Tell Muni what you want — Muni is our mitigation

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

 

EVERYBODY out to meet Muni next Wednesday, Jan. 16,

5:30pm, Southeast Community College

 

The light rail line that Muni is getting ready to build down Third Street is our mitigation — mitigation we have earned for living in San Francisco’s “toxic triangle,” formed by the Hunters Point Shipyard, PG&E’s Hunters Point power plant and the Southeast sewage treatment plant ... and for dying from the poisons they have dumped on us for decades.

 

I believe the mitigation we need most is contracts and jobs that will enable us to build up our economic strength so we can tackle and solve our environmental problems. That’s why I am asking the community to support the African American Contractors of San Francisco, a mutual benefit corporation formed a decade ago to support local businesses in their efforts to win contracts and provide on-the-job training for our community residents.

 

We in Bayview Hunters Point must fight both environmental and economic racism. In addition to myriad pollution-related illnesses, we suffer from an unemployment rate that’s four times the City’s average; 90 percent of us are people of color. City construction sites have been almost completely closed to Blacks since a hangman’s noose at the airport signaled the lockout over three years ago.

 

The African American Contractors, an association that has never sold out our community, will negotiate with Muni for a community benefits package. Funding is available from the U.S. Department of Transportation for, according to the latest DOT handbook, issued in October, training and assistance in management, estimating and, most importantly, obtaining bonding and financing. Those services and more — especially on-the-job training in all trades and compensation for merchants — will be provided by the African American Contractors working with other existing organizations and using their particular expertise as consultants to help carry out a comprehensive program to assist our contractors, truckers, workers and merchants.

LEFT: What a study in beauty — and toxic ugliness. Pink and blue splashed across the sky, red and black earth in the foreground with grass green from the rain, lights twinkling in the homes on Hunters Point Hill, in the PG&E power plant (center) and in the silver shed (at the far right) hiding the spot where Islais Creek flows into the Bay.

 

Our community deserves mitigation for the terrible toxic load we bear. This picture, taken by Maurice Campbell on Sunday evening, tells the story: major excavation at the northwest corner of the Hunters Point Shipyard where a year ago the City planned to build a school but where in May radioactive “Black Beauty” sand was found; PG&E’s 72-year-old poison spewing Hunters Point power plant; and Islais Creek, where on Thanks-giving week a sewer main rupture caused hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage to spill into the creek and the Bay.

 

Muni is coming our way, and Muni has been forewarned: Light rail will be built on Third Street only if we build it. This is our chance to save our community and make real changes in our lives.

 

Young people, old people and everyone in between, come to the meeting next Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in the Alex Pitcher Community Room at Southeast College and tell Muni what you need and want.

 

You want on-the-job training — to get paid while you learn construction work in any trades, including truck driving? Tell Muni.

 

You’re already a seasoned construction worker and now you want to start, or resume, your own contracting business? Tell Muni.

 

You’re a merchant whose business has been down for the last few months while PG&E and Pacific Bell tear up Third Street to relocate gas and communications lines to prepare for light rail – work our people were excluded from, by the way? Come to next Wednesday’s meeting and tell Muni.

 

Stand tall and tell Muni, just as former NAACP President Alex Pitcher would if he were still with us, that unless we participate in and benefit from the building of light rail, we’ll “shut it down!” The African American Contractors have asked Muni to stop all bidding on light rail contracts until we have our mitigation — our community benefit package. Stand with us Wednesday and tell Muni!