Although our financial support is less, we are maintaining relationships with these groups. I've had a great deal of personal contact with most of them, including visits to all twelve, and the Commission has done site visits or conducted interviews with leaders of all the groups in WI and Chicago. We hope to do the same when we have a future meeting in Houston.
One organization we have been working closely with in the last year is Common Ground of Southeastern Wisconsin, a community-organizing coalition of churches, synagogues, mosques, civic organizations, small businesses and private citizens. It's part of the same network to which Valley Interfaith and TMO (The Metropolitan Organization) in Texas belong. Last August, Mike Burke and Tony Russo joined Commission member Johnny Klingler and me at a workshop to learn more about their methods. Since then, I've attended several of their leadership meetings and met frequently with the organizer assigned to this area. We've been trying to re-establish the Common Ground Core Team at St. Martin of Tours, doing "one on ones" and "house meetings" with parishioners to identify community concerns and individuals ready to take leadership in addressing them. We've started meeting regularly with Fr. Yvon and have agreed to work on his top priority of reaching out to younger adult members and new families.
Last weekend I had asked Fr. Johnny if he could stand in for me at a Common Ground rally. He not only did that, but recruited a companion. Here is his report:
Sunday afternoon on August 5th Jan de Jong and I attended a public gathering sponsored by Common Ground. It was their first South Side public action, and took place before a large crowd in Kosciuszko Park near St. Josaphat Basilica. The speakers were Common Ground leaders Gabriela Dieguez, Randy Jones, Karn Penvos, Pablo Garcia and Arturo de Jesus. [ed. note: CG "leaders" are everyday citizens who've been trained in how to conduct campaigns, meet with public officials, etc.] Also attending were Aldermen Jose Perez and Tony Zielinski and aldermanic candidate Mark Borkowski.
They first called for action to ensure the safety of children riding on school buses. Although those of us who drive know it's the law to stop behind or in front of a school bus when their lights are flashing and stop sign is extended, but incredibly, there is an exception when they stop on a street with a curb and sidewalk on each side! Common Ground will work with parents to end this exception.
Their second call was to create more indoor and outdoor spaces for youth activities that are safe and affordable. Common Ground has been fighting for public monies to be used for this purpose, arguing it's only "fair play" to use tax dollars for this purpose as well as the hundreds of millions being considered for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
Lastly, Kathleen Patron, South Side Lead Organizer for Common Ground, closed the event by asking the crowd if they would organize and work hard to achieve these two goals. Each appeal was answered with a resounding YES.