Friday, June 21, 2019

Crashing Waves

The economy is now at the past ten year mark of high waves with some small crashes that while have been in response to the ever changing climate of Washington and that of Trump's bizarre feuds and antics we have not seen anything akin to the crash of 2008 that brought the rich to their knees (okay maybe one as they clearly don't fall ever fully to their knees) and the poor flat on their backs.  That said I am beginning to wonder where and when the next Katrina meets Sandy will fall.

I do think we are at "full" employment but there are still great schools of fish under/unemployed - the faces of color, the older workforce that never found jobs that were akin to their pre 2008 incomes and since then have aged out of the market due to the lack of education or the skill set match up that is used to supposedly deny jobs.  Interesting that you have a degree, a work history and are clearly mentally competent but to the powers that be that are often well into their own dotage they seem to think you must be stupid to be fired/laid off or out of work.  Right that whole intrinsic, up by your boot straps bullshit that is used to blame and deny the reality that for the working classes you were born that way.   We all can't be born to the rich.

That is the truth, we are born to families whose SES determine our faith.  For some the crawl, the fight and the climb up the ladder is possible but that is fewer and farther in reality for most.  Shocking, no not really, that children born into wealth have better access and in availability to find education and work that will compensate them securely for life.   They can be even stupid and not attain the academic success of their poorer counterpoint and still thanks to those family ties manage to find jobs, keep said jobs and be secure in their lineage. It explains also why these same individuals seemingly go off the deep end when any demand for change, including taxes, funding education, mass transit or social justice is met with stone cold silence. Preservation of the status and the quo matter bitches!

I see it here more in the South and likely this is the same in the more conservative climates where weather is just a statement of fact and not one man made.  Keep to your own kind and we will ride out our storm in a fine Mercedes SUV on the way out of town, you poors just keep your head down. Aspiration begins with ass and this class has a lot of it.

I laughed when my neighborhood suddenly was proclaimed an Opportunity Zone and I realized the opportunity was about how rich people can buy a bunch of property, defer the taxes and gains for over ten years regardless of what the build does for the neighborhood.  Fancy commercial structures that sit largely empty and in turn add to traffic and other infrastructure issues not a problem when you don't live there.   If the moron who owned this apartment building waited just a few weeks he would have learned about this tax break and sold the lot for millions more than he did by converting it to condos.   Like many of the apartments here, such as this one, or this one, or this one.  He would have had an amazing cash windfall none of the headaches of selling it piece by piece and retaining and setting up an interest to continue to pay taxes and upkeep on what will become an expensive property when Nashville gets it shit together to raise property taxes to pay for operating the city.  But stupid here is redefined here in the push for greed.  As for the morons who actually bought these units most are unoccupied full time and the rest are idiots for doing so. Good luck with that!

Nashville is house rich but cash poor.  The reality is that we now have a surplus of housing and the costs to buy and in turn maintain said homes are not sustainable.  That may explain why the largest growth push of new builds is for multi family housing as this city is a place for transients who have migrated here for school or for low wage work largely in the hospitality industry.  The new South is the Old South, largely working class, lowly educated and coming from once established union or working class jobs that were well compensated in urban areas that enabled them to be house rich, bu as we know with regards to wages, cash poor,  and they in turn sold their homes and moved South for cheaper cost of living as they were now cash rich but house poor.  So they bought cheap houses and with that turned a dump into a mini mansion.  And then irony on top of irony that led to a raise in the cost of living and they priced out those just like them and the rung on the ladder they resided got very crowded.

Right now  Davidson County where Nashville sits has the lowest property taxes in the region and it does so because of the push to get white rich people to move here and they have, well not the rich part.  Anyone highly educated and employed will set up a house here and then benefit from having a primary residence in a no income tax state where a a real mansion costs little to upkeep and then fly out when the heat gets sticky and the stupid sticks to you like the cum stained floors of Party Fowl.  But the politics of the red are those that they cannot deny are the ones that keep the quo and the status of their class and lineage well established so being socially liberal in the South means you call your Servants, Jesus, in every sense of the word and avoid all the whole black white issue. And the Budget shortfall once again leaves the working class and poor fucked while Municipal employees, including Police/Fire Fighters/Teachers/et al at subsistence wages that prices them right out of the city they serve.  Keep it coming and we will all be going.

Nashville once again has proven to be a farce when it comes to it.  The fake charity, the fake monies being earned comes to truth when it came to the NFL Draft.   The recent article about how local Chefs/Restaurant Owners saw little of the "billions" that supposedly poured in like the cheap draft they serve at the nearby Honky Tonks, many of them closed and rented by the NFL so they had no problem with their income that weekend.   This coupled with the reality that it appears that the average visitor spends just under a $100/per person when here.  This is a white trash paradise and what does one buy when they are drunk most of the time.  We had a Scooter death a couple of weeks ago and of course he was drunk. Gosh what a shock! No, not really.

There are endless stories of rapes, pick pockets and other thefts in the varying bars that align Broadway and in reality some of the behavior and demeanor of the varying clientele warrant a barring or two as it is dangerous for anyone who crosses the street by foot or car.  It is a parade that frankly is best unseen.  But crime overall here is a massive problem with three homicides over a 24 hour period this week.  And if you are black your life does not matter.

And speaking of Pride the annual festival culminates this week on the shadows of more angry crazy rhetoric from varying Ministers and Police and of course the Legislature on break has made their views crystal clear, so while Cracker Barrel may be all inclusive that is the exception to this rule here in the land of the baby Jesus.  Such as this District Attorney or how about Executioner Cop.

All of this could be resolved if people actually read, were informed and in turn voted. Ah hell no there are other cool things we have to do in this the city of shiny keys.

 And the waves will come crashing down as all this commercial build and crane counts may be counting down.   

And the reality is that real estate in the residential sector is not improving as this article states many are being priced out of the market.  And Atlanta which had the designation of HOTlanta for awhile it was tagged as it is finding itself too successful for its own good.  And today the New York Times discusses the role of professional flippers that make Chip and Joanna seem amateur. And today I shopped for the last time at Lazzoli the Italian market that made amazing fresh pasta and mozzarella.  Their building sold to turn into more expensive housing.  Who will buy and live in it? I have no clue the wages and the cost of living here are in a collision course.

Nashville is imploding and I for one am out before the next wave hits.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Sharks are Circling

I wrote this piece to submit to Barcopa Literary Review. I just saw the rejection today nearly a month after I submitted it with the day after an email submitted in which it was promptly rejected. 

 I knew the piece was dark and frankly a negative if not accurate portrayal of what it is like living in the South.  Had I done my homework and actually researched this Journal I would have noticed it was from Gainesville, Florida, not exactly a bastion of liberal journalistic esteem.  Whoops. First rule of writing: Know Your Audience.

I share this with you and welcome feedback:

Swimming in the Deep Red Sea

When one has spent the bulk of one’s life swimming in the cool blue waters of the Pacific Northwest you find comfort in its brisk rush.  These are the waters that house the dangerous catch and volcanic ranges of mountains that align the city that erupted from the sky of Boeing and the tools of Microsoft.  A working class city, now a tech city, and the skyline has changed but the water has remained as blue and clear only richer for it.  All cities have their own contradictions and their ways of process but little prepared me for when I decided to take a deep dive into waters less familiar.  

It was June of 2016 when I and many others with our bags made of carpet arrived into the city of “it,” “Music City,” a city on the rise, a city with history that was less lumberjack but no less checkered when it comes to the composition of its music.  That was the only thing these two cities shared when I decided to dive in deep into the warm red waters of Nashville, Tennessee.

I thought I was a strong swimmer and could handle rough waters but that was not what I found. These waters were calm and warm but what lay beneath the surface was a coldness that I did not feel until I dove deep.  When I finally emerged I found myself choking on blood, sweat and tears that made me question every thing I knew and believed about myself and what I knew about those whom I shared a country but not an identity.

When I finally came ashore to take a respite from the endless churn and burn of the water I landed in a place that I did not understand and yet we shared the same language, however, not the same history. And that would be my first marker to know I was already in the deep with no rescue in sight. Well, that is if you do not include the barges that pass by, the taverns on pedals, the carts where the golf clubs are missing, the buses, the horses and carriages that pass by full of passengers oblivious to what is happening beyond the shore.  They cannot lend a hand as theirs hands are already full with the fuel used to keep these vehicles afloat. < The water in Nashville is neither clear nor blue and like the people equally deceptive.  What appears calm upon the surface is anything but as it possess a strong undertow that pulls you away from the shore, away the watchful eye of Batman as his vision is blocked by the endless cranes that arise upon the shore to take their place alongside this landmark.

They say this is a land of opportunity and the water is zoned for the Captains to take a cut but will they share it with those who built this city of it or will they take it to another port of call and find another “it” city in which to vest?

Water is a powerful symbol of faith and rebirth yet this same water only a few years ago tried to drown this city in a Baptism of its own making. And here in the Bible Belt there are endless blessings of heart and with it a dismissal, a warning that serves to remind you that only fools go where you are now treading water.  There is no Savior, only self-reliance and a strong backstroke that allows you to hold up those bootstraps that are in turn held by the belt and the buckle that shines upon it.

This is the belt that fuels the vessel of myths, of the stories told and sung in the choirs and stages that align the shore. I see the lighthouses on the horizon and they are alight and winking at me as if to remind me that the doors are not open for those like me and so keep swimming as I will not be saved.

The water is like the air, hot and sticky, yet it tastes sweet like the endless cups of tea that are tossed from the boats that pass by onto the way they call Broad to the tonks that honk, places that are less about worship and more about the real industry of this little big town by this river.  The siren call here is less about a warning of rocks ahead but more of a reminder to come in and leave the same way or in this case with a “Just Married” sign attached to the backside of your vessel.

Around me I see Sharks but their fins are Bibles and they are circling for blood but whose? Is it the blood of Christ or mine?  Is there a difference? Only a heretic would know and I know heresy when I hear it. Or is that hypocrisy?

Poverty is a blessing but it is one in disguise. For the words they read seem to be in direct contradiction to what is preached and there is no greater message than being rich in faith for it is that which gives one the shiny object that sits on the bow of the Yachts that align the piers of worship.

While an invitation is presented to come aboard one it was extended like the welcome mat upon arrival but was withdrawn once upon deck. For I did not have what the passengers needed to enable me to know their stories, their secrets, for if they were to share it was not to me.

It was here the prosperity pulpit rose and that the obsession with money is to remind those that regardless of the past it will not just be the river that will rise again.  Avarice is a sin but that does not apply to this the city on the rise with gleaming towers, mansions, to tall and skinny or minis like the new coffees for five dollars that are good to the last drop. Without them it would mean all that they prayed for would come to an end and that is not how this story is going to.  It is forever lasting like a resurrection that parallels its endless faith and promises that we already know are lies.

Truth is the enemy and much like the fish tales you hear as it serves to remind one that this is the land of the storyteller.  The stories are churned out like chum and in turn fed to the hungry fish below who eat their fill and become bloated and like cream they rise to the top where they are skimmed off and promptly flushed for they served their purpose.   And it is that lectern, that pulpit, where all speech arises.  It explains why so few do speak to you but instead at you.  They use that time to remand you, remind you, to lecture you when they choose to no longer ignore you. And while their words seem friendly the message is clear: You are not our kind and you are not of us and these are not the waters from where you came.   But it is the markers that align the shore that tell of the history of this place serving less as a reminder but more as a warning to all those who come now as to what happened to those who came before.

I think of the most infamous of the tales from the book of rule that and it was its most miraculous - the one the fishes and loaves; Here in this water we have many fish and we have the bread, only of another kind. But we also have bait and like shade it is tossed and neither offer relief.  Here the fish are more like sheep, no like lamb, only this one is not for purity its is for sacrifice and being led to the slaughter.  They will crowd you, push you, provoke you, tease and taunt you all followed by a denial of its intent.   There is no honor among thieves and here is where the honor code runs deep.   They never stop churning it, burning it or bringing it to the surface, as scores must be settled.   For this is a their sport, shooting fish in a barrel and they never seem to hit enough targets to feed the hungry.

Wages and earnings make a man but in Nashville they will break you. The sea is rising but the lifeboats are full.  The Captains of these industries feel that fighting for wages makes you a stronger swimmer; no it just makes you bait.  Minimum wage for maximum work is why we have lifesavers to stay afloat while awaiting rescue, but not here, for it is only sink or swim. So I keep swimming and the horizon seems further away.  Rest is for the wicked. Am I not wicked enough?   Prayer, as I have been told repeatedly, is the way to find salvation so instead I just keep swimming.

For what is on offer is much like what is on tap, you must pay to be served.    Come to Nashville where humble bragging is a sport, an avocation and a belief.  The endless declarations of the city’s placement on lists that tell of how the city tops one after another, yet they also neglect to mention the same lists that have a top also have a bottom of which they sit as well.  And like much plastic they are tossed and promptly choke the fish.    Here the true bosses of the city sit along the shore like Lifeguards only instead of watching for danger they watch for the swimmers to crash in around them. Just another day along the Cumberland, a river that circles the city like a snake, a symbol not lost here in this city of faith.   But what kind of faith depends on whom you ask.  So I jump back in looking for another place to find the respite I seek.< I am shark bait, like jail bait, I am fresh blood and that is another irony as the home to all private prisons just lay on the right side of the shore.  But that is the point there is only a right side in these red waters.

Ask and you shall not be forgiven for that is not an option on the menu at the Capitan’s Table. For every question there is another answer, another story, another version of the truth.  Don’t ask don’t tell in this city of faith that begets hate with each law they attempt to pass time and time again.  In this city of faith tolerance is a race and it is one not run but lived.  Tolerance is an act, given in exchange for the price one pays for admission and it is not cheap.   The rules of the maritime don’t apply here and they come from one book and that book is carried in hand and sits in every drawer, desk, and place of learning be it public or private for that is the book of laws.   It is a place of rage and where laws are made of hate, the better to rid the city of the interlopers/the non-believers.  This is a city of transients, seekers of gold, like those that once came West who have now moved South.  That which is old is not new, it is rebranded to make someone believe and belief is not just an act it is a necessity.

For every action is designed to cause a reaction, a lesson learned in school, as that is from a book of science and that is not where this is gleaned. For in these schools they have an order and a place in the ecosystem that is defined by their species.  They have magnets and charter boats and private Yachts to distinguish the Guppies from those that are gold.  The same book that writes the laws divides the waters in ways only Moses could have accomplished.  The book is what ensures that the quo remains the status and that only the biggest predators survive.  It is no coincidence that the team that skates on the ice here shares that name as the ice is not the only coldness in this little big town.  Perhaps it is why my tea tastes bitter not sweet as here a may be what puts the spit in hospitality.   Meat and threes are on offer for the plate but the plate has not been passed until the offering has been made. Exchange comes at a price and that is a high price one pays to belong.

These waters possess a calm that belies the storm.  The shade comes not from the trees as the axes fall when a big name game comes to town.   The Hurricane warnings ring and yet none appear on the horizon, for what or whom they toll makes one ask is that for me?  Perhaps the water is rising as it was due to the tears of those whose names and sprits align the shores and the hills that exist in Nashville, for it was they who built the fort of defense and the mansions of the Meade that filled the river to the point it overflowed with them nearly drowning this city only a decade ago like a Baptismal fount washes away the sins.

The land I came from seems so distant so far away but it too has faced a river that brought new fish to the waters of the sound, Piranhas. These are fish that eat flesh but this is a place that passes the bread as the body of Christ so no skin is lost in this game.    For the Amazon is full of riches and the plate has to be passed to make the offer to secure a new Lord whose name is as odd as the ones that fill the book of stories.The South shall rise again and flood the land with riches that all can see but not all can touch.

For one vested in the now it means history is like a reflection, it is simply looking back.  I was a fish out of water and for now this fish is shoaling, for I have no school in which to blend, to hide and wait in which to escape the lines that are tossed daily in my direction.  Fear is the mantra, the motivator and the threat.  It keeps us all moving.  For this water being fresh it is oddly salty, perhaps better to keep all that attempt to dive in afloat.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

What the Opp?

I have never laughed so hard since my mixed use neighborhood already well underway with regards to Gentrification was declared an Opportunity Zone. Really?  Was there some impetus that led to this as we have a James Beard award winning restaurant behind my building or the supposed SoHo Hotel being constructed on the corner? Or the tearing down of a former stadium to build a park?  All of these were well underway before this and then in turn the games began.

Now just a few hundred feet away an abandoned warehouse is now scheduled to be a high end commercial space. But the area has long been undergoing development with the first Track One which I live adjacent.  But now with the idea of a ten year tax break I expect more to follow and the interesting mixed use area is now just going to be bizarre combos of commercial properties with few tenants as Nashville is at peak growth and the reality is that the people relocating here are not entrepreneurs or creatives or whatever one thinks that rich educated folks that permeate the coasts will suddenly decide to dive into the red sea.  Nope.

Opportunity Zones are about the rich and them finding more ways to dodge taxes while professing to do good.  What.ever.

This article from The Washington Post debates the value behind these tax incentives while this discusses that the long term benefits are not as expected.   That was something I warned my neighbors about that if there was an uptick it would be short lived and that in turn the costs of rent and the commute will not change in reflection to that however.  What comes up does not come down

The “ridiculous loophole” that promises to improve low-income areas while benefiting the wealthy.  A federal program’s critics say it provides questionable benefits for low-income communities and hastens gentrification—while awarding large tax breaks to the wealthiest.

By Jessica Goodheart Fast Company
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.

New York City investor Morris Pearl made a tidy $47,000 by selling Facebook stock this year. Then, looking for ways to reinvest his capital gains and diversify his portfolio, he learned about a real estate deal he couldn’t pass up.

What caught his attention was not so much the fundamentals of the mixed-use project near downtown Los Angeles. Rather, it was what he described as the “ridiculous loophole” that would allow him to forgo paying a capital gains tax on his Facebook stock sale for as many as 10 years and avoid paying any taxes on what he earned from the $50,000 in total he planned to invest in the deal.

That “ridiculous loophole” is otherwise known as the opportunity zone program, a part of the federal 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act that received bipartisan support because it incentivizes the private sector to invest in high-poverty parts of the country.

Supporters, like U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) see opportunity zones as a way to attract investment to struggling communities that might otherwise be overlooked. “This is probably the biggest economic development tool that local government leaders have to attract capital and investment into their communities to create jobs and economic opportunity,” Booker said at a discussion hosted by the National Association of Counties last spring.

But critics say the program is merely a warmed-up version of a decades-old program that provides questionable benefits for low-income communities and hastens gentrification, while awarding large tax breaks to the wealthiest among us. Even some supporters are unsatisfied with the law as it currently stands, because it lacks adequate reporting requirements and accountability measures.

To date, the federal government has created more than 8,700 opportunity zones in states across the country and in five U.S. territories. Nearly 35 million Americans, more than 10% of the country’s population, live in areas designated as opportunity zones.

Pearl put his money in the redevelopment of land located at the industrial periphery of a reviving downtown Los Angeles. The project’s trajectory thus far highlights how little leverage city officials have to negotiate community benefits from opportunity zone investments. States nominate the zones for designation, with input from local governments, but the funds are managed by private real estate companies.

The $119 million mixed-use project is located at 400 North Avenue 19 on a gritty three-acre vacant, industrial parcel that abuts the concrete-lined Los Angeles River. It is slated to include housing, office, and retail space. The developer is Miami-based Fifteen Group, which is partnering with Lincoln Property Company, an international real estate firm based in Dallas.

Selling points include rising rents, rising home values and the expectation that affluent residents will continue to move into the greater downtown area, according to a memo that the New York-based real estate firm Cadre provided to investors. While the project promises to offer rents lower than those found in some of the surrounding neighborhoods, that differential should narrow as “the location becomes more core,” according to the memo. Cadre is expected to inject $57 million in equity into the project, and its investors are expected to yield two-and-half times the after-tax profits they would have gotten from a similar investment not located in an opportunity zone–or an additional $32 million.

Morris Pearl said he was not even aware his investment was supposed to have a social impact. “I don’t think the [tax] law had anything to do with promoting this building other than the fact that it made it more economical,” he said. “I assume that the intended beneficiaries are the real estate development industry.”

Among the beneficiaries could be President Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Jared Kushner is a passive investor and cofounder of Cadre, the firm that is managing the opportunity zone fund for the Los Angeles project. The Associated Press reported Kushner’s connection to Cadre in December, as well as the fact that he and spouse Ivanka Trump have been supporters of the opportunity zone program.
Targeted for eviction

Across the 5 freeway from the 400 North Avenue 19 project is the working-class neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, the city’s oldest suburb and a target for investors looking for the next up-and-coming walkable neighborhood. That has meant eviction notices for some longtime residents, as the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

Lincoln Heights residents facing gentrification pressures will not find much affordable housing over at 400 North Avenue 19, however. The vast majority of the 300 apartment units that are anticipated to be created will be market rate, according to Jay Cortez, a spokesperson for Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents the area and chairs the city’s housing committee.

Average rents at the project are expected to be $2,212, according to the investor memo. That’s more than twice the median rent Lincoln Heights residents pay, according to the most recent census data. Cortez said that about 15 units, or 5%, are expected to be accessible to very-low-income residents. The very-low-income threshold depends on family size, and, in Los Angeles County, applies to families of four earning below $48,450.

“Overall, [that’s] not necessarily the percentage that we seek,” said Cortez, who added that it is difficult to negotiate a higher percentage when “things are privately funded.” Typically, he said, the Council would attempt to negotiate deals in which the developer sets aside 10 to 15 percent of the housing units as very affordable.

Nor will the units be large enough to allow families to double up. They are expected to be less than 700 square feet on average, according to Cadre’s memo to investors.

The back of a Los Angeles opportunity zone project. [Photo: Flickr user Laurie Avocado]
Nonetheless, Cortez says the project will provide economic benefits to the community, including jobs. “It’s a largely industrial area that’s blighted and they’re looking to really change the landscape and make it more of a hub economically and for residential living,” said Cortez. Cortez, who had spoken to the Fifteen Group in the last month, said he was unaware that the developer was pursuing opportunity zone funds for the 400 North Avenue 19 project.

He adds that the project is a part of a larger complex, the redevelopment of the former Lincoln Heights jail across the street. That project is still undergoing environmental review and will likely be subject to more extensive negotiations with the city council office, according to Cortez. Together, they are expected to comprise the “Lincoln Heights Makers District,” a combination of commercial and manufacturing spaces, retail, office space and live-work housing, as well as an amphitheater with green space, according to a report in 2017 in the Real Deal.

Fifteen Group, which came under fire for evicting artists from lofts in a live-work arts’ colony in the Arts District last year, did not respond to requests for comment.
Lacking the guardrails to ensure investments help solve inequity

The inability of the Opportunity Zone program to guarantee benefits for those it is intended to help has not gone unnoticed. Last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced the creation of $5.5 million in grants to six cities to help local governments track capital coming into their region through the opportunity zone program and promote community involvement in projects. “While the spirit of the legislation is correct, it lacks the guardrails to ensure investments made in distressed areas directly help to solve some of the historic inequity within communities,” a representative of the foundation wrote in response to questions from Capital & Main.

Opportunity zones have a long lineage dating back at least to the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher offered tax breaks and regulatory relief to British businesses willing to set up in blighted areas designated as “enterprise zones.” Soon, U.S. states began setting up enterprise zones, and in the 1990s, the Clinton administration’s plans to create federal empowerment zones, a related program, gained steam in the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles.

There is weak evidence that enterprise zones foster economic growth and job creation, according to a number of studies including one from the General Accounting Office. That’s because tax incentives–unless they are truly large–are not usually the main influence on a business’s decision to grow or expand.

“In growing places, enterprise zones may do little more than reinforce growth trends, but in distressed places, they are seldom likely to be large enough to make a huge difference,” University of Iowa researchers Alan Peters and Peter Fisher wrote in their 2002 study on the topic.

Another problem is the type of investment they promote, says Samantha Jacoby, an analyst with the D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The incentive isn’t necessarily to invest in things that might have the biggest benefit for low-income communities like affordable housing or health facilities or grocery stores and food deserts. Those aren’t the things that have huge potential to go way up in value,” says Jacoby.

Another issue raised by critics like Jacoby is how to evaluate the benefits of the program. The Internal Revenue Service requires only bare bones reporting on the opportunity zone, she says. Booker and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), champions of the opportunity zone program, have co-sponsored a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for opportunity zones that were left out when it was hastily added to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

If the benefits to those living in the zones remain uncharted, the tax benefits that opportunity zones provide to investors are clear. Pearl, for example, will be able to defer taxes on his $50,000 in capital gains for years. If his $50,000 remains invested in the opportunity zone for five years, he will get a 10% break on the gains; after seven years, the tax break rises to 15%.

If he holds his investment in the Los Angeles opportunity zone for at least a decade, he will get a permanent capital gains tax exemption for all of the gains he realizes on that investments through 2047. There are few restrictions on what an opportunity zone fund can invest in. (However, massage parlors and liquor stores are considered “sin businesses” and are off-limits to opportunity zone investors.)

It should be said that Pearl is not your ordinary investor. The former BlackRock executive is chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of self-declared “class traitors” that came together in 2010 to demand an end to the Bush tax cuts for wealthy individuals. Members include Abigail Disney, who made waves earlier this year when she criticized the Walt Disney Company’s pay practices.

Pearl, whose entire income derives from long-term capital gains, puts his tax rate “in the teens,” a situation he tries to remedy with advocacy. Asked how he feels about benefiting from tax breaks for wealthy investors, even as he objects to them, he says, “That’s my whole point. The tax system is unfair in favor of people in my situation.”
discusses the history behind these types of programs and how little they do to benefit the community they are intended to serve.

Fast Company finds fault with much of the concept of this tax deferment and there are even questions whether this is a good investment strategy.

The Null of a Jury

 Yes the system is rigged. From the way we charge and process criminals we have a system set up to fail.  Once in you will never leave.

A jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness.
Jury nullification is a discretionary act, and is not a legally sanctioned function of the jury.  It is considered to be inconsistent with the jury's duty to return a verdict based solely on the law and the facts of the case.  The jury does not have a right to nullification, and counsel is not permitted to present the concept of jury nullification to the jury.  However, jury verdicts of acquittal are unassailable even where the verdict is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence and instruction of the law.

There is much being discussed about reforms across the criminal justice system.  Many Prosecutors are taking to emphatic arm waving to stop this and of course the varying Victim Lobby groups will be up and into the business of business that is about establishing a permanent victim class - see MADD for example.  

Read the below essays and ask yourself which side do you want to be on? 

I Was a Juror on a Murder Trial, And I Still Can’t Let It Go
“I felt an overwhelming sense of injustice. How did this happen?”
By Audrey Pischl

Being a juror had never been something I was familiar with—very far from it, actually. I had grown up in Paris, France, and my interests had always been in fashion and the music industry.

I lived in both Europe and the U.S., traveling back and forth, and worked for a high-profile entertainer for a number of years. For the most part, all I was concerned about was the brand of handbag or shoes that I would be buying next, and where I’d go on my next holiday.
Life Inside
Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system.
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But then I got that jury-duty notice in the post, or “by mail,” as you guys say. So many times, I’d heard people complaining about being called for jury duty—the inconvenience, the missing out on work and income, and then the advice on how to get out of it should you be so unlucky to be selected. I also knew that many potential jurors are dismissed before even making it to the courtroom.

Well, I did get called in, and I had to fill out a long personal questionnaire about my criminal history, if I knew anyone in law enforcement or any lawyers, and my views on guns, gangs, etc.

When I walked in, there were 80-plus other people waiting in movie theater-like seats (except they didn’t recline). Two defendants were present, along with a bailiff maintaining security.

Then, the judge informed us that this was a criminal trial: a murder case.

The questioning of us potential jurors from both the prosecution and the defense took a long time—many people wanted to have their moment to discuss their feelings about law and their past life events. When they got to me, they asked if I had any feelings about tattoos, and if I understood an aiding-and-abetting situation, and if I could be impartial.

Not really, yes, and yes, I said.

I was picked. And without a doubt, what happened next altered my life forever.

Here’s what the case was about: A group of five men were drinking beers in a driveway when someone, or multiple people, came running down the street toward them, shooting a gun. It was early in the evening. One guy was hit in the head and died instantly.

Surveillance videos showed two people running, with hoodies on, in the dark. The district attorney said this was an intentional, premeditated murder, carried out on behalf of a gang.

My first impressions of the two defendants were neutral: James, the taller one, sat up straight and seemed confident but not overly so, while Robert* was hunched down and, to me, looked like a “deer in headlights,” as the expression goes.

I felt immediately as if I could almost hear his thoughts. How did I end up here? How did this all happen to me? At times, he would gently pull his sleeves down over his hands’ tattoos.

James, meanwhile, looked more at ease with the attention and notoriety of a murder trial.

The main thing the district attorney kept returning to over and over again was the fact that Robert had gang tattoos, across his arms and hands. The prosecutor kept asking character witnesses if they knew the meaning of these images. The defense said he'd gotten them to look tougher—not because he'd “earned” them.

His boss even came in as a character witness for him, and praised him as a good person and a hard worker who often took on extra shifts. We also learned that he spent his weekends and free time going to the movies with his little sister.

My opinion was clear: Robert was not guilty, under the law as it was read to us at the end of the trial. If you have reasonable doubt, you have to vote not guilty.

Then deliberation time.

It was just like high school: the jurors got to know each other, had lunch together, shared some laughs during recess. During the six-week trial, things could get frustrating, too: Each of us had our own beliefs and ideas—and prejudices. Mix that in with the people who were in a rush to get back to work or tired of jury duty, and we got a dead end.

It ended in a mistrial: 7-5 guilty for James, 7-5 not guilty for Robert.

This could have been the end of it. I would go on with my fashionable life, return to my husband and being a mother. Surely I’d forget all of this rapidly, as most people do after jury duty.

But something happened for me. I found out after the trial that at the re-trial, the district attorney was seeking life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences for both James and Robert.

Life-without-parole. It was such an awful, confusing, impossible notion to me.

So I kept in touch with both attorneys. James followed his counsel’s advice and took a plea deal a few weeks later, taking responsibility for the crime with a 25-year sentence. Robert did not, and listened to his lawyer’s belief that he would be found not guilty at a second trial.

Less than four months later, in October, it began — and without James beside him, all eyes were on Robert, tattoos and all.
Case in Point
An examination of a single case that sheds light on the criminal justice system

Another juror from the first trial, Jill, and myself decided to attend this new trial. She felt the same way that I did about Robert’s innocence. At the opening arguments, he saw us, and, I think, recognized us, giving a small nod in our direction. It was clear we’d come to support him.

I observed the new set of jurors, seated as we had been, listening to all of the same pieces of evidence. They mostly seemed older, some a bit stone-faced, which gave me a strange feeling.

Then they too were off to deliberation.

I was so anxious for Robert. Later on that day, I heard from his attorney that the jurors had asked to review some evidence, which gave me a surge of confidence. Less than 24 hours later, I got a text saying there was already a verdict.

I contacted Jill and off we raced, back to the court house.

When we got there an hour later, we sat down, the jurors came in, and none of them looked towards the seating area—except the last one. And when she looked, it was toward the victim’s family. My heart sunk.

Guilty … Murder one, plus four counts of attempted murder.

I was floored. Robert’s family members were seated one row in front of me, and started to discreetly cry heavy tears.

In the elevator afterward, his mother broke down completely. I could almost touch her pain.

I felt an overwhelming sense of injustice. No new evidence was shown. How did this happen?

As soon as I got home, I knew that I couldn’t let Robert’s story go, and would find a way to try to help him somehow. I called the judge’s clerk and asked if it would be allowed to send a letter asking for leniency at sentencing—at least a chance, at some point in his life, for parole.

Then I started to call every lawyer I could in California, then other states, getting to know the law and how sentences work. I also gave my number to Robert’s family, in case he might want to speak to me someday.

The following week, he actually called me. I wasn’t expecting it, really, but within seconds he thanked me and asked me to pass along his gratitude to the other jurors for believing in him, and that he appreciated us coming to the second trial to support him. He sounded so young.

It was difficult to speak freely, as every few minutes I was reminded by an automatic voice that the call could be listened to and recorded.

We had another call few weeks later, and he seemed a bit more cheerful. He explained that he’d had a very good visit from his family the day before, and that he found out that he could take classes and have a job in prison.

Sentencing came a few days shy of Christmas. Life without parole: a death sentence with a different sticker on it.

It was never proven that Robert was the shooter in this crime, and he was shown to be a contributing U.S. citizen with a long-standing job and no prior run-ins with the law. No matter.

Robert’s case has made me engage with the world in ways I never thought I would. I keep in touch with four of my fellow jurors, and we meet up once in awhile.

I’m also getting involved with an organization that works on new state criminal-justice reform bills, including one that would remove life-without-parole as a possible sentence for someone who has not directly committed a murder.

Where has our humanity gone? Why do we care so little about people being sent to prison for their entire human lives, and what happens to them?

I have been told how unusual it is for a juror to become so involved in the case after-the-fact. But I find it sad that it could ever be unusual to know about what happens to people like Robert and care.

The Day I Didn’t Serve on a Jury in a Sex Assault Case
“As I left the courthouse it dawned on me that the judge had assumed the role of therapist.”
By Andrew Cohen

The first thing that struck me inside the courtroom was the palpable anger that some of my fellow prospective jurors emitted when they found out that the defendant in the case we had been called to serve was accused of sexually assaulting a minor. I would call the mood smoldering. One elderly women in the first row, with a grouchy disposition to begin with, immediately told the judge that she thought the defendant was guilty even though she knew nothing about the evidence. I mean, her arm shot into the air so quickly to make her point to the startled judge and the rest of us that I thought it would soar off her shoulder.

A handful of others also raised their hands, over and over again, to let the earnest judge and the prosecutor and the cop sitting next to her and the defense attorneys and the defendant himself know that there was no presumption of innocence when it came to sexual assault on a child. The candor was both disappointing and refreshing. It was disappointing that for so many people the nature of a crime itself transcends all of the ways in which the law has been crafted to protect the rights of defendants. It was refreshing because these jurors were all disqualifying themselves without forcing anyone to uncover their prejudice.
Life Inside
Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system.
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The second thing that struck me was how many women in our group of about 60 prospective jurors said in open court that they were unsure they could fairly judge the defendant because they had experienced some form of sexual abuse in their own lives or knew people who had. The judge was not surprised by these urgent responses; clearly he had heard it before in such cases, and so he quickly tried to reassure these prospective jurors that they would not be put on trial during the jury selection process; that they would not be asked by the lawyers to recount their own experiences.

But that didn’t mean the trial itself wouldn’t bring up memories that some jurors clearly wanted to repress. One juror said just that: that she wasn’t sure what the evidence would be, but that she feared it would force her to confront experiences in her past that she did not wish to confront. She didn’t say that she couldn’t fairly judge the case, she told all of us, she just wanted the judge and the lawyers to know how she felt. At this point, all we knew about the case—all I know about it now as I write this—is that the defendant faced one charge stemming from conduct between 2006 and 2009.

During all these exchanges I tried to watch the defendant from my vantage point in the jury box. He is a small man, and relatively thin, and looked to be in his 50s or 60s. The two defense attorneys, both women, both clearly younger than their client, had wisely placed him as far from the jury box as possible. I did not see him speak to his attorneys or interact with them in any way. I did not see him wince or otherwise react when he was adjudged guilty before the first witness had been heard, by the people called to give him a fair trial.

Some people in the jury pool were desperate not to serve. One said she had an elderly parent to take care of. Another said he had business travel he couldn’t miss. One man told us that he suffered from panic attacks and took Xanax several times throughout the day. One woman let us know she has Crohn’s disease and would need to go to the bathroom many times during the course of testimony. An elderly man said the same thing on account of his diabetes. The nice man sitting next to me couldn’t hear the judge even with his hearing aids turned up, so he was given a set of headphones (which he said didn’t work very well).

And then there were jurors, I would say the vast majority, who said they weren’t sure they could give the defendant a fair trial but were willing to keep an open mind. And those were the jurors the lawyers would fight over for the rest of the day. The jurors whose views about crime and punishment and law and order would be probed. The jurors who finally would hear the story of the crime and ultimately render their verdict about whether the man against the wall on the far side of the room was guilty or not.

I did not get selected. I never do. I never can get past the question the judges always ask about weighing a case based solely on the evidence and law presented in court. I agree such an admonition is essential, and too often ignored by jurors, but I cannot unlearn or forget what I have learned as a lawyer and after nearly a quarter of a century of work as a journalist covering criminal justice. In the span of the jury questioning I witnessed I already was wondering why the charges had come so many years after the alleged assault, and whether there were any plea negotiations before the start of the trial, and whether the defense planned to use expert witnesses to testify about the reliability of survivor testimony.

As I left the courthouse it dawned on me that the judge had assumed the role of therapist. That simply didn’t happen when I first started covering jury selections. We are having a different kind of national discussion these days about sexual assault, and how the law ought to handle it, and the echoes of that new dialogue permeated the courtroom even before the first witness was sworn in.

Senior Editor Andrew Cohen, a lawyer and legal analyst, edits The Marshall Project’s daily newsletter, Opening Statement. The defendant in the case, Ralph Ramon Lujan, was found guilty on March 12 of sexual assault on a minor child under the age of 15 by a person in a position of trust, a Class 3 felony in Colorado. He is being held without bond until his scheduled sentencing on May 20.

The "Good" Christian

That is the anathema of the statement.  Is not all Christianity in and of itself good and does it need an adjective to describe what is already inherent in the word itself?  Apparently.

Again in Tennessee the land where all good Christians come to die and by that I mean thousands of years ago when Jesus died as he may be the last of such goodness, another hate crime has been established by law.

The beginning of Pride Month is to celebrate and acknowledge the LGBQT community, its pleasures its pains and all those who support and love them be them straight, gay or in between.  Sexuality and intimacy are often two distinctly different concepts but during Pride it is a time to share the love and celebrate it.  I did until I moved here as I could not believe anyone Gay should live here as I did not feel it safe to do so.  The laws, the attitudes, the role of the Church are strong pulls in this city by the river that is not a blue oasis in a red state, more of a pink one.  The murders and bizarre antics directed toward those members of the community are more reasons for why I simply distance myself from a community that I wholly embraced for my entire life and yet Nashville managed to take that away from me as it slowly chipped away at all my beliefs and attitudes towards many issues and people the last three years.  This is why I cannot wait to leave to find myself again and be with those who celebrate the living not the dead.

And on this note another one bites the dust, read the story about the DA who is sure Domestic Violence does not apply to same sex couples. I am not sure what he would make of Trans/Cis/Straight or Trans/Trans couples, that would probably cause his head to implode.  Wow that I would celebrate.

This ‘good Christian’ prosecutor is overlooking domestic violence charges for same-sex couples

The Washington Post
By Deanna Paul
June 5 at 3:35 PM

Prosecutorial discretion is one of the greatest tools in a prosecutor’s toolbox. But the chief prosecutor in Tennessee used that power to impose his moral and religious views onto the people his office was tasked with protecting, according to a video released by Nashville television station News Channel 5.

Craig Northcott, the district attorney general of Coffee County, was recorded telling participants at a 2018 Bible conference what happens when voters elect a “good Christian man as DA.”

“Y’all need to know who your DA is,” he reminded the crowd. “You give us a lot of authority. . . . We can choose to prosecute anything. We can choose not to prosecute anything.”

Using what he termed “prosecutorial discretion,” Northcott said, “the social engineers on the Supreme Court now decided we have homosexual marriage. I disagree with them.”

In his jurisdiction, which includes the area that hosts the summer music festival Bonnaroo, Northcott ensured that same-sex partners would not be afforded the protections of domestic violence laws.

In Tennessee, a domestic assault conviction carries enhanced punishments, like permanently forfeiting the right to own a firearm. The prosecutor’s interpretation of the statute was that the sanctions were created to “recognize and protect the sanctity of marriage.”

When reached by phone, Northcott said, “There’s no marriage to protect with homosexual relationships, so I don’t prosecute them as domestic,” and refused to comment further.

It is unclear if Northcott, who took office in 2014, has acted on his statement, though as the chief prosecutor in Coffee County, he has discretion to make charging decisions.

A group of 200 attorneys permitted to practice in Tennessee wrote the state’s Board of Professional Responsibility on Wednesday, reporting Northcott and calling his “unacceptable” and “unethical” conduct the “highest level of prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of discretion.”

“We find this disturbing and unacceptable on multiple levels, the least of which being Mr. Northcott’s misunderstanding of domestic violence law in the State of Tennessee, where marriage or even romantic status is not an essential element for a charge of domestic assault,” the letter said.

[How domestic violence leads to murder]

In most states, the law does not require that a victim be married to his or her abuser to constitute a crime of intimate partner violence.

Under Tennessee law, while a victim of domestic abuse can be a former or current spouse, it is also defined as individuals who previously had or currently have a sexual relationship or people who previously or currently live together.

“Our definition of domestic abuse is extremely broad,” said Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence executive director Kathy Walsh, noting that Tennessee laws are not gender specific and do not discriminate based on sexual orientation. “We want to protect as many people as possible with our laws.”

But just having good laws is not enough, she said.

The consensus from advocates was that Monday’s video reinforces the need to continue educating the public about domestic violence and LGBTQ rights.

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, called it surprising that a Tennessee district attorney would refuse equal protection of the law to all victims of domestic violence.

"The scariest part of [the video] is that there are people whose cases have been affected, but they didn’t know why they were treated differently,” Sanders said. “Now, we do.”

Northcott is no stranger to controversy.

Less than two months ago, he was severely criticized for saying that Muslims have “no constitutional rights."

“There are only God-given rights protected by the Constitution. If you don’t believe in the one true God, there is nothing to protect,” News Channel 5 quoted him as saying in response to a claim that Muslims worshiped the same God as he.

Northcott refused to apologize and dismissed calls for his resignation at the time.