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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Political organizing continues at Mayflower Center community meeting

The March 1st resistance schedule concluded with the community meeting from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Carman Center and the Mayflower Retirement Community. A group of many community members with a few professors and students met to discuss policy action the community believes they should pursue moving forward.   

Susan Ferrari led the meeting, beginning by discussing all the work still to be done in preparation. Ferrari specifically talked about planning the second legislative coffee this Saturday, March 4 at 8:30 a.m., hosted by the League of Women Voters which will bring State Senator Tim Kapucian and State Representative Dave Maxwell to answer questions regarding policy concerns with the community.

“We first got together to talk about how to foster change in what’s proving to be a very scary time at the local and the national level,” Ferrari said. “And we’re here today because we have some events coming up that we need to prepare for … and determine how we can be most effective at really pressing our state representatives to let them know about the issues we care about and how we want them to take actions.”

Next, Janet Carl, Writing Lab, came forward to give a rundown of legislation and what has been going on since Trump took office.

“I’ve got some great news, did you know there are 25 fabulous things that have happened since Donald Trump became president?” Carl asked. “The first one was millions of people know the names of their representatives without googling it. Another one on the list, one of my personal favorites is Alec Baldwin has a career again – we’ve forgotten what a jerk he was.”

Carl was able to steer the conversation from its jovial tone back to more serious congressional matters soon after. She discussed what stage each was at and how close it was to being passed by the end of this legislative session on Friday, March 3. Such bills include a “Personhood” bill, which would ban abortions and restrict other forms of birth control, a bill that would remove nutritional mandates for school lunches and a bill that would eliminate age and permit restrictions for purchasing firearms.

There was some encouraging news from Carl, House Study Bill 138, the bill to end licensing for many professions including social workers and barbers had died in sub-committee. However, there is still a lot of work to be done by constituents contacting legislators to prevent those more aggressive bills that are in committee or sub-committee from being passed before the end of session.

Blair Lawton, the First District field director for the Iowa Democratic Party introduced himself and spoke of the Party’s plan to put larger efforts into taking back the current Republican district during the Congressional elections next year in 2018.

Professor David Harrison, French, discussed his experience with other members of the community discussing policy with a representative for Republican Congressman Rod Blum last week. His overall opinion of the conversation was positive. While the representative could not answer questions or make any promises, he took notes and promised to convey the concerns to Blum.

Professor Ed Cohn, History, spoke about his own experience attending Senator Chuck Grassley’s legislative coffee in Parkersburg, three hours from Grinnell.  Grassley’s team was originally expecting 20 people, but Cohn estimates between 150 to 200 attended. He commented on the hostile nature of that talk, and while most questions were anti-Trump, there were a few that were pro-Trump.

Cohn commended Grassley actually showing up for this talk, as other representatives have been shying away from face to face meetings. He emphasized the importance of continuing to attend these talks when possible and getting national representatives to come to Iowa’s first district and how to ask them the right kinds of questions.

“I’d say in general terms there are two things that good questions do,” Cohn said. “One is to make it clear that we’re following the issues, we’re following what the legislature is doing and hence the legislators are being held accountable. The second is ask specific, clear questions that aren’t too detailed … as you know politicians will take whatever chance they have to dodge the question or answer it on their own terms.”

Terese Grant, co-president of the League of Women Voters took a moment to remind everyone that the coffees are meant to be a respectful conversation. She commented on conversations like the one Cohn attended that may have turned unproductively hostile, and her belief that “Grinnell can do better than that.”

A representative for the local democratic party then spoke on the meeting occurring after the forum that is an “off-year caucus organizational meeting,” discussing what issues and goals the party will take on in 2017.

The large group then broke into smaller focus groups which took on the task of developing specific questions for their categories for the Legislative Coffee, such as reproductive rights, first amendment rights and public education. Nate Williams ’20 has attended the first and second community meeting. Williams, a member of the pipeline focused group, has found optimism in the grassroots organizing that has been taking place for others to get involved outside of the campus.

“It is inspiring to see community members coming together like this and really trying to make change. It gives me hope that meetings like this are happening all over the country. In this case, I think it’s important that students who are involved in organizing communicate with other members of our community.

Williams joined with other environmentally focused groups at this meeting to create a wider picture of environmental issues and impacts at stake in Iowa. He noted the importance of working together and educating one another on the current issues.

“A lot of the work is informing each other, so part of what I shared was some of the calls to action that water protectors gave on Monday at their panel in Herrick. They asked communities to let the local politicians know that Iowa does not support the pipeline, as well as a call for divestment from Wells Fargo.”

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