Tucson VOP issued a series of Action Alerts opposing Consumer Flex Loans, as already explained above.
An action alert was also issued on the State Budget, but the proceeding followed by the legislative majority with no hearings and no public testimony did not give advocates any opportunity to voice suggestions. As explained in the article on page 14, the budget passed by one vote. Funding cuts will devastate the AZ public education system and the programs for the people we serve.
The Phoenix and Tucson Councils are coordinating their actions on these issues. We are also collaborating with Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona and with the Pima County Interfaith Council.
As minority legislators already support our positions, we focused our efforts on convincing those members of the majority, who are sensitive to social issues. For instance, when Consumer Flex Loans legislation passed in the Arizona House of Representative by the slim margins of 31-29, several majority House members voted against it, thanks to the many e-mails, phone calls and legislative visits. But, we needed a few more representatives to vote NO, to stop the bill from passing.
Bridges out of Poverty
Tucson Voice of the Poor acted as the incubator for Bridges out of Poverty. Tom Jefferson is leading that effort and formed a Bridges start-up team of about 10-12 Vincentians. Several have trained extensively in the Bridges methodology and/or as Getting Ahead facilitators.
This is a summary of our future steps:
- The first Getting Ahead program will start on March 26; for this cycle, we do have the needed facilitators, enough investigators, but we are still looking for more mentors
- We expect to run the program again for a new group of people in poverty in the fall (perhaps starting in September); the second program will benefit from the experience we will have gained in the meantime
- We are in touch with several other groups in the community to recruit candidates for the fall program, in addition to candidates met by Vincentians during home visits
- We expect to do mentor training after the March program has started.
We are collaborating in this work with Pima County. Pima County is pushing the Getting Ahead program, as part of their economic development strategy. Tom Jefferson, Joan Grecchi and myself represented SVdP at a series of workshops, which complemented the training that we had already received by SVdP. Because of our previous training, we were able to contribute to the discussion.
It was also very interesting and useful for us to connect there with several community leaders and various agencies, which we will be able to work with in the future.
The SVdP Tucson Council participated in the two-day diocesan conference, Co-workers in the Vineyard, with a table and displays about Voice of the Poor and Bridges out of Poverty. Several new people signed-up to receive action alerts and the OUT OF POVERTY... newsletter.
Bishop Kicanas' opening talk was about Faith Hope and Charity. He used SVdP as the example for Charity. At the Mass, the Bishop included a prayer for the Syrian Vincentians held prisoners and over a thousand people offered their prayers for them.
On March 8, 2015 at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church, PCIC celebrated its accomplishments over the 25 years of community organizing in Tucson.
They honored long-time leaders Episcopal priest Paul Buckwalter, Methodist Pastor David Wilkinson, PCIC/AIN Lead Organizer Frank Pierson, former Tucson Diocesan CCHD rep. Joanne Welter, and deceased former Tucson Mayor and PCIC leader George Miller.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas was the Master of Ceremonies. Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, former State Rep. Ethan Orr and Southern Arizona Leadership Council Chair Lisa Lovallo (Cox Communications) were among the speakers. Looking at the future, six young leaders shared their stories and their commitment.
VOP of the Poor collaborates with PCIC on many advocacy issues and some VOP members have been long- time leaders of PCIC, as well.
Contributed by Giulio Grecchi
Photos by PCIC