community organizing and the presidency--historical
Discussion list for COMM-ORG
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Mar 29 10:25:28 CDT 2008
From: Dave Beckwith <dbeckwith at needmorfund.org>
To be posted on comm.-org and FYI
Late in 1992 the moments converged and opportunity was seized. There was
going to be a new administration, a new president from the Other Party,
replacing long years of big-business-favoring policy and international
saber-rattling, everything was about to break open. A generational, and
some said ideological, earth-shattering changing of the guard was about
to happen. The new administration’s transition team signaled their
openness to the field of community organizing.
The Toledo politician who formed the bridge had roots in community
organizing and urban immigrant advocacy. He tapped community organizing
connections, historic preservationists and ethnic and cultural activists
and swept together 50 folks, in Little Rock, and they hammered out three
President Clinton Should:
* Articulate a vision of America as Community, and recognize the urgent
need to come together to rebuild our communities where they are
threatened: in the inner city neighborhoods, poor rural communities, the
barrio, reservations, public housing projects, and ethic and minority
* Adopt a comprehensive community-based strategy to revitalize America
from the bottom up.
* Recognize the key role of community based organizations in carrying
out that strategy.
Each Recommendation was backed by a brief paper, citing the conceptual
framework, listing high priority implementation steps and additional
Their report was packaged up, one addressed to each cabinet secretary,
one to the Vice President, one to the President-elect and another to the
speech-writing team working in the next room there in Little Rock on the
first Inaugural Address. The fifty leaders, activists and organizers
paid attention to that speech, held the new administration’s feet to the
fire, they even held a couple of follow-up meetings. For a while the new
administration treated them as a force to be reckoned with, and the
first wave of new urban and rural poverty related initiatives was
brought forward early to this grouping for vetting, and was changed to
reflect what these folks thought would work.
Was it perfect? Not enough power behind it, too top heavy with staff and
pretty smoke-filled-room and insider oriented.
Still, it makes you wonder. How will the next president know what
organized communities want her or him to do? How will leaders and staff
from real grassroots groups get access to the critical theme-building
stage, the transition. This group was representative of very little, but
it represented – it included – lots of younger people of color, women,
trouble makers, real organizers from Hartford, South Bend, Toledo, LA.
Are these folks in any sort of a loop with the opinion makers and policy
builders in any of the Presidential campaigns?
Check out the proposal, written the day before Christmas, and the
report, January 8, 1993. This PDF also has a Toledo Blade story about
the first follow-up meeting and the policy initiatives presented by the
Bill Clinton White House folks. It can be found here, on the website of
the University of Toledo’s Urban Affairs Center.
The Needmor Fund
42 South Saint Clair Street
Toledo, Ohio 43604
More information about the Colist