The year 2020 threw a few curveballs that challenged us and pushed us to grow as our leaders learned new skills, figured out new technology, and re-invented how we connect in our community. We discovered we could be nimble in our approach as we kept our eyes on our mission:
To strengthen institutions, build power, and advocate change by acting collectively to improve our quality of life in the Tulsa area.
Here are our major accomplishments over the last year:
--Connected legislators and constituents on Jan 10 to view the film "Brokelahoma", followed by table discussions with the 200 parents, teachers, and elected officials in attendance about the importance of funding public education.
--Gathered 50 community members representing local social service agencies, nonprofits, and member institutions for an Eviction Education Event on March 3, as our first public action funded by a grant from the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation. It was led by seven ACTION members, most of whom were new to a leadership role. Thirteen member institutions committed to take the next steps towards building a team of tenant leaders who would create a Tenants’ Action Agenda to address the pressures they face as renters.
--Collaborated with our affiliate in OKC to organize a June 1 online event that brought together 159 residents and elected officials from Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Norman to educate them on the need for an expanded statewide eviction moratorium and financial relief for landlords and tenants. As a result, the Tulsa City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of ACTION’s letter to the governor requesting the expanded moratorium.
--Coordinated two Candidate Accountability Sessions, one with city council candidates and one with candidates for mayor, where ACTION leaders asked candidates to publicly commit to working with ACTION to address issues experienced by members related to healthcare, economic recovery, racial equity and evictions. Approximately 221 people attended the online event on Aug 6 and approximately 217 people attended the Aug 13 event.
--Partnered with the Oklahoma Education Association to present reports from Tulsa and OKC public schools superintendents, economic policy experts, and housing policy experts on the effects the pandemic has had on education, student loan debt, and evictions. State and federal candidates were asked to respond with how they would work to alleviate these pressures on families. Seventy-seven attended on Oct 8, and the Facebook Live recording has had over 1,200 views.
--Implemented Leadership Trainings (9/10, 9/17, 9/24, 11/20, 11/21 and 12/15): Over 60 people, from both member and potential member institutions, met online for presentations and interactive sessions by professional trainers from across the country to learn and practice the skills necessary to lead efforts to create change. Three of these trainings were offered in Spanish.
--Built a Tenants’ Rights Team, with the support of the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation, who advocated through multiple online meetings with a county commissioner and local agencies involved in housing policy and won support for the $15 million in county and $5 million in state CARES Act funds that were allocated for rental assistance in Tulsa County. When our tenant leaders recognized that renters weren’t claiming rental relief funds because the application was cumbersome and relied on technology they didn’t have access to, they organized eight in-person rental assistance clinics to help guide tenants through the application process. Our leaders heard from renters in these clinics that they were also facing intense pressure to pay utility bills. So, they used their training and experience to convince the county commissioners to shift $3.5 million of CARES Act funding for a utility assistance program ACTION created that included a simplified application process so the funding would be more accessible to those it is intended to help.
--Closed out the year by inviting local elected officials to our weekly meeting to share their perspective on the coming year. Tulsa City Councilor Jeannie Cue joined us on Dec 3, and State House Representative John Waldron spoke on Dec 10.