Members speak: Another year of pressing issues and policy solutionsMarc Schultz | Georgia Nonprofit NOW, Spring 2016
At GCN, we continue to support and celebrate work that improves conditions for populations state-, county-, or city-wide: challenging laws, educating public officials, and advocating for legislation. One of our favorite ways to share that extraordinary work is through the Nonprofit Voice blog series, where GCN members showcase their solutions to pressing community issues.
As the 2015-2016 legislative session comes to a close, we present these excerpts from the past year of Nonprofit Voices, demonstrating how Georgia nonprofits are making their visions a matter of public policy. Check out the full stories by visiting gcn.org/npvoice.
Director and Riverkeeper Ashby Nix Worley, on water supply safety:
Clean, safe drinking water is something many people take for granted – until it’s threatened or polluted. The situation in Flint, Michigan is a tragic example, giving people nation-wide reason to reconsider the safety of their drinking water. Your source may be a nearby lake, river, or underground aquifer, but all water resources are at risk of contamination from illegal pollution, largely due to loopholes in the law or the lack of funds for proper enforcement.
To help address gaps in aquifer protection, Sen. William Ligon of Brunswick introduced Senate Bill 36, the Underground Water Supply Protection Act, requiring the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to write rules protecting our groundwater. Leading the push for these new protections is the Georgia Water Coalition, a consortium of over 220 organizations from across the state that fights for all residents’ rights to clean, healthy, and abundant water. As part of the Coalition, Satilla Riverkeeper is proud to help champion a bill that’s good for Georgia’s people, economy, and future.
NEW AMERICAN PATHWAYS
Paedia Mixon, CEO, on Syrian refugees and the Paris attacks of November 2015:
When we think about the horrible events of Friday in Paris, we should remember that Syrians are living with that kind of violence and brutality every day. The situation in Syria is so desperate that 4 million people have fled the country since fighting began… If we continue to let our allies in the Middle East and Europe bear the brunt of this humanitarian crisis, we will continue to see instability and chaos, an environment in which groups like ISIS thrive.
The U.S. proposal to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016 is modest, but it opens the door to a long-term process that can make a substantial impact. [Because] the U.S. does not have hundreds of thousands at its border seeking immediate assistance, we are able to set an annual ceiling for arrivals and conduct thorough health and security screening. The 50 Syrian refugees already resettled by New American Pathways are made up of families who are extremely grateful to have a safe environment for their children. These families are eager to start work, become self-sufficient, and help welcome the next family.
Executive Director Jeff Graham, on the Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry:
Georgia Equality spent the day [of the announcement] working to our full capacity: Helping celebrate and implement change all across the state by coordinating commemorative events in seven cities, including at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, and working with organizers and officials to ensure that all 159 Georgia counties were issuing marriage licenses the day the decision was announced (and that a couple in Fulton County became the first couple in the nation to marry after the ruling).
Many friends and colleagues have asked me, Now that the battle for marriage is over, what is left to do?
I tell them that a marriage license does not protect against the very real threat of being denied services, evicted from housing, workplace harassment, or being denied a job. Nondiscrimination protections, safe and supportive schools, and the realization that the lens of sexual orientation and gender identity magnifies many of our other social challenges: These are the issues that we must tackle as an organization, and as a citizenry, if we are to live up to our mission of advancing fairness, safety, and opportunity for LGBT Georgians.
Love won on June 26th, but the work continues.
Marc Schultz is managing editor of NOW.