ACORN News February 5, 2004

colist at colist at
Sun Feb 8 09:12:24 CST 2004

[ed:  this is one of the regular ACORN updates.]

From:           	"Camellia Phillips" <acornnews at>

ACORN News: February 5, 2004In This Issue:

            Voter Registration Update: ACORN Registers 7,000
            Voters in One Week 

            1. ACORN Protests H&R Block: 55 Cities Take Action 

            2. Illinois Spearheads State Education Summit 

            3. Orlando Holds Candlelight Vigil to Protest Police

            4. ACORN Free Tax Prep Sites Serve Over 500 in

            5. ACORN Study Finds Hospitals Fail to Provide

            6. Connecticut Kicks Off Immigrant Rights Campaign 

            7. DC Organizes Forum for Better Schools; Fights
            School Layoffs 

            8. Oakland Rallies for Qualified Teachers 

            9. Chicago Pushes for Utilities Shutoff Protections 

            10. Charlotte ACORN Opens 

            ACORN News February 5, 2004

            Voter Registration Update: ACORN Registers 7,000
            Voters in One Week

            In the final week of January ACORN broke our previous
            one-week voter registration record for this cycle by
            registering 7,160 voters across the country!  This
            brings our total registrations since July 2003 to
            over 114,000. In the coming weeks, ACORN has several
            regional trainings planned to help expand the scale
            of our voter registration work even further. 

            ACORN Protests H&R Block: 55 Cities Take Action

                  Massachusetts ACORN members participate in
                  ACORN's national day of action against H&R
                  Block on January 31. 

            On Saturday, January 31, ACORN held our second
            national day of action against H&R Block - with ACORN
            members in 55 cities protesting at local H&R Block
            offices. ACORN is demanding that H&R Block put an end
            to their aggressive marketing and sales of high-cost
            tax Refund Anticipation Loans or RALs in our
            neighborhoods, particularly to low-income families
            eligible for the EITC. In 2001, H&R Block sold 43% of
            all RALs in the country, dominating the market.
            Highlights from ACORN's national day of action

            --  In Chicago, several hundred ACORN and SEIU Local
            880 members chanted, picketed and passed out flyers
            at 7 H&R Block offices.

            --  In Oakland (CA), Honolulu (HI), Boston (MA), and
            Washington DC, among others, ACORN members convinced
            local H&R Block staff to fax a letter with ACORN's
            demands to Mark Ernst, H&R Block's Chairman and CEO. 

            --  In Seattle, ACORN members organized a "Tax
            Justice Party Bus" to beat the cold weather and
            rallied at four H&R Block offices around the city.

                  ACORN also launched our "Don't Be a Blockhead"
                  website at,
                  where you can sign a petition telling H&R Block
                  to stop selling RALs. For more information,
                  contact Lisa Donner at acorncampaign at
                  or 718-246-7900.

            Illinois Spearheads State Education Summit 

            On January 21, Illinois ACORN held a "Grow Your Own"
            education summit meeting that convened legislators,
            Chicago public school officials, deans of colleges of
            education, funders from Grantmakers for Education,
            and teachers unions, to discuss proposed state
            legislation that would provide funding for community
            residents and teacher and school paraprofessionals to
            become teachers in hard-to-staff schools. At the
            summit, Illinois State Senate Education Chair, Miguel
            Del Valle, signed on to support the legislation, as
            did other state representatives and state senators,
            the Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public
            Schools, and many others. The legislation will be
            introduced in the state capital on February 6. For
            more information, contact Madeline Talbott at
            ilacorn at or 312-939-7488.

            Orlando Holds Candlelight Vigil to Protest Police

            In response to the unjust January 15 shooting death
            of Marvin Williams by local police, on January 19,
            over 300 community members attended a candlelight
            vigil organized by Orlando ACORN to protest police
            abuses and racial profiling. Marvin Williams, an
            unarmed and innocent African American man, was shot
            and killed by a white police officer who had
            previously been investigated for racial profiling. To
            draw attention to the case, and to highlight ACORN's
            ongoing campaign to change police policies on racial
            profiling, ACORN held a candlelight vigil on Martin
            Luther King Day in Grand Avenue Park in the
            neighborhood where the shooting occurred. Over 275
            people signed petitions demanding an end to police
            abuses in the community. In response, the Orange
            County Sheriff's Department finally agreed to ACORN's
            demands to begin collecting, and make available to
            the public, race-related data on traffic stops and
            searches. ACORN members have now scheduled another
            meeting with the Sheriff to push for more citizen
            control on the Citizen's Review Board and a better
            "early warning system" to identify and stop officers
            who abuse their power. Marvin Williams' family is
            also filing a lawsuit against the police department.
            For more information, contact Stephanie Porta at
            flacornorro at or 407-254-5912.

            ACORN Free Tax Prep Sites Serve Over 500 in January

                  New Orleans ACORN celebrates the launching of
                  its free tax assistance site.

            With the support of the Marguerite Casey Foundation,
            in January ACORN chapters in New Orleans, Miami and
            San Antonio launched major EITC outreach campaigns
            and free tax assistance sites. Already, ACORN has
            reached many thousands of low and moderate income
            people in these cities with information about the
            Earned Income Tax Credit and more than 500 people
            have had their taxes prepared at ACORN's three sites
            - a good indication that our outreach strategies are
            working. To get the message out about the EITC and
            free tax prep, ACORN organizers are conducting
            extensive door-to-door outreach to families that are
            likely to be missed by more traditional outreach
            methods, particularly extremely low-income and
            immigrant families.  In the coming months, we expect
            to provide direct assistance to thousands more
            low-income families in both filing their taxes and
            claiming the EITC. For more information, contact Lisa
            Donner at acorncampaign at or 718-246-7900. 

            ACORN Study Finds Hospitals Fail to Provide

            On January 22, ACORN released a study documenting how
            non-English speakers are struggling to be understood
            at hospitals around the country: "Speaking the
            Language of Care: Language Barriers to Hospital
            Access in America's Cities." For the study,
            Spanish-speaking ACORN members in Arizona,
            California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Florida,
            Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, contacted 70
            hospitals by phone and 15 hospitals in person to see
            if Spanish-speaking staff were available as required
            by federal law. In 56% of these contacts, no
            Spanish-speaking hospital staff could be found. The
            implications for non-English speakers in need of
            emergency healthcare is enormous: without adequate
            translation, non-English speakers cannot receive the
            healthcare they desperately need and doctors and
            hospital staff are unable to provide critical
            services. ACORN members are taking action to remedy
            this situation. In Glendale and Mesa, Arizona, ACORN
            members held a press conference to release the study
            and demand meetings with hospital CEOs to make sure
            that better plans are developed to ensure translation
            services at hospitals. To view the study link to
            /National_report.pdf, or for more information contact
            Liz Wolff at research at or 214-826-1443. 

            Connecticut Kicks Off Immigrant Rights Campaign 

            Over 150 community members participated in an
            informational session on immigrant rights organized
            by Connecticut ACORN at St. Charles Church in
            Bridgeport on Sunday, January 24. Immigrants from
            over 15 countries in South and Central America
            attended the meeting to both discuss immigrant rights
            issues and campaign strategies, and receive
            information on general immigration questions from an
            immigration lawyer. Participants in the meeting
            decided to build a campaign in Connecticut to win
            more rights for immigrants. The campaign will be
            launched with an "Immigrant Rights Day" event at the
            State House in March coordinated by ACORN and other
            immigrant groups in the state. The event will
            highlight issues including immigrant access to
            healthcare, drivers licenses, education, and a
            general call for legalization and fair working
            conditions for immigrants in the U.S. For more
            information, contact David Lagstein at
            ctacorn at or 860-523-1017.

            DC Organizes Forum for Better Schools; Fights School

                  DC ACORN members packed a December 17 school
                  board meeting to successfully prevent the
                  layoff of 770 school district personnel.

            On January 22, over 150 community members attended a
            forum jointly sponsored by Washington DC ACORN and DC
            VOICE (District Community Voices Organized and
            Transformed for Change in Education) to respond to
            the findings of a report from the Council of Great
            City Schools: "Restoring Excellence to the District
            of Columbia Public Schools." The report found that DC
            schools continue to shortchange students - with 75%
            of DC students failing to show proficiency in reading
            - and revealed a lack of system-wide efforts to train
            staff and to focus on student achievement. The school
            district Superintendent and the President of the
            School Board participated in the forum, and agreed to
            demands that the school district draft a
            comprehensive, community-informed plan for increasing
            student achievement based on the report's
            recommendations. ACORN and DC VOICE will be
            organizing a follow-up forum in March where this plan
            will be opened for community input. On December 17,
            ACORN members also attended a school board meeting to
            protest the proposed layoff of 770 school district
            personnel, over 500 of whom were teachers. With ACORN
            and other community members packing the meeting room,
            the board elected to save these positions. For more
            information, contact Will Ward at dcacorn at
            or 202-547-9292. 

            Oakland Rallies for Qualified Teachers

            On January 28, Oakland ACORN kicked off its 2004
            better schools campaign with a rally at Castlemont
            High School, East Oakland's largest high school.
            ACORN members were joined by 100 students at the
            school who walked out of their classes in protest of
            the high number of teacher vacancies at Castlemont
            High, as well as the closing of the vocational
            academy at the school. ACORN members have been trying
            to get a meeting with Castlemont's Principal, and
            when she failed to show up at the rally, ACORN
            members found her inside the school and won an
            on-the-spot meeting. Among other improvements, ACORN
            members are demanding a qualified teacher in every
            classroom by the beginning of the next school year.
            For more information, contact Susan Hopkins at
            caacornoaro at or 510-434-3110.

            Chicago Pushes for Utilities Shutoff Protections

            On January 30, Chicago ACORN members gathered in
            sub-zero weather for a press conference at a duplex
            in the West Englewood community where People's Energy
            Co. had shut off the gas to two families, including
            five children, after the landlord failed to pay the
            bill. Local television stations showed one of the
            tenants trying to chip through the ice that had
            formed in her kitchen sink since the gas had been
            shut off. At the press conference, Alderman Ted
            Thomas of the 16th Ward, who is also the former
            president of Chicago ACORN, announced that he would
            introduce a city ordinance to protect tenants in
            these situations. The ordinance is scheduled to be
            introduced in the Chicago City Council on February
            11. For more information, contact Madeline Talbott at
            ilacorn at or 312-939-7488.

            Charlotte ACORN Opens

            Charlotte, North Carolina, ACORN has officially
            opened its doors! Charlotte ACORN is currently
            focusing on organizing in the Villa Heights
            neighborhood, and plans to expand to other areas
            soon. For more information contact Robert Dawkins at
            ncacornchro at or 704-535-7870. 

                DONATE TO ACORN

            Membership dues and chapter-based fundraising
            programs pay for 75 percent of ACORN's budget. But
            ACORN also needs financial support from non-member
            allies, people who do not live in neighborhoods with
            ACORN chapters but who support the work ACORN is
            doing. For more information, link to 

   or contact Steve Kest at
            natexdirect at or 718-246-7900.

            ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for
            Reform Now, is the nation's largest community
            organization of low- and moderate-income families,
            with over 150,000 member families organized into 700
            neighborhood chapters in 51 cities across the
            country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won
            victories on issues of concern to our members. Our
            priorities include: better housing for first time
            homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage
            workers, more investment in our communities from
            banks and governments, and better public schools. We
            achieve these goals by building community
            organizations that have the power to win changes --
            through direct action, negotiation, legislation, and
            voter participation.

            Check out ACORN's website at 

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            Camellia Phillips 

            ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for
            Reform Now 88 3rd Ave, Floor 3 Brooklyn, NY 11217 

            phone: 718-246-7900 x227
            fax: 718-246-7939
            acornnews at 


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