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Posted by: Gordon on 1/26/2015


TIPS images
Join us for a webinar:

3 p.m. pacific / 5 p.m. central / 6 p.m. eastern

Thursday, February 5

Register for the webinar now

Under federal law each Regional or Metropolitan Planning Organization (RPO or MPO) must develop a Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP.

The TIP provides the community with critical information about how federal, state, and local transportation and infrastructure dollars will be distributed. Because the TIP is an important indicator of job creation in the transportation and construction industries in our various communities, it is essential that organizers and leaders learn how to read these documents.

Ron Achelpohl, director of transportation for Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the MPO in the Kansas City metropolitan region, will provide an overview of the required components of any TIP for organizers and advocates on Gamaliel's first webinar of 2015.

Ron, also a leader in the Gamaliel affiliate, MORE2, will walk us through specific TIP examples; challenge us to consider how we organize around the TIP to secure jobs for low-income people, people of color, and women. He will also describe the rules for public engagement in the TIP development process.

In addition, we will explore how updated minority and women’s hiring goals and updated apprenticeship regulations will impact the TIP.

For more information, contact Rev. Cynthia Jarrold, Federal Policy Coordinator, cjarrold@gamaliel.org.

Posted by: Gordon on 1/25/2015

Sacred Conversations About race pix

MCU held its Sacred Conversations about Race (+Action) kick-off Sunday

 

Sometimes, rethinking race means re-writing history. That lesson hit home for 300-plus attendees at the kick-off of MCU’s Sacred Conversations About Race (+Action) the Sunday after Martin Luther King Day.

The crowd, about a third African American and two-thirds white and from some 50 different congregations and faith communities across St. Louis, heard from speakers and viewed a timeline of the making of racial segregation in St. Louis by a local professor, from neighborhood covenants that segregated the city in 1919-23 to urban renewal policies of the 1960s and 1970s.

In breakout groups they added their own experiences with race to the timeline. The pattern that emerged looked pretty different from the history they teach in school:

  • One woman said at her college in the 1950s, roll call included both a student’s name and her race.Another remembered an election where voters decided against a high school for the city’s north side that would have served newly-arrived African-American families. When it failed, some enrolled in Ferguson and other county districts, she recalled.

  • Several people cited the protest in the 1960s by two men who shut down the building of the city’s famous arch to protest the fact that not a single African American was involved in building it.  

  • Others talked about experiences with redlining when a bank was happy to take their deposits but refused to loan them money.

“People had all kinds of details and stories,” said Pastor Dietra Wise-Baker, co-chair of MCU's clergy caucus. “I think for a lot of people, we didn’t realize how much we knew, or how deep and overt racism was, historically. It made people think about their history in a totally different way.”

In addition to the alt-history lesson, organizers said attendees had some fidgety moments talking about race, for example when Presbyterian minister Deb Krause walked the group through a definition of racism as “prejudice + power” and unpacked African-Americans’ experiences with law enforcement.

Most will be heading into more, not less, uncomfortable territory as their congregations prepare to continue this process. Even before the event 30 congregations had already signed up to hold similar sacred conversations led by a multi-cultural facilitator team from outside their institution. Then, many will join with a different church or faith group to continue the process, before the whole group comes back together in March. 

While MCU organizers will be in the state capital to push for education and health care reform next week—their first visit since participating in a mass “die-in” at the rotunda earlier this month—they did not make a call to join in that action a central part of the Sacred Conversations event.

The deliberate process is the best way to build a solid base of multi-cultural understanding within the organization and the city, Baker said. 

“I think this is the right move based on our Ferguson experiences,” she said. “It was clear that we’re not ready to go forward with action – we were out there in the middle of action and having problems around issues that we thought were in the past.  When we come back in March, we can decide what we are going to go after together around structural racism.”

The event was covered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Public Radio.

Posted by: Gordon on 1/17/2015
With his State of the Union address the day after the Dr. Martin Luther King federal holiday and at a moment when our national awareness of racial inequity is greater than it has been in decades, race ought to be a major theme in President Obama’s speech tomorrow.

Whether on immigration or jobs, crime, education, or health care, we've come to believe an explicit discussion of race will prove as important in solving the problems we face as involving those closest to the problems we face in their solutions.
SOTU Speech - Houses of Congress

“Since the 1960s I haven’t seen the division in this country more defined than now,” says Rev. Willie Brisco, president of Gamaliel’s African American Leadership Commission and Milwaukee affiliate MICAH and vice president of Wisconsin’s WISDOM.

“What we need to understand today is that the challenges we face are not about good and bad people but about systems. For example, with the police the systems used in hiring and evaluating people who you’re going to give a gun to, or when it comes to jobs making sure that everyone has access to the jobs we’re creating.”

If we could write SOTU15, hashtags and all, #immigration and #blacklivesmatter would break social media Tuesday night. That may be too much to hope for, but here’s what we do think he should say tomorrow:

Paid sick leave--enhancing access to jobs
We are excited about his support for at least seven paid sick days for every worker. This is a great example of a way to be intentional about who gets access to jobs in our economy. Yes, it is important to create jobs – but we need to invest thought in effort to insure that people who need jobs are able to access them, too. We highlighted the importance of this in our recent report on the bottom-line impact of community advocacy strategies on the economy, Jobs and More Jobs.

Another way to promote access to jobs we are waiting for President Obama to address is updating regulations that govern how many women and people of color ought to receive positions on federally-funded infrastructure and other projects.

Gamaliel has seen the value of such policies as an employer. In the years since we instituted paid-leave policies for employees to care for aged parents as well as parental leave when a child is born, adopted or becomes ill, we've seen the numbers of women and people of color staffing organizations across our network grow. This has helped reduce turnover of women, in particular, who now make up a majority of our national staff and organizers at our affiliates.

Grow America Act and Infrastructure
Last year Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx floated the administration's $302-billion Grow America Act, which included many Gamaliel and Transportation Equity Network priorities to strengthen transportation and infrastructure policies such as better local hire provisions on construction projects, increased transit spending, and making permanent the TIGER grants to local governments program.

We hope he will revisit the proposal tomorrow night and vow to re-introduce all or at least significant parts of the Act. He could also help to push forward a dedicated secure source of funding for transportation so that transit dollars and programs can become more than a stepchild of highway spending.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP)
President Obama has got it wrong on this proposed agreement. President Obama has touted the benefits of "re-shoring" American jobs; the TPP cuts against that trend. Instead, this agreement would roll back employee protections and wages, food safety and health regulations; place greater burdens on an already-broken immigration system; and disparately impact women and people of color.

Unfortunately, the details of the agreement are being negotiated behind closed doors with corporate officials. If previous free trade agreements with Mexico and China are an indicator of what to expect [as a spreadsheet from Economic Policy Institute shows], we will see millions of U.S. jobs off-shored and tens of thousands of factories and manufacturing sites closed, significantly harming families and communities that are still struggling to recover from the 2008 economic crisis.

Today affiliates across the Gamaliel network are honoring King Day with events, trainings and other actions from California to Illinois, and New York state. Tomorrow we will watch our president deliver his second-to-last SOTU speech with hope that he will help to move us a step closer to the Beloved Community that Dr. King talked about.
Posted by: Gordon on 1/14/2015
Earlier today the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 240, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill with a vote of 236-191.

“As people of faith we're struck by the immorality of today’s House action,” said Ana Garcia-Ashley, executive director of Gamaliel.  “Those of us in the Christian faith tradition feel a particular dissonance having just emerged from the six-week season that celebrates the birth of the infant Jesus, follows the journey of the young immigrant family forced to flee their homeland for the safety of their child, and promotes a new world order of inclusion and hospitality and the end of oppression.”We Are Workers not Criminals image

“Today’s vote is a vote against family.  It is a vote against economic growth.  It is a vote against the American Dream,” said Pablo Tapia, chair of Gamaliel’s civil rights for immigrants campaign“Dream for All.

The Appropriations Bill includes five anti-immigrant amendments that repeal administrative reform. Most would de-fund President Obama's executive action announced in Las Vegas in November, the DACA program for dreamers brought here as children, or both. Here are the roll calls on how legislators voted:

The $40 billion bill moves now to the Senate for consideration where it is unlikely to secure the necessary 60 votes for passage. President Obama has already announced that he will veto the legislation if it is sent to his desk.

Garcia-Ashley and Tapia agree that while they are disappointed with the House vote, they have not lost hope.  “As Rabbi Gamaliel said:  ‘If it is of God, it will come to pass,’” Garcia-Ashley said. “We along with partner organizations and congregations across this country have been called to work for justice for all. We are committed to continuing the work until compassionate and just reform is achieved.”
 
Gamaliel will host its annual immigration campaign retreat outside of Chicago in early February.  Leaders from across the country are expected for this critical strategy and training event.
Posted by: Gordon on 1/9/2015
Die in at Missouri Capitol Jan 7
Speaking up for criminal justice and Medicaid reform, advocates held a die in on the floor of the Missouri Capitol Jan. 7

Missouri’s new House Speaker John Diehl can declare that the Legislature will avoid Medicaid reform and block plans for a “Ferguson Agenda” until he’s blue in the face. Advocates from organizations across the state who orchestrated a die-in and protest on the Legislature’s opening day Jan. 7 put newly-elected and veteran lawmakers on notice that they have a different set of expectations.

Progress Missouri reported that Missouri Rural Crisis Center and St. Louis Jobs with Justice convened a group that also included Organization for Black Struggle, PICO affiliate Concerned Citizens Organization, Missouri Faith Voices, Gamaliel affiliate Metropolitan Congregations United and others for a news conference and actions on the first day of the new session.

Diehl had said in the media the week before the Legislature opened that the heavily Republican House and Senate would not even look at Medicaid reform for Missouri, even though most hospitals and the Chamber of Commerce have joined advocates in support of change. Missouri has some 300,000 uninsured residents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for subsidies under offered by the Affordable Care Act. Groups including MCU have pushed for reform to "close the gap" for several years.

"That was Diehl's shot across our bow," says  MCU health care task force leader Kevin Gritzke, who developed a heart condition during a brief interval when he was between health insurance coverages and ended up with a million-dollar healthcare bill from a local hospital he's still negotiating to pay due to being on a fixed income. "Our response was, 'you know buddy, it's just beginning. We’re back."

Wednesday's event started with a procession in which community leaders carried three coffins, symbolizing people who died with no health insurance during the past two years when the Legislature failed to act and a third commemorating Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, VonDerrit Myers and others. Many turned out to the action to press for reforms of criminal justice in the state.

Leaders from Organization for Black Struggle delivered demands for a Quality Policing Initiative, which will address recruitment, training, deployment, accountability and advancement of law enforcement officers in the state.

Gritzke said the group got the sense they had had an impact. He noted that a woman who witnessed the die-in spoke up at the group's debrief (hosted by the Missouri legislative black caucus) to say that in may years as a lobbyist in Jefferson City, she had rarely seen a group have the same kind of impact on legislators.

Missouri Lieutenant Governor Pete Kinder would probably agree: he posted a photo on Twitter of his gavel and pad he hammered on to try to get order on the floor during the protests. It was broken in two pieces

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