Sunday, April 27, 2014

Charity Begins...

At home right?  I understand wholeheartedly the idea that we should think globally but act locally.  However what we do have is a world in chaos and sitting at home with our Ipods, Netflix, and smug superiority it does seem that doing something to help those in crisis is not just necessary it is imperative.

I used to think that until I realized that the crisis that I was reading and watching about were actually outside my door.   There was the third shooting in a month just a few blocks away, my neighbors are largely poor, immigrants, and I work in the public schools.  Enough said?

Yesterday coming home I saw the end of a rally for the $15 minimum wage and across the street my favorite was a group called "Sustainable Seattle" who were opposed to the idea of this wage increase.  I  have said many times words and the meaning of them are very dependent upon the individual using them.

It is why I have changed the theme and tone of this blog over the last few years.  Sustainability has a much wider impact than just building and design which is where it began.  To say the word "environmental" means just that - environment.  And what is an environment?  Well again that is a big word for a big world.  Act locally, think globally.

And when I opened the New York Times yesterday it appeared to have a theme as well - Philanthropy.

The first article was about Walmart's move into funding Charter schools and education reform.  Despite my own involvement as in "employment" in the schools I stay largely out of this highly charged debate.  

What I do have is an issue with the endless politicizing about ostensibly children.  And while professing to discuss what is best for children and future generations is laudable effort, doing so with any mention of profit margins is not only distressing its disturbing.  And that is all I have to say on the subject.

But what I found interesting about the article, which is here, is there is little actual discussion about the curriculum, a quote that 1/3 of the staff is Teach for America, well what about the remaining 2/3? Who are they and what do they think about this school.  And these test scores?  What are they and to what do they compare? What tests are administered and how often?

The article was really about politics and the influence of money and not education nor truly trying to help what all those are about, you know, the children.

And then the next article was about former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his role now as a Philanthropist.    No comment there but again it is about the influence of money and politics, not charity.

And another article from Ron Lieber about his efforts to donate money to the new charity, the middle man.  This is third party which the wealthy gives their monies to in an effort to pass off the research, obligation and in turn efforts to an organization who of course takes its cut while checking out the many duplicate and redundant foundations, charities and other non profits that disburse funds to whomever whatever is the of  the moment charity need.

What the article does show is that the trail of money reflects the trail of tears, once dry no one recalls or cares about the reason they began.  To hold a charity to the standards of a business then means it is a business and should have the clear expectations and measurements of performance, so then they are no longer a non profit and in turn no longer exempt from taxes.   Think of hospitals in your community and schools in the same way and then in turn if you are going to turn them into that, they are then accountable in every sense of every way public companies are.  Yes?

And if charities are businesses then the foundations that run them are and are also required to pay taxes, be transparent with their business and in turn accountable.  Yes?

And there is this article about Comcast and their role in what is their idea of philanthropy.  Interesting how that works.  One hand washes the other in the forms of checks and lobbying.  Wonder why net neutrality is back on the table? Well the table is never cleared until the check is paid.

And then there was this article about how a mogul used the charity as his personal ATM.  Was it about charity or about politics.  You decide.

And this article that truly demonstrates the collusion, whoops I mean collision, when it comes to charity and politics.

And aren't all donations really political?

Much is made of the giving pledge.  Well that is about giving when they are dead. How about when alive.  At least Bloomberg is planning to do his giving while alive and on that I concur.  See and meet those whose lives you affect.  If you don't care about who or what or where the money goes to then sure wait until you are dead.

But walk outside your door and ask yourself is this all about giving money or giving and in turn getting more.

I was impressed with the concept behind the rally about increasing the wages here but last week I saw the transit bill die faster than a picked flower.   If there is anything I know about Seattle is the inertia that it has when it comes to the heavy lifting.  Many of those who would most benefit from the wage hike don't vote, many who would be affected by that same hike weren't there.  Who was there well intended white older people and their younger equivalent.

Across the street was a Hispanic laborer working on sheet rock in a empty house soon I am sure to be turned for our ever increasing gentrifying neighborhood.   Just don't tell the new occupants about all the shootings a 1/4 mile away.

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