Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking regionally, acting locally

On Sunday afternoon I went to the inaugural meeting of the Genesis project, a "regional faith and value based organization" convened to address the issues affecting everyone in our community, regardless of their faith: justice, health care, housing and transportation. Genesis is the local affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation, which seeks to help grassroots community organizations to effectively address the problems that face them.

In this case, the problem we are trying to address is equity in the disbursement of transportation funds; the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is responsible for deciding where the funds for public transport go in the 9-county SFBay Area, and all too often, they aren't going to poor neighborhoods. Because it's a regional, rather than city-specific issue, local politicians haven't been particularly effective in leaning on the MTC. So Genesis seeks to unite members of different faith communities to make sure MTC knows that we ALL see public transportation as critical, both to help the environment and to help people get to work, doctors, school, and supermarkets instead of liquor stores for buying food. These are, after all, times in which the poor are going to suffer more than most.

Right now a disproprotionate share of MTC funds is going to rail improvement programs - "making BART comfy" sounds nice, but not if it's at the expense of cancelling an AC Transit route that a single mom takes home from work late at night, or that enables a disabled man to get to the doctor's office. "What happens to you, matters to me" was the chant that sounded through the massive sanctuary of the First Congregational Church of Oakland, and it was sounded by Episcopals, Catholics, Methodists, union members, environmentalists, black, white, Asian and Native Americans (this in the form of the Assistant Bishop of the California Episcopal Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston who is a Choctaw Indian.) I hope that at future meetings, an even broader contingent of faith communities will be represented.

These are scary times. There is so much gaping need and want right on our own streets, and to tell you the truth, I can count on one hand the number of times I've even used AC Transit. But sitting in that "only in Oakland" mishmash crowd as the Genesis organizers asked us to commit to show up at MTC meetings and do phone banking, I felt like I'd been given that rare gift, a chance to make a difference. I'm going to the MTC meeting next week and we'll see if we can convince them that fair access to transportation in an urban area like ours should be a right, not a privelege.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...