August 19, 2004
A denial of civil rights
City dwellers are rarely concerned about agricultural
issues. However, African Americans must stay alert to injustice
no matter where they live.
Freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule. They never got
it. In 1999 the U.S. Department of Agriculture settled a class
action case for racial discrimination against black farmers. The
government pay out could have been as much as $2.3 billion.
So far only $814 million has been paid to 13,445 farmers. All
the rest of the 118,128 timely applicants were rejected. Claims
were vigorously challenged.
The failure of the U.S.D.A. to provide loans and subsidies to
black farmers has caused farm failures among small black farmers
at three times the rate for white farmers. As a result there has
been a great loss of black-owned farmland.
The government policy established with 40 acres and a mule, to
promise and then deny, still prevails today.
An injustice to Cortiella
David Cortiella saved Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA) from
financial ruin. Everyone agrees with that. IBA had lost its contract
to manage Villa Victoria, the 900 unit housing complex, home of
many Latinos in the South End.
After improving IBA’s operations as a consultant, Cortiella
was recruited to become the CEO. His duties included managing
the E.T.C. real estate development operations. However, there
was a dispute about his compensation from the beginning of his
employment in February 2000. From 2000 until he left IBA in 2003,
Cortiella paid himself at the rate he believed he had been promised.
The amount in dispute is only $173,000 over about four years.
The existence of this disagreement was an open secret to some
in the minority community, so it is hard to believe that none
of the members of the board were aware of the problem.
The usual practice in industry under similar circumstances is
for the board to sever relations with a disgruntled executive.
Of course the executive would usually also want to leave professionally
unsatisfactory employment. However, those who know David Cortiella
are aware of his commitment to the welfare of the community. His
commitment kept him involved.
The IBA board is delinquent in failing to resolve this problem
early and discreetly. It is unlikely that IBA will be able to
recruit equivalent talent for less money. Tragically, many talented
blacks and Latinos will find it less attractive to run the risk
of working for community organizations, especially when the private
sector is more financially rewarding.
Renew the ban
Ten years ago the U.S. Congress passed a law banning the sale
of assault weapons. That law will expire on September 13, only
three weeks away. So far President Bush has not pushed the Republican
Congress to renew the ban. According to reports the gun shops
are already gearing up to satisfy the pent up demand for these
forbidden tools of death.
With the number of murders in Boston already greater than in all
of last year, this is no time for Uzis, AK-47s and Tec-9s to be
on the streets again. Assault weapons were designed for military
combat. There is no need for them to be generally available.