ST. LOUIS: Coalition forms to rescue health care

Over 200 residents joined members of the clergy and elected officials Feb. 20 to kick off a campaign to salvage health care for 89,000 people set to be slashed from Missouri’s Medicaid rolls.

Freshman Republican Gov. Matt Blunt plans to balance the state budget by denying health care to working parents who earn over $391 a month, closing drug treatment centers, and eliminating health care to disabled persons who work.

“What’s happening in this state as far as the proposed budget cuts is nothing short of sinful,” said the Rev. Ken McKoy, president of St. Louis ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), a core group in the coalition.

Daphne Walker, acting executive director of Committed Caring Faith Communities, said the cuts would slam the door on 11,000 people currently receiving treatment for substance abuse. “When people can’t get treatment, they die, end up in the hospital or end up in jail or prison,” she said.

The coalition launched a petition drive to reverse the cuts.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Officials protest block grant, housing cuts

Mayor Bernard Kincaid fired off hot letters Feb. 21 to the state’s congressional delegation protesting the Bush administration’s proposal to cut the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program from $4.6 billion to $3.7 billion, and its plan to transfer management of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Commerce Department.

Birmingham’s City Council is drafting a resolution to keep the program in its present form so as to preserve housing for 800 residents and money for an additional 300 residents to fix up their homes. Birmingham also uses CDBG funding for shelter for homeless residents and staffing for senior day care facilities. The Girl Scouts, the Urban League and Childcare Resources also depend on CDBG to operate.

The director of the city’s Department of Community Development, Jim Fenstermaker, said, “All of those [programs] are in the block grant and if it gets zeroed out they face zero funding.”

TOMBSTONE, Ariz.: Vigilantes threaten undocumented workers

“There are more and more of these anti-immigrant, paramilitary groups, but we had never before seen any with as many volunteers as Minuteman claims to have,” said Jennifer Allen, director of Tucson-based Border Action Network, an organization which defends immigrant workers’ rights and lives.

Allen responded to published reports that the Minuteman Project, a virulently racist group based in California, had recruited over 500 “volunteers” who plan to descend on Tombstone April 1 for a month of armed “patrolling” of a 40-mile sector along the U.S.-Mexican border with the supposed aim of blocking the flow of undocumented workers from Mexico.

Mayor Ray Borane of Douglas, Ariz., said his town is closed to the Minuteman group because it is made up of “white supremacists, racists and very dangerous people.”

The Mexican government said it is monitoring the planned Minuteman armed invasion and the U.S. Border Patrol has issued a statement calling on Minuteman to “stay home.”

SAN FRANCISCO: Environmental groups sue Bush to save forests

A coalition of conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, filed a complaint Feb. 1 in federal court to halt Bush administration efforts to destroy the national forest system. The complaint adds to a lawsuit filed by the same coalition in November 2004.

Magnificent forests, property of the U.S. people, comprise about 8 percent of the total U.S. land mass and have been protected under federal law since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. The Bush administration wants to open them up to energy and logging corporations with no regulation.

“The new Bush forest rules aren’t rules at all,” said Trent Orr, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group. “They are more like suggestions. They turn forest management to mush, mocking the intent of Congress and undermining public participation in the process. Agencies need leadership and clear guidance, not this wink and nod that encourages the exploitation of the public’s resources.”

Mike Anderson, spokesman for the Wilderness Society, charged that Bush “…went on search and destroy mission for any environmental safeguard that might stand between the administration’s donors and the public’s trees.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (