VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.: Politician locks out voters, arrests vet

The local Veterans for Peace chapter, along with members of the Tidewater Peace Alliance and Military Families Speak Out, had been circulating petitions to end the Iraq war and on Feb. 22 tried to deliver them to their congresswoman, Thelma Drake, a Republican. They gathered in the parking lot, petitions in hand, when a man claiming to be the landlord pulled up and blocked part of the parking lot with his “big Mercedes,” the antiwar activists said. By the time they reached the door of Drake’s office, it was locked.

According to eyewitness Ann Williams, Vietnam vet Tom Palumbo “sat down quietly on the sidewalk with his sign and back to Thelma’s door, saying he would wait until Thelma or one of her staff members became available.”

Williams continued, “All they had to do was listen to us for five minutes and accept the petitions on Thelma’s behalf.”

Instead, what someone in the office did was call the police. Palumbo was arrested, charged with criminal trespass and released on his own recognizance. Palumbo goes to court March 26.

The group still has their petitions and plans to try to hand deliver them, again, to their representative.

CHICAGO: City Council elections shift towards independence

The Feb. 27 municipal elections here marked a historic shift in favor of labor and independent candidates. The elections became an arena for a sharpening clash between global corporations and organized labor after Mayor Daley vetoed the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance last year. For the first time in its history, the Chicago Federation of Labor and especially the Service Employees International Union targeted several city council aldermen for defeat. They ran several trade union members for office, fielded some 600 volunteers and spent $1 million during the campaign.

While Daley was re-elected, without the CFL endorsement, he will have to deal with a significant block of independent aldermen.

Two labor-backed candidates, Sandi Jackson, wife of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and Brendan Reilly, defeated machine-backed incumbents.

Labor-supported candidates forced 11 other incumbent aldermen into runoffs on April 17. These include union members Toni Foulkes from the United Food and Commercial Workers, SEIU shop steward Leroy Jones and public worker Joann Thompson, an AFSCME member.

The Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association threatened to spend $1.5 million to defeat aldermen supported by labor. They funneled $110,000 from Wal-Mart and Target into the race in the last days. But not one of the current pro-labor aldermen was defeated.

NEW ORLEANS: Profiteering, toxic trailers overshadow Mardi Gras

Standing in the still-devastated Lower Ninth Ward, ministers from All Congregations Together denounced the $7.5 billion Road Home recovery plan as a “failure” and a “fraud.” Eighteen months after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, only 1 percent of the more than 100,000 applicants for relief have received aid to rebuild their devastated homes.

At this pace, it will take until 2028 for Katrina victims to get paid, said the Rev. Joseph Campion, pastor of St. David and St. Maurice churches. “We’re calling for an immediate investigation.”

ICF International, a California-based corporation, was hired by the state to administer the Road Home program. It has already taken a $756 million profit to parcel out federal aid to New Orleans’ residents.

In addition, the temporary housing, 102,000 FEMA trailers costing $2.6 billion, are causing serious health problems, charged the Sierra Club.

“FEMA trailers should come with a warning sign: ‘Hazardous To Your Health,’” said Leslie March, of the group’s Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Task Force.

Testing by the Sierra Club showed that 83 percent of the trailers had formaldehyde levels that exceeded the EPA limit of 0.10 parts per million.

“We know one family that moved into a storage shed because their daughter threw up every time she spent time in the FEMA trailer,” said Becky Gillette, co-chair of the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club.

The group’s research indicated that trailer residents experienced irritated eyes, breathing problems, headaches, nausea and skin rashes.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @ John Bachtell contributed to this week’s clips.