Democracy is not a
spectator sport


Sustainable Energy Team active on many fronts: OPPD, Unicameral and Climate Change

August 26th, 2015
With Director McGuire on Left and cropped

OPPD Board President Anne McGuire (far left) along with three OPPD senior staff met with seven members of the OTOC Sustainable Energy Action team on August 19

Leaders of the OTOC Sustainable Energy Action Team recently met with OPPD Board President Anne McGuire and three members of the OPPD senior staff to discuss  several topics of interest to OTOC. The group discussed OPPD’s progress toward implementing their 2014 plan which will result in OPPD generating 33% of their electricity from sustainable sources such as wind or solar by 2017.

The OTOC leaders also discussed OPPD’s rate structure, the Green Fund, increased use of electric vehicles and the impact of recent EPA regulations about green house gases on OPPD and the State of Nebraska. The frank and lively discussion was informative and OTOC leaders indicated their willingness to help OPPD inform households in our member institutions about how they  can help reduce the electric peak load on hot summer days by signing up for OPPD’s   “Cool Smart” program which allows OPPD to regulate your central AC system in 15 minute intervals during a maximum of 12 days each year.

Alan Vovolka of First Unitarian organized the meeting that was attended by seven OTOC leaders. Contact Alan  at if you want to know more about OTOC’s work to assure that our publicly owned electric  utility embraces practices that produce energy which is affordable, reliable and from sources that are environmentally sustainable.

Read More . . .

Omaha area leaders attend regional leadership training

August 26th, 2015

Cycle of organizing with OTOC leaders

OTOC and our Institute for Public Leadership (IPL) worked with our Iowa-based sister organization, AMOS IPL, to organize and conduct a three-day leadership training program in Des Moines on August 2-4. Thirteen people from Omaha

Sr Rosalie and Vicki Pratt

and 30 from Iowa attended the training to help them better understand the conceptual framework and fundamental practices of community organizing during three days of engaging training sessions, meeting new people and sharing stories about their work for the common good in their own communities.

OTOC is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation.  Leaders who are part of OTOC member institutions are welcome to go to regional and national training programs like the training in Des Moines.Read More . . .

Forty people attended final OTOC leader training and over 90 attended sometime during Summer Training series

August 7th, 2015

OTOC leaders evaluate the summer training series and plan next steps for immigration action team

Forty people attended OTOC’s final summer leadership training session on  Monday, August 10 at Augustana Lutheran.  The training session was led by IPL and OTOC organizer Joe Higgs and several OTOC leaders including Carol Beaty, Kevin Graham, Gloria Austerberry and Karen McElroy. The session focused on:

Developing a Core Team of Leaders: How you identify and develop a team of leaders in your own church or organization so you can work with them for the common good. Read More . . .

OTOC Housing leaders testify for nearly $1 Million in demolition funds and a new housing inspector

July 28th, 2015

Susan Kuhlman at podiumOTOC leaders attended the City Council’s annual budget hearing at on August 11 at  the City Council chambers.

Four OTOC speakers supported:

  • $957,000 in city and federal funding for demolition of dangerous buildings—the 3rd year in a row since OTOC first won this increase for 2014.
  • add a housing code inspector position and assure that all housing code inspectors have the training they need to be certified inspectors under the Uniform Housing Maintenance Code;
  • City Council create a Vacant Property Registry to require to register vacant houses as a means to encourage owners to do something with their vacant property before it slowly deteriorates and has to be demolished.

From KVNO News

…The Council recessed for several hours, meeting again at 7pm to hear from the public concerning the Mayor’s proposed 2016 budget.Read More . . .

Sr Kathleen Erickson leads 30 people on Aug 5 about detention of Immigrant women and children

July 26th, 2015

Sr. Kathleen Erickson with crowdOn Wednesday, August 5, at 7:00 p.m. at Urban Abbey Sr. Kathleen Erickson of the Sisters of Mercy led a lively discussion about her two months as the interim chaplain at a federal immigration  detention center in Dilley Texas. The center was built to house up to 2,400 women and children who have fled to the US border to escape violence in Central America. Sr. Kathleen described how the the Center was designed not to look like a prison and had many amenities, but was still a way to detain immigrant children who came to the US with their children.

A California federal court recently ordered that the Dilley facility and others like it which house immigrant women and children be closed.

According to the New York Times on July 25, the Judge ” found that migrant children had been held in “widespread deplorable conditions” in Border Patrol stations after they were first caught, and she said the authorities had “wholly failed” to provide the “safe and sanitary” conditions required for children even in temporary cells.Read More . . .

160 people learned about Pope Francis’ Encyclical on July 30 and 35 attended July 23 conversation about sustainable food

July 18th, 2015
Team at July 2015 meeting

OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team

It was more than a full house at the Weitz Community Engagement Center on July 30 as an overflow crowd  learned about Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si”  which lays out our responsibility to care for God’s Creation and how we can take action to create a more sustainable environment for the future of our region, state and world.

Panelists included Father Dennis Hamm, Professor Emeritus in Catholic Theological Studies at Creighton University; Dr. Roger Bergman, Director of the Justice and Peace Studies Program, Creighton University; and Rev. Kim Morrow, Director of Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light.

Rev. Morrow laid out clearly the science behind climate change. Fr. Hamm and Dr. Bergman gave an overview discussed in engaging manner each of the chapters in the encyclical. More than a dozen people asked questions or made comments in the following period of question and answers.Read More . . .

OTOC leaders meet with Sen. John McCollister to discuss wide array of topics

June 28th, 2015

Leaders of the OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team organized a meeting with Sen. John McCollister (Dt. 20–South Central Omaha) on Friday, June 26th which was held a Countryside Congregational Church. Immigration Action Team Co-Chair Kathleen Grant thanked Sen. McCollister for his critical support for LB 423 which allow young adult dreamers the opportunity to qualify for a driver’s license in Nebraska. Sen. McCollister named the bill  his sole priority bill and then worked to get the bill out of the Transportation Committee. Once out, the bill received the support of Unicameral which easily completed and override of Governor Ricketts’ veto of the bill.

Mark Hoeger, Co-Chair of the OTOC Medicaid and Taxes Action Team thanked Senator McCollister’s for his ongoing  support for Medicaid Redesign in the recent session. The group discussed OTOC’s ongoing determination to  see the State of Nebraska expand the coverage of Medicaid permitted by the Affordable Care Act so the more Nebraska families can afford to purchase health care.  OTOC leaders agreed to continue educating congregations members about why this legislation would be a priority for the state.Read More . . .

60 leaders attended OTOC’s July 13 Training focusing on Cycle of Organizing, Qualities of Leaders

June 26th, 2015

Session 2 Marshal Johnson at front of roomSixty people from 21 different congregations and community organizations attended OTOC’s 2nd summer training session on community organizing. IPL Executive Director and OTOC organizer/trainer Joe Higgs provided and quick summary of two two topics:

OTOC is a Broad-based Organization. How does this differ from Civic Organizations or Movements?   Are there other Broad-based organizations?

The Cycle of Organizing.   How do we move from self-interest to shared–interest, to research that moves toward an action and solution we can win?

Rev. Marshall Johnson of the OTOC Clergy Caucus gave a training session on:

Qualities of Leaders.   Are leaders born that way or are there skills we can learn? Leaders in organizing are often not the obvious ones.   Is anger ever a virtue?Read More . . .

Over 50 leaders from 22 organizations attend first summer training session

May 26th, 2015

Rev. Marshall Johnson led part of the first OTOC Summer Training on Organizing Skills

On Monday, June 8th, fifty one  OTOC leaders and guests began a lively summer training program to focus some of the fundamental ideas and practices of organizing. Leaders from 22 different congregations and community organizations discussed concepts like “Self Interest”, the “Iron Rule” of organizing and reality that officials sometimes  “Do the right thing for the wrong reason” and “the action is in the reaction.”

These sessions are intended to help OTOC and community leaders develop an understanding of the basic concepts  that they need to successfully organize effective action in their congregation,  organization and community.

Based on feed back from participants in the first session, the trainers and  leaders of  the second session on Monday, July 13 at 7:00 p.m. will focus more on the usual steps of organizing. The will lay out some of the characteristics of a broad based organization and review the typical practices that leaders use when they are working to take action effective action. The next session will be:

OTOC Action Teams have active Winter & Spring

May 25th, 2015

OTOC’s Action Teams have had a busy few months. Please share this report with people who might be interested in their ongoing efforts to make Omaha and Nebraska a community that works for all families.

Final May 2015 Report about work of Action Teams

OTOC leaders prepare to meet with Governor Ricketts on Mar 31

Immigration Action Team: OTOC leaders were greatly cheered that the Nebraska Unicameral was able to clear last minute efforts to filibuster LB 623 which grants Dreamers who have been granted a temporary federal status the opportunity to apply for a Driver’s license in Nebraska.  According to Kathleen Grant, OTOC Immigration Action Team Chair, “It is high time that the State of Nebraska afford these young people the opportunity to legally drive to their work, school and home. They are part of the bright future of our state and by not allowing them to drive in our state, we are driving them away from our state.”

Grant, Gaspar Gaspar and other leaders of the OTOC Action Team  asked 9 candidates for the Unicameral to support this change in law at an OTOC  Acountability Session attended by 300 people back on October, 6, 2014.  OTOC leaders testified in support of the bill in February and then met with Governor Ricketts  on March 31 to ask that he support this change in state law. To learn more about ongoing work of the Immigration Action Team, contact Jeanne Schuler at jschuler@creighton.eduRead More . . .

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