Monthly Archives: March 2011

I Will Not Get Kidnapped in Haiti

Photo: Jenny Asarnow

I got kidnapped last week.

 A British gentleman picked us up at the Ramada Inn in Strasburg, Virginia. He held himself straight like a soldier, but the size of his belly indicated he hadn’t seen combat in quite some time.


The five of us in the car were journalists — all fellows at the International Reporting Project at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. We were headed to a farm near the Shenandoah Mountains, where retired British marines would teach us how to work in “hostile environments.” I expected I’d learn tips for staying safe in Haiti, where I was headed on March 19.

 Our driver turned down a dirt road and stopped at a gate. He got out of the car. BOOM. An explosion. CHK CHK CHK. Gunfire. I giggled. Those silly British soldiers, putting on a show for us.

 The door of the van opened. I was dragged out of the car. Pushed face down in the dirt. A black hood over my head. Next I was marched — fast — over dirt and rocks, trying to keep up with whoever was pulling me. On the ground again. Someone went through my pockets. CHK CHK CHK. I heard running, and a car screeched off. I felt my heart. I felt how shallow I was breathing. I was thinking, if this were real life, I would have NO IDEA who kidnapped me. I didn’t even get a look at them. The hood was stuffy. I practiced my yoga breathing. CHK CHK CHK. On my feet, marching again. Stop. Hood off. And there was a video camera in front of my face. Cheese.

Here’s what I learned:

Full Story

Developmental Disabilities – Reality vs. agenda?


It seems that every year communities for our citizens with developmental disabilities are targeted for closure.  What is most shameful about this phenomenon is that these moves are promoted and encouraged by the very agencies and prominent advocacy agencies that are set up to protect these citizens.  Due to the monopoly and agendas pushed by these agencies, these moves are promoted as “cost savings” and community building.

Nothing could be further from the truth – the problem is that not only are these citizens who can not make their voices heard ignored but their advocates who can speak for them are shunned, banished and censored from public meetings, blogs, websites and stakeholder meetings. 

What is particularly shameful in this budget crisis is that they are still going ahead with these planned closures.  Not only are they being totally irresponsible with public funds but they are hurting innocent people.  It’s time to say “The Emperor isn’t Wearing any Clothes” and stop this charade before more lives are destroyed and lost.

I am outraged by this treatment.  I have written to every Washington State Senator and Representative with my concerns.  I have written to administrators in DSHS and DDD asking for clarification with assessments, quality assurance and care needs.  My concerns go unanswered. 

Following is my letter to my Senator – hopefully someone will notice the tragedy that is going to happen before it’s too late.  Please help care for our most vulnerable citizens.


I am writing to you as a constituent, a very concerned citizen and parent of a child who resides at Fircrest.  I am outraged by the mis-information that some of the more prominent advocacy groups are stating as fact.  These groups are great advocates for those who are able to speak and learn to advocate for themselves but when it comes to caring for those who are unable to speak or to have their own voice heard, these groups and the Developmental Disabilities Council shun these citizens.  The inhumane treatment that these groups are doing to these citizens is exactly what they are stating was done to them.  One would think that they would have more compassion and knowledge about our most vulnerable citizens. 


Not only in regards to advocacy but also in regards to the quality assurance issues – there are many untruths being published as facts.  Do you know that in the only published survey having to do with Quality Assurance for our citizens that have moved out of an RHC, only 66% of them have had their voices heard?  The 34% who were unable to answer or participate in the survey have been totally ignored by DSHS and DDC.  DSHS doesn’t even state that this 34% is not included but writes the report as if the 66% is 100% of the population.   Doesn’t the safety, health and well-being of these vulnerable 34% matter to anyone?   


Do you know that our grassroots advocacy groups are energetic, innovative and creative with solutions to some of the most critical issues?  Most likely not because our voices are also banished from public discussions, websites, blogs – venues that are supposed to be there for public knowledge.  Many of these are funded by our federal and state dollars but they are monopolized by a few people with their own ideology.  Many of our writings of concern and questions are ignored and not shared. 


I questioned Ed Holen, the executive director of our states Developmental Disability Council as to why I couldn’t comment on the WAbilities blog (the DDC blog)  His response to me was that they had decided to have “the blog under some editorial supervision because there is a lot of mis-information in the DD community which would not be helpful.  We hope to provide/publish information people can trust.”  Yes, my information would not be helpful because I question some of their tactics and information.  This is what people need to know though. 


Even though the DDC is looking for members and wanted to actively recruit a member somehow connected to and RHC, my application was denied.  Why?  I don’t know because I am qualified, passionate and deeply care about our citizens.  I am a healthcare professional with years of experience but yet I was not interviewed and sent a letter stating that I had not been selected.  Yet, the DDC is still searching for members?  Why was I not even invited for an interview?  My only answer would be because I have questions about their agenda.


I have questioned several of the recent studies (flawed methodology and key points not substantiated by data) by DSHS, have questioned DDC regarding the Federally mandated surveys that were to be done for the clients who have moved using The Roads to Community Living Grant (not analyzed or published yet but there have been people on the grant for several years now) and other issues that have not been done according to law.  The answers that I have received from not only administrators in DSHS but also DDC are answers that “pass the buck”, they are not done, we didn’t have the time, due to budget cuts they weren’t followed up with, etc.  Yet even with those excuses, DSHS thinks they are doing their job.  How do they know? 

I have researched several assessments for acuities, needs and costs of care.  What you are being told by DSHS, some advocacy groups and DDC is false.  It will not save money to move close our RHCs.  This will only open up a much larger can of worms and for the sake of ALL our community, I ask that you help stop this charade before it is too late.  We, as a society can not afford the disaster that is on the brink of happening.

Theater Commentary: “All My Sons” at Intiman

Intiman Theatre’s absorbing season-opening production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” gives affirmation to the notion that our common strengths and faults transcend race.

Valerie Curtis-Newton, the longtime director of the The Hansberry Project at ACT, offers a bold twist on Miller’s first successful work with a mostly African-American cast and moving the action to Seattle’s Central District.

Can it work? It’s hardly the first time such daring casting of American classics has been tried. Seattle critics either found qualified merit in (as I did) or wholly dismissed the 2005 production of Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center for its all-black casting. Similarly, the 2008 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” met with mixed response, despite its star turns.

Intiman’s experiment encounters the same obstacle: that the story’s premises map awkwardly to the new context. Yet the charged talents of the performers offer a unique richness to Miller’s words.

Chuck Cooper, as the gruff father and owner of a metalwork factory Joe Keller, sucks us into the life of the troubled family through his manner both stubborn and jovial. He is, at first glance, the American dream personified, an uneducated man whose hard work has raised him to prosperity. But there is sin and deception behind his success.

His adult son Chris (Reginald André Jackson) is the temperamental opposite, an intellectual veteran of the world war from which his elder brother Larry, missing in action, never returned. Chris’s desire to marry his brother’s old girlfriend Ann (Nicole Lewis) will force his mother Kate (Margo Moorer) to face up to Larry’s presumed death. That Ann’s father still sits in jail for the wartime industrial crime Joe was acquitted of dredges up old resentments and reveals long-buried truths.

It takes stretching to make some elements fit the African-American casting. That a Negro would own a significant factory in the 1940s, and would receive a government contract for making airplane cylinder heads seems, at best, unlikely. Segregation in the military, under white officers, wasn’t ended until 1948. In Seattle, police would harass a black person in the wrong neighborhood after an unofficial curfew.

Neither does the central theme of the play, the ultimate falseness of the American dream, gain any dimension from the racial rules of that time. There’s nothing inherent in the script that lends itself to it. And despite excellent rendering by Bradford Farwell and Carol Roscoe as the white Bayliss neighbors, an unacknowledged racial hierarchy hovers about their conflicts with the Kellers.

Even so, the play does gain a new richness from the music and cadence of African-American speech, which blends surprisingly well with Miller’s text. From Joe’s initial banter with neighbor Frank (Geoffery Simmons), the exchange of postures and bluffs between black men makes a seamless fit.

The towering talents of these actors encourage us to ignore the rough fit of the story. Cooper commands the stage as Joe’s pride carries him to an Oedipus-like end and Jackson effectively carries us through Chris’s journey from optimism to disillusion. Moorer deftly balances Kate’s stolid matron against her need for denial.

While one might quibble with the details and benefits of the casting innovation, it at least gains us an opportunity to appreciate the talents among us and the relative paucity of opportunities for us to see it. That alone makes the experiment worthwhile and encourages us to hope for more.

 “All My Sons” runs through April 17 at Intiman Theatre at Seattle Center. Tickets: $25-$55, discounts for patrons 25 and under; (206) 269-1900 or

25 days left to avoid (un)special session

Lawmakers have only 25 days left to produce and adopt a balanced budget to avoid a special session. Unfortunately those “felony gimmicks” the State Treasurer and Governor continue to warn against have not been sworn off by all lawmakers.

According to the Associated Press:

“Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the Senate’s majority Democrats, said the Senate was not considering either securitization or a 25th month as part of its budget plan.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, called both strategies ‘very, very unlikely,’ but said at this stage, ‘everything is on the table, and it always has been.’

‘There’s this spectrum of things that you can do, things that are very difficult to do, and things that are so bad you don’t want to talk about it,’ he said Wednesday, adding that securitization and a 25th month fall under the third category.

Rep. Gary Alexander, the GOP’s budget negotiator in the House, said Republicans have crafted a list of a dozen principles to serve as guidelines for ongoing negotiations, and one of them is ‘no gimmicks.’

‘Certainly, to us, that includes the 25th month and issues such as securitization, so we attempt to try to avoid them,’ the Olympia lawmaker said.

Leaders from the House and Senate have given no clear indication of when they will unveil their plans to counter Gregoire’s budget proposal, released in December.”

Here is a copy of Rep. Alexander‘s “Principles for a Good Budget:”

  • Sustainable
  • No use of one time money for ongoing programs
  • No transfers from other budgets
  • Strong reserve to meet unforeseen emergencies or revenue drops
  • Protect constitutional mandates
  • Transparency – no gimmicks
  • Utilize priorities of government
  • Reflect priorities of governing board (Governor)
  • Minimize legal disputes
  • Seek efficiencies and reforms where cost effective
  • No new taxes
  • Restrict fee increases to benefit of payer
  • Provide flexibility in administration/compliance

These principles serve as a good check list for a responsible budget. It is past time to take “felony gimmicks” off the table completely.


Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. He serves on the Executive Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and is the private sector chairman of ALEC’s Fiscal Federalism Working Group. He is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News, serves on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. In June 2010, Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel. Jason holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Washington State University.




Rep. Jim Jacks submits handwritten resignation

Non-tribal casinos propose video slots to help state budget


U.S.’s shifting stance on arming rebels: Once ‘illegal,’ but what now?

As the Obama administration grapples with whether to arm the Libyan rebels, it has several things to consider—not least of which is the question of whether doing so would be legal.

The State Department had been pretty clear about the matter earlier this month, with then-spokesman PJ Crowley telling reporters [1] that the United Nations’ arms embargo on Libya makes it “a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya.” Here’s what Crowley said on March 7:

MR. CROWLEY: It would be illegal for the United States to do that.

QUESTION: So that you’re eliminating that as an option?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s not a legal option.

Asked about the issue again the next day, Crowley qualified his previous remarks [2]: “There’s always the option to go before the sanctions committee and ask for a waiver,” he said. “We have a number of options available to us, but as a practical matter, as of this moment, we could not arm anyone within Libya today.”

The White House and the Secretary of State have since said that arming the rebels would be legal, arguing that the UN resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya “amended or overrode [3]” the earlier arms embargo.

Some experts in international law are disputing [4] the administration’s interpretation. Here’s one of several cited by the UK’s Guardian:

Professor Nicholas Grief, director of legal studies at the University of Kent, said that to him the 17 March resolution in fact appeared to strengthen the arms embargo by calling for its “strict implementation” by member states.

“I don’t see how they can say that reading them together means they can circumvent the arms embargo,” he said. “The resolution makes clear it is for the security council to decide whether to strengthen, suspend or lift the arms embargo, not for member states to act unilaterally.”

The New York Times also reported this week that “any outside supply of arms to the opposition would have to be covert [5]” because of the arms embargo.

Britain and France [6] have both said they’re open to arming the rebels, but NATO—which the U.S. has made a big show of handing over leadership to—stated on Monday, “We are not in Libya to arm people [7].”

No decision has yet been made, though the Times reports that it’s still a topic of fierce debate [8] in Washington. On NBC Nightly News Tuesday, President Obama was noncommittal: “I’m not ruling it out [9],” he said, “But I’m also not ruling it in.”

Seattle’s crime hotspots

A study from the City Auditor’s office says 50% Seattle’s crime takes place on just a few streets.

My NW:

“This geographic area of concentration is often one address or half of a block or a corner,” councilmember Tim Burgess said. “The concentration is even greater than we thought and it does not move. So over the whole 14 year study period that ended in 2004, those block faces did not materially change in Seattle.”

Some highlights from the report: (more)

Will US policy in Libya spread elsewhere? A look at Libya, Arab revolt and US interests…

The popular revolt in Libya began in Tunisia, gained force in Egypt, and is continuing its spread across much of the Arab world.

Libya is different mostly in that we are supporting the rebellion militarily, which has raised other questions.

The Arab revolt appears to be re-writing the political power grid in the Middle East and yet some continue to argue that none of this is in our national interest. Why then has Egypt been one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid?

Those who contend the Arab revolt has nothing to do with our national interests appear to have their heads in the desert sand. Geopolitically speaking.

But as a humanitarian issue, if this popular revolt continues to spread and grow, as some think it will, one question we need to ask is if we would intervene again.

Would we take action in another Arab country if there is a similar risk of large-scale, violent government retaliation? Is there a moral obligation, a precedent being set here, that will shift the discussion beyond the ever-debated political calculus focused simply on whether or not it is in our interest?

That’s what I wondered after hearing the question being asked by NPR’s Jackie Northam in a report, Will U.S. policy in Libya spread to other nations? Continue reading

1,700 homeless kids in Head Start in WA–that’s up. More are on waiting list

The recession may be over but the downturn continues to impact U.S. families. The number of homeless children in Head Start programs and state-supported preschool classrooms rose around Washington State over the last three years.

During the last school year, eight percent of students in Head Start or Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program were homeless, up from five percent three years earlier, according to a report released by the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP this week.

Put another way, 1,739 out of the 21,128 children in these programs during the school year did not have a home. The rate was even higher in Early Head Start, where 14 percent of these students, who range from newborns to three-year-old toddlers, were homeless.



Seattle Film Guide: April 1 -7: See the Complete Uncut Millennium Trilogy at SIFF Cinema

Seattle Film Guide: April 1 -7


Opening This  Week

Win Win “A “quirky” dramedy in the Juno/Little Miss Sunshine mode, but lacking the latter’s vibrant ensemble and the former’s snappy patter, Win Win is indie with the edges sanded down completely.” Karina Longworth, The Weekly

Source Code “This movie is terrific, but not as good as Groundhog Day.”   Lindy West, The Stranger

The Music Never Stopped Click here for Bill White’s PostGlobe Review

Insidious  “It doesn’t build a better haunted house but, when on its game, reminds us of the genre’s pleasures.” Nick Pinkerton, The Weekly

The Last Godfather  Harvey Keitel and Jason Mews in a Korean Mafia comedy

The Penitent Man “As talk turns to wormholes and the butterfly effect, The Penitent Man mires itself into groan-tastic dialogue.” Brian Miller, The Weekly

Cat Run “When a sexy, high-end escort holds the key evidence to a scandalous government cover-up, two bumbling young detectives become her unlikely protectors from a ruthless assassin hired to silence her.”  IMDB

Desert Flower (Westenblume) “The autobiography of a Somalian nomad circumcised at 3, sold in marriage at 13, fled from Africa a while later to become finally an American supermodel and is now at the age of 38, the UN spokeswoman against circumcision.” IMDB

Hop  “The Easter Bunny’s teenage son heads to Hollywood, determined to become a drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” IMDB


Limited Runs 

Nostalgia for the Light (NWFF, April 1-7) Click here for Bill White’s PostGlobe Review

The Battle of Chili Parts 1-3 (NWFF, April 2-3 at Noon only) Click here for Bill White’s PostGlobe Review

I Saw the Devil (Varsity, April 1-7) Click here for Bill White’s PostGlobe Review

The Millennium Trilogy (SIFF Cinema, April 1-7)

Episodes 1 and 2 (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Aoril 1-5

Episodes 3 and 4 The Girl Who Played With Fire) April 2-6

Episodes 5 and 6 (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) April 2-7

Click here for exact screening times

The Rules of the Game (Grand Illusion, April 1-7)

The Time That Remains (NWFF, April 1-7) “Tati-worthy gags still have great power, as when a pitched battle between Arab doctors and Israeli soldiers plays out in a single sustained long shot through the windows of a hospital corridor.” Dan Kois, Seattle Weekly

It  (April 4. Paramount Theatre)  Silent Movie Mondays start up again with a Clara Bow classic.

Special Programs

Fine Totally Fine  (NWFF, Saturday, Apr 02 at 04:30PM)   Simply by attending a great movie in Seattle, you can help the relief efforts in Japan.    Brown Paper Tickets and Northwest Film Forum present the Seattle Premiere of Yosuke Fujita’s comedy  with 100% of the proceeds going to the  relief fund set up by Pictures Dept. president Yuko Shiomkaki. Donations to this fund will be distributed by Japanese aid organization JustGiving and go to help those fighting to put their lives back together. Director Fujita has made a truly feel good indie comedy with his story of Teruo (Yosi Arakawa), a tree trimmer whose mission in life is to make the scariest haunted house experience in Japan. He enlists the help of his  best friend Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), a hospital administrator, in his bone-chilling plans, but Hisanobu is starting to doubt if two guys heading into their 30′s should really be spending their time trying to scare the life out of people. The lives of these two friends takes a  turn when accident prone artist Akari (Yoshino Kimura) comes to work at Hisanobu’s hospital. Can wanting to terrify people, growing up and falling in love co-exist in these two slackers’ lives?  “Recalls the deadpan wit of Aki Kaurismaki or the quirky charm of a Jim Jarmusch film” —Daily Express


Now Playing

The Adjustment Bureau  “fairly complicated in terms of mechanics, if not meaning” karina longworth, the weekly

Battle: Los Angeles warning to he gullible who believe all you see in trailers: this is not a documentary!

Beastly  beauty and the beast redux


Cedar Rapids “cinematic equivalent of  a Midwestern airport layover” zac pennington, the stranger

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules “Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to have them bond.” IMDB

Gnomeo & Juliet “shakespeare’s great tragedy is re-imagined as a 3-D action comedy for children” dr james bryston, phd, the stranger

Hall Pass  “the farrellys’ attempts to recapture their old raunch-with-heart formula …come off like fulfilled obligations” nick pinkerton, the weekly 

The Illusionist“breathes life into a celluloid fossil, animating an unproduced script by the great filmmaker jacques tati” j hoberman, the weekly

Jane Eyre  “I can’t imagine how many fog machines it took to make this” christopher frizzelle, thestranger

Just Go With It  “jennifer aniston is the film’s only redeeming quality” grant brissy, the stranger

The Last Lions “i just wanted to see a sweet little movie about baby wildcats frolicking in the wild” megan seling, the stranger

Limitless   Bradley Cooper is a dumb loser who finds a magic pill that makes his brain huge and reminds him to get a haircut. Then, using his haircut, he makes eleventy frillion dollars, but then the pills start making him die (either from taking them or from not taking them—the movie can’t decide).” lindy west, the stranger

The Lincoln Lawyer  “i kind of liked this movie. i give it a six.” lindy west, the stranger

Of Gods and Men“aspires to be timeless” j. hoberman, the weekly

Paul  “this movie is profoundly unfunny” paul constant, the stranger

Rango  “bad guys, fallen heroes, gunplay, redemption, and Kim Novak eating Pop-Tarts in heaven” cienna madrid, the stranger

Red Riding Hood  “oh, sigh” lindy west, the stranger

Sucker Punch

True Grit    Read Bill White’s PostGlobe Review here

Unknown” a project ultimately predicated on its star’s (Liam Neeson) newfound badass reputation” nick schager, the weekly

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Money needed to rescue Basic Health is out there

We are not broke, or even close. We have more money, income and wealth than 10 years ago, even more than 20 years ago, and way more than 30 years ago. So when lawmakers are making Sophie’s choices about whether to cut basic health to nothing, or to cut two weeks out of the school year, or to close down programs at the University of Washington, we’ve got to start asking the basic question: “Where is the money?”

Well, in the post-World War II era, right up to about 1980, average wages grew fairly steadily, tracking the increasing productivity of the American worker. That makes sense, as productivity measures the value-added per worker. Of course, these increases in productivity were shared proportionately between corporations, their shareholders, and their workers, so prosperity buoyed everyone.

Since 1980 we have had tremendous growth in productivity — an increase of 80 percent. And what happened to wages? For the typical worker, real hourly wages grew by 10 percent. The connection between productivity and wages had been severed. And it has only gotten worse in the past 10 years, with wages stagnant and jobs disappearing.

Since Washington depends mostly on sales tax for public revenue, when people’s wages are flat (or they lose their jobs) they don’t buy so many products and public receipts tumble. That’s what is really threatening middle class services like K-12 education and our public colleges and universities, parks and recreation facilities, care for the disabled and blind, and clean-up of contaminated land and water.

What about that extra money? In 1968 the average income of the top 1 percent of households in the country was 10 times the average income of everyone else, all 99 percent of us: $390,000 for the top and $40,000 for everyone else. By 2007, the average income of the top 1 percent had jumped to $1.4 million, 30 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent ($46,000).

The other place you’ll find the money is in corporate profits, which are now 22 percent above their pre-recession level. All this money going to corporations and the very wealthy might generate jobs somewhere — but not necessarily in our state. Corporations don’t abide by national boundaries or a sense of patriotism. They are looking for the absolutely lowest short-term cost of production. And that is more likely in China that at home.

Meanwhile, last November, Steve Ballmer, the 33rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $33 billion, sold off $2 billion in stock to “diversify his holdings and to help with tax planning.” So much for job creation. This month Paul Allen, with $14 billion in wealth, bought a refurbished Russian MIG fighter jet. And Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, whose net worth is $12.3 billion, refuses, in any state where he can get away with it, to collect sales taxes on Amazon sales, further starving state governments from revenue for middle class services (and giving him a big advantage over bookstores on Main Street!).

What do these guys have in common? They are among the wealthiest people in the world, and they want their wealth only for themselves. So they all pitched in with six figure contributions to defeat Initiative 1098 last year, which would have taxed their income above $400,000. Not a lot, but why give up anything when you are at the pinnacle?

Here’s why: That 1098 money would have funded Basic Health, which is about to run out of money. What would Paul Allen, Steve Balmer and Jeff Bezos say to the woman who just wrote me about her situation?

“This can truly be a life or death issue for some of us. I was diagnosed with a very early-stage melanoma just two weeks ago, and now need to be seen by the dermatologist every couple of months, and also have other medical issues. My husband has had abnormal PSA tests in the past that we need to monitor.

“We feel very lucky to be on Basic Health. I don’t know what will happen to us if it ends…”

Mr. Allen, Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Bezos: We can’t make you fund public services. But your hearts might lead you there. Why don’t you simply give $100 million for Basic Health? That’s about seventeen one-hundredths of your combined wealth — small change for the health of the citizens of our state. You are not broke. And we don’t need to be.

John Burbank is executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute ( His email address is