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.

Appreciation for Southeast Arkansas & South Illinois Groups Going to DC, June 3-5

Posted on April 15, 2008 at 05:17 PM

We would like to express our great appreciation to two areas of the Delta–southeast Arkansas and southern Illinois–that have been especially responsive to our requests to RSVP at an early date for the June 3-5 Delta Grassroots Caucus initiative in Washington, DC. We have a group of 24 people from southeast Arkansas led by Kenny Gober of McGehee, Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, many others from McGehee and Dumas, Lynette Graham and Linda Haddock of the Lake Village Economic Development Corporation and others from Lake Village and other southeast Arkansas communities.

We also have a group of seven people from southern Illinois, which considering their small population is a good turnout from organizations such as the Southern Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, Southern Illinois University, President Larry Peterson of Shawnee Community College, as well as Mayor Brad Cole of Carbondale, Illinois.

The southeast Arkansas group has already sent in 24 registration fee checks and 28 memberships, which is tremendously helpful for our budget.

While we now have 80 representatives from all of the eight states and we will get more from all areas of the region in the coming days and weeks, we would encourage northeast Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, Alabama, and southeast Missouri to follow the example of the southeast Arkansas and southern Illinois contingents and RSVP now for the June 3-5 Delta initiative in DC. If two local areas that are not heavily populated can send so many people, some of the more heavily populated parts of the region ought to send more as well.

We already have speaking commitments from Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Senator Mark Pryor, Congressman Marion Berry and Congressman Mike Ross of Arkansas, officials of the Delta Regional Authority, President Randy Dunn of Murray State University in western Kentucky, Minnie Bommer of west Tennessee, leaders of the Southern Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, speakers from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Missisippi, the Hon. Rodney Slater, and other leaders for our region. In recent years Sen. Thad Cochran (MS), Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Rep. Rodney Alexander (LA), Rep. Charles Melancon (LA), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Rep. John Tanner (TN), Rep. Jerry Costello (IL), have participated and we will invite them again this year.

We know the southeast Arkansas and Illinois groups have interests that are mostly similar to the rest of the region, and based on conversations with Kenny Gober and Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, let us emphasize a few of them–and there are many Congressional offices on this email list, which goes out to a total of 1,257 Delta partners in the eight states and Washington, DC:

–a much larger budget for the Delta Regional Authority, which ought at least to go up to the original $30 million level, up from the $12 million level we now have. While we appreciate our Congressional delegation for getting the numbers up from the Bush administration’s ridiculous request of only $6 million, we still get a pittance of what Appalachia gets–they get $73 million through energy and water bill and over $400 for their Appalachian highway system!!?? We are tired of hearing that Senator Byrd and the Congressional delegation from Appalachia have so much more clout than we do. The Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri delegations are getting on up there in clout and seniority nowadays, too, and it’s time for some better results.

–Transportation–We have been asking for progress on the Interstate 69 corridor and the Great River bridge for years now. It’s time to cut the excuses and make some progress. I-69 goes through the heart of our region in four states–Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. We ought to make major progress on the whole Delta Development Highway System and the multi-modal plan. Other regions have big interstate arteries, why doesn’t the Delta?

–We need to expand alternative energy in the Delta. Rep. Mike Ross is pushing hard for some legislation to create jobs, new markets for our producers, cut pollution, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Gov. Mike Beebe is doing his part as well. Congressman Marion Berry is a stalwart supporter for alternative energy. We know everybody at least talks a good game for alternative energy nowadays, but are the other Members of Congress really working and doing all they can to promote alternative energy?

–Job creation and retention and jump-starting the economy is crucial now, and whenever the country as a whole has an economic downturn, the Delta suffers more than anybody.

–FARM BILL–Agriculture, rural development, and hunger and nutrition programs in the USDA budget are vital issues. It’s improper that the Bush administration has held this up for so long and threatened a veto, and Congress needs to get this passed. We must have a strong safety net for farmers because agriculture is a key part of the economy in the Delta. Many low-income people are hurt by the high gas prices–I know we all are but they are the most vulnerable–and don’t have enough money for decent food. We need the farm bill passed NOW..

–EMPOWERMENT ZONES AND RENEWAL COMMUNITIES–We urge Congress to pass legislation extending these designations from 2009 to 2015. It is very important for Empowerment Zones to retain the EZ bond allocation, as well as the tax credit that enables employers to get a wage credit in the EZ areas. The Southern Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, the Mississippi Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance (MDEZA), the Pulaski County Empowerment Zone in Arkansas, and the many Renewal Communities across the region do a lot of very important work for our region’s economy, and we want to continue to support them.

–DISASTER RELIEF AND FEMA REFORM–With Arkansas suffering its worst flooding in 20 years or more, we need to keep a close eye on FEMA and make sure they do a much better job than they did for the tornado that struck Dumas in 2007 or in Hurricane Katrina, where their response was atrocious. We also support Rep. Berry, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, Rep. Jerry Costello of Illinois and other Members who are working to stop FEMA from redrawing the flood plain maps in such a way as to needlessly escalate flood insurance costs in the region.

There are many other issues such as improved educational opportunities, improved health care for underserved areas, housing in the current financial troubles, and other issues we will work on in Washington, so the ones we mentioned above are certainly not the only issues.

The basic information on the June 3-5 Washington, DC conference is again below in this email. Thanks a million to the southeast Arkansas and southern Illinois contingents for getting so many people up to Washington, DC, and we encourage others to follow their example and get their registrations in.

Please RSVP by email to or (202) 360-6347 and sending in the registration fee check to the address listed below in this message.


Tuesday evening, June 3, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: The opening session begins on Tuesday evening, June 3, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the House of Representatives Room B-338 Rayburn Building.

Wednesday, June 4: Wednesday, June 4, morning session is from 8:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. at LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE REFORMATION, 222 EAST CAPITOL STREET Parish Hall, on Capitol Hill directly behind the US Supreme Court building

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, AFTERNOON SESSION, 1 P.M. TO 4 P.M. Senate Russell Office Building, Room 385

THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 8:30 a.m. to noon (final session): USDA National Headquarters, South Building Cafeteria, 1400 Independence Avenue SW

The Thursday morning session is the final group meeting. This is an important meeting that will focus on completion of I-69 Corridor and connectors and the rest of the Delta Development Highway System, the multi-modal transportation issues, rural housing and other rural development issues, agriculture and other USDA issues. We are holding it adjacent to the USDA cafeteria so that people can take a break for a cup of coffee or get something to eat and then just be a few steps away. We know many people may be a little tired by the final session, so we thought that location and the proximity of the food and coffee would be a plus.

KEY ISSUES: Among the key issues will be job creation and efforts to jump-start the economy, support for the New Markets Tax Credit, Empowerment Zones, Renewal Communities and other efforts to spur investment in low-income areas, completion of I-69 Corridor and connectors and other improvements to the region’s transportation system, expansion of alternative energy, support for the Delta Regional Authority budget, along with such “big picture” issues as improved health care, housing and education and other development initiatives.

TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS: If you need assistance with your airfare, the travel agent for this year’s Delta initiative in Washington is Becky Hawkins of Travel Consultants International in Blytheville, Arkansas. You can reach her at (870) 762-2800 or Becky Hawkins is an excellent travel agent and has done a great job for many years.

We will have representatives from the remaining Presidential campaigns speak about what they plan to do for the Delta if they are elevated to the White House, and we will probably know who both parties’ nominees are by early June. This will be a nonpartisan forum to press them to pay more attention to Delta regional issues and we will not endorse any candidate.

REGISTRATION: The early registration fee is $85 until May 22. To register, just make out the $85 check to “Delta Grassroots Caucus,” with a note “For DC 2008,” and mail to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

(Attention: Lee Powell)

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

After May 22, the early registration fee of $85 ends and the fee will be $100 after that day. It makes it difficult for our planning if we always have large numbers of registrations that are brought to the front desk or even paid after the conference.

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is the Radisson at Reagan National Airport. To get the reduced group rate of $209 a night for the nights of June 3 and June 4, call the Radisson at (703) 920-8600 and say you are with the Delta Caucus.

QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS: If you have any questions or comments about the June 3-5 Delta Initiative in Washington, DC please contact Desha County Judge Mark McElroy at (870) 877-2426, or Dr. Martha Ellen Black, executive director of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in southeast Missouri and a key member of the Delta Caucus executive committee, at (573) 649-3731, or Lee Powell at (202) 360-6347, or see the website at

Please RSVP so that we can know who will be attending. Thanks very much. Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347