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Comprehensive Community Change Journal Launched

LISC's Institute for Comprehensive Community Development has launched a new journal devoted to integrated and comprehensive neighborhood transformation.

“The Journal will be the go-to place to learn and think about what it takes to transform neighborhoods in America,” says Andrew Mooney, publisher of the Journal. “The Journal is the only publication focused on a comprehensive approach to community development."

Among other articles, the inaugural issue includes one by Anne Kubisch, Patricia Auspos, Prudence Brown, and Tom Dewar reviewing the findings from their excellent "Voices from the Field III: Lessons and Challenges from Two Decades of Community Change Efforts."

All you neighborhoodies should add both to your holiday reading list.

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City Finances Worsen

The National League of Cities released a new report yesterday that detailed worsening fiscal conditions. According to NLC:

Cities’ finances continue to weaken under the strain of the recession, resulting in cities being less able to meet their fiscal needs in 2011 and beyond. According to the National League of Cities’ annual report on cities’ fiscal conditions, financial officers report the largest spending cuts and loss of revenue in the 25-year history of the survey.

In the research brief, "City Fiscal Conditions in 2010", 87% of city finance officers report their cities are worse off financially than in 2009.  City revenues - as generated in property, sales, and income taxes - will decline -3.2% in inflation-adjusted dollars according to finance officers.  To compensate, city officials are cutting back spending, with expenditures declining by -2.3%.  These are the largest cutbacks in spending in the history of the survey and the fourth year in a row that revenue declined.

Financial pressures are forcing cities to layoff workers (79%), delay or cancel capital infrastructure projects (69%), and modify health benefits (34%).  There were also significant increases in the number of officers reporting across-the-board services cuts (25%) and public safety cuts (25%).  Public safety is usually reduced only as a last resort option.

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President Announces New Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative

President Obama announced a new President's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative on Monday, June 21. The initiative is tied to the White House's Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which also has a satellite office in the Department of Education.

According to a Washington Post story on the announcement:

Obama will ask Congress to move on his $500 million budget request for a Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund, which would give grants to nonprofits that support fathers and families, including job training programs and economic incentives for dads.

Also:

The administration will begin issuing an e-newsletter from the Fatherhood.gov Web site, emphasizing the role of fathers in families and offering parenting tips. Outside groups enlisted by the White House will also promote the issue. The NFL Players Association has agreed to hold community forums on responsible fatherhood, and the National Parent Teachers Association, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and other groups will hold events.

For more information, see the Fatherhood.gov web site or National Fatherhood Initiative, a related nonprofit web site which was founded in 1994 and, according to the Washington Post, "recently contracted with the federal government to produce public service announcements promoting fatherhood."

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Filling the Marriage Gap

The Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page mentioned Promise Neighborhoods and HCZ in his most recent column. In it, he notes the increasing national rate of non-marital births, which have occurred across all sectors of society but have been most devastating in low-income communities, where children are denied parental role models and the stability that comes with an intact family.

The topic was considered explosive in the 1960s when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an Assistant Labor Secretary for President Johnson (later a senator from New York), authored a report on it.

According to Page, it may be time to revisit the issue. In his column, he liberally quotes James T. Patterson, history professor emeritus at Brown University and author of a book entitled, "Freedom Is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America's Struggle Over Black Family Life From LBJ to Obama."

According to Page:

We now have a black president who has repeatedly expressed the same alarm over black family disintegration that touched off a culture war when Moynihan expressed it. Yet, we as a nation still seem to prefer argument over action.

The problem is that marriage is a deeply personal issue, one that is difficult for governments to address directly. But it may be possible for governments to at least address some of the consequences. Page continues:

Patterson finds hope in programs like the nationally acclaimed Harlem Children's Zone, which "wraps children in a community of love," as its founder Geoffrey Canada likes to say, while they're still in the womb. Young couples are offered counseling and other help for their children from prenatal to college.

Page concludes:

President Barack Obama promised in his 2008 presidential campaign to help replicate the Zone in 20 cities. It's not the long-sought "magic bullet" to beat the problems of child poverty, but if there's any chance for us to fill the vanishing-marriage gap, all-inclusive, community-based approaches are a good place to start.

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Neighborhood Work Goes International

Geoffrey Canada is planning to work with the government of Hungary to bring the HCZ model there, according to an article by Dan Collins at the Huffington Post web site.

HCZ will be holding a two-day workshop in Washington, DC in June for the Hungarian government. HCZ is partnering with the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in the effort.

Readers of this blog may not know that we at United Neighborhood Centers of America are also part of an international body, the International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers (IFS). UNCA will be co-hosting an international conference with the federation, United Neighborhood Houses of New York, and several other organizations in NYC from October 4-9. Organizations interested in the conference should check out the conference web page.

The focus of the HCZ program would be children from the Roma minority in Hungary. According to the Huffington Post article:

The Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies, are Eastern Europe's most oppressed minority. In Hungary, the Roma suffer from high unemployment, pervasive poverty and low educational achievement, with only about 10 percent of their children finishing secondary school.

Roma children suffer from de facto segregation, and tend to wind up in special education classes and low-quality vocational schools. Much of the Roma story is a familiar tale to African Americans, a circumstance that prompted the Hungarian government to contact Canada.

This is a new effort for HCZ.

"We have done workshops for groups before, and had a national conference last November, but this is somewhat unprecedented for us in terms of doing such a large-scale workshop, particularly for a foreign country," said HCZ spokesman Marty Lipp.

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by Dr. Radut