The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Review of annual conference; save June 3-5 dates for Delta Initiative in DC

Posted on February 12, 2008 at 02:13 PM

Thanks for taking part and making the annual conference in Arkansas a big success. We had over 160 people who attended at least part of the main session–despite freezing rain in Arkansas that day–and about 125 people for all or part of the opening session. We had presentations from the Presidential campaigns of both parties on what they would do for the Delta’s economic development if elected, a live statement by audio from former President Bill Clinton, as well as presentations by Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Jan Paschal of the Every Child Is Ours Foundation, several panels on education, a panel on economic development led by Rex Nelson of the DRA, Steve Southard and other representatives from Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Roger Jones of Heifer International, and Joe Belden of the national Housing Assistance Council.

Please save the dates of June 3, 4, and 5, 2008 for our annual Delta Initiative in Washington, DC. We had to change the dates from May because of scheduling conflicts. Information on registration and group hotel are directly below in this message.

We greatly appreciated President Clinton’s statement, in which he emphasized the importance of expanding utilization of the new markets tax credit, enlarging the budget of the Delta Regional Authority, increased use of alternative energy to create jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment. This was a late development that we were able to arrange at the last minute, so that is why President Clinton was not listed in the agenda. The Hon. Rodney Slater gave a brief but eloquent statement introducing President Clinton.

We were glad to have spokespersons from the Presidential campaigns who all gave very fine presentations for their candidates: Bob Nash for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Lisa Ferrell for Sen. Barack Obama, French Hill for former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Jeremy Hutchinson for former Gov. Mitt Romney (who subsequently suspended his campaign, of course). They all spoke about what their candidates would do for the Delta if elected President. Sen. Clinton and Gov. Huckabee specifically stated they would support an increase of at least $30 million for the DRA budget. We have asked Sen. Obama’s campaign for an answer to that question but do not yet have it, but hope to in the near future. We invited Sen. John McCain to send a representative but he did not have an office in the region so it was much more difficult for him to send a representative, but we are in touch with the McCain campaign and expect to receive more communications from him regarding the Delta.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will not endorse any candidate but we will continue putting pressure on all of them to devote attention to the plight of America’s most impoverished region.

JUNE 3, 4 AND 5, 2008 DELTA INITIATIVE IN WASHINGTON, DC: Please save the dates for the annual Delta Initiative in Washington, DC, which will be June 3, 4, and 5, 2008. We had to move that from an earlier date due to scheduling conflicts. It will begin on Tuesday, June 3, at Room B-338 of the Rayburn House of Representatives building from 5 to 8 p.m. It will continue on the Senate side at a room to be determined later on Wednesday, June 4, and will conclude Thursday morning, June 5, at one of the main national executive branch buildings in Washingtoner, either US DOT or USDA.

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is the Radisson at Reagan National Airport. To get the reduced group rates for the nights of June 3 and June 4, please call (703) 920-8600 and say you are with the Delta Caucus.

We had to change the original dates in May due to scheduling conflicts, so please save the dates of June 3, 4 and 5, 2008.

We have been working on our appropriations recommendations to Congress, and continue to do so today and for the next several weeks. Then we will follow that up with the Washington, DC initiative in early June, and will continue following key economic development legislation throughout the year. This year’s DC initiative will emphasize completion of the Interstate 69 corridor, the Great River Bridge and other transportation improvements throughout the region; alternative energy; the new markets tax credit; the earned income tax credit; support for the DRA; rural housing and rural development, a safety net for farmers, hunger and nutrition and the other issues involved in the USDA budget; health care and education.

REGISTRATION: The registration fee will stay at $85, which is substantially less than many other conferences, many of which do not have the high-level speakers the Delta Grassroots Caucus has been fortunate enough to attract in recent years. Please make out the $85 check to “Delta Grassroots Caucus,” with a notation, “For DC initiative,” and mail the check to:

Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus

(Attention: Lee Powell)

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We are now in the process of putting in our annual recommendations for the development of the Delta region for this year’s Congress. Of course we started work on that in conjunction with the Arkansas conference. That is a year-round process of contacting the powers that be about doing more for our impoverished region. The priorities will be similar to those in the list of questions we presented at the Arkansas conference.

As always, Rex Nelson, Alternate Federal Co-Chair of the DRA, did a very fine job of leading a “big picture” economic development panel from a diverse group of grassroots leaders across the region, including Mayor Brad Cole of Carbondale, Illinois, Mayor Mike Marshall of Sikeston, Missouri, rural development expert and long-time regional leader Minnie Bommer of Covington, Tennessee, Clifton Avant of Entergy in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. Larry Williams of the Delta Citizens Alliance in Greenville, Mississippi had a last-minute issue come up and was not able to take part, but we will include him in future events.

President Les Wyatt of Arkansas State University led a very interesting panel on the development of a well-educated and well-trained workforce in the Delta, which included Bob Swenson of Southern Illinois University, an executive assistant to President Randy Dunn of Murray State University in western Kentucky, Mayor Bobby Hardrick of Madison, Arkansas, and two young educators who are especially promising for the future of the Delta: Dr. Tiffany Hardrick, who is principal of a new charter school serving low-income neighborhoods in New Orleans that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, and Sanford Johnson, a graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service who is a native of Mississippi, previously taught at Helena-West Helena’s KIPP school, and after graduation plans to live in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he taught with Teach for America.

With dynamic young leaders like Sanford Johnson and Tiffany Hardrick, we have hope for a brighter future in the Delta.

We would like to thank Patrick Powell, director of the Murray State University Innovation and Commercialization Center, for leading a panel on job creation and economic competitiveness that included Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama, Christy LeGrand of the Missouri Research Corporation at Southeast Missouri State University, Jerry Smith of ASU’s Delta Center for Economic Development, and Obadiah Simmons, Associate Dean and Director of the Division of Continuing Education and Special Programs at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

A special thanks to Mayor Sheldon Day for coming all the way from Thomasville, Alabama to speak at the conference. Mayor Day is noted for his innovations in economic development for his community in Alabama.

Last but not least, we received many comments of appreciation for having dedicated the conference to the memory of the late Doug Sullivan, a senior aide to Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and a champion for the Delta. We gave statements recalling his service to the region from the podium, and there were many pariticipants who knew Doug and remember his many years of service to Mississippi and the region.

Thanks again for coming to the Arkansas conference. We keep working every day for the region’s development. Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347