HBCU, Future at Stake in Fight Against Segregation in Maryland Higher Education

by J. Wyndal Gordon

Thank you Doc Cheatham of the National Action Network (NAN) for being an ardent court observer of the HBCU litigation in downtown Baltimore, Courtroom 7D, Garmatz Building, U.S. District Court of Maryland on Lombard Street. Cheathem was invited by me to speak with the Monumental City Bar Association’s (“MCBA”) General Body on January 26, 2012, to give members details on the case and to explain the import of supporting and participating in this most crucial litigation of our time. Our mere presence in the courtroom as conscientious observers was all that he had asked in exchange for the information shared.

On January 31, 2012, I accepted Cheatham’s request, walked down to the Federal Court and spent the entire day observing; and I was glad I did. The case was truly a clash of the Titans. It was so intriguing that I couldn’t leave until the day was almost done. I urge anyone who believes in justice and equality to do the same. The HBCU litigation is serious. It is the Brown v. Board of Education of our day and is being watched all over the country by everyone except, perhaps, by those it should matter to the most, -Us. The Plaintiffs, Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education (“Coalition”) consists of Maryland’s four HBCUs: Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. They are represented and lead by none other than the esteemed nationally renowned civil rights attorney, John C. Brittain, Micheal D. Jones, et al. The Defendant, State of Maryland (“State”), is being represented and lead by Craig A. Thompson, Kenneth L. Thompson, et al. The identified cast are well respected attorneys on a local and national scale, joined at center court for a battle royale, -and they happen to be African Americans pitted against one another in a fight for equality that would make Armageddon seem like a schoolyard tussle. Yesterday, I do not believe a single spectator in the entire courtroom was disappointed by the performances on both sides of the trial table. Not to mention Craig A. Thompson and Kenneth L. Thompson are erstwhile members of MCBA, although I firmly believe they are on the wrong side of this issue.

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Call for Papers for the 6th Annual State of Environmental Justice in America Conference

Announcing the Call for Papers for the 6th Annual State of Environmental Justice in America Conference. Selected abstracts will also have the opportunity to submit manuscripts for publication as proceedings in a supplement to the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Please your abstract of 500 words or less to C4Papers@ejconference.net no later than February 15, 2012.

Download Call for Papers 2012

USDOT renews its commitment to Environmental Justice

The USDOT is ready to take a fresh look at their Environmental Justice (EJ) policies. They are looking for feedback and ideas from transportation and community stakeholders. You can provide your insights from now until the end of the year in a few ways:

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Obama Administration Proposes Major Public Transportation Policy Shift to Highlight Livability

via the Federal Transit Administration

Changes Include Economic Development and Environmental Benefits

In a dramatic change from existing policy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

In remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, the Secretary announced the Obama Administration’s plans to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs.  As part of this initiative, the FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood.  “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”

The change will apply to how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates major transit projects going forward.  In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects.

“This new approach will help us do a much better job of aligning our priorities and values with our transit investments” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.  “No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid transit systems.”

FTA will soon initiate a separate rulemaking process, inviting public comment on ways to appropriately measure all the benefits that result from such investments.

Obama Administration Holds Up Oakland Airport Connector Stimulus Funds Over Civil Rights Complaint

Via the Urban Habitat Newsletter:

Obama Administration Holds Up Oakland Airport Connector Stimulus Funds over Civil Rights Complaint!

We need your help to cement this victory. Please join us at:

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) meeting on Wednesday, January 27th at 10am. 101 Eighth Street, Oakland, CA

Federal Transit Administration says BART plan “insufficient.. on many fronts”

Allies- Today marks a huge victory for transit riders, workers and tax payers. The Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has informed BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) that the agencies have put at risk $70 million in stimulus funding currently allocated to the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project. The action, the first of its kind in the nation, comes as a result of a complaint filed last Fall by nonprofit law firm Public Advocates Inc. on behalf of Urban Habitat, TransForm and Genesis, charging BART with failing to comply with federal civil rights obligations.

This decision forces the hand of the MTC to either cancel the project or to go double or nothing and bet $70 million on the chance that BART can prove that the project will not unduly impact low-income people and people of color. While it remains to be seen how MTC will react to this situation, it nonetheless a huge win for transit riders. Even if the project moves forward, our work over the past year, and the FTA’s ruling has sent a strong message that the days of steamrolling mega projects over communities of color are waning.

Demand Equity in Transportation Funding at the next MTC Meeting

While this victory speaks to the hard work that we all have been putting into stopping the project, it also underscores the need to continue to fight to make sure that stimulus money serves transit riders and preserves transit jobs. Next Wednesday, the 27th at 10am, the MTC board will discuss how to spend the anticipated next round of federal stimulus money. We need to bring a strong contingent to this meeting to demand that this money be used to stop fare hikes, services cuts, and layoffs rather than financing boondoggle projects like the OAC.

This morning, BART called a press conference, desperate to assure the Bay Area that the letter is just an administrative hiccup. Looking visibly shaken, BART spokespeople asserted once more their belief that the project will go forward despite the opposition.
“BART’s and MTC’s claims that these are “last minute requirements” are disingenuous,” said Bob Allen of Urban Habitat. “The fact is that both agencies ignored repeated warnings from the community and advocates to look at community consequences and project alternatives. What’s worse is that they falsely certified to the federal government that they had done what is necessary. Now their failure to follow the rules has put these funds at risk.”

MTC and BART Put $70M at Risk by Cutting Corners on Civil Rights

By federal law, FTA must redistribute to other regions any money that is not obligated on March 5, 2010, unless FTA determines that BART has met all requirements for the OAC project by that date or MTC reallocates it to eligible uses, such as increased transit service on existing bus lines. FTA’s letter makes it clear that trying to complete a required equity analysis in an effort to continue to allocate these funds to BART’s half-billion dollar OAC project by March 5 carries very significant risks.

“FTA is telling MTC and BART that the $70 million in stimulus funding will be taken away from the Bay Area unless MTC promptly reallocates it,” said Richard Marcantonio of Public Advocates Inc. “We call on MTC to shift the money to Plan B: preserving existing transit service as it promised it would do last February.”

“The OAC project is a poster child for bad regional planning,” said John Knox White from Transform. “By its failure to use common sense, do due diligence or respond to community concerns, BART has created a money-wasting half-million dollar boondoggle. MTC is complicit in failing to provide the required oversight of BART, and in causing massive transit cuts, fare hikes and pink slips that this funding could have prevented. It calls both agencies’ leadership and accountability into question.”

See also:

FTA letter to MTC and BART 1-15-10

A Chronology of the Connector

FTA Complaint

Audio from BART Press Conference

EJKIT – Now Mapping Accessibility in Baltimore

Baltimore Accessibility Mapping

Baltimore Accessibility Maps

The Baltimore Accessibility Maps Web Site lets you create a series of accessibility maps for Baltimore Transportation Analysis Zones. You can compare access to services (Retail, Office or Industry) for all TAZs or for a specific neighborhoods (e.g. West Baltimore). You can compare access to services by private car vs. public transport.

Read more here. Try it out here.

COMTO Nor Cal Recieves Caltrans Environmental Justice Planning Grant

As part of a groundbreaking environmental justice program funded by Caltrans, California’s transportation authority, two Bay Area transportation organizations will receive an environmental justice planning grant. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the Northern California chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) will be implementing the grant, which is designed to increase community collaboration between 18- to 25- year-old males, transportation governing bodies, and key decision makers. Project results will be captured in a guidebook of recommendations for integrating local concerns about safety and security into transportation decision making.

BART is the applicant and primary sponsor of this project. BART will act as the grant recipient in the contract with Caltrans, conduct general oversight, and support any required coordination of resources. The Northern California chapter of COMTO is the sub-applicant, providing on-the-ground leadership, making arrangements for all direct labor, and managing the bulk of the project’s efforts, including schedules, budget, and deliverables.

COMTO members wrote the grant application and are valuable participants in the implementation of the grant, providing project consultants, technical assistance, and access to governing and decision making boards and transportation agencies. Much of the work in support of this project involves information and data collection, outreach, surveys, and partnership coordination as well as meeting and event planning. COMTO’s large body of scholarship recipients, many of whom fit the target demographic, will be working with the chapter to implement the project.

The project will use a case study approach based on a dynamic environmental justice information processing toolkit developed by Glenn Robinson of Morgan State University, the Urban Research Institute, and its partners (www.BREJTP.com). The toolkit demonstrates how a dynamic environmental justice information processing experience can effectively engage the community in transportation planning. Lee L. Davis, COMTO Chapter President, recognizing the work of Morgan State and its partners, noted, “We acknowledge the group that developed the toolkit, which will provide a strong basis for reference as we develop the guidebook.”

For More Information
Contact: Marilyn Ababio, PM

Activists Meet With Feds Over Environmental Racism


Associated Press Writer

Posted: Oct. 27 5:28 p.m.

Updated: Oct. 27 9:30 p.m.

ATLANTA — Environmental and racial justice activists from six states met with federal Environmental Protection Agency officials Tuesday to demand a revamp of the agency they accuse of overlooking years of chronic environmental missteps in minority communities across the South.

That includes the dumping of toxic chemicals into landfills and drinking water sources that are disproportionately in black, low-income communities, said Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University and author of several books on what’s been dubbed “environmental racism.”
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Join us for: Environment, Justice and Health in the Planning Process: Strategies for Maryland

Environment, Justice, and Health in the Planning Process: Strategies for Maryland

Morgan State University Saturday, October 3rd, 10am – 3:15pm

Please join the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. along with other officials and community and business leaders, for a detailed look at the connections between and use, public health, and the environment. This one-day symposium will kick off a comprehensive state effort to better coordinate planning, development, public health assessments, and goals for sustainability–and we need your input!

The event is free and lunch will be provided–but space is limited, so please register early online or RSVP by September 28th.

Please help us spread the word by passing the attached flyer onto your colleagues. Planners, developers, community groups, environmental scientists and activists, and public health professionals should attend.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The symposium is sponsored by the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, Transportation Cooperative Equity Research Program Morgan State University’s School of Engineering and the Institute for Urban Research, and the Maryland Departments of the Environment, Health and Mental Hygiene, Planning, and Housing and Community Development.

Click here to register online: http://www.neighborhoodrevitalization.org/Programs/Catalyst/Catalyst.aspx#Trainings

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Lisa Nissley at the Maryland Department of the Environment, (410) 537-4187.

Lisa Nissley
Legislative Liaison & Environmental Justice Coordinator Maryland
Department of the Environment 1800 Washington Blvd Baltimore, MD
Baltimore: (410) 537-3812
Annapolis: (410) 260-6301