Update on Action Together CT Meeting This Thursday

An update on Action Together CT’s July meeting, Thursday, July 20 at 7:00 pm at Mactivity, 285 Nicoll Street, New Haven. Its theme is Volunteers Make Communities Better.

This meeting will feature Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Rep. Robyn Porter discussing what you role can play, the importance of local races, and the importance of connecting with voters. Nick Maroletti from Fight Back CT and Sarah Ganong from Working Families will also be on hand to provide hands-on volunteer training.

Investing in Local Affordable Housing and Energy Efficiency Upgrades

We tend to think that there are three ways we can make a difference in our communities:  volunteer, engage in activism, and make charitable contributions. There is a fourth way:  social impact investment. Community organizations through which one makes investments in underserved markets are known as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). And the principal CDFI in Connecticut, a recent coming together of CDFIs in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, is called Capital for Change.

Capital for Change lends money to Connecticut businesses for affordable housing and for the introduction of energy efficiency upgrades to multi-family dwellings.  With horrific incidents occurring all around the world, such as in London and Honolulu, it is evident that many older buildings that house lower-income families not only lack energy efficiency features, but do not even meet current safety codes. Those who invest through Capital for Change help address these problems.

Social impact investments do good while providing an income stream to the investor. An investor with Captial for Change can, however, choose to receive no interest or a rate lower than the maximum for the length of the investment. Choosing a lower rate is effectively a contribution to the organization.

Capital for Change is seeking investments of as little as $1,000 from individuals and from foundations, faith-based organizations, and other entities. It pays interest annually for these investments, with longer-term investments receiving more favorable interest rates. They are as follows:

1 to 2 year investments: 0 to 2.5%

3 to 7 year investments: 0 to 3.0%

7 to 10 year investments: 0 to 3.5%

10 plus years: 0 to 4%

Sign or Start a Petition

Both Move On and Change.org have special sections where you can sign or start a petition, including those that involve local issues. Move On’s CT petition page is here, and its page for starting a petition is here. Change.org doesn’t let you choose the state, but you can search for Connecticut. Its page for starting a petition is here.

Move On puts its petition advice on a separate page (complete with a 23-minute audio on delivering one’s petition, the part that people sometimes fail to anticipate), while Change.org provides it where you answer the questions it asks in forming a petition. Both of their petition pages show some of the successes at least partially due to their petitions.

Contact CT Legislative Leaders re Environmental Bills

The budget plan for CT that is currently being considered includes deep cuts to clean energy and energy efficiency programs, and would eliminate funding for the CT Council on Environmental Quality. If passed, this budget would sweep millions in ratepayer and taxpayer dollars away from clean energy, while leaving us with fewer tools to protect our air and water.

Environmentally concerned CT citizens should contact legislative leaders to say:

  • Don’t Raid RGGI: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds are used to reduce energy costs and speed the deployment of local clean energy solutions like rooftop solar. Deep cuts to RGGI hurt low-income families and impede job growth in Connecticut. Click here for the League’s fact sheet on RGGI.
  • Don’t Cut CT Green Bank: The CT Green Bank has helped finance tens of millions of dollars in private investment for in-state clean energy projects, helping make Connecticut a clean energy model for the nation.
  • Don’t Bail Out Millstone Nuclear: Say “No” to special deals for nuclear power at the expense of real renewable energy in CT. Click here for the League’s brief on Millstone subsidies.
  • Do Preserve CEQ:  Preserve funding for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). CEQ is a small investment that makes a big difference to help protect public health and the environment in CT. Click here for the League’s brief on the Council
  • Do Maintain CT’s Leadership on Climate Change: We must continue to be national leaders on climate and use our membership in the U.S. Climate Alliance as a platform for leadership and innovation. As our federal government abdicates its environmental obligations, CT must fight climate change and ensure a robust clean energy economy.

Click here to use the CT League of Conservation Voters’ direct e-mail form, or contact the legislative leaders directly:

Sen. Pro Tem Martin Looney – Looney@senatedems.ct.gov
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz – Joe.aresimowicz@cga.ct.gov
Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano – Len.Fasano@cga.ct.gov
Sen. Majority Leader Bob Duff – Bob.Duff@cga.ct.gov
Rep. Minority Leader Themis Klarides – Themis.Klarides@housegop.ct.gov

(This post is derived from a CT League of Conservation Voters e-mail)


CT League of Conservation Voters Has Different Sorts of Volunteer Needs

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 abirod.ctlcv@gmail.com.

New Haven’s Project Youth Court Volunteer Opportunities

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
  • Fundraising
  • Marketing
  • 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 jmichaud@projectyouthcourt.org.


Dining to Make a Difference

Sometimes, dining out can make a difference, and not just because a restaurant is offering to give a certain percentage of its profits to charity. Zest 280, a lunch-only, mission-based restaurant in West Hartford, has teamed up with Hartford-based Community Partners in Action on a Culinary Training Collaborative, which helps prepare former prisoners for careers in the culinary arts and hospitality fields. Not 5% or 10%, but 100% of Zest 280’s profits go back into the training program, and in June 26% of sales go the program.

Participants in the program spend ten paid weeks in structured, on-the-job culinary training while working at Zest 280. Trainees gain experience in both the back and front operations of the restaurant.

Besides having lunch at Zest 280, you can support the program by donating to the “Run Louis Run” fundraiser. Louis Lista, owner of Zest 280, is running his sixth marathon this fall to raise an additional $60,000 for the Culinary Training Program.

There is also a culinary pre-training program at Hartford’s Billings Forge Community Works, which is looking for volunteers for its farmers’ market, youth and community based programs, and fundraising events.