CLJP Minutes December 12, 2017
Blue Ridge Room, Westminster Canterbury
15 Present: Taylor Beard, Carroll Houle, Hal Horan, Dave Warren, Pete Weatherly, Ed Murray, Diane Murray, Bob McAdams, Chip Sanders, Melisa Elliott, Bill Gray, Eugene Locke, John Peale, Chris Murray
Guests: Kim Crater, representing the incipient Charlottesville Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Kate Wallace, retired English professor, friend of Bill Gray.
Chip Sanders offered prayer and presided.
The Minutes of November 14 prepared by Horan, were approved.
Both Weatherly and Horan gave warm and appreciative remembrances of member Rod Sinclair who died on November 25 and whose memorial service was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Charlottesville. Special mention was made of Rod’s ministry with students, his care for the marginalized, his talent in photography, especially his photos of children, and the fact that he had read Tolstoy’s War and Peace twice.
A motion was made and carried that a check for $100.00 be sent to the Thomas Jefferson Area Food Bank to honor the memory of The Rev. Roderick Diog Sinclair.
Treasurer’s Report: Since the November 14 balance of 2,421.85, Beard reported an income of 115.00 consisting of dues paid by Houle and Hammond. There being no expenses, the balance for December 12 was 2, 536.85.
Putting on his hat as President of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, McAdams shared the following Statement on the Need for Weapons-free Safety Zones for Events Like 8/12/17 urging the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to enact legislation to so empower municipalities to establish such zones, a copy of which is appended to these minutes.
The program consisted of four presentations giving an update on the Community Dialog on Economic Inequality that CLUJP started last year with great help from the Festival of the Book.
Bob McAdams reviewed the extended work on economic inequality, including the Community Dialogs, McAdams gave quite a thorough detail of our history dealing with E.I. What follows is his paper, with just a few “tweaks”:
In the fall of 2015, Chip Sanders, Ed Murray and John Peale, with some help from Diane Murray Hal Horan and me took us deep into the growing crisis of economic inequality. Books including The Price of Inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, What Money Can’t Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, and others informed our understanding of the sources and effects of growing inequality and possible actions to take. By November we faced the difficult problem of the need to do something more than talk. Ed Murray asked what can we do to get our information, our story outside of these walls.
In January we wondered what action we could take to accomplish some social change that went beyond talk. By March we had decided to contact the Virginia Festival of the Book about holding a major event along with a smaller panel discussion on the theme of economic inequality.
In April, Jane Kulow, Director of the VFB, enthusiastically embraced economic inequality as the theme for a major presentation at the 2017 Festival. From the beginning, the plans included both a major event and the smaller panel discussion. They also included a series of community conversations or dialogs to be held in the months following the Festival. By late summer, Jane had a commitment from Joseph Stiglitz to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center on March 24th, 2017. This was a major accomplishment.
The Economic Inequality Committee worked to fulfill three responsibilities: publicize the Stiglitz event to make sure that the MLK auditorium would be filled; provide information on economic inequality to other groups in order to engage them in the program; plan the community conversations or dialog to follow after the festival. To start the committee used a list of organizations from the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and a list of congregations in the area that CLUJP had used several years ago for a Living Wage Campaign. Members of the committee also developed a basic presentation that included information on economic inequality from several authors with a special emphasis on the information from The Spirit Level. By December Jane Kulow and her staff had commitments from three authors to participate in a 4:00 PM panel discussion on 3/24/17, with Frank Sesno moderating. The authors included Jennifer Silva, Thomas Shapiro, and Daniel Hatcher. The election of Donald Trump as president signaled a major setback on efforts to reduce economic inequality through changes in federal law.
After the November election, several new civic action organizations formed to oppose the actions of the Republican controlled Congress and the Trump administration. These organizations were added to the committee’s list. On January 29th Chip Sanders and I presented basic information on economic inequality to Together Cville, one of those new organizations. Presentations were also made to the local chapter of Virginia Organizing and the Interfaith Cooperation Circle of Central Virginia. To publicize the Festival of the Book events individual letters were sent to sixty congregations in January. Each letter included a summary of the Community Dialog on Economic Inequality project and a flyer for the Festival events. In February similar e-mails were sent to twenty-one organizations. In both efforts very few people responded. We prepared a Public Service Announcement about the Festival events that was read on WPVC, the Progressive Talk radio station. During this period the committee began to envision the Community Dialog events and processes to follow after the Festival. This process revealed differences in our expectations for the Community Dialog. The need for a broader based committee with members from outside CLUJP became clear. Six people were added to the committee, three of whom fully participated.
The Festival of the Book events on March 24th were very well attended. The Jefferson School auditorium was at capacity for the panel discussion in the afternoon and the attendance at the evening event was estimated at 900-1000. In the introductions at each event a brief description of the Community Dialog project was presented and people were invited to sign up to participate in the events being planned to be held following the Festival. That description included the following statement:
“In the coming months we will conduct a Community Dialog on Economic Inequality in our area. Two basic principles will guide the dialog: it will be inclusive of all segments of our community and it will be collaborative, not adversarial. Our purpose is to learn from each other and to develop proposals to address economic inequality.“
The first Community Dialog event was held on April 27th at The Haven. The event included basic presentations on economic inequality and its effects on social and individual well-being.. Ridge Schuyler presented his report on poverty in the Charlottesville Albemarle area. The presentations were followed by Learning Circles where each attendee could speak about the concerns regarding the economy that brought them to the dialog and their hopes for what could be accomplished. From the hand written and on-line sign-ups we had created a list of people to invite to the dialog. About 80 people were thanked for attending the 3/24 events and asked to attend the 4/27 meeting. About 50 people attended the 4/27 meeting. Each Learning Circle had a facilitator who took notes of each person’s concerns without including any personal identification. The program ended with a reference to the next meeting to be held on 5/25 and at which we would divide into Task Groups.
The second Community Dialog event was held on May 25th at The Haven. Individual e-mail invitations went to all those who had attended the 4/27 meeting. A general invitation was sent to everyone else on the list. About 25 people attended the 5/25 meeting. The meeting began with presentations on two books from the 3/24 panel discussion and a summary of the concerns from the Learning Circles. Then the group divided into three Task Groups for gathering more statistics, outreach to congregations and organizations to gather individual concerns and stories, and a group to research steps to be taken. Each Task Group discussed the function of the group and how to do the work needed. The discussions were lively and lasted to the end of the meeting.
After the 5/25 meeting, some members of the committee met, but no further actions were taken. A draft survey form was created, but never used as part of outreach efforts. None of the Task Groups continued their work and no report of actions to take could be prepared. Health problems for some members or their spouse hampered efforts. Also, the events of July 8th and August 11-12th demanded all of our attention.
Resources Developed for the Project We have a congregation list, an organization list, and a list of participants who signed-up for the Community Dialog. We also have several presentations of basic information about economic inequality that could be adapted for any organization or congregation that would like to learn about the subject. What Next for the Community Dialog on Economic Inequality?
Chris Murray reported on affordable housing in three areas: Charlottesville Works, an overview of our community’s affordable housing status and efforts, and a suggested approach to addressing the known problems.
In order for a family to live in the place where it works, these factors are essential—child care, reliable transportation, and affordable housing. This is about as far as this scribe could get in his scrambled notes. To Mr. Murray, my sincere apologies. I do, however, have an item from my April 24 Community Dialogue Minutes:
Some statistics shared by Ridge Schuyler, Dean Community Self-Sufficiency Programs, Piedmont Virginia Community College:
“In order for a family to live independently in Charlottesville, a single parent with two children would need to earn $35, 000 a year. The single parent with three children would need to earn at least $40,000 a year.”
“There are 24,504 families living in Albemarle county. Of these, 3,861 (16 percent) do not make enough money to pay for the essentials of life and the added costs associated with working. “
“Number of Charlottesville and Albemarle families making less than self- sufficient income—5,661 or 18%/”
The above figures are from Schuyler’s 2015 Report 2.0, Realizing the Dream. Since then, the figures have improved slightly. For example, the figures in the third paragraph are 5,612 or 17%. thttp://www.clujp.org/pdf/Income-Inequality-Presentation.pdf
Murray also provided a handout, “Income Inequality follow up,” as a pdf attached to these Minutes.
Kim Crater on the initial work on a living wage in our community being undertaken by the incipient C’ville chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
Crater spoke first of some troublesome practices by some employers, such as “wage theft,” simply not paying a worker or the under-the-table practice of cash payments so the employer can get out of paying the Social Security Tax.
A living wage, like affordable housing, is determined by the number in a given household.
Her organization seeks to encourage those businesses that attempt to give their workers a living wage by awarding logos that they can proclaim that their workers a enjoying a living wage.
Before giving an appeal to members to support one or more of the initiatives described by our speakers, Ed Murray spoke of surprisingly profitable panhandling can be by sharing the story of his encounter with Bernie, a man who actually makes a much better living at it than an employee at Walmart.
The next meeting is set for January 9.
The meeting adjourned at 2:29 pm.
Hal Horan, Recording Secretary
Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
P.O. Box 2012 Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Statement on the Need for Weapons-free Safety Zones for Events Like 8/12/17
After the KKK Rally of July 8th, members of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice feared that violence would occur at the much larger white supremacist rally on August 12th. Among our recommendations to Charlottesville City Council was the request that the city establish a safety zone surrounding and including Emancipation Park within which all weapons would be prohibited. We were later told by a city councilor that the city could not legally establish the safety zone we recommended. In consideration of the events of August 11th and 12th, our board and members see a great need for every municipality to have the legal authority to establish safety zones for events that pose a risk of violence. These safety zones would be limited to the specific locations and times related to the events. Within those safety zones all weapons would be prohibited. Three compelling reasons argue for granting this authority to municipalities:
- Excluding weapons from potentially violent events will reduce the risk of bodily harm for every participant and for law enforcement officers.
- On the night of August 11th white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with torches through the University of Virginia grounds, assaulted students trying to protect a statue of Thomas Jefferson, and threatened clergy and community members attending an interfaith worship service. As those marchers mimicked the terrorism of Nazis in Germany during the 1930s, they were asserting the dominance of mob rule over civil authority. On August 12th, confident in their numbers and armament, the white supremacists, fascists, neo-Nazis and others again asserted their hateful dominance of mob rule over civil authority. Given the legal authority to establish weapons-free safety zones, municipalities like Charlottesville could clearly assert the dominance of civil authority over mob rule before, during, and after an event. Enforcing a prohibition against weapons of any kind would maintain public order and safety without infringing on anyone’s right to peaceful assembly and free speech. Weapons are not necessary for speech. In fact, mob rule destroys free speech.
- Establishing safety zones for specific events, times, and locations, would give municipalities a basic operational structure for maintaining public order and safety. Within that structure municipalities would be able to set and publish rules for the event well in advance. They could develop strategies, standard procedures, training, and also prepare needed equipment to enforce the weapons prohibition and maintain control of the event from start to finish.
The board and members of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice therefore urge the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to enact legislation to empower municipalities to establish weapons-free safety zones for specific events, times, and locations. The need for this authority is urgent. The organizations that brought mayhem to Charlottesville in August have promised to return. Those same organizations are planning events in other localities throughout Virginia. Every municipality needs this authority. We ask for your prompt attention to our request.
Robert S. McAdams
President, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice