alliance4action in Green Valley

The following article is from the Sahuarita Sun, Feb 8, 2017.

For information, updates, events, group and/or how to get involved as individuals or with groups, go to alliance4action.org and click on “subscribe.”

Next alliance4action meeting: 1 p.m. March 1, at a location to be determined. For more, contact Ann Striker at acstrike@cox.net

A newly formed, Green Valley-based activist group striving to keep pace with rapid changes in government on the state and national levels is making its own stunning strides.

If anything, the speed at which interest and grassroots involvement are developing appears to be a catalyst for more of the same.

“We’re channeling our enthusiasm,” said Green Valley resident Ann Striker, who founded the group alliance4action.

Launched in November in response to Donald Trump’s surprise victory, the group is attracting the interest of hundreds locally. Forty people showed at its first meeting Dec. 7, including leaders of several local organizations and faith-based groups. At an introductory community meeting last week, the group — called a4a for short — drew more than 160 attendees and turned away scores more from a packed hall.

Predominately, they are age 60 and up — men, women, couples, many retired, some still working, and from many walks, said Pam Duchaine, a retired logistics manager with a consumer products company.

Even a4a’s break-out “action groups,” which focus on specific issues, are quickly outgrowing local meeting venues, Striker told the Green Valley News Monday, adding that some of the groups number 40 to 50.

Some members participated in the group’s first public effort organizing the Women’s Solidarity Rally Jan. 21, which drew more than 400 participants on a prominent Green Valley corner, coinciding with similar groups nationwide. It was one of the largest gatherings in the community’s history.

By January’s end, a4a had more than 500 subscribers to its email distribution list, Striker said.

The following also seems to be bolstering attendance at meetings of ChangeisHappening!, an issue-oriented coalition that formed in 2008 on the heels of Barack Obama’s presidential election, as a non-candidate focused offshoot of Obama’s public Organizing for Action movement. CiH!’s mission is to create opportunities to educate, inform, engage and introduce people who wish to address social issues.

Working groups that began through CiH! have raised awareness on domestic violence programs, homelessness, gay rights, social and economic inequality, border and environmental concerns. Several members are active with a4a.

On Sunday, a CiH! meeting to help introduce the community to a4a drew 95 attendees, roughly 25 more than previous attendance records, said Diane Meyer, who is retired from the health care field, helped establish CiH! and now serves with a4a.

“It’s an example of people grasping for information,” she said. “We thought it might be drip, drip, drip.”

But by early appearances, it’s becoming a wave gaining momentum quicker than anyone imagined.

The beginnings

The group’s impetus sprang from shock and frustration over Trump defeating Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in electoral college votes, despite her winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.

“We had no concerns until Hillary lost,” Striker said. “We were in utter disbelief.”

Meyer and Duchaine, longtime Green Valley volunteers, concurred.

“It’s been hard to believe the rapidity” of promises, proposals and actions Trump has taken since his inauguration less than three weeks ago, Duchaine said. “I felt crushed and was telling myself, ‘I have to stop listening to the news.’”

Striker, a Sahuarita Food Bank volunteer, worries about future government support. As a member of a4a’s LGBTQ action group, she’s closely watching talk of government leaders revisiting the gay marriage decision handed down by the federal court in 2014, striking down Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.

And because the majority of Green Valley is over 65, security for seniors is an ongoing concern, she said.

Meyer ponders whether the National Parks program will continue, and if today’s kids and grandkids will be financially stable enough to retire. As a member a4a’s health care action group, she’s wary of potential changes negatively impacting Medicare, Medicaid and reproductive rights.

Instead of grousing about change already occurring since Trump took office, and fearing more, she’s among many who’ve decided not to fester.

“We all feel better doing something,” Duchaine said. “Green Valley is coming out of having a good time.”

Group leaders decided to join a growing movement nationwide, including one based in Tucson, to follow principles detailed on the website IndivisibleGuide.com

Billed as “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” the 26-page effort is compiled by former congressional staffers, who share advice for getting concerns heard by local, state and national representatives.

The team behind the guide lists its main goals as demystifying congressional advocacy and supporting local groups putting the guide into action.

Local a4a leaders wasted no time commencing research, making plans to contact representatives, drafting talking points, and spreading the word about their mission to “ensure a caring and inclusive country (which will) act together to protect and strengthen our values, human and civil rights.”

“It’s not just that we were upset our person didn’t win, but because of what Trump stood for,” Meyer said. “He’s always been issues-oriented and had a lack of principles.”

Roughly 14 months ago — long before anyone could predict who would succeed President Barack Obama — CiH! leadership met to define a key-issues list.

After the election, they were dismayed and found they disagreed with much of what Trump has said he wants to do, Striker said. The new group didn’t just want to educate people on the potential impacts of Trump administration changes, it sought to do something more.

“That’s when we reached out to others,” Striker said. And where the action groups come in. Before Trump took office Jan. 20, she’d laid organizational prep work.

The focus

Action groups resulting so far are focusing on issues deemed most immediate: health care, education, climate, immigration and election of progressive candidates. Added last week were groups centering on racial injustice and LGBTQ rights.

In addition to a 13-member leadership team, a4a has formed a communications group responsible to publicize meetings, activities, events and plans to participate with other groups who are following the indivisible guide. The group’s communicators are employing a dedicated website, social media, news flashes, email blasts and “act now” on matters commanding urgent action, such as pending legislation, response to proposals and more.

a4a member Laurie Jurs, a retired health care administrator who chairs the health care action group, conducted research, assembled position papers and held practice sessions for making calls and visits to congressional offices.

“We don’t just want to be heard but on specific topics,” Meyer said. They also want their approach to be polite, Duchaine added. “I think they will dismiss rants and unorganized presentations.”

Duchaine chose to serve with a4a’s climate change group, “because if we don’t do something about that, all the rest of the action groups are moot.”

The action groups are tasked with planning how they’ll tackle their respective issues through ongoing research, legislation tracking, conducting fact checks, scheduling their own meetings, speakers events, attendance at rallies, lobbying Congress, making phone calls, editorial commentaries, combination of these or other means.

For example, the climate group has scheduled a talk by energy efficiency and policy consultant Robert Bulechek, chair of the Tucson Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission and vice-chair of the Pima Association of Governments Solar Partnership, on proposed power-rate hikes, at 10 a.m. today at the Tubac Community Center. It is open to the public.

a4a leadership has begun publishing editorial comments in the media, met with staff of local congressional offices, are making phone calls, emails and serving as contact points for anyone interested in supporting the group’s work.

This can be through joining an action group, proposing new ones, making calls and writing letters as individuals, donating time and money to help with expenses such as printing, paper and ink, to have signage made for public events and to rent facilities for alliance meetings, if needed.

“Congressional staffs have been honest, accommodating,” Duchaine said. “They see us as people with jobs and concerns.”

McSally’s involvement

Activist groups he’s read about on the national level plan to emulate Tea Party tactics of 2008, said Patrick Ptak, spokesman for Rep. Martha McSally’s offices. He was not familiar with what groups have met with her staff locally.

Jurs found contact with McSally’s office encouraging. From talking with staff, she anticipates getting a half-hour with McSally within the next few weeks to talk about the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Jeff Flake’s staff in Washington didn’t respond to Green Valley News requests for comment, however, a staff member in his Tucson office said he’s met so many people over the past few weeks that he can’t ID individual groups. Even after quizzing a few fellow staffers, Chris Stoller said, “It’s everybody. It’s hard to pinpoint them.”

Are a4a members already awash in report-reading and keeping abreast of new developments?

“It’s hard to keep up with even one action group,” Striker said. Some meeting attendees have wanted to serve on two or three groups.

“I never expected it’d go this fast, but we’re ahead of a lot of groups who started working after the inauguration,” she said.

At a4a’s planned monthly meetings, each action group is asked to share its current priorities, actions taken, actions planned and next meeting schedule.

Next week, a4a leadership will be working on communications, checking calendars, scheduling meetings wherever space is available — choir rooms at churches, perhaps outdoors in the spring.

“When we get over growing pains, past the cabinet appointments, issues will change, and the focus will turn to specific policy and regulation changes,” Meyer predicts.

“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Duchaine said. “We only do what we can.”

A side benefit many in the alliance are already enjoying is the social aspect.

Activism is being talked about in dog parks, car pools and other casual settings, Meyer said. She envisions Green Valley’s winter visitors taking their new-found enthusiasm back to their home states and starting action groups where there aren’t any.

“The wonderful part of the movement is meeting new people and making like-minded friends,” Striker said.