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Organizing spiral moves from relationships to reflection to action

Describing the Spokane Alliance’s move from organizing to acting to reorganizing as an “organizing spiral,” Steve Paulson of Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) summed up some of the alliance’s victories that have built its capacity to reach out to “do something bigger and better.”

“The Spokane Alliance seeks to help people make connections and take actions as caring neighbors,” he said.  “We bring people together, share common concerns and act on them.”

About 40 at the Fall Leadership Rally learned about the alliance’s membership campaign and how to present on issues important to them as part of the “Learning Season” this fall in preparation for a Jan. 17 Action Assembly.  A Dec. 13 internal assembly will prioritize action for the public assembly.

The alliance seeks to recruit 15 new member institutions, raise $15,000 at a major donor breakfast and draw about 1,000 to the assembly.

It seeks first to strengthen institutions, such as churches, empowering them to be effective in the community in creating change toward developing a livable, sustainable community.

Tom Robinson of Covenant United Methodist Church said the alliance will recruit new members based on its successes with the Spokane Transit campaign, helping hold Premera to its nonprofit mission and the green building promotion among schools. 

Currently 14 churches—Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, United Methodist and United Church of Christ—are among the 32 member institutions. 

The current research and action teams on Sustainable Jobs, Health Care, an STA Accountability Team and a Tax Equity Exploratory Team.

Learning season” sessions include meetings in member institutions to share their experiences about jobs, environment, taxes, government services, health care and other issues.  Discussions surface people’s “passions and interests.”

Wim Mauldin, co-organizer with Joe Chrastil on the alliance staff, said issues addressed arise from member institutions as they build relationships that change the “culture” within their institutions.  The alliance provides a process through which institutions discern what issues their members want to change.

Karen Hyvonen of the Health Care Research-Action Team led an overview of health issues.  That team’s findings are reported in an article.

Pam Griffin of the United Food and Commercial Workers #1429, spoke on  holding the STA accountable for use of funds raised in the recent ballot measure to increase sales taxes by .3 percent.

Paul Bramson of St. Ann’s Catholic Church and on the Sustainable Jobs Team outlined the need to address rising energy prices and develop the local work force with sustainable jobs that provide living wages and respect the environment.

Alliance successes include its Green Building/Learning program’s 2003 campaign securing commitments from Spokane Public Schools to implement green building standards and adopt standards for using apprentices in construction, and the Stewardship Works campaign to increase conservation in existing buildings.

That team proposes approaching eight other school districts on green building; offering Stewardship Works classes to commercial building owners; creating a Sustainability Center to provide technical assistance on green building; developing a sustainability-focused Science Center; addressing regional water quality and conservation, and research to support biomass and alternative energy sources.

The Rev. Joanne Coleman Campbell of Liberty Park United Methodist presented proposals of the Tax Equity Exploratory Team, which include forming a Tax Equity Research-Action Team.  The group defines regressive taxes as those taking a larger percent from lower-income people and progressive taxes as taking a small percent from them.

“Tax equity and fairness are good for the system by distributing the tax burden in a fair and equitable way,” she said.

This team, formed in 2003, said that in economic downturns the state’s regressive tax system often leaves unfunded or underfunded social services that affect the quality of life—education, economic development, and health care. 

“Washington has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, relying heavily on sales and excise taxes, property taxes, and business and occupation taxes,” Joan said.  “So people in the lowest 20 percent of incomes pay 17 percent of their incomes in sales and property taxes, while the highest 20 percent pays three percent or less.  Reliance on the sales tax leads to high volatility.

“Our member institutions seek fair and equitable taxes, stable and balanced taxes, clear and transparent, and adequate to meet government obligations in a fair and just manner,” Joan said.

The alliance will hold a Capacity Building Campaign breakfast at 7 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Ridpath Hotel. 

For information, call 532-1688.

By Mary Stamp - Copyright © October 2004 - The Fig Tree