Leaders Celebrate MACG’s Actions, Welcome New
On July 16th, 39 leaders representing MACG’s diverse institutions gathered at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church for MACG's annual meeting to celebrate older action teams and launch new work.
The evening began with retrospectives from the Healthcare and Sustainable Jobs Action Teams. Bob Brown (Havurah Shalom) of the Healthcare team shared that, since 2009, the rate of uninsured Oregonians has declined from 20% to 5%.
We also heard from Michael Heumann (Havurah Shalom), who credited the Sustainable Jobs team with their work in organizing a home energy retrofit project in the Cully neighborhood. The project retrofitted 75 homes and created 12 union jobs with benefits, just a few of measurable advancements that showcase that Team’s impact in the community. See more MACG accomplishments here.
The retrospectives from the two action teams celebrated and brought closure to MACG’s Healthcare and Sustainable Jobs work, giving credit to the work of MACG leaders and clearing the slate for work to begin on our three new teams.
All that hard work deserves a cake break!
The second half of the meeting included updates from members of MACG’s newly formed action teams, which were established through the listening and discernment process in the Spring. Although their work has just begun, all three teams have hit the ground running:
- The Latino Issues team is exploring two areas: the need for a Latino-run cultural center in the Cully or nearby neighborhood, and issues with Latino youth including the low percentage of Latino students who finish high school and go on to college, the high incidence of mental illness and suicide among Latino youth, and conflicts between Latino youth and their families.
- The Prison Debt Work Group is researching the fines that Counties charge prisoners at sentencing, but do not tell them that they are due immediately as opposed to at the end of their sentence. After 90 days, those debts turn over to collections agencies where they increase at as much of 25% interest automatically, often unbeknownst to the prisoner themselves while they are incarcerated. Gary Griffin, co-chair from PHOENIX Rising Transitions, shared his own story where an $700 debt turned into an $7,900 debt during his 5.5 year incarceration, completely taking him by surprise when he was released. The state withholds drivers licenses to those that cannot pay the debt, making it harder for those transitioning out of prison to find jobs to pay it back, making it more difficult to succeed in the community and possibly tempting them to commit a new crime and return to prison.
- The Housing team is exploring Tax Increment Financing (TIF), one of the biggest funding mechanisms for affordable housing in Portland. At a recent city meeting about the TIF, MACG had by far the largest presence of attendees and two MACG members gave public testimony. The MACG members present at the annual meeting voted to support the Housing Team in a campaign to strengthen the TIF policy.
If you are interested in any of the work that these teams are doing, contact the MACG office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Closing remarks by co-chair Kathy Truman (Mission of the Atonement) reinforced the meeting's momentum as members parted ways: "We will move forward in acting as one."
Myrna Dunnigan, Bethel Lutheran, and Michael Ellick, First Congregational UCC, discuss their institution’s commitments and interests in MACG’s current work.