Days of Action, Advocacy and Accountability

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with his son Austin, MLK Day 2014

Gordon McHenry, Jr. with his son Austin, MLK Day 2014

January 15th is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I spent the day at our Solid Ground Sand Point Housing Campus meeting with our Residential Staff as we worked to identify and problem solve barriers and challenges that constrain how we serve the 175 families who live in our housing at Sand Point. It was an intense day when we consider the lived experiences of our families and our commitment to strengthening their lives.

Yesterday, the national holiday in honor of Dr. King was a day of Action, Advocacy and Accountability. Dr. King reminds us:

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind – it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact – I can only submit to the edict of others.”

President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. (2nd from right) discusses ideas for making the strongest impact when talking to your legislators.

President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. (2nd from right) discusses ideas for making the strongest impact when talking to your legislators.

We do have the right to vote, and electing responsible leaders is an important first step. Holding our leaders accountable for the laws they enact or fail to enact is action that is still needed, especially for our residents who are trapped by poverty and oppression.

This is why I was in Olympia with Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network on MLK Lobby Day 2015. I hope during this Legislative Session, you will advocate for equity and justice, and support our advocacy efforts.

An effective way is to contact your legislators by calling the Legislative Hotline, 1.800.562.6000. Join in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Take action to advocate on behalf of our Solid Ground program participants and residents, and in doing so, help hold our electeds accountable.

Take action for meaningful change on MLK Lobby Day, 1/19/15!

Greta Carlson is a Communications Intern with Solid Ground.

People of all ages and backgrounds can have a voice in Olympia on MLK Lobby Day!

People of all ages and backgrounds can have a voice in Olympia on MLK Lobby Day!

Traveling to Olympia with the Statewide Poverty Action Network on Monday, 1/19/15 for their annual Martin Luther King Lobby Day is sure to be a powerful and enriching experience. We encourage as many people to attend as possible to help advocate for legislation that will make a positive impact on low-income families in Washington state.

MLK Lobby Day facilitates people in meeting with their lawmakers to share their stories, which promotes the protection of resources necessary for thousands of people to meet basic daily needs. 

How to register:

Visit Poverty Action’s website today to fill out our short registration form. We’ll send you a confirmation email, and you’ll be set to go!

Plan of the day:

On MLK Day, Solid Ground will provide free transportation both to and from Olympia. Shuttles will depart at 7:30am on 1/19/15 from the headquarters building (1501 N 45th St, Seattle, WA 98103) and return in the afternoon after the events have concluded. There will also be a bus available leaving from Kent and a van leaving from Yakima.

Additionally, complimentary breakfast and lunch will be served with Vegetarian & Non-Vegetarian options available. (If you have any additional dietary needs, please bring your own food along to the event.) Childcare and language interpretation services are also provided for attendees as needed. And you can engage even further with the Poverty Action team as a volunteer to help with extra support needs for the event.

How to talk to your legislators:

During the morning, Poverty Action staff will provide an engaging, in-depth 1½-hour training session for all attendees on how to talk with legislators. After practicing, attendees will be divided into small groups by your home legislative districts and head out together for meetings with your legislators. Most districts will have three, 15-minute sessions scheduled with their state representatives and support staff. These meetings have an influence on our lawmakers, and their support of policies deeply impacts our local communities.

Top talking points:

There are three main issues that Poverty Action members have identified as top legislative agenda priorities this year: 1) Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) reform, 2) a greater TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grant, and 3) consumer protections. These major topics affect many people living on low incomes across Washington state. MLK Lobby Day is an opportunity to tell your own stories and/or advocate for others in need of change and improvements at the state legislative level.

After all of the speeches, discussions and conversations that fuel MLK Lobby Day, the Poverty Action team will follow up with attendees via email about any progress made on the issues and topics brought up during their meetings with legislators.

The Martin Luther King Day holiday is a day off for most employees and students, however we hope you’ll consider coming and joining people all across the state to ensure that people have access to the basic resources and fair policies needed to reduce poverty in Washington state. Instead of taking the day OFF, join us for a powerful day ON: In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, let’s take action for meaningful change!

Poverty Action’s 2014 election positions

VOTE FOR A CHANGE imageOn Tuesday, November 4, you have the opportunity to cast your vote and weigh in on issues important to you and your community. The Statewide Poverty Action Network has taken a position on some of this year’s main ballot initiatives to help you consider their impacts. To avoid confusion on this year’s LOOOOOOONG ballot, we’ve listed our positions in the order in which they appear on the ballot.

Initiatives 591 & 594: Background checks for gun sales
Everyone in Washington state should be able to live in safe communities. Background checks provide an important tool in curbing gun violence. We need stronger, not weaker, background checks on gun sales.

Vote NO on Initiative 591
Vote NO buttonI-591 would weaken background checks and make gun sales less safe. Right now, federal background check laws are weaker than our laws here in Washington state. This initiative would roll back our state’s existing – and already inadequate – background check laws to conform to the weaker federal standards. For example, I-591 would repeal state law that prevents individuals with restraining orders against them from possessing a gun. Also, instead of closing unsafe gun show and internet loopholes, this initiative expands them. This is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Vote NO on I-591.

Vote YES on Initiative 594
Vote YES buttonI-594 would strengthen background checks and make gun sales safer. Currently in Washington state, not all gun sales require a background check. Licensed gun dealers use a background check, while gun shows and the internet take advantage of a loophole that allows them to avoid this safety measure. I-594 would eliminate this loophole and require every gun buyer in Washington state to pass the same background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. Vote YES on I-594.

Seattle’s Proposition 1: Funding for transportation
If you live in Seattle, you have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 1. Affordable public transportation is the lifeblood of a growing city and region. Our friends, neighbors, and family members rely on the bus to get to work, school, and medical appointments. There are a number of Seattle Propositions and Measures with “1” in their titles – you’ll know this one because it is the very last measure on the Seattle ballot.

Vote YES on City of Seattle Proposition 1
Vote YES buttonCommunities of color, students, seniors, and working families will be affected by bus cuts if Seattle Proposition 1 doesn’t pass. This measure funds access to transit for riders living on low incomes and offers a low-income tax rebate on car tabs for working families. Vote YES on Proposition 1 in Seattle.

Still have questions about this year’s election?
Visit Poverty Action’s online Voter Guide to learn where the candidates stand on the issues you care most about.

Poverty Action Voter Guide now online

VotePoverty Action focuses on changing laws in Olympia, correcting injustices, and ensuring that every single person in our state can have their basic needs met and access to equal opportunity.

One of the best ways to make progress on our issues is by exercising the power to vote and electing political representatives who listen to the voices of people living on low incomes. This is why it is crucial that we understand each candidate’s stance on the issues that disproportionately impact low-income families and people of color, as well as our community at large.

Poverty Action asked candidates eight questions on topics ranging from health care to predatory lending, the safety net to institutional racism. Each election, we publish the candidate responses so that you can understand candidates’ positions on these vital issues.

The Poverty Action Voter Guide is now available online.

We hope you will use the guide to help you make informed decisions. You can expect your general election ballot in the mail this week. Ballots are due on Tuesday, November 4.

This election is critical to the well-being of our communities. These candidates will have substantial impacts on our everyday lives. Don’t let this election pass you by!

Mail in your ballot or put it in a local drop box by 8pm on Tuesday, November 4, 2014Lists of drop boxes can be found here:

For more information on Poverty Action and how to become a member, visit our website!

State’s leading anti-poverty advocate retires

If you’ve spent much time in the corridors of power around Olympia, you’ve no doubt heard The Laugh. It is disarmingly loud, boisterous and endearing. When Tony Lee unleashes, his laughter cascades over and through everything in its way. Perhaps it’s a secret to his success.

Tony!

Tony!

For nearly three decades, the last 19 years as Advocacy Director at Solid Ground, Tony has been the state’s leading lobbyist on issues impacting poor people. With his retirement this week, he steps out of the limelight to spend more time with his family.

Well known for his affable manner, keen analytical mind, and passionate commitment, Tony has had his hand in the creation and protection of many state policies that promote equity and equal opportunity for people living on low incomes in Washington State.

For instance, he was a driving force behind the creation of the state’s Food Assistance Program, which extended food benefits to tens of thousands of legal immigrants who were excluded from food stamp eligibility.

“Tony Lee is a really special human being, with a huge laugh, and huge heart and brains to go along with it, all of which are put to the service of improving and saving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our state,” says Diane Narasaki, Executive Director, Asian Counseling and Referral Service.

An immigrant who earned a law degree, Tony abandoned the practice of  law to spend the bulk of his career as an advocate, working to make laws more just.

“Everyday people of color face discrimination in the housing market, in lending practices, in our school system,” Tony says. “Not intentional perhaps, but the impacts are there. That is really one of the big reasons I’ve done what I’ve done.”

“Tony Lee is the conscience of Washington State when it comes to helping poor people,” says Frank Chopp, Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives.

Tony defers, crediting the people he represents: “I speak with more credibility when I can say ‘our agency sees people in need and here are the needs we see.’ ”

Through his work with Evergreen Legal Services, the Washington Association of Churches and Solid Ground, Tony has been a leader in multi-racial organizing and advocacy that resulted in progress on issues spanning welfare reform, food security, housing and the achievement gap in education. He worked as Solid Ground’s Advocacy Director from August 1995 through September 2014. Tony was a founding member of the Statewide Poverty Action Network in 1996 and played an essential role in its development and direction.

Tony will continue to serve as Solid Ground’s Advocacy Senior Fellow, supporting Solid Ground’s Board, CEO, Advocacy Department and the Statewide Poverty Action Network on public policy issues pertaining to education, basic needs programs, and funding for health and human services, including programs serving refugees and immigrants.

Tony, thanks for your commitment, your passion and your laugh. The world is a better place because of you.

For more on what Tony Is

 

 

Statewide Poverty Action Network’s 2014 Voter Guide

You’ve been seeing commercials, hearing ads on the radio, and receiving mail from candidates and initiative campaigns. It is clearly time to vote in our state’s primary election!

If you’ve received your ballot in the mail recently, you may see some old familiars and some new unknowns on there. It can be overwhelming trying to find resources on the right information about where these candidates stand on the issues facing your community. With so many pressing matters facing our communities, your participation in this election is critical.

Every election season, Statewide Poverty Action Network Poverty Action Voter Guide(SPAN) takes to the streets to register and mobilize voters, AND we talk to the people running for elected office across the state. We sent all running candidates in Washington state a questionnaire on topics ranging from health care to predatory lending to institutional racism, and then published their responses verbatim in this VOTER GUIDE. Over the next few weeks, we’ll add even more information about folks running for U.S. Congress and our positions on the statewide initiatives, too!

Our guide provides the tools you need to help ensure all families have the rights, recognition, and resources needed to thrive. We need great leaders in Olympia to help us forward our legislative agenda to change laws and correct injustices. Now is the time to have a say about the issues facing your community and making sure everyone can meet their basic needs.

These candidates will have substantial impacts on our everyday lives. Don’t let this election pass you by. Read our online voter guide to make informed decisions before mailing your ballot or putting it in a local drop box by 8pm on Tuesday, August 5!

SPAN and Solid Ground are nonpartisan, nonprofit (501c3) organizations that do not support any candidate or political party.

‘It’s a broken system that’s not working’: Proposed new youth jail will increase incarceration of youth of color

In 2012, King County, WA voters passed a levy initiative to fund the construction of a new Children and Family Justice Center. Given the fact that 100% of taxpayer money will be used for the construction of the facility – not for maintaining or creating services – it’s hard to think of this facility as anything other than a reinforcement of the school-to-prison pipeline, a widespread pattern in the US of pushing students, especially those already at a disadvantage, out of school and into our criminal justice system.

In King County, African-American and white youth commit crime at the same rates, yet about 40% of detained youth are African American, and they are twice as likely to be arrested and referred to court as white youth. Incarcerating youth without providing diversion or reintegration programs increases the chances of recidivism, thus continuing the revolving door of our criminal justice system – statewide and nationally.

“It’s by design to start that process off early,” says Ardell Shaw, intern for Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network. He describes how this affects kids later in life: “A person has a felony on their record. Now they may repeat this cycle, and when they get out, they have huge amounts of fines to pay. The system creates enough stress where they perpetuate recidivism and keep that cycle going.”

New Youth Jail, King County, institutional racism, african american incarceration, king county juvenile infographic

Infographic created by Solid Ground

Now that we’ve gone over some statistics, imagine how these numbers will change after the jail is built. The county is going to have to justify spending a quarter of a billion dollars on this project somehow. Their justification will come in the form of incarcerating more youth, especially targeting youth of color.

“The purpose for building it isn’t about the renovations, it’s to put more bodies in it. Particularly African-American bodies,” says Ardell. “When it first came out they tried to glamorize it as a ‘family center’ instead of calling it what it actually was.” A youth jail.

What can you do about it?

1)     “Make calls. Support us when we have meetings.” Ardell is referring to the No New Youth Jail campaign, which is strongly backed by Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, The People’s Institute Northwest, and the Black Prisoners’ Caucus among other organizations, including Solid Ground.

2)     Call King County and City of Seattle council members Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, Kathy Lambert and Dow Constantine to say you support the demands to defer this money elsewhere.

3)     Also, Ardell encourages us to talk about it. “Make people aware that it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. That money could be spent other ways. The juvenile system is broken and they DON’T fix problems in the current system.”

“You have to deal with what the issue is, why they got into trouble in the first place,” explains Ardell. “They’re not just committing crimes to commit crimes. There are other factors … So if we can get to the base root of what that is, then we stand a better chance. Then we let the kids know there is a possibility. They need to find a way to correct their system and really offer these kids help. Not just probation, but help.”

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