The Common Good - October 2001

Denver Women's Commission
The Common Good - October 2001

October 1, 2001
Prepared by Chaer Robert
For Colorado Woman News

The Common Good

One year ago the biggest national public policy question was, “How big will my tax cut be?” State lawmakers were priding themselves on permanently cutting state income taxes for the second year in a row. Less government was, by definition, better. Personal responsibility could solve most any problem.

One year ago, at a long-term planning session for the All Families Deserve A Chance Coalition, we spent a day discussing how we could improve the lives of those on public assistance and the working poor. As the list of interrelated issues grew, an overriding umbrella emerged. Until people recognized the inter-relationship of all the lives in our community, we would not be able to develop sufficient support for child care, living wages, affordable housing, job training, etc. “The common good” was a needed, but radical, notion that seemed a political impossibility. Most people focused their energy on their own families, their work, their schools, their church, and perhaps their neighborhood.

On September 11, 2001 and the weeks that followed, I would remember my pain when one co-worker or relative died. Then I would try to multiply it by 6000. It was unfathomable. I searched for some hope to salvage from the situation.

That week I heard the word "luck" repeated as survivors recounted their escape. Contrary to our cultural belief, we cannot always control our circumstances. For years, we have stifled empathy with a belief that those in need have made the wrong choices, or had failed to take “personal responsibility”. "Bad luck", we thought, was just an excuse for not trying hard enough. But luck, terrible or fortunate, surpassed choice on September 11th as the reason some lived and some died.

After September 11, our notion of community shifted. Clearly, those in New York and Washington, D.C. were devastated beyond belief. Yet there was a strong new sense of community as others thousand of miles away reeled as well. The nationwide airport shutdown and the stock market plunge underscored a thousand points of interdependence.

International policy suddenly shifted as well. Before, the U.S. had no need for U.N. agreements. We stood outside the community of nations, refusing to sign on to conventions insuring the rights of children and women, refusing to even attend a summit on racism. But within a week it became clear. Might alone cannot eliminate terrorism; it feeds it. To succeed, the United States had to form a coalition with other nations. In particular, governmental leaders needed support of Muslims at home and abroad. Only a coalition has a chance to reduce or eliminate terrorism.

Can our culture evolve from glorifying independence to valuing interdependence? Our traditional values would dictate that those who can afford to, should make sure they take the personal responsibility to buy gas masks for themselves and their families. Yet collective and governmental action is more likely to be control chemical warfare. "Self-sufficiency" is a stated goal of welfare reform. Yet those who succeed tend to be those with the most support from their families and community.

Now there is a bigger question. Does the common good include all those within our borders? Or does our community have no borders.

Women’s Lobby Awards

In the shadow of the World Trade Center attacks, the Women’s Lobby proceeded with plans to recognize lawmakers and advocates. Denver Clark and Recorder, Rosemary Rodriguez, who chairs the Colorado Reapportionment Committee, gave the keynote address on the redistricting and reapportionment process. It can change who our represents us in the Statehouse and in Congress next year. They also reviewed priorities for the coming years. Honorees were:

Rep. Lynn Hefley -- for sponsoring the bill to make the State Earned Income Tax Credit Permanent. (Did not pass)

Senator Sue Windels and Rep. Suzanne Williams for sponsoring the Pay Equity bill. (Did not pass)

Rep. Peter Groff -- for sponsoring a bill on racial profiling. (Signed into law)

Rep. Gary McPherson (posthumously)-- for being the sponsor of the bills that initially created and raised the State Earned Income Tax Credit (Passed in 1999 & 2000)

Additionally , the Women's Lobby honored two organizations for their leadership on the Pay Equity bill:

9to5, National Association of Working Women
Colorado Women's Agenda