ renters, from local taxpayers!

It REALLY pisses me off to see this kind of swindle defended as having ‘sympathy’ for the disadvantaged South American workers who are simply trying to build a better life for their families, here in the ‘land of opportunity’ (for the freaking capitalist!)

Sometimes it’s worse to get a look at something up and personal like this because it illustrates all of the other scams and schemes that conservative oligarchs cook up to bash their political opponents with.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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