Ithaca community gathers to create pro-democracy event

By: Angela Poffenbaugh and Sandra Aguirre – Ithaca, NY

In light of recent political demonstrations, last Wednesday GreenStar Cooperative Market and Tompkins County Progressives organized an event to inform the public of political issues affecting the community.

This event was created as a followup to the Women’s March earlier this year, featuring multiple speakers who led dialogue about a variety of political issues. Some of these issues included climate change, the LGBTQ+ community under fire with President Trump’s election, and affordable housing.

Each issue had a head volunteer leading dialogue and suggesting what the what the community could do to help. After giving brief overviews on their issues, the volunteers gathered at individual tables so the public could choose which issue they wanted to focus on.

Actions for issues raised led by multiple volunteers

One issue was presented by business owner Anne Koreman, who hopes to create a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. Her goal is  to provide training programs for community and government officials on how to make their community LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive. Koreman also wants to create a safe gathering spaces through short and long term housing options.

With the recent election of President Donald Trump, Koreman says there’s been more hate speech.

“Trump’s been threatening to sign some an executive order religious freedom,” Koremen said. “Which is really code for letting people having all legal precedence to be prejudiced against us.”

After meeting at Greenstar, Koreman says the advocate group is planning to hold another meeting to continue addressing the issues of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We want to have more events, we want to talk to legislators,” Koreman said. “We want to talk to people about [being] more inclusive and then creating safe spaces for people to gather and talk about their issues.”

Anne Koreman works with a group of LGBTQ+ advocates on how to reach out to the Ithaca Community.

Anne Korean works with a group of LGBTQ+ advocates on how to reach out to the Ithaca community.

Susan Beckley of the Finger Lakes for New York Health also spoke at the event, focusing on . the current attacks on the Affordable Care Act, as well as trying to get the New York Health Act passed. She said the New York Health Act passed the assembly in 2015, but failed to get out of the committee in the Senate. .

“We need to press our State Senators to get on board and get the bill out of their Health Committee,” Beckley said in an email, “so it can come to the floor for debate, passage and to the Governor’s desk for signing.”

Much like the purpose of the event, Beckley believes that everyone should be involved in politics, even if it is just local politics in the Ithaca area.

“The local level is where it all begins.  We can’t expect the ‘big boys’ in Washington to address our needs.” Beckley said. “It is apparent that Washington has become completely dysfunctional and leaving us, the citizenry, to fend for ourselves.  We know the local issues and can gather at local officials’ offices regularly to speak directly to them.”

Plans to continue action in the works

The different groups for each issue also initiated a meeting outside of the event, in order to discuss the issues more and work on taking action.

Lisa Marshall, who advocates for climate change, says her main method of taking action is by initiating communication and action with people throughout the community.

“I think people want to become more civically engaged.” Marshall said. “They realized that just posting things on Facebook and voting is just enough to create the change they want to see in the world.”

Marshall says that her organization, Mothers Out Front, has an ultimate goal to transition from the use of fossil fuel to renewable energy. She hopes to eventually take this local issue and bring more national attention.

“One thing my volunteers are working on is enlisting the help of the [Tompkins] health department in doing air and water quality and health studies of the people.” Marshall said. “So far we’ve gotten a meeting with them and they’re looking into it and considering it, so we are gently putting pressure on them to help protect this community from a fossil fuel project.”

“This is What Democracy Looks Like!” is just the start of events that Tompkins County Progressives plans on initiating throughout the year. During the event, the organization announced that more events will be held in the future to continue raising awareness about the multiple issues addressed.

This article was produced for IthacaWeek.

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