Months before the election for several Tulsa Public School Board seats, 500 leaders from 14 institutional members of ACTION Tulsa assembled to establish a public relationship with school board candidates and press them to work with the organization on issues surfaced through several hundred conversations among parents, grandparents and students.
Parent leaders like Dania Gaona, told stories around lack of safety for young students walking to school, mental health, teacher support and campus safety.
In Gaona's case, because her three daughters live within 1.5 miles of the school, they are not eligible for bus service. With no crossing guards at busy street intersections, Gaona says her family Ubers to school, but that "we have many children who walk unsupervised to MacArthur across the busy intersection.”
Most candidates publicly committed to collaborate with Tulsa ACTION leaders, who pressed candidates on behalf of their schools, congregation and neighborhoods. The assembly was part of a large-scale effort to build nonpartisan citizen power with the capacity to improve conditions in the community.
After the meeting Tulsa ACTION leader Claire Tomm declared,
"I hope [people] leave feeling inspired to get out and vote in April, and to get more involved, and most importantly just to strike up a conversation with neighbors, community members about what matters."
[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Caldwell, Public Radio Tulsa]
Candidates for Tulsa Public School Board Meet to Hear Citizen Concerns, Public Radio Tulsa [pdf]
In the face of impending evictions in Oklahoma, ACTION and VOICE-OKC leaders organized city councils from OK City, Tulsa, and Norman to urge the governor to expand the eviction moratorium in July. Governor Stitt responded by allocating $10 Million in state funds for a rental assistance grant program ($5 Million for Tulsa and $5 Million for Oklahoma City).
In Tulsa, ACTION was the first organization to go to the county with the idea for rental assistance, and leveraged $15 million for local residents. When the county attempted to claw back unspent funds at the end of October, ACTION leaders fought to keep $3.5 million for a brand new utility assistance program, which helped over 6,000 families.
In Oklahoma City, VOICE-OKC leaders were critical players in the fight for Oklahoma County to use $1.5 Million in CARES Acts funding for rental assistance. In combination with funds drawn down from the state, more that 5,200 families (estimated 17,368 people) were assisted.
Pastors and lay leaders from both organizations leaned into the fight to keep families sheltered, ultimately protecting tens of thousands across the state.
[Photo Credit: Video/ACTION Tulsa]
Rental Assistance, Small Business Relief Programs Announced, The Oklahoman [pdf]
Tulsa County Organization Provides Rental Assistance, News On 6 [pdf]
Greg R. Taylor: Love Your Neighbor, Don't Evict Him, Tulsa World [pdf]
Good News Week 2021, ACTION Tulsa
The council passed a resolution calling for Gov. Kevin Stitt to temporarily block residential evictions unless a landlord is responding to a tenant’s criminal behavior or dangerous activities.
“We’re really just asking the governor to pay attention to Oklahomans who are really struggling right now” as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown, said City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, one of the sponsors of the resolution.
The push for a statewide eviction moratorium started with a Tulsa religious coalition known as ACTION and a similar group called VOICE-OKC in Oklahoma City, where the City Council has said it will vote on a similar resolution.
In effect until July 25, a federal moratorium already applies to rental properties that have federally backed mortgages, but the Tulsa City Council wants the same protection for tenants in all rental properties.
Landlords would benefit, as well, said Councilor Kara Joy McKee, explaining that tenants would ultimately still have to pay their rents in full but would have more time to seek employment or government assistance.
“Our tenants and landlords need this support at this time,” McKee said.
[Photo credit: Joey Johnson, Tulsa World]
Dr. Gary Sims’ story [above] is one of dozens we have heard about student loan debt. Most of the stories come from public education teachers, social workers and other professionals who will never earn a physician’s salary.
While researching the topic of student loan debt, we have heard from people whose Social Security checks, disability checks and paychecks are being garnished. In response to stories like these and quantitative data, financial experts, economists and politicians are labeling student loan debt as a “crisis,” one that can no longer be ignored.
While it may seem overwhelming to think about change at the national level, there are actions that can be taken at the state and local level, and Allied Communities of Tulsa Inspiring Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) is pursuing them. Using tools of broad-based organizing, ACTION teaches members to cross lines of race, ethnicity, class and religion to challenge social injustices facing families and communities.
ACTION has developed a presentation that is being given in Tulsa congregations and universities. This presentation provides guidance on student loan debt. ACTION is also studying how debt collectors engage with consumers. Forty percent of Oklahomans have at least one debt in collections, which can range from student loan debt to credit card debt and medical debt.
Argued Pastor Chris Moore, "All people are employed or are in schoolâ€¦.and have to walk a tight line."Read more