The prime minister has become the third senior Conservative figure in a week to refuse to say in front of television cameras whether his party plans to tax key disability benefits after the general election.David Cameron was asked by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon in last night’s (2 April) leaders’ debate on ITV how his party planned to find the £12 billion-a-year in welfare cuts announced by the chancellor in last month’s budget.Cameron refused to say where those cuts would come from and whether they would include taxing disability benefits.Last week, the BBC reported that it had seen leaked documents that suggested the Conservatives were considering taxing disability benefits as one way to cut the social security bill by £12 billion a year by 2017-18.Among the options, drawn up by civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions, were an introduction of means-testing for the contributory form of employment and support allowance (saving a possible £1.3 billion a year), taxing disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP) and attendance allowance (possibly saving £1.5 billion a year), and restricting eligibility to carer’s allowance (saving £1 billion a year).George Osborne, the chancellor, refused to promise that there would no further cuts to disability benefits, when interviewed by Channel 4 News, but would only say that the party would “protect the most vulnerable”.And Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that the party might not provide any details before the election of how they would find most of the £12 billion in cuts, because “no decisions have been made”.But Duncan Smith added: “What throughout I’ve always said is I didn’t come into this job after years looking at this to just make cheese paring cuts.“What we’ve come in to do is to reform the welfare system, so that we don’t waste money on organisations and groups and things that don’t actually help life change.”So many people tried to sign an open letter on the Disabled People Against Cuts website – calling on Duncan Smith to “come clean about cuts affecting disabled people” – that the site crashed.And Richard Exell, a disabled senior policy officer at the TUC, said in a column that taxing DLA and PIP would be “particularly felt by low-paid disabled workers”.He also said that the government’s own figures suggested that more than 600,000 disabled people “could find it more difficult to keep their jobs or to move into employment if their DLA or PIP became liable for tax, reducing their ability to pay for services that remove barriers to employment”.Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said that it was “really concerned about the BBC’s report that officials have developed options for politicians to make spending cuts that would again unfairly hit disabled people and carers”.A DR UK spokesperson said: “DLA/PIP is not an out-of-work benefit; but it could become one, because if it is taxed it will certainly act as an incentive not to work.“It makes no sense to tax DLA/PIP since the purpose of the benefit is to help cover the extra costs of disability – things like getting around, and getting support – and so create more of a level playing-field between disabled people and other citizens.”The DR UK spokesperson added: “Furthermore, many disabled people already pay most, if not all, of their DLA/PIP over to local authorities if they get social care support – what we might call the ‘care tax’. In effect, what this proposal would do would be to tax a tax.”A letter, published this week by the Guardian, and signed by leading disabled campaigners and organisations, including members of the WOWcampaign, Black Triangle, Disabled People Against Cuts, Pat’s Petition and People First England, called for the next government to carry out a proper assessment of the “human cost” of the cuts already made by the coalition before even contemplating any further cuts.The letter said: “The news of some leaked documents, explaining further horrendous cuts to carers and sick and disabled people, have left them terrified of what is going to happen.“We would have thought it imperative that any government respecting human rights would check the consequences of the cuts disabled people and carers have already endured, before imposing further draconian cuts.”Of the seven party leaders who took part in the ITV debate, only two were willing to mention the issue of disability poverty.Natalie Bennett, leader of the Greens, said that two-thirds of the households affected by the bedroom tax included at least one disabled person, and she pointed to the imminent closure of the Independent Living Fund, whose users were having their support “slashed away”.Bennett said: “We have to be a human, fair, decent society. We have to support the most vulnerable.”Sturgeon also raised the issue of cuts to welfare, when she asked Cameron: “You’re proposing an additional £12 billion in welfare cuts. Where are those cuts going to fall? Who’s going to pay the price of those cuts?”She added: “Let’s explain what that means: one million people on disability benefit across the UK are going to lose £1,100 of their benefit. That’s not the kind of economic plan I want.”Cameron said: “In the last parliament we found £21 billion of savings in welfare because everybody knows that welfare was overblown and needed to be properly dealt with.“What is the alternative to making cuts in welfare? Putting up taxes and working people’s pay. I don’t want to see that happen.”
A mental health charity has been heavily criticised for its decision to announce a partnership with a controversial US insurance giant that has made significant financial gains from government incapacity benefit reforms that it influenced through its lobbying.The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) said the new partnership with Unum would see the two organisations work together to tackle the stigma of mental health in the workplace and encourage employers to safeguard the mental health of their employees.But disabled activists who learned of the partnership this week are horrified that a mental health charity would join forces with an organisation that has made money from the controversial programme to reform incapacity benefits and has bragged about steering government policy on those reforms.They point out that many thousands of people with mental distress have either died or had their health further damaged by the reforms.Mo Stewart, the disabled activist who has led efforts in the UK to raise concerns about Unum’s influence, has written to a trustee of the charity to alert him to the company’s background.She told Disability News Service (DNS) she had “spent the past six years researching the links between this American insurance corporate giant with the British government*, their funding of a research centre to produce policy-based research that was used to justify the introduction of the fatally flawed WCA, and the fact that they were identified as the second worst healthcare insurance company in America”.She said: “It remains cause for serious concern that this American corporate giant continues to infiltrate the agencies concerned with the welfare of our most vulnerable people.”Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the user-led, grassroots network Shaping Our Lives, also raised concerns about the partnership.He said: “Organisations like MHF (and Mind and Rethink etc) hog the resources, the credibility and still largely sign up to a traditional psychiatric/medical model which isn’t really working and isn’t really helpful.“For this sort of thing to be lurking as well means – well – what friends and allies have we really got, if such liaisons are underpinning organisations claiming to speak for us?”Unum was once described by a senior US law official as an “outlaw company” and it has been repeatedly exposed in the US courts for its refusal to pay out on large numbers of genuine insurance claims by disabled people.In 2011, Unum launched a major marketing campaign to promote the need for its income protection insurance (IPI) policies, just as the coalition began its three-year programme to reassess about 1.5 million existing claimants of old-style incapacity benefit through the work capability assessment (WCA).Disabled activists insist that the hated WCA is simply a public sector version of the tests used by companies like Unum to justify turning down valid IPI claims, and that by making the process of applying for the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA) harsh and stressful, it has made IPI look more attractive.Three years ago, DNS revealed the existence of a Unum document from 2005 which bragged that government policy on disability assessment and management was “moving in the same direction” as Unum’s own views, and was “to a large extent being driven by our thinking and that of our close associates”.In 2002 – six years before the Labour government launched the WCA and the new ESA – Unum submitted a detailed memo to the Commons work and pensions committee.In the memo, Unum called for fundamental reform of the welfare system, and said the government “must ensure both that work always pays more than benefits, and more importantly that it is clearly seen to do so”, while laying out proposals with a strong resemblance to the ESA/WCA reforms that would be introduced several years later.The Unum memo suggested retaining a form of IB for those “genuinely incapable of undertaking any work whatsoever”, as Labour did with the ESA support group.It stressed in the memo that the company – then known as UnumProvident – was “confident that its policies and approach to [IPI] claim management and rehabilitation can be replicated more widely for those on IB” and that it would “particularly welcome the opportunity to put them into practice”.Despite this memo, and other evidence, John Letizia, head of public affairs for Unum UK, said in a statement: “Unum does not and never has lobbied on the topic of welfare reform or related matters.”He said: “As with many other businesses, Unum partners with various organisations on issues of mutual interest.“Our research in this case aims to tackle the stigma of mental health in the workplace in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, a fantastic charity with who we wish to help reach and educate businesses on this important issue.”The Mental Health Foundation refused to respond to the particular criticisms of Unum, but a spokesman said: “As a UK mental health charity that seeks to reach the broadest possible audience, we are always looking for ways to amplify our message and to develop new evidence to ensure everyone is able to enjoy good mental health.“That includes entering into partnerships with companies to help increase our reach and our capacity to undertake new research.“These are sometimes difficult judgements to make and we are guided by an assessment of whether the output of a partnership will break new ground and positively benefit people’s lives.“To that end, we took a decision, which we stand by, to work with Unum on an important project which we are confident will uncover fresh insights on how employers can build a more supportive environment for people experiencing mental distress into their everyday business activity.”He added: “On the issue of welfare reform, like many charities we have raised concerns about the disproportionate effect on mental health that some welfare reform measures have had.“We remain concerned, and as an organisation that speaks truth to power, we continue to raise questions and promote debate through our policy, research and campaigning activities.“We will not hesitate to raise any concerns directly with Unum, if needed, and have found them open to constructive dialogue.”*Her book, Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition Of The UK Welfare State, will be published later this year by New Generation Publishing
The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to name the charities and other organisations being paid millions of pounds to help deliver its new disability employment programme across England and Wales.All six of the new Work and Health Programme contracts went “live” last week, and DWP announced the main contractors in October.But it has refused to say which smaller organisations are helping to deliver the programme as sub-contractors.DWP’s reluctance to do so is likely to be linked to criticism that has been aimed at disability charities that were set to play a significant role in the new programme.When Disability News Service contacted seven of the largest disability charities – most of which are not user-led – in December 2016, none of them ruled out seeking Work and Health Programme contracts.But disabled activists have raised concerns that winning such contracts could mean that these and other charities would be unwilling to criticise the government on social security reform.All seven of the charities contacted in December 2016 insisted then that any contracts they won from the government would have no impact on their campaigning work.There are also major concerns about the programme itself, which is part of the government’s much-criticised Improving Lives work, health and disability strategy, with its “cruel and disastrous” emphasis on “work as a cure”, the placement of employment advisers in health services, and the continued use of benefit sanctions to “punish” disabled claimants.Disability News Service submitted a freedom of information request last month in a bid to discover which voluntary and private sector organisations would be helping to deliver the Work and Health Programme (WHP).But when DWP responded to the request earlier this month, it said the subcontracting organisations were still “subject to change”, but that it would “seek to publish a list of the confirmed main sub-contractors supporting the WHP” following “go live of all WHP contracts” in the week beginning 15 January.That date passed last week, but no list has yet been published.When DNS asked why it had not been released, a DWP spokeswoman said the department “will seek to publish a list of the sub-contractors in due course”.She refused to comment further.Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “It is no surprise that DWP are unwilling to release details of firms involved in colluding to exploit disabled people for their own profits and this simply confirms the underhand way DWP run their programmes and their diabolical practices. “We look forward, together with Boycott Workfare, to finding out which organisations will be involved in implementing the new disability employment programme.”Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network, said: “No one who is on the side of disabled people is celebrating the delivery of the Health and Work Programme, as it will wreck lives.“Perhaps the successful bidders will choose to celebrate their wins in private, because they know these contracts are shameful.“Disabled activists have called out charities on their close links with the DWP and their failure to remain independent of Tory ideology.“The private firms who take on these contracts, along with the charities, will be closely watched by activists.“Their identities can’t be protected by the DWP forever.“We are used to the DWP being secretive. After all, they have so much to hide.”The main WHP contractors are Remploy (in Wales); the charity Shaw Trust in central England and the home counties; Reed In Partnership in north-east England; Ingeus in the north-west; and Pluss in the south of England.Remploy, formerly owned by the government, is now mostly controlled by the US company Maximus.Maximus has a disturbing track record of discrimination, incompetence and fraud in the US, while Remploy slashed the pay of service-users who were taking part in inspections of health and care facilities, after taking on three Care Quality Commission contracts, and has since been heavily criticised for its performance in delivering those contracts.
The number of staff working in the government’s Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has plummeted by more than two-thirds under the coalition and Conservative governments, new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.In March 2010, just before the Tory-led coalition came to power, there were the equivalent of 48 full-time staff working in ODI.By March 2012 that had fallen to 29 full-time equivalent staff.Although there are no figures for 2013, 2014 and 2015, by 1 January 2016 there were just 20 full-time equivalent staff working at ODI.DWP insists that part of the reason for the fall is that “elements of the work that was carried out by ODI is now being taken forward by specialist units across government”, such as the Work and Health Unit (WHU), jointly set up with the Department of Health in 2015.But following the launch of WHU, the numbers continued to fall, to 13.65 in January 2017 and just 11.5 in January this year, although they rose again slightly to 15.45 by May this year.The numbers were released to Disability News Service by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in response to a freedom of information request.Meanwhile, the ODI website has not been updated in more than six months.In all of 2017, the website was updated just three times, compared with five updates in 2016, and 17 in 2015.Only last month, DWP admitted that none of the bodies it set up to engage with disabled people and their organisations as part of its disability strategy had met in nearly a year.And earlier this month, DWP refused to say whether it still followed the Fulfilling Potential strategy, which was supposed to describe the government’s commitment to “a society where disabled people can realise their aspirations and fulfil their potential”.A DWP spokeswoman said: “ODI remains the focal point for cross-government disability issues, working on a range of issues to empower disabled people and enable them to participate fully in society, but their team is [by] no means the only people working on disability issues.“ODI has an oversight role to provide advice and facilitate engagement, as departments focus upon disability as part of their policy.”She also pointed to this week’s announcement by Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, of a new “interdepartmental ministerial group on disability and society”, which “will include ministers from a wide range of departments to oversee and drive forward the work of government in tackling the barriers faced by disabled people and to ensure their voice is heard in policy development and legislation”.No further details of how the group will operate and who will be involved have yet been released.But there was confusion following the announcement because the coalition had previously announced it was setting up an “inter-departmental ministerial group on disability” in February 2014.Successive governments have failed to explain what happened to that group, and why it appears to have been scrapped at some point in the last four years.But the DWP spokeswoman said: “The IMG in 2014 was set up and run under a previous parliament.“It is normal practice for different governments to set up new structures and protocols.”She had not confirmed by 9am today (Thursday) when the previous IMG was scrapped.The DWP spokeswoman added: “This government is determined to build an inclusive society that enables everyone to realise their full potential and as such remains committed to ODI facilitating the work across government for disability issues.”DWP’s admission of the cuts to ODI staff since 2010 will cast further doubt on the government’s commitment to disability rights and equality, and its pledge in 2013 to make the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) “a living reality for disabled people in Britain”.Last August, the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities told a UK government delegation – led by ODI – that its cuts to social security and other support for disabled people had caused “a human catastrophe”, which was “totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in”.The committee later told the UK government to make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.In its “concluding observations” on the progress the UK has made in implementing UNCRPD, the committee raised concerns and made recommendations on all but three of the 33 treaty articles it could have breached.It was, said the committee, the highest number of recommendations it had ever produced for a country undergoing the review process.
A disabled benefit claimant with high support needs who has lost more than £40 a week after having to transfer onto the new universal credit – forcing him into even greater poverty – has challenged the government to defend its drastic cuts and reforms.Mark Golden, from Yorkshire, estimates that he paid more than £100,000 in income tax and national insurance during his working life before he was forced to leave his job by a serious injury at work.Now the wheelchair-user is having to confront the reality of the impact of the introduction of universal credit on disabled people, after being forced off employment and support allowance (ESA) and onto the new system.The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly refused to provide details of exactly how universal credit will affect disabled people in different situations financially, insisting instead that more than a million disabled people will be better off by £100 a month under universal credit.But Golden’s case appears to demonstrate how many disabled people with high support needs will be forced into even deeper poverty by universal credit.On 1 December, Golden – who has both physical and mental health impairments – had to move from Bradford to Bridlington so he could be nearer his family, because of his deteriorating health.Because of his change of circumstances, he was told that he would have to move from the ESA support group – and associated disability premiums – onto the much-criticised universal credit.He was shocked to be told that he would receive only £149 a week in living costs benefits on universal credit, compared with £191 a week on ESA, severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP).Out of that £149, he must also contribute £17 a week towards his housing costs.Out of the remaining £132, he must also pay child support (£10 a week), credit card repayments (£20, after having to replace his fridge-freezer and washing-machine), contents insurance (£2 a week), about £6 a week on his mobile phone (he has no landline or broadband), TV licence (£3 a week), gas and electricity (£27 or £28 a week), and £10 a week he budgets for clothing and footwear (he gets through five or six pairs of trainers a year because he drags his left foot).He already has to restrict his use of central heating, only turning it on when the temperature in his flat falls below ten degrees, even though he has Raynaud’s disease, which affects extremities such as the fingers and toes in cold temperatures.This leaves about £50 a week for food and other essentials like toiletries and cleaning products, but that is without the £20 a week he budgets for MOT and car repairs, the £20 a week he previously spent on petrol, which he can no longer afford, and council tax of more than £20 a week he has been asked to pay, which he is hoping the council will reduce.He has been left with a choice of spending his little remaining weekly income on food, heat or transportation. He is likely to have to sell his car, leaving him even more isolated than he is already.He will eventually receive some compensation for the loss of SDP – likely to be less than £20 a week extra, backdated to when he moved onto universal credit – once regulations laid before parliament this week are voted on by MPs.He also receives personal independence payment of £145 a month to cover some of his disability-related extra costs, but he uses this to pay for personal care, provide the support he needs for visits to shops and other busy locations, and to pay for taxis when he is too ill to drive.In a letter to his MP, the Conservative Sir Greg Knight, Golden described both how inaccessible he had found the universal credit process and the impact on his income, writing: “As a constituent of Bridlington I would like to inform its MP of what is happening in his constituency. And how Universal Credits is so unfit for purpose.“The whole process has left my health even worse and I can totally understand why people are actually taking their own lives due to the process and awards of Universal Credits.”He told Disability News Service that he wanted the government to explain how it could justify the “dread and high stress levels” caused by the introduction of universal credit, which was leaving him and others with less money and “causing even more hardship and very difficult decisions on what areas you can cut back on in an already frugal lifestyle”.He said this was “pushing people into even more poverty and hardship” and having a “massive” impact on both their physical and mental health.He said: “Over the past few years, disabled people of this country have been made to jump through the government’s hoops to receive what they are entitled to, in many cases going through not only the benefit allocation but also the appeals processes.“At times, it makes one feel like you are having to grovel for what you’re entitled to.”A DWP spokesperson said: “People can access support online, via our helpline or in the jobcentre and Mr Golden regularly uses his online journal to communicate with the DWP.“In some circumstances, home visits can also be arranged to support a claimant with their claim.“Where a claimant is unable to make or maintain their claim online, they are able to do so using the claims by phone process.”She said the government was “committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions.“The SDP is not part of universal credit because we have simplified disability provision within universal credit.“This change ensures that around one million disabled people will receive more in universal credit than the legacy benefits system.”Despite this, a report by the Commons work and pensions committee suggested last month that even claimants with higher support needs would be worse off under universal credit because of the loss of SDP and EDP, saying that universal credit “does not match what those claimants could have received under the legacy system, with the premia in place”.DWP continues to refuse to say if it accepts this statement is correct.Only last week, the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, told her Labour shadow, Marsha de Cordova, that it would be too expensive to find out how many disabled people claiming SDP had been moved onto universal credit since June last year – and in the previous 18 months – in circumstances like Golden’s.Golden will be one of the last recipients of SDP to be moved on to universal credit, at least for several months, as new regulations came into force yesterday (Wednesday) that prevent any further migration of such claimants – apart from those involved in a small pilot programme – until the main “managed migration” process begins next year.Ministers laid this and another set of regulations before parliament on Monday (14 January), following a statement made by employment minister Alok Sharma on 11 January.The other set of regulations – which will have to be approved by MPs – will allow the government to run the small pilot, which will involve a maximum of 10,000 claimants of legacy benefits, including ESA, moving onto universal credit, which will begin in July.The regulations will also provide transitional protection for former recipients of SDP like Golden who have already moved across to universal credit, and those who will do so in the future.But even when these protections are introduced, ministers have previously suggested there will be compensation of only about £80 a month, compared with potential losses for Golden of more than £180 a month.The government will report on findings from the pilot before introducing legislation that will allow it to extend the “managed migration” to a further three million people on legacy benefits, including hundreds of thousands on ESA.The DWP spokesperson said: “The department will be providing a transitional payment to those who have already moved to universal credit who had SDP before they moved and who are eligible. This will be a lump sum and ongoing payments. “The transitional payments are within the main managed migration regulation package, laid today (Monday), which will be debated prior to the pilot, when parliamentary time allows.“Both the lump sum payment and the ongoing payments will commence after the managed migration regulations are passed.”She added: “The aim of the pilot is to ensure that claimants on all legacy benefits, with a range of differing characteristics, are successfully migrated to universal credit.“The department is currently working closely with a wide and diverse range of stakeholders to design the managed migration process and we are considering our approach to the pilot.” A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
Lydia Chávez, Executive Editor 0% In the oh-so-bespoke foodie scene of San Francisco, it’s so refreshing to see the term “pop-up” refer to something down-to-earth and truly local and fun. This is a food story that doesn’t list the chef’s resume, doesn’t include some form of upscale cultural appropriation and doesn’t have to brag about creating an intimate environment, because it’s happening in your local bar. Sanctuary City Furor Whipped up After Killing of Abel Esquivel is Phony and Lazy Lt. Williams has garnered plenty of media attention, but this profile after her promotion offered both an update on the police department’s progress toward reforms and a personal look at Williams as a person. Julian Mark, Reporter Maybe it’s unfair to mention a piece twice, but Elizabeth Creely’s story about a forgotten parcel on 22nd and Harrison was really that good, and unequivocally my favorite of the year. Ms. Creely leads us down the rabbit hole of the empty lot’s history, revealing a cast of characters and competing interests, and rightly suggesting that more — perhaps tense — history behind the unclaimed land has yet to unfold.“Politics runs in this city’s water like fluoride …” writes columnist Joe Eskenazi in his examination of the “I Am Not A Monster” ad campaign, which was launched by the still-would-be developer of the 1979 Mission housing project at 16th and Mission. Only Mr. Eskenazi’s analysis could have captured the hand-to-forehead head-shaking of the public officials actually tasked with green-lighting the project, as well as the absurdity of the campaign’s intentions. What a scoop. Anyone who has frequented the Mission in the last ten or so years might have wondered how the decaying building at 18th and Mission could still be there, untransformed, unutilized. Wonder no more, reports Ms. Wenus in her recent story about how a local nonprofit is developing the building into 100 percent affordable housing and a home for both a dance studio and a nonprofit. It will be a game-changer. Joe’s very keenly observed column points out the immense hypocrisy of our nations’ response to the killing of Kate Steinle, while failing to be moved by the murder of a promising young man, Abel Esquivel, who was killed under similar circumstances (by undocumented immigrants with a weapon stolen from a law-enforcement officer). I was proud to have written an obituary about Esquivel, and I think Joe’s piece offered the very salient political context to that tragedy, without exacerbating the hysterics of our national discourse about immigration. Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% Missionite Helps Hoist 75-foot ‘Resist’ Banner Finally, I like the series of short profiles that Alex Palacios Calderon, a sophomore in high school, wrote for People We Meet. Alex did an excellent job, and it is rewarding to see young journalists take advantage of being at Mission Local. We’re not a nonprofit, and we’re not profitable, but a lot of young reporters have started their careers here, improving their skills and giving you great coverage. For those of you who are members, you’ve all been a part of making that happen. Many, many thanks. Locally Sourced Pop-up Grows in Mission District Bars I loved this short piece about a local who deserves more recognition for her incredible dedication to her values and her neighborhood. Nancy is so focused on helping raise the next generation of Mission youth that a casual outside observer might not know how mulitfaceted her activism is. Yulanda Williams Climbs SFPD Ranks One Year After Being Target of Racist Texts Our coverage of Mayor Ed Lee’s unexpected passing, which included Joe Eskenazi’s piece on his legacy, Julian Mark’s piece on Lee and Asians in the Mission, and Laura Wenus’ article on Lee and nonprofits. All of it was smart and balanced. I hate reading the day-after stories when the deceased is turned into a saint. Human beings are full of contradictions; politicians perhaps even more so. The stories by Eskenazi, Mark and Wenus reflect the complications in Lee’s legacy and in his relationships. I loved Elizabeth Creely’s piece on Parcel 36 that we just put up this week. It is a long, complicated tale of Mission history and, in the end, the Mission might actually get some green space out of it. Laura Wenus, Managing EditorToo often, we watch stories that seem superficial or unimportant (celebrity and crime news) draw thousands of clicks, while pieces we’ve poured our heart and soul into — or that we feel should really have an impact — get passed over. Here are a few of my favorites from this year that, while readers did seem to show an interest, ended up underrated:
0% Tags: police • SFPD • tasers Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% GaryDelagnes was loud and angry and decrying his hometown as a feckless and stupid place with no denizen as feckless nor stupid as its chief of police. In other words, it was a Wednesday. “We have given this chief of police every opportunity to succeed. And he has been an abject failure,” thundered Delagnes, the former president and now a consultant for the San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA). “If there’s a number less than zero, he’s it. He clearly has no mind of his own, so, I believe he was pushed by someone — to do this.” To be fair, Delagnes was a shade more agitated than usual. After all, it’s not every day that the chief of police — a dreaded outsider from the dreaded realm of Los Angeles — publicly and intentionally spills his beer on the POA’s shoes. But, whether pushed or not, Chief Bill Scott did this. Yesterday, San Francisco’s nascent chief subbed out his innocuous, proforma letter to the Department of Elections taking no position at all on the POA-backed ballot measure to put Tasers in the hands of San Francisco cops — on the police union’s chosen terms. Scott replaced it with one decrying such a move as a travesty. “This measure is the antithesis of the spirit of many of the” Department of Justice recommendations for SFPD reform, he wrote. “It would not promote a nimble process allowing modifications or changes to [Taser]-related policies. Moreover, it is not a national best practice to promulgate policing operational policies relating to equipment usage and regulation by voter majority.” (Ya think?)That responsibility should go to “the Police Commission and the Chief of Police respectively” — the very bodies that the measure, backed by the police union, cuts out of the equation. “In essence,” Scott concluded, “The measure would prevent the timely adjustment of [Taser] policies … even if emerging or best policing practices or other legitimate factors calls for such changes to occur immediately.” Of course you realize, this means war.Ithas been a decade-long quest for the POA to enable the doling out of Tasers to its members. In November of last year, Police Commissioner Bob Hirsch broke a 3-3 deadlock and gave the POA what it has long desired . SFPD officers will be equipped with Tasers — but only following the formation of use and accountability procedures. Several of the stakeholders involved in these ongoing negotiations said they expected the terms to be introduced as soon as this month. Well, too late. In February the police union turned in a stack of signatures for its ballot measure, which would not only arm the cops with Tasers on an accelerated timeline but largely divorce the Police Commission and even the chief himself from altering Taser use policies or holding accountable officers who deviate from them. At the time, Delagnes told the Chronicle that this was all a play for leverage: If the Police Commission established a Taser policy to the POA’s liking, “we’ll pull the measure,” he pledged. But that was never possible. Elections Department boss John Arntz confirms that “once an initiative petition is filed with this office, the proponents cannot withdraw the petition.” Delagnes has spearheaded initiative petitions before; he knows this. He acknowledged as much to Mission Local, modifying his statement to the Chron. No, they wouldn’t “pull the measure” — because you can’t do that. They would simply “not push it.” Delagnes, then, was clearly playing it fast and loose. In other words, it was a Wednesday.He was as honest as honest can be, however, when he talked up how well the Taser measure polls. A recent Chamber of Commerce tally found 76 percent of voters want Tasers in our cops’ hands. Presented as an up-or-down vote on Tasers, this measure wins in a contest resembling the Warriors vs. the Bulls.Of course, this city’s powers-that-be have already greenlit Tasers — and this is no mere up-or-down vote. As the (pro-Taser) chief of police has gone out of his way to note, this measure does a lot more than that. There is, perhaps, just one thing that could derail the police union’s quest to have the voters shoehorn its chosen Taser policy into San Francisco law. And that’s the active opposition of the (pro-Taser) chief. Thesorts of folks who oppose Tasers from the get-go — police reformers, civil libertarians, residents of communities of color most likely to be Tased — are not thrilled with the police union’s measure. No surprise there. As we have written before, Tasers are costly, dangerous and failure-prone. But Bob Hirsch is not some anti-Taser wingnut. As noted above, he’s the Mayor Ed Lee appointee to the Police Commission who provided the deciding pro-Taser vote, and has been a driving force in determining when and how they can be used. And he is livid about the police union’s measure. “It makes no sense for the POA to go to voters and have them vote on what type of weapons officers should carry,” he says. “They should not vote on weapons any more than they should vote on ammunition or how the police cars are equipped.” What’s more, Hirsch continues, the police union’s measure would set in stone policies that could then only be overturned by another voter measure or a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors. “Let’s say we find a defect in the Taser model we purchase. I don’t see how this ballot initiative would allow us to pull them from the officers,” Hirsch continues. “Suppose the training program isn’t going well. Suppose we find a handful of officers are misusing the weapon. Or suppose it’s more than a handful: Let’s say it’s a real problem. We’d want the ability to modify, but this gives us no flexibility.”And that’s a potentially deadly situation. A UCSF study found a massive spike in deaths in municipalities that deploy stun guns. Those deaths tapered back once stun gun policies were modified — but, as Hirsch notes, this measure retards the city’s ability to modify such policies. And, if you parse the policies this measure would give Hirsch et al. no flexibility to modify, there is cause for concern. It would allow Taser use on subjects who are “assaultive.” But, legally, all this implies is an unwanted tap on the shoulder. Or maybe even less: “We understand this to mean someone could be threatening the officer,” says David Rizk, an attorney on the San Francisco Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force, “whether the threats are credible or not.” This means someone shouting “I’m gonna kill you!” — even an intoxicated or mentally incapacitated person who is in no position to actually do so — could be Tased. As could someone stating “I’m gonna get you,” or “I am threatening you now!” or so many other things. The de-escalation practices that have become the mantra of police reformers within the department and without are not mentioned in the POA measure. “What the POA is saying,” notes John Crew, a former ACLU attorney studying police practices, “is that they want to use Tasers on the front-end.” This measure would appear to allow that. Forall the above reasons, Bill Scott decided to wade into this morass. But there are more reasons still, and that’s because Delagnes’ criticisms of the new chief are echoed even by officers not demonstrating the union boss’ extreme vitriol. Scott’s command staff is virtually the same as the one he inherited from Greg Suhr, the ultimate insider and POA’s fair-haired boy. He has not shaken up the department. Crime, you’ll no doubt notice, continues to be problematic. But, arguably even more than fighting crime — the ostensible duty of every law-enforcement officer on God’s green earth — this chief’s raison d’être is to institute the DOJ reforms handed down to this troubled department.The POA measure forced Scott to take a stand, lest he lose all credibility as a reformer. Nobody committed to “collaborative reform” could idly stand by and allow a change-averse police union to not only sidestep the collaborative process but to additionally undermine both the civilian police commission and the chief’s own authority. Or, as your humble narrator’s mother likes to say, “You can’t shit on my head and make me wear it like a hat.” Bill Scott has tossed this new hat back at the POA. He has crossed his own personal Rubicon. The die is cast. Update, 10:45 a.m.: POA President Martin Halloran this morning sent out this e-mail to his union’s membership:To: Active MembersFrom: Martin HalloranWhen Bill Scott was appointed San Francisco’s Chief of Police it appeared that nobody warned him about the political snake pit he was entering into in this city. The POA meets with the Chief monthly and we have tried to develop a rapport with him but at times it’s been one step forward and two steps back.Yesterday, Chief Scott took a disappointing and disastrous leap backwards. By attacking the Tasers ballot measure, [click here to read] he, as the leader of 2200 members of the SFPD, is hindering our officers from obtaining a less lethal option that will reduce injuries to the public and to our officers. This letter to the Department of Elections is counterproductive to recommendations made by the DOJ COPS review regarding implementing Tasers in San Francisco. It also could cause harm to the rank and file by preventing them from obtaining a necessary tool that almost every major law enforcement agency has available to them.Unfortunately, the Chief allowed himself to be played like a cheap fiddle by some on the Police Commission who have their own agenda. He should get rid of whoever is advising him – otherwise, he is going to drive an irreparable wedge between himself and the membership.Fortunately, there is a reasonable voice in the room. Mayor Mark Farrell came out with a strongly worded statement in favor of Tasers [click here to read]. He called out the obstructionists on the Police Commission for who they are: short sighted appointees who prefer to play politics than to do their job and keep officers and the public safe.Martin Halloran,SFPOA President
SAINTS have announced their squad for Sunday’s Stobart Super League Round 15 game against Wigan Warriors at the Etihad Stadium.Tommy Makinson and Mark Flanagan miss out through injury which means Ade Gardner and Andy Dixon are recalled.The squad is:1. Paul Wellens, 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 4. Sia Soliola, 5. Francis Meli, 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax, 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 16. Paul Clough, 17. Gary Wheeler, 18. Shaun Magennis, 19. Andy Dixon, 26. Josh Jones.Shaun Wane, Wigan’s head coach, will select from:1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Josh Charnley, 3. Darrell Goulding, 4. George Carmont, 6. Brett Finch, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 9. Michael McIlorum, 10. Lee Mossop, 11. Harrison Hansen, 12. Gareth Hock, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 14. Jeff Lima, 16. Liam Farrell, 17. Chris Tuson, 21. Epalahame Lauaki, 22. Gil Dudson, 24. Anthony Gelling, 28. Logan Tomkins, 33. Dominic Crosby.The game kicks off at 6pm and the referee is Ben Thaler.Stat Pack:Last 10 meetings:Wigan 18, St Helens 4 (CCQF, 12/5/12)St Helens 10, Wigan 28 (SLR10, 6/4/12)St Helens 26, Wigan 18 (SLQSF, 1/10/11)Wigan 18, St Helens 26 (SLQPO, 18/9/11)St Helens 12, Wigan 18 (CCSF, 6/8/11)(at Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington)St Helens 10, Wigan 32 (SLR18, 17/6/11)Wigan 28, St Helens 24 (SLR11, 22/4/11)St Helens 16, Wigan 16 (SLR1, 12/2/11)(at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)St Helens 10, Wigan 22 (SLGF, 2/10/10)(at Old Trafford, Manchester)Wigan 24, St Helens 26 (SLR18, 20/6/10)Super League Summary:St Helens won 26 (includes win in 2000 Grand Final & wins in 2000, 2002, 2009 and 2011 play-offs)Wigan won 28 (includes win in 2010 Grand Final & wins in 2001, 2003 and 2004 play-offs)4 drawsHighs and Lows:St Helens highest score: 57-16 (MM, 2008) (also widest margin)Wigan highest score: 65-12 (A, 1997) (also widest margin)
Ben Barba grabbed a brace in the defeat with Danny Richardson kicking four goals, but Ash Handley’s double proved to be the difference.Both sides fashioned early chances before two penalties on the bounce allowed the visitors the chance to send Anthony Mullally twisting over from short range.Saints had broken down the left hand side but when Zeb Taia was somewhat harshly caught for obstruction the Rhinos took full advantage.It wasn’t long before the home side hit back though and it was thanks to Ben Barba.After Jon Wilkin was unlucky with a chip and chase, Saints forced an error in midfield, sent the ball through hands and the fullback dummied through a gap.Richardson levelling it up with the boot.Barba went close on the left hand side shortly afterwards and then Tommy Makinson had one chalked off by the video referee.But Saints hit the front with a Richardson penalty in the 28th minute.The half back was then instrumental in an Adam Swift try that came right out of Saints Academy.On the last, he kicked it high and got it back after Swift out-jumped Ryan Hall.From there, the youngster ran down the right hand side, duly turned it back inside to Makinson who then offloaded to Swift.Wonderful.Saints were on the up but as the half came to a close Richie Myler finished off an overlap to leave it all square the the break.After a scrappy opening to the second half, Richardson tagged on a penalty in the 55th minute to give the hosts the lead for the second time, only for Kallum Watkins to return the favour three minutes later.The visitors then took control.A simple chip on the last was missed by the Saints defence and Ash Handley cleaned up.Barba made an important tackle on 64 minutes and a minute later Jonny Lomax, Regan Grace and Mark Percival were all involved in stopping Watkins scoring a sure fire try.But seconds later, a kick on the last took a deflection and Handley went in for his second.Saints had a mountain to climb but they reduced the deficit with a piece of class.Well inside his own half, with around eight minutes to go, Grace took off down the left hand side, beat two men and then turned it inside for Barba to step through and go under the posts.It was a superb moment but Saints lost the ball on the return set and Matt Parcell scored from dummy half to seal the win.Match Summary:Saints: Tries: Barba (2), Swift Goals: Richardson (4 from 5)Rhinos: Tries: Mullally, Myler, Handley (2), Parcell Goals: Watkins (3 from 4), Myler (1 from 2)Penalties Awarded: Saints: 7 Rhinos: 8HT: 12-12 FT: 20-28REF: J ChildATT: 11,482Teams:Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 5. Adam Swift, 2. Tommy Makinson, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 20. Matty Lees.Rhinos: 1. Ashton Golding; 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 22. Ash Handley, 5. Ryan Hall; 6. Joel Moon, 7. Richie Myler; 16. Anthony Mullally, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Brad Singleton, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 15. Brett Delaney. Subs: 24. Jack Walker, 27. Cameron Smith, 28. Mikolaj Oledzki, 30. Josh Walters.
Brunswick County has hired Baron & Budd, P.C. as well as Harold Seagle of Seagle Law.“This is an important step in protecting the long-term quality of public drinking water in the Cape Fear Region,” said Brunswick County Manager Ann Hardy. “As we have said on numerous occasions, we will not stand for the discharge of perfluorinated chemicals into our public drinking water supply. We remain absolutely committed to protecting the long-term viability of the Cape Fear River.”Brunswick County has obtained evidence that Chemours, DuPont and Kuraray, all multi-billion dollar corporations, manufacture perfluorinated chemicals (“PFCs”) at the Fayetteville Works plant in Fayetteville.Related Article: CFPUA plan to filter GenX raises financial concerns for customersDuPont has manufactured PFC chemicals since 1980.Brunswick County believes that as a result of PFC manufacturing, these corporations have released PFC chemicals into Cape Fear River, and thus the public drinking water systems. Recent tests show the corporations continued to deposit PFC chemicals into Cape Fear River as recently as September.Brunswick County will explore all legal remedies on behalf of the county and its residents, including but not limited to costs of filtration and punitive damages if warranted.“Brunswick County has retained our firms to investigate and pursue those legal remedies caused by all chemicals coming from the Fayetteville Works plant,” says Baron & Budd shareholder Scott Summy, who tried the first MTBE chemical contamination case in the United States, locally here in Wilmington.The firms will be investigating what the corporations knew and when they knew it. Chemours, DuPont and Kuraray discharge wastewater under their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits, issued by the State of North Carolina.Chemours released a statement Tuesday evening stating:Chemours remains committed to ongoing water sampling at and near our Fayetteville, N.C. site. Recent sampling results detected trace levels of HFPO-DA (sometimes referred to as “Gen X” or “C3 dimer) in groundwater monitoring wells within the boundaries of the Fayetteville site. Chemours is commencing a program this week to offer to sample potable (drinking water) wells at residences in the immediate vicinity of its Fayetteville Works facility. The samples will be analyzed for HFPO-DA. Chemours has made state officials aware of this program and will continue to work closely with regulators to answer questions, provide information as needed, and determine next steps. 00:00 00:00 html5: Video file not foundhttps://cdn.field59.com/WWAY/1504742358-afaecefe21c72a10867242157de5052bff234bff_fl9-720p.mp4 spaceplay / pause qunload | stop ffullscreenshift + ←→slower / faster ↑↓volume mmute ←→seek . seek to previous 12… 6 seek to 10%, 20% … 60% XColor SettingsAaAaAaAaTextBackgroundOpacity SettingsTextOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundSemi-TransparentOpaqueTransparentFont SettingsSize||TypeSerif MonospaceSerifSans Serif MonospaceSans SerifCasualCursiveSmallCapsResetSave Settings Bolivia, NC (WWAY) — Brunswick County has hired a national law firm and a firm from North Carolina to represent the county against Chemours, DuPont, and Kuraray.The county will also use the firms to recover costs required to investigate, manage, reduce and remove certain chemicals from drinking water drawn from the Cape Fear River.- Advertisement –