Astonishing: A Trailer Park Story With a Happy Ending!
For people who live in trailer parks, can anything be scarier than the sound of a roaring tornado? Yes: Most frightening is seeing slick real-estate gentrifiers prowling around.
For some 20 million low-income Americans, being able to park a mobile home in a trailer park is their only affordable refuge from homelessness. But while they own their mobile homes, a landlord owns the land they're parked on. So here come high-finance hucksters backed by Wall Street rapaciously buying out local landlords, then casting out the powerless trailer owners so developers can build luxury condos for the rich on that land.
It's an especially contemptible case of corporate greed stomping on human need. Indeed, these are among America's most vulnerable people, being stripped of their homes. But what can they do?
Ask the residents in Riverside Terrace trailer park located near downtown San Antonio, Texas. Many had previously been evicted from a nearby mobile home facility that was converted into a high-dollar apartment complex owned by an out-of-state hedge fund. So, they panicked when word spread that Riverside Terrace had been put up for sale by local owner Travis Cummings.
But then came a New Hampshire-based advocacy group named ROC -- "Resident Owned Communities." It contacted Cummings and Riverside's low-income residents about forming a co-op. Then the group provided expertise and arranged financing so Riverside's tenants could create, control and collectively manage a co-op that is now the official owner of the 46-unit park. Valerie Valenzuela, who works evening shifts at a Home Depot and was elected to the new co-op's board, proudly notes that the residents -- who mostly have incomes under $30,000 a year -- are now "not just tenants," but homeowners.
Today, some 1,000 mobile home communities are resident-owned. For information, go to rocusa.org.
THE HUMANITIES HUMANIZE OUR SOCIETY. SO 'KILL 'EM,' SAY RIGHT-WINGERS
The far-out right wing's latest political ploy takes extremism to the extreme.
Escalating their divisive series of "culture wars" (banning books, suppressing women's rights, whitewashing history, demonizing teachers, etc.), their current idea is to declare war on ideas! Specifically, they're going after state university programs that teach creative arts and social studies, including history, languages, music, civics, literature, economics, theology and other courses in the humanities that explore ideas, foster free thinking and expand enlightenment.
We can't have that, can we? Thus, GOP lawmakers in North Carolina, for example, are eliminating funding for top humanities professors in their universities, shifting those funds to programs in high tech and engineering that are favored by the corporate hierarchy. Likewise, public universities in Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere are being made to cancel their humanities programs and puff up their departments of business, finance and marketing.
The right wing's shriveled view is that a university education is not about expanding one's horizon and enriching America's democratic society but is solely about training students to fit into a corporate workforce, sacrificing the possibility of a fuller life for the possibility of a fatter paycheck. As a Mississippi Republican official explained under this minimalized and monetized concept of higher education, state spending on college degree programs will require that they match the needs of the economy.
What? Is America nothing but its economy? Is the value of students measured only by the size of their future paychecks? Is public spending only worthy if it serves corporate interests?
Ironically, the politicos trying to cancel teaching of the humanities are proving that such courses are essential -- after all, the humanities strive to humanize today's social order of corporate domination, exploitation and inequality. The value of that vastly exceeds its price. In fact, the humanities are priceless.
To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
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