Friday, May 15, 2009

Taking Action for Health Care Reform: Change That Works

Seacoast for Change organizers and volunteers recently collaborated with organizers from the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign on two local events. On Friday, May 8, mothers and grandmothers from the Seacoast area delivered cards and flowers to the Dover offices of Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter as part of a statewide Mother's Day action. Photos of the Dover visit and other NH Mother's Day action teams are posted on SIEU's national blog. (The gorgeous flowers were from the Flower Kiosk in Portsmouth, the adorable baby belongs to Janet Groat.)

Seacoast for Change and Seacoast Local also participated in organizing a roundtable event on health care reform for Seacoast area small business owners on Tuesday, May 12, at the Portsmouth Public Library. The roundtable discussion was the local launch of an effort to bring the voices of NH small business owners into the national health care policy debate.

Plans are in the works for more local and national events and actions to support affordable, quality health care for all. Contact Judy Stadtman at for more information about how you can get involved.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seacoast for Change: Our First 100-something Days

Saturday, May 9: Seacoast for Change volunteers join NH Freedom To Marry organizers and other local activists for a visibility and petition drive to support marriage equality in New Hampshire.

Of all the bone-headed debates swirling around the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency, one of the silliest is whether the President is trying to accomplish too much, too soon. Having two wars to contend with, an economic crisis of epic proportions, a badly broken health care system, climate change, and public education that fails to deliver the core skills Americans need to compete in the global economy, we're pretty lucky to have a leader in the White House who is prepared to act with speed and determination.

Throughout the campaign and again in his Inaugural address, President Obama cautioned the American public that the change we need to put our country back on track won't be easily achieved, and will depend on ordinary people stepping up to the challenge to act for the greater good. It was this call to action -- and a shared desire to make the most of the political moment -- that inspired the formation and recent organizing efforts of the Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network. In the months since the election, Seacoast for Change has evolved from an ad hoc network of campaign volunteers into a thriving action organization. Today, our primary purpose is to connect local activists and would-be activists with meaningful opportunities to "be the change."

I'm not an objective observer, but I'd say we've done a pretty good job of meeting that objective in our first 100-something days. Here's a short list of the actions and activities Seacoast for Change organizers and volunteers have coordinated or participated in since the end of January:

Health Care Reform: Seacoast for Change is actively supporting the NH for Health Care/Change That Works Campaign, and SFCGN organizers and volunteers are currently working with campaign staff on a series of outreach and action projects. Major opposition to policy reforms that guarantee every American access to affordable, quality care will be heating up soon, so stay tuned for updates and volunteer opportunities.

Save Our Bridges! Campaign: Seacoast for Change has become a full partner in the diverse coalition of concerned individuals and community groups fighting to get funding for urgently-needed repairs to the Portsmouth-Kittery Bridges.

Community Outreach/Public Events: In March, Seacoast for Change co-organized a public forum with House Speaker Terie Norelli on the State Budget (with the Portsmouth City Democratic Committee), followed by our first-ever Portsmouth Meet Your Legislators forum on April 4. Seacoast for Change organizers are also participating in the Seacoast 20/20 Community Vision project, a series of working conferences for change-oriented non-profits and community groups in the Seacoast area.

Supporting Economic Recovery & Renewal: In early February, Seacoast for Change hosted an Organizing for America Economic Recovery Meeting at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth. To see how New Hampshire and other states will benefit from President Obama's economic stimulus plan, check out this cool map on the Organizing for America web site.

Advancing President Obama's Policy Priorities: Seacoast for Change is working with the NH Rebuild and Renew America Now! Coalition to build public support for the President's budget priorities on affordable health care for all, investing in green industry and renewable energy, and education for the 21st century. In March, we organized a successful phone bank to generate calls to members of Congress to ask for their support in passing the initial budget proposal. Local volunteers also participated in a nation-wide Organizing for America canvass to collect signatures in support of President Obama's budget priorities.

Corporate Accountability/Fairness for the Middle Class: As part of our alliance with the SEIU Change That Works Campaign, Seacoast for Change activists took part in demonstrations at Bank of America locations in Portsmouth and Exeter to protest corporate excess and demand accountability from financial institutions receiving bank bailout funds.

Marriage Equality: Seacoast for Change volunteers joined NH Freedom To Marry organizers and other local supporters of same-sex marriage for a Market Square rally and petition drive to urge Governor Lynch to sign the equal marriage bill.

Organizing Meetings & Group Discussions: We've continued to organize activities to connect, support, and expand the grassroots community, including monthly "Read for Change" discussion groups and regular progress reports and organizing meetings.

Community Service: In February, Seacoast for Change organized a "Change for Good" drive to raise small individual donations for Seacoast Local's (H)EAT campaign. In the coming months, we'll be organizing beach clean-ups and other service projects to benefit the Greater Seacoast community.

Supporting Democratic Party Candidates & Organizations: Seacoast for Change mobilized local volunteers to participate in Get Out The Vote campaigns for special elections in NH Senate District 3 and an open NH House seat in Windham-Salem. We've also welcomed discussions with leaders of Seacoast region Democratic committees who are looking for ways to engage Obama volunteers and build up a grassroots base. In June, we'll be recruiting volunteers to help staff the Portsmouth Democrats booth on Market Square Day.

It looks like our next 100-something days will be at least as busy and productive as the last 16 weeks. So keep in touch, stay involved, and join in when you can. Working together, we are making a difference -- in the Seacoast community and beyond.

Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network