These remarks are edited from the closing celebration at the 2016 RE:Conference.
For the last twelve months, I have felt as if we, people who care about everyone having a safe place to call home, were on the verge of something big – a breakthrough in public understanding about the importance of home, about the ways housing impacts health outcomes, education outcomes, and our jobs and stability, and about what we can do as a state to make sure everyone has a place to call home.
Today, I know you may feel as I do, that the potential we hold to address our collective problems is threatened.
I’m also not ready to give up that hope, and I don’t think you are either. Let’s be real though, it is going to take a lot of hard work to get there and to make progress.
There are so many ways that government actions impacts our lives. In the coming months and years, we will see first-hand the impacts of federal policies on our lives and communities.
There are also so many ways our local and state government actions can impact our lives and communities – for the better. And here in Oregon, we have always believed we are exceptional. That’s right – exceptional.
Most communities believe they are exceptional, but I think we may have a special case.
To be sure, there is a lot in Oregon’s history that is not exceptional. We have done immense historic harm to native communities and communities of color through exclusion laws, forced displacement, and other policies and practices.
But today, though, in this room, we have the ability and power to turn Oregon into an exceptional place to live for all its residents. With 81 short days until the 2017 Legislative session begins, with all the amazing capacity and strength in this room, we can make sure that the coming session is one that moves us closer to fulfilling our promise in this state.
With 81 days, I am here to challenge you to do eight things. That is a mere, small, easy one thing every ten days. You can do this.
- Email or call your representatives in our federal delegation (House)(Senate), and tell them you expect them to stand up and fight for our communities and our state.
- Have coffee with at least one member – preferably both – of your local delegation to the Oregon Legislature. Talk to them about the good work you’re doing in your community and what you hope they will accomplish in 2017. If you want help with this, email me.
- Figure out how you’re going to stay informed this legislative session. If you’re concerned about everyone having a place to call home, join the Housing Alliance. Follow us on twitter or facebook. Get our emails. Better yet, read our emails!
- Plan to join us at the Capitol for Housing Opportunity Day on March 22 or May 18 to tell your Legislator about the importance of everyone having a place to call home. We’ll make it easy I promise. I’m even promising house shaped cookies.
- Take a friend out for coffee who is scared for their family or their community, and make sure they know they aren’t alone.
- Find someone in your community who is struggling with housing or saving for their kids education, and ask them to get involved with you in the coming legislative session.
- Email your state legislative delegation, and tell them we need them to figure out a revenue package so we can make critical investments in our communities.
- Believe in our potential to make this state an exceptional place, and join us for the fight.