Meta Mendel - Reyes is a member of KFTC's Steering Committee and former organizer with the United Farmworkers Union. She teaches at Berea College and is a mentor to students and community members alike. She shared this reflection on the Appalachia's Bright Future conference, held April 19-21, 2013 in Harlan, Kentucky.
"In times of transition, process really matters." - Brendan Smith, ocean farmer
A spirited plenary session is a long way from a coal miner's pitch, but they are connected. The people at the conference believe, against heavy odds, that there is a bright future for Appalachia and for that coal miner putting his faith in a dying industry. The conference on Appalachia's Bright Future envisions a transition to an economy beyond coal that can lift up the region and create a brighter future for the coal miner and environmental activist alike.
KFTC has been invited to nominate a set of staff and members to participate in a workshop in late April about using art and culture to advance social change. Anyone who is interested in being part of KFTC’s delegation to this event should contact email@example.com by March 19th.
Lexington-Fayette urban county government comes out in support of restoring voting rights for former felons
As folks already know, HB 70, Representative Jesse Crenshaw's bill that would restore voting rights to most former felons who've served their time, has passed the Kentucky House seven years in a row, each year with broad bipartisan support. Most recently the vote was 75 to 25. Unfortunately when it's arrived in the Senate it hasn't received a hearing or vote. KFTC members and allies are working diligently to educate the Kentucky Senate about HB 70 and the positive effect it would have on communities across the commonwealth. And chapters have begun to develop strategies for involving their local governments.
Starting approximately a year ago, the central Kentucky chapter began lobbying their city council to pass a resolution in support of voting rights for former felons.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council is made up of 12 members who represent city districts, including three at-large council members of which one is the vice mayor. One of the chapter's first meetings was with Vice Mayor Linda Gorton who said that if KFTC members were serious about passing a resolution through the council then they should make a good faith effory to meet with every council member (and the mayor) to educate them about the issue.
So that's what chapter members did, and over the last year they met with nearly every member of the council, including Mayor Jim Gray and his aides to explain how the LFUCG could help towards building a more vibrant and healthy democracy. The lobby meetings were a great experience for chapter members because not only did it give them practice talking about the campaign but it helped them get to know how their city government worked and who the council members were. Their meeting with council member Ford went incredibly well, he was very supportive, so they asked him immediately if he'd sponsor the resolution, to which he agreed.
Their lobbying efforts paid off when last Thursday the city council voted unanimously to pass a resolution stating that not only do they believe that people who’ve served their time deserve the right to vote again, but also that the General Assembly should give the citizens of the commonwealth the chance to vote on the issue.
KFTC members and allies packed the council chambers and folks gave over an hour of testimony in support of the resolution.
KFTC member and former felon Tayna Fogle talked about her past as both a UK basketbal player and a person who fell into drugs. "I served a ten year prison sentence, I did my time. I made a mistake but I am not a mistake."
KFTC member Tedi Smith-Robillard, who received a pardon from the governor, shared with the council her commitment to justice. “I am 73 years old and until the day I die I will work for justice and for people to have the right to vote."
The resolution while symbolic (the city Lexington city council can’t change Kentucky’s constitution or give people their voting rights back), does send a powerful message to the General Assembly.
"We are counting on you to do the right thing. - Rev. Joseph Owens at the Lexington city council meeting.
Click here for a copy of the council meeting docket which contains the language of the resolution (number 41)
This January the Lexington city council welcomed four new members; Shevawn Akers (district 2), Jennifer Scutchfield (district 7), Jennifer Mossotti (district 9) and Harry Clarke (district 10). Central Kentucky KFTC members have been very busy over the last couple of weeks meeting with the new city council members about voting rights.
The Central Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth had their monthly chapter meeting on January 17th at 7 p.m. with 24 members in attendance. The chapter meeting focused on a lobby training for members and an opportunity to meet the new Central Kentucky organizer Beth Howard. The lobby training focused on topics such as how a bill becomes a law, what grassroots citizen lobbying looks like, and what bills KFTC members will be actively suporting during the 2013 general assembly. Members also came together to make Valentine’s Day cards for Governor Steve Beshear to be delivered on I Love Mountains Day on February 14th. The valentines urge the governor to do more to protect Kentucky's air, water, mountains and communities.