[Hpn] Communique of Food Not Bombs Cleveland

Daniel Kerr drk9@po.cwru.edu
Sun, 23 Jul 2000 23:53:26 -0400


Communique of Food Not Bombs Cleveland
July 23, 2000


DESTROYING HOMES/CREATING CHEAP LABOR
THE UNDERBELLY OF URBAN RENEWAL

Food Not Bombs Cleveland is enraged by the city’s recent announcement that
Camelot, or the former Tip Top Bread factory on E. 55th St. and Chester,
will be demolished on August 1, 2000.  For nearly 30 years it has provided
a haven for homeless people and represented one of the few spaces in the
city where homeless people have been able to address some of their own
problems without being institutionalized in the controlling and
dehumanizing system of homeless shelters.  This is yet another example of
the city’s complicity with private interests at the cost of citizens of the
city.  For all of the city's rhetoric about attempting to create a livable
city, it has again become apparent that their image of a livable city is a
city that is livable for and by the wealthy.  

URBAN RENEWAL

What does it mean to live in a "renewed," "revived," or otherwise
"reinvented" city?  If you are wealthy, it is the "right" to walk the
streets without fear of being accosted by pan-handlers, let alone forced to
see what they are only a few paychecks away from.  But for the majority of
us, it means working several jobs just to be able to pay the rent.
Cleveland is no longer a city for the unemployed and working poor.  Through
the onslaught of city planning policy, the city has become “up and coming,”
meaning that the cost of living is sky rocketing while wages are
stagnating.  Is this an accident?

And why would the city be spending $500,000 to destroy a dilapidated
building in a dilapidated area?

Simply, it is but an aspect of the larger "urban renewal" plans of the city
of Cleveland to re-invent the city.  More accurately, it is an act of
reinventing the city for the corporate interests of downtown Cleveland, at
the expense of a burgeoning population of unemployed and working poor.

HOW TO CREATE VAST SUPPLIES OF CHEAP LABOR?

For those of us who live and observe the underbelly of the renewed urban
economy of Cleveland, the city's decision to demolish what is known as
Camelot is not surprising.  To build a new city, one must attract capital.
How does one attract capital, how does one guarantee obscene profit margins
for corporations?

The first step, as the city so blatantly and recklessly doles out, is
through massive tax abatements that virtually give land and space to
corporations, generating no revenue for local schools, infrastructures,
arts programs, and the like.  Let alone an even modest attempt at
addressing the rapidly and unevenly expanding divisions between the rich
and poor.  Not only do these abatements not provide any revenue for the
neighborhoods they exist within, they quickly drive up rent, thus forcing
those who have homes to either move to poorer, yet "renewed" neighborhoods,
or go onto the streets.  

The Midtown corridor, where the former Tip Top Bread factory is located,
has been specifically targeted for redevelopment.  What does that mean?
Does it mean that the residents are being assisted in reclaiming their
neighborhoods and building working structures of community and social
support?  Does it mean that schools are being renovated, teachers salaries
being increased, streets cleaned, etc.?  No.  It means that businesses are
being given corporate welfare to set up shop there, to no real assistance
to those living there.  The only attempts at "reinventing" these
communities have been the construction of outrageously expensive housing
typically well over $100,000, again subsidized through abatements.  

Meanwhile, the city builds larger homeless shelters to house the staggering
number of people being forced out of their homes, despite working full-time
jobs.  And even these are not enough.  The newly christened homeless
shelter with 200-250 beds, is already at nearly double its capacity.

The obvious way to get off the streets or out of the shelter system is to
work.  This is where we see the "beauty" of current city planning policy.
In a city so rapidly de-housing, one of the most profitable businesses to
open is a temporary labor agency.  These agencies, a significant number
conveniently located near homeless shelters, prey on the homeless as a
flexible and cheap source of labor.  And they both win:  the temp agencies
and the businesses they cater to.  Not only are these businesses provided
with cheap labor that they can hire and fire at will, they have no threat
of labor organizing and no responsibility to provide even the most basic of
"benefits" to their workers.  If they don't like someone, they don't come
back.

The typical salary for a temporary worker is $5.15/hour.  The federally
mandated minimum wage.  If one does her or his math, working full time at
this rate will give you approximately $825/month.  This is before taxes and
social security is deducted, along with the daily $2 fee for transporting
the worker to the site.  Now, according to HUD, one's monthly rent should
be no more than 30% of one's monthly income.  This, however, is an
extremely high percentage according to many agencies and researchers.  Most
put the ratio of rent to monthly income closer to 10%.  For the sake of
argument, we'll say 25%.  At this rate, working full-time at minimum wage,
one's rent should not exceed $206.25.  Have you seen housing for $200/month
lately?

One may say the city has been laudable in relegating some of the newly
redeveloped luxurious high rise and loft apartments built downtown to
low-income families.  The city, however, defines a yearly income of
approximately $22,000-$25,000 as low income.  Doing the math again puts the
monthly rent at $521/month.  Is this really low-income rent?  Again,
working full-time at the federal minimum wage (assuming you have no unpaid
vacations and miss not a day of work) gives you an annual income of
$10,712, or roughly $825/month.  Living in such low-income housing will
therefore eat up 63% of your income.

For those living check to check, like many people of this city, an
unfortunate turn of events will leave you on the streets.  Once there, one
is funneled into the shelter system and maintained through various
temporary agencies that provide a radically flexible labor force for a few
dollars from free.  And as rents go up, more people enter the streets, the
cheap labor force grows, and manufacturing profits.  Is the pattern
apparent yet?  

If not, one need only look at the nature of the global economy and how
"underdeveloped" countries are force fed "redevelopment" plans.  The city's
strategy is in no way new.  In countless examples, the answer for
"underdeveloped" countries is to do all they can to attract trans-national
corporations, something done through similar tax abatements and the
suppression of labor rights.  Their goal is to build their economies on
corporate capital through the promises of cheap, unthreatening labor.  The
oppression of people for the sake of a lousy buck, all in the name of
economic renewal.

The workings of the Cleveland urban renewal policy thus becomes apparent.
Provide welfare for the corporations, take it away from the poor, force
them onto the streets, swell the pool of cheap labor, and make a great city. 

URBAN RENEWAL FOR PEOPLE, NOT CAPITAL

Why should someone fully employed being living under a bridge?  They
shouldn't.  And people have started to address this problem by creating
there own housing in old, unused buildings in the city.  They have taken it
upon themselves to renovate and create livable spaces in a city within
which they cannot afford to pay for housing, despite working.  

The city's reply:  Destroy.

We demand that the city stops their destruction Camelot.  Furthermore, we
demand that the city halt its endless stream of corporate welfare and its
love affair with the capital it relentlessly attempts to attract.  We
demand that the city address the real problems, and work with us to develop
policy not for the corporations that set up shop only as long as the
welfare flows, but for those that suffer at their foot -- the people.  If
they continue their currently destructive policies, actions will be taken.

- Food Not Bombs Cleveland