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Monday, April 28, 2008

A Day of Gulf Coast Advocacy, April 24: CBC Members Partner with Rev. Boutté in Washington, D. C.

Sitting straight-backed, excited, and a bit nervous, we all focused on the head of the conference table in Senator Specter’s office suite as we engaged in conversation with legislative aide, Alex Helpman. We had exhausted our understanding of the problems with current housing initiatives and challenges in Gulf Coast rebuilding turning to Rev. Boutté for his response to Mr. Helpman’s focused, thoughtful questioning. After 30 minutes of intense dialogue, a platform for Rev. Boutté to explain the nuances of the current failure and the ongoing need for federal housing legislation concerning Gulf Coast rebuilding, we left Senator Specter’s office invigorated and appreciative of Mr. Helpman’s careful attention.

Seven CBC members, including Pastor Laurie Sweigard, participated in the legislative lobbying day organized by the Equity and Inclusion Campaign. In the Senate we advocated for funding to address the chasm between need and availability of affordable housing. We met with Senator Specter’s staff; Senator Casey was already on board as a cosponsor of The Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007. In the House we advocated for The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, legislation that would fund job development, especially in infrastructure rebuilding and in environmental restoration (H.R. 4048). We met with Representative Joe Sestak’s staff, Representative Jim Gerlach’s staff, and Representative Paul Kanjorski’s staff. All were receptive and attentive.

The vision of partnership and accompaniment blossomed into a reality that day. As constituents, we had provided access to Pennsylvania congressmen for our partner, Rev. Boutté, who brought his expertise and experience to the conversation; together we gave voice to the needs of the struggling Gulf Coast community. We ended the day with a bit of faith restored in the democratic process and with a reclaimed commitment to our participation in the process.
(Note: None of the Representatives have co-sponsored The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act; our work continues.)

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