After Clinching Control of the Senate, Democrats Still Covet Victory in Georgia Runoff

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Raphael Warnock for Senate

By Stacy M. Brown

Just days before the Dec. 6 Georgia Senate runoff election, the state’s capital and most populous city surprisingly proved like an old Christmas fable: not much appeared stirring.

“It’s almost as if there isn’t a major election coming,” Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes relayed from Atlanta through an internal Slack message. “There are literally no campaign signs anywhere,” Rolark Barnes stated.

Throughout her two-day visit to the Peach State, Rolark Barnes noticed only a few pro-Herschel Walker signs and “a sprinkling” of promotional material for Democratic Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“It’s almost as if there is a law that prohibits campaign signs,” she said. However, an abundance of television commercials continues to run.

Indeed, the city of Atlanta does restrict campaign signs.

It’s illegal without a permit to place them in a public right-of-way, including intersections, public roads, bridges, and sidewalks. The city fines any campaign in violation, and authorities remove such signs.

Still, the bigger picture remains the election that could either strengthen Democrats’ hold on the upper chamber of Congress or provide Republicans a fighting chance of blocking federal and even Supreme Court nominations.

During the midterm election, Democrats flipped one seat when Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. The win assured Democrats of at least 50 seats and the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris counted as the tie-breaking vote.

However, a 51-49 edge could allow Democrats freedom from conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who blocked some of President Joe Biden’s agenda during the administration’s first two years.

With 51 votes, Democrats can now afford to lose a member and still pass legislation (Although, with Republicans seizing control of the House, it’s unlikely any meaningful legislation will pass during the next two years).

“Democrats need to gain every seat they can from the 2022 election cycle. Holding the Senate this year is a massive achievement, but keeping it again in two years’ time will be a gargantuan task,” Political Analyst Chris Cillizza wrote.

“Democrats would much rather start the 2024 cycle with a bit of cushion provided by a Warnock win.”

An evenly divided Senate “slows everything down,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked. “So, it makes a big difference to us.”

Further, in a 50-50 Senate, committees are evenly split between the two parties, which causes additional steps when a vote is tied. That forces the party in the majority to hold votes on the Senate floor to move bills or nominees forward.

With a Warnock win, Democrats would stand in position to hold an extra seat on every committee, making it much easier to move nominees or legislation on party-line votes.

“It’s always better with 51 because we’re in a situation where you don’t have to have an even makeup of the committees,” Biden said after Fetterman’s victory. “And so that’s why it’s important, mostly. But it’s just simply better. The bigger the numbers, the better.”

With a 51-seat majority, Vice President Harris doesn’t have to remain close to Washington when the Senate votes.

Harris already has broken 26 ties in two years in office, doubling what former Vice President Mike Pence did during his four-year term.

Earlier this year, Harris reminded everyone that the nation’s first vice president, John Adams, had cast 29 tie-breaking votes during his two terms from 1789 to 1797.

“So, as vice president, I’m also the president of the United States Senate. And in that role, I broke John Adams’s record of casting the most tie-breaking votes in a single term,” Harris said in September.

“This kid who was born in Oakland, California, and graduated from an HBCU just broke the record of John Adams. We should all fully appreciate how history can take a turn.”

City Councilmember Thao Announces $2 Million Investment to Revitalize Parks in East Oakland

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NNPA Newswire/BlackPressUSA
Oakland Post
By Sheng Thao, Oakland City Council President Pro Tempore

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On Tuesday I had the pleasure of joining Assemblymember Mia Bonta, Pastor Billy Dixon Jr., and community and faith leaders gathered at Arroyo Viejo Park to announce a $2 million investment into East Oakland parks that I secured in recent state budget allocations signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

This $2 million investment will help revitalize and celebrate parks serving some of Oakland’s most marginalized communities, including Arroyo Viejo Park, Tassafaronga Park, and Verdese Carter Park.

I know that East Oakland has experienced decades of systemic and environmental racism, and it is important that we invest equitably into our neighborhoods including our parks. As someone who lived in public housing and apartments my entire life, I know that parks are our front yard and backyard and a place for us to build community and find time in nature.

For years the city has promised renovations and investments into these parks, including several unfunded capital improvement projects, so I did what Oakland leaders are expected to do: find the money we need to fulfill these promises to East Oakland.

This is about getting Oakland back to basics. This is about clean and functional parks for our children, youth, and families to enjoy. This is about building stronger communities through activating safe public spaces we can all be proud of. This is about a cleaner, greener Oakland that is dedicated to healing communities impacted by environmental racism.

I know that many East Oakland residents have felt that their voices have not been heard, as if they have not been seen, but I am here to tell you that I see you and I hear you and this is just the beginning.

I am determined to bring more investments into parks, open space, clean air and water, good schools, job programs, affordable housing, safe streets and more to our communities most impacted by decades of underinvestment. This is about providing basic services to every Oakland neighborhood.

These investments will go toward many unfunded projects and needs in these parks and I look forward to working with the community to identify key areas of investment once the City accepts the grant awards. I am very thankful for the partnership of so many East Oaklanders who helped identify these needs with me and for Assemblymembers Mia Bonta and Buffy Wicks for being such strong partners in these efforts.

We can and will build an Oakland that works for everyone and this is just the beginning of that work.

The post COMMENTARY: City Councilmember Thao Announces $2 Million Investment to Revitalize Parks in East Oakland first appeared on Post News GroupThis article originally appeared in Post News Group.

With travel to Haiti in years-long decline, tourism experts offer solutions

When tourists travel to Haiti

BY LARISA KARR
The Haitian Times
www.haitiantimes.com

When tourists travel to Haiti
When tourists travel to Haiti, the Citadelle in the Nord Department is a popular destination. Photo credit: Getty Images.

For years, the travel pattern of the Haitian diaspora was one of the few things that could be counted on despite unrest. Some people returned around February for carnival, others traveled with families during summer vacation and more still chose December to go see lakay for the holidays. And, of course, at any point during the year, family functions and emergencies might draw Haiti’s children home.

But that was way before. Before the devastating earthquake in August, before the assassination of the country’s president in July, before Covid-19 variants began spreading, before the gang activity and widespread killings became a fixture of daily life, before kidnapping-for-ransom schemes became the norm and even before peyi lok. Now, with numerous crises weighing heavily on Haitians at home and abroad, the travel pattern no longer seems to be a predictable part of life for some Haitian-Americans.

Travel to Haiti dropped precipitously from 2018 to 2019, the latest year data is available, according to the World Bank. In 2018, Haiti had 1.3 million visitors, the highest number ever recorded since data collection began in 1995. By the end of 2019, however, the number had fallen by nearly 400,000 to 938,000.

Of that number, 157,000 travelers went for personal purposes. About 17,000, or less than 6 percent of overall travelers, went to Haiti strictly for tourism. 

Numbers from a 2020 UN World Tourism Organization report show a similar decline. It found that Haiti’s international tourism arrivals fell by 36.1 percent between 2018 and 2019.

Haïti travel: A risk worth taking?

For members of the diaspora deciding not to visit Haiti, safety is the primary factor.

“My grandmother passed away in 2015, and I was going to go with my father, but he didn’t want to pay for my security,” said Akilah Cadet, founder and CEO of strategic planning consulting firm Change Cadet who lives in Oakland, C.A. “Do I want to potentially be kidnapped, robbed, held at gunpoint or experience trauma in a country that I love?”

Those who do decide to go to Haiti feel strongly about demonstrating to others that travel to the country is still possible, despite everything that has happened this year.

“It’s my mission to show that you can go to Haiti every year because my friends always say that now is not a good time,” said Valerie Gabriel, a first grade teacher in the Bronx. “It’s not only a way to enjoy myself, but to show others that I’m out there and that they can come too.”

Gabriel travels to Haiti each year for a variety of reasons, including to visit family, and attend parties and carnival. She had plans to visit in the summer, but after the earthquake made ground transportation impossible in some of the areas she planned to visit, she decided to postpone her trip for later this year.

Besides the natural disasters, political turmoil and the resulting violence impacts the decision to travel to Haiti, according to a study in the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. 

Governments warning their citizens against travel can also be a factor.

“Safety is generally the number one factor people use to choose a destination when they do surveys,” said Tiffany Rhodes, an associate professor at the Center for International Travel and Tourism Studies at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “When you go to sites like travel.state.gov and you see there’s a level four travel advisory not because of COVID, this violence is detrimental to the tourism industry in that community.” 

The U.S. State Department issued its highest “Do Not Travel” alert, their highest travel advisory due to life-threatening risks, in March 2020. The United Kingdom and Canada both issued similar warnings in August and this month, respectively. 

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Tourism, rebranding Haiti as an answer

Experts said that Haiti can learn from other countries in the surrounding region how to brand itself, despite issues with political instability and natural disasters.

“An interest in tourism can be part of a kind of development strategy for Haiti because you have to bear in mind that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world,” said Desmond Thomas, a Florida-based economist who focuses on tourism in the Caribbean. “For a country’s tourism sector to be successful, a certain amount of branding has to take place.”

He said the neighboring country of Jamaica is an apt example. Despite its consistent ranking as one of the most high-crime countries in the world, Jamaica’s tourism industry thrives because it has marketed itself as a brand to U.S. and European tourists through luxurious beach resorts and reggae musicians like Bob Marley.

Some experts, though, cautioned against using Jamaica as a model.

“It is important that Haiti get consulting help on how to create a sustainable tourism product, because what happens with these all-inclusive resorts where tourists feel safe is that they don’t go out and the money that they spend remains in that enclave,” said Rhodes, the tourism professor.

A sustainable tourism model, she said, where Haiti focuses on strengthening its governance and cultural preservation would help reduce issues like gang violence. Under such a model, tourists would go to local grocery stores, hotels and restaurants, boosting the economy and providing jobs. 

This would stand in contrast to the “economic leakage” tourism strategy common to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, Rhodes said, where resort money does not circulate into the local economy.

Experts also said Haiti can overcome its association with negative images like political chaos and natural disasters by emphasizing its positive traits, both natural and historical.

“As the first independent country with a successful slave rebellion, Haiti can use not just beaches but historic elements to create a different plan for the country,” Thomas said. “These are areas where academics and neighboring Caribbean countries with successful tourism sectors can help to guide that branding process.”

Travel gradually lost to turmoil and, now, Covid-19 too

COVID-19 also remains a key concern that could reveal a significant impact in Haiti’s tourism statistics once new data is released. With Haiti still reporting new coronavirus cases each day, and only 0.3 percent of the population vaccinated, the question remains whether the country will be able to accommodate travelers from abroad anytime soon.

American citizens who visit are not required to quarantine, but must display proof of a negative COVID test up to 72 hours prior before boarding a flight, according to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti

Travel could further slow if different variants of the virus continue to spread, according to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) air passenger market analysis.

Despite the events of 2021, people like Gabriel remain firm in their decision to return to Haiti.

“In my case, you have to be really passionate and understand why you’re going there because I know people are not wanting to go on vacation right now,” said Gabriel, who plans to start an education project on her next trip to Haiti. “This year is very special because so many things happened at once, but I am fearless, so I will go.”

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