WASHINGTON—The temperature was 70 degrees Feb. 11 and people sprouted like daffodils on Capitol Hill. Thousands, in a springtime mood, trekked to the offices of their senators and representatives demanding action to rescue the country from unemployment, home foreclosures, unaffordable health care and two costly wars.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) brought busloads from their legislative conference. Alicia Russell, state chairperson of Arizona ACORN told the World her state ranks fifth in foreclosures. She was leading a delegation of eight Arizona ACORN members to meet with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

“We have ACORN members standing on the front porches of people’s homes when the sheriff comes. We are taking direct action to stop the evictions, to stop the foreclosures,” she told the World.

She greeted the advice from Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) that people refuse to leave their foreclosed homes. “You be squatters in your own homes,” Kaptur thundered in a recent House floor speech. “Don’t you leave!”

Kaptur had told her colleagues she is fed up with bankers using billions in taxpayer bailouts to pay themselves bonuses. Mortgages have been divied up among so many banks that no one knows who really owns the mortgage, said the Toledo lawmaker. Homeowners should demand a full paper trail of who holds the mortgage.

Said Russell, “I think that is a good idea. The banks have sold and resold these mortgages so many times that no one knows who actually owns them. The banking industry is out of control. We’re here in the capital to demand relief. Obama’s package has funds to help stop the foreclosures but the Republicans are trying to take it out.”

ACORN hailed the Obama plan for allocating $50 billion to help homeowners renegotiate lower mortgage payments and help stop the foreclosure hemmorhage.

After the meeting, Russell praised Grijalva. “He is one of the best,” she said. “He supported every point on our agenda. He’s obviously in support of keeping families in their homes.”

Grijalva’s cramped office seemed to be a magnet. About twenty students, teachers, and administrators from the 10 campuses of Maricopa Community College met with Grijalva in the hallway because there wasn’t enough room in his office. They urged more Pell Grants so youth can afford college. The delegation had been attending the National Legislative Summit of Community Colleges which brought 1,000 students, faculty, and administration from across the nation to fight for full funding of Pell Grants and other federal programs that assist college students.

Grijalva expressed full support but warned that compromise was unavoidable to win Republican support of Obama’s package. “Half a loaf is better than no loaf,” he said.

Jules Ko, a student at Gateway Community College in Phoenix, said the Dream Act should be passed so that undocumented immigrant children can attend college. “I have a close friend attending a charter high school. She has been in America since infancy but she cannot receive a scholarship or financial assistance and without it, she won’t be able to go to college,” Ko told the lawmaker. Joseph Mais, Grijalva’s aide interjected, “We have heard this same story time and time again.” Grijalva, he said, is an energetic supporter of the Dream Act.

Over 3,000 members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) were on the Hill. Among them was Charles Orzehoskie, president of the National Council of EPA Locals representing 9,000 federal workers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Orzehoskie told the World the EPA workers are urging Congress to “return EPA to its original mission of safeguarding human health and protecting the environment” by addressing global climate change and creating “green jobs.” He added, “This may well be the dawn of a new era for EPA. Our workers are champing at the bit to get back to scientific integrity.”

Deborah Wicker Jones, a leader of the YWCA in Baton Rouge was leading 18 delegates from Louisiana in a day of lobbying with the “Equal Voice for American Families” coalition established by the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

“Our nation’s approach to supporting families is piecemeal solutions,” she told the World. “We believe it is time for a comprehensive platform that helps families in poverty.”

She handed a reporter the Equal Voice for America’s Families platform, the result of 65 town-hall meetings across the country attended by 10,000 people last year. “Bring manufacturing jobs back to this country. Pass living wage jobs. Enforce labor laws. Protect retirement income,” the platform demands. “Provide health care for all. Build quality and safe affordable housing.”

The Bush administration’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina “was a shock to me and to most people. But it was not a surprise to poor people who live with this neglect every day,” she told the World. “Before Katrina, it was hidden. Then people saw on television the failure of our government to respond to people in need. Now, for the first time, we have someone in the White House who is listening to us. Obama’s stimulus is a step forward but I know that this problem goes beyond just a short-term package. We need a comprehensive platform. We need solutions that come from the bottom up, not the top down.”

greenerpastures21212 @ yahoo.com
UPDATED: 2/16/09