The CT League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) is the sole environmental organization in CT that has a state PAC, endorses candidates, and gets involved in state elections, as well as lobbying at the state and local levels. It has three entities: a 501(c)(3) environmental education fund, a 501(c)(4) political organization, and a PAC.
One of its political roles is to send Action Alerts to those who sign up. These alerts ask state citizens to contact their state reps and senators about legislative issues such as the one that was sent out yesterday to save the Council on Environmental Quality and the Community Investment Act from being eliminated in the state budget. Those who know little or nothing about this council and this act can read the LCV’s briefing papers about them (don’t worry; they’re brief). There are also alerts about protests and other events, about submitting testimony (you can read CTLCV’s testimony, and write your own; any state citizen can do this via e-mail). Both calls and e-mails, and testimony, mean a lot to our reps, who will see that their constituents care and are knowledgeable about environmental issues, even those that don’t receive much media exposure.
CTLCV also holds Citizen Lobby days in Hartford, a great learning experience for how the state legislature works and how environmental issues fare at the state level.
Another way people can help is with the Education Fund’s programs. The most exciting one is called CHISPA (“spark” in Spanish). It involves educating young people of color about environmental issues. Volunteers are needed to help with CHISPA field trips, to give talks and line up speakers, to help the students survey people, etc.
The Fund also has a new program to get clean buses in our cities. Volunteers are needed to educate and build up demand for clean buses in city neighborhoods, and to make calls to school board members to see who might be receptive to requiring clean buses the next time school bus contracts are bid out.
If you are interested in volunteering in either of these programs, contact Abi Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Youth Court is an exciting new community-based, restorative justice program in New Haven, founded by college students and with high school volunteers serving as attorneys, clerks, and jurors. The program deals with first- and second-time misdemeanor offenses by young people.
In this program, youth offenders learn civic responsibility. They directly repair the harm that they caused to their victim(s), while becoming more connected to the community, more remorseful, and more empathetic. They are also held directly accountable to their victim instead of to an abstract concept like “the State.” After their case is over, they also have the opportunity to serve on juries in future Youth Court hearings, allowing them to see the justice system from another perspective.
By removing criminal records, youth courts also offer youth offenders a second chance to realize their potential. This program removes a stigma that may otherwise limit future opportunities and drive them toward further, more serious crimes.
The Youth Court’s partners include New Haven Family Alliance, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Educational Opportunities Juvenile Justice Law Clinic at the Yale Law School, Slifka Center at Yale, St. Thomas More, and Yale Club of the Suncoast.
Adults do play a role in the program, and adult volunteers, lawyers as well as others, are needed. In fact, it’s a busy summer. The Youth Court’s needs include:
- Lawyers from the community to preside on cases
- Grant writing
- Tuesday night supervision at a courthouse in New Haven
- Recruiting new youth volunteers at local high schools
- Training youth volunteers on restorative justice and the law
If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact the executive director, Jane Michaud, at email@example.com.
A new report from the CT Association for Human Services, entitled “Race Equity in the Five Connecticuts: A Kids Count Special Report,” by Emmanuel Adero and Sheryl Horowitz, shows the levels of inequality in the various types of CT municipality: the wealthy, the rural, the suburban, the urban periphery, and the urban core.
Although CT continues to do well overall in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kids Count Data Book, and minorities here do better than those in most other states, this report shows the various kinds of inequality that persist, and how the level of inequality depends on the type of area in which children grow up.
This week is Senior Corps Week. Senior Corps is a federal government program that includes a Foster Grandparents program (with a focus on literacy and mentoring children), a Senior Companions program (which helps seniors stay in their homes), and an RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer) program (which works on some of the following):
- Organizing neighborhood watch programs
- Tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged or disabled youth
- Renovating homes
- Teaching English to immigrants
- Assisting victims of natural disasters
Connecticut is not one of the more active Senior Corps states. But there are 2,000 Senior Corps volunteers who tutor 1,100 children, help 200 homebound seniors, and provide volunteer labor for 200 local organizations. The RSVP program could allow seniors to get federal support for progressive community programs.
Seniors have time to make a difference for disadvantaged children and their families, and to provide professional and other services to the nonprofits in CT that are understaffed.
A lot of Connecticut’s problems are due to a prejudice against regionalization. This is made crystal-clear in an op-ed in today’s Hartford Courant by the executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council, a former superintendent of Cheshire schools, Greg J. Florio.
The topic of the op-ed is desegregating Hartford’s schools according to the Sheff v. O’Neill decision. He writes that “Connecticut communities value the concept of local control, especially of their schools. This will never change.” This love of local control is especially powerful because CT is one of the only two states in the U.S. that has no counties. Nothing but the state can stand up to Connecticut’s cities and towns.
However, Florio says that he sees “a willingness to come together to address these concerns of providing quality integrated education to all students with a regional approach: not regionalization, but regional thought and regional solutions.”
If he’s right, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. But there can be no fairness in education (and much else) in our state without the support of the suburbs surrounding our cities.
Too much activism in our state is also focused on the cities. They are where the problems are most acute and where it is easiest to organize. But the best solutions will come only with the support of those who live in and manage the suburbs. They have the money and the power in Connecticut. Not only are they thrifty, but they don’t like to spend any money that will go outside their towns (they still haven’t swallowed state income tax, which is only 25 years old).
It’s going to take a lot of work to bring the suburbs on board. This is something that progressive seniors, with a history in their towns and time on their hands, will be best at. It’s something worth including in strategic planning discussions.