August 24th, 2017
On August 15 and 16th, OTOC leaders Mark Hoeger and Karen McElroy and IPL Executive Director Joe Higgs joined community leaders from across the United States in Houston, Texas to discuss how to work across race and class lines in these polarized times. Karen, Mark and all of the eighty leaders and organizers present in Houston were part of organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundations, the largest and oldest community organizing network in the United States.
Glenn Loury in Houston
The leaders met with Dr. Glenn Loury, Professor of Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University, and author of Race, Incarceration and American Values. Dr Loury is a leading scholar in the fields of economics, politics and social structures affecting African American communities in the US. Loury’s work documents the changing face of racism, from the end of Jim Crow laws, to the more recent impact of mass incarceration of people of color.
The meetings took place in the days immediately following the troubling events in Charlottesville and Loury emphasized that relying on identity politics is not going to result in meaningful change. Rather, he encouraged the leaders and organizers present to keep doing the patient work of organizing to build relationships across lines of race, class and culture in order to develop strong coalitions of people who will seek the common good of their community, not just narrow special interests.
Mark Hoeger notes that “it made me appreciate anew the importance of what we at OTOC/IPL in Omaha and all the IAF affiliate organizations across the country are doing” in regards to having structural organized efforts to equality through the democratic system.
To Karen McElroy, the experience was a way to explore what other organizations are doing and how OTOC can improve housing inequality, early voting, and post incarceration programs. On the days immediately after the racial violence in Charlottesville, we came away renewed in our commitment to the careful, patient work of building relationships.
August 10th, 2017
Fifty five OTOC and community leaders attended the final summer training session about organizing where Paul Turner taught about the most fundamental tool of organizing–the individual meeting.
This workshop focused on how engage others in individual meetings in order to develop effective public relationships. If you want to build strong working relationships with people, learn how to do good individual meetings.
To learn more about individual meetings, click on these links:
Individual Meeting Chapter from Roots for Radicals
Individual Meetings and Cycle of Organizing
Ernesto Cortez teaching about individual meetings
Leaders watched Paul conduct an individual meeting with Greta Carlson, the new Lutheran Volunteer Corp intern with Institute for Public Leadership.
Kevin Graham of First United Methodist challenged all those present to do at least 3 individual meeting by November 13 when OTOC will hold a Delegates Assembly.
August 10th, 2017
Five leaders of the OTOC Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Team testified Tuesday night in favor of $1.1 Million for demolition of condemned structures in the 2018 City Budget. They also issued two challenges to the Mayor and Council.
In 2011, the City was spending only $240,000/year on demolition and had a backlog of 800 condemned properties. Since 2013, OTOC has successfully advocated that the City spend $1 Million each year for demolition until the backlog is eliminated. The current backlog of 175 structures could be eliminated by 2020 since the Land Bank will contribute an additional $500,000 this year for a total of $1.6 Million in 2018 for demolition. OTOC advocated for creation of the Land Bank in 2014-15 and stays involved in giving them regular feedback about priorities.
OTOC leaders issue New Challenges
Even when our forward-thinking city initiatives are in place, the process as it is now is moving too slowly,” said Charles Gould of OTOC. OWH, August 9, 2017
OTOC leaders also challenged the City to:(1) more quickly register properties qualifying for the Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry; and (2) use the registry fees to secure abandoned buildings so they don’t deteriorate as quickly. OTOC advocated for creation of the Registry in 2015 and Charlie Gould noted that waiting 4 years for properties to go to foreclosure for unpaid taxes is too to long. Instead, he advocated that the City foreclose for unpaid Registry fees within two years or sooner so the property can be rehabilitated instead of demolished.
Creighton Center for Service & Justice student intern Paul Romero presented data demonstrating the “Demolition Pipeline” of neglected homes in Omaha. Karen McElroy and Dave McLeod both reminded the City Council members that neglected rental properties are a large part of the problem in the eastern part of Omaha. On May 1, in front of 350 OTOC delegates, 6 of the current City Council members agreed to work with OTOC leaders over the next year to improve the regulation of substandard rental housing. Institute for Public Leadership (IPL)is helping OTOC leaders learn more about strategies that have worked in Council Bluffs, LaVista and other cities.
June 26th, 2017
Institute for Public Leadership partnered with OTOC to hold 5 great events at Urban Abbey during July. The events included both celebrations of our culture though song and stories, a workshop on writing letters to the editor and safe rental housing, and discussion of a provocative new book.
Friday, July 14: Kyle Knapp played a delightful blend of folk, rock and pop on his acoustic guitar to 35 OTOC leaders and fans. Kyle told stories and shared classic folk songs and some of his own compositions. Come see Kyle again a future OTOC and IPL events.
Tues., July 18: Juan Carlos Veloso shared Spanish language protest music from Latin America, and especially songs from Chile, his native country. Juan Carlos’ mother joined us that evening along with 32 friends and OTOC leaders. He taught us about the struggles of many Latin Americans for justice.
Thurs. July 20: Kaitlin Reece of Voices for Children and Tyler Richard of ACLU of Nebraska taught 20 engaged leaders how to develop an effective Letter to the Editor and Opinion piece to submit to local newspapers, newsletters and other sources of information. This informative session inspired those present to write more letters on issues of interest.
Tues., July 25: How To Assure Safe Rental Housing Leaders of OTOC’s Housing Action Team hosted Kat Vinton from the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance and Prof Kate Mahern of the Creighton Law School legal clinic to discuss the dangers to children from poorly maintained rental housing. OTOC leaders focusedfocus on how to make Omaha’s Housing Code Enforcement more effective and follow up on commitments City Council members made to OTOC to assure rental housing meets health and safety codes. Over 40 people from diverse groups attended this session.
Thurs. July 27 Twenty Five OTOC leaders gathered to discuss the implications of the provocative new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century , by Timothy Snyder. Mary Spurgeon of First United Methodist lead the discussion around the ideas in the short but important book. IPL and OTOC will hold a future book discussion in the Fall.
June 26th, 2017
Join OTOC on Monday, July 10 for “Organizing a team of leaders to agitate your institution to live up to your shared values” on Monday, July 10 @ 7pm—8:30 pm at Augustana Lutheran 3647 Lafayette Ave
Liz Hall, Lead Organizer of our Iowa sister organization, AMOS, will lead an engaging workshop on how to identify and develop a team of leaders in your congregation or organization which will “agitate” your institution to live up to its core values and beliefs. During this time of divisiveness, learn how to build community through discussion and honest reflection on our shared beliefs and values.