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.

Strong Turnout from Members of Congress & 80 RSVPs thus far for Nov. 1-3 in DC

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 11:51 AM

We have an RSVP count of 80 partners and a strong turnout from Members of Congress for the Nov. 1-3 Delta Initiative in Washington, DC, including Rep. Bennie Thompson, (Mississippi), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, Representatives Mike Ross, Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Sen. Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond (Louisiana), Congressman Alan Nunnelee (Mississippi), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (Missouri), and have invited Rep. Terri Sewell (Alabama), Sen. John Boozman (Arkansas), Sen. Thad Cochran (Mississippi), and Sen. Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Rep. Ed Whitfield (Kentucky), Rep. Jerry Costello (Illinois), Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rep. Steve Cohen (Tennessee) and expect to have most if not all of them.

It is crucial to have question and answer and a candid dialogue with the powers that be, with extensive media coverage to help get the message out across the region and in Washington.

The RSVP count of 80 people increases every day. We of course value quality far more than quantity, but nonetheless it is gratifying to have this many people planning to come to Washington during this time of recession and tight budgets for all our partners.

We are glad to have Mike Marshall, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority from Sikeston, Missouri, DRA Alternate Steve Jones of Arkansas, and many other participants from the region, and will summarize those below. We were very pleased to have DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill as the keynote speaker at our last two conferences and this time we are glad to have Mike Marshall from Missouri as the DRA’s second highest ranking official.

We will be there during the crucial job creation and spending cuts debates in Congress and the Obama administration, so please help us join together as a regional delegation and advocate for the Delta.

The early registration fee deadline is October 18, 2011. Please make out the $100 early registration fees to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

SCHEDULE IN A NUTSHELL: The Opening session is Tuesday evening, Nov. 1, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., B-339 Rayburn House of Representatives building.

Senate session: Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, Senate Visitors Center Rooms 200-201, 8:45 a.m. to noon.

Capitol Hill session at historic sanctuary of Lutheran Church of the Reformation near the Supreme Court, 212 East Capitol, Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 2, 1:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to noon: Final meetings in smaller groups or individuals at additional Congressional and executive branch offices (more information below).

We thought we would mention some of the grassroots participants: From Missouri, we plan to have in addition to the DRA’s Mike Marshall from Sikeston, Missouri, the USDA state Rural Development director, Anita Dunning; James Stapleton, director ot the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Southeast Missouri State University; Melissa Rice, Cape Girardeau food bank, Feeding America, our board member Martha Ellen Black, director of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in East Prairie, Missouri, and other Missouri partners.

It is important to include the northern tier of the Delta, and in addition to the strong Missouri contingent, we will have southern Illinois, western Tennessee and western Kentucky partners including Emily Carter, Director of Entrepreneurship and Business Development at Southern Illinois University, and Kim Sanders, director of the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development of Southern Illinois University, President Larry Peterson and another representative from Shawnee Community College, our long-time partner Brad Cole, former mayor of Carbondale and now Downstate Director for US Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois; Charita Johnson Burgess, Vivian Greer-Fry and other west Tennessee partners; Loretta Daniel, director of the Regional Business and Innovation Center, Murray State University, Josh Tubbs of the Marshall County economic development office in western Kentucky.

We plan to have the Hon. Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation for President Clinton and now a partner at Patton Boggs in Washington, DC, speak at the opening session. He is a true and dedicated son of the Delta and one of America’s leading experts in the field of transportation, which has so much potential for job creation in putting people back to work rebuilding and improving our transportation infrastructure.

We are glad to have a number of distinguished hunger and nutrition experts, including several members of the USDA research unit on obesity and nutrtion, including Catherine Champagne, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, LSU, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jessica Thomson of USDA Agricultural Research Service at the LSU Ag Center in Baton Rouge, Lisa Tussing-Humphreys of the USDA ARS Delta Body and Soul project in Mississippi and Louisiana. Dr. Margaret Bogle of USDA ARS in Arkansas does a great job for the obesity and nutrition group in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, along with all her colleagues.

We are always glad to have representation from Heifer International, and we will have Tamidra Marable of Heifer who is engaged in a variety of constructive activities on hunger and poverty issues in the east Arkansas Delta.

Joel Berg is a nationally recognized expert on hunger and nutrition issues who worked on many Delta regional projects as a Clinton administration Presidential appointee, and in subsequent years has continued to give excellent advice to and stay in touch with the Delta Caucus. He is now head of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the author of a major book on hunger in America: All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?

As always we have a strong contingent from Congressman Mike Ross’ district in Arkansas, led by Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Kenny Gober of the McGehee Housing Authority, State Senator Hank Wilkins IV, former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs for President Clinton Hershel Gober (Hershel is originally from Monticello, AR in the heart of the Delta), Pat Webb of the Lincoln County Industrial Development Corp., Johnnie Bolin, executive director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council from Ashley County (Johnnie Bolin is one of the most knowledgeable transportation experts in the Delta), and Sammye Owen and many others from Desha County. We also expect to have other participants from Chicot County as well as Mayor Carl Redus of Pine Bluff and others from southern Arkansas.

In the First District, we are always glad to have long-time Delta regional advocate and president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Harvey Joe Sanner; Kevin Smith, long-time Delta regional advocate and business leader in Helena-West Helena, AR, and his daughters Virginia and Caroline; Mayor Arnell Willis of Helena-West Helena; Laymon Jones, Delta Caucus executive committee member, chairman of the Inspire Hope Institute in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and originally from Cross County, Arkansas; Sam Scruggs of the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission; Barrett Harrison, director of the Blytheville-Gosnell Regional Airport Authority; Rev. Jerome Turner, Bruce Lockett and Louis Bennett of the BGACDC nonprofit agency based in Phillips County, Arkansas; Ruth Hawkins, director of the Arkansas State University Heritage program; and we understand Joe Black of Southern Bancorp in Helena-West Helena and Phillips County Judge Don Gentry plan to come if at all possible.

We are glad to have Lawrence McCullough, state director of USDA Rural Development for Arkansas taking part with the regional delegation in Washington. We have Rural Development state directors from three of our states–Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri–and Rural Development engages in a vital range of issues from small business/job creation, rural utilities, expansion of broadband, rural housing, renewable energy and many other activities.

For Louisiana, in addition to the LSU and USDA nutrition experts already mentioned, we have our long-time Louisiana coordinator Obadiah Simmons of Grambling State University, Mayor Eugene Smith or Arcadia, Louisiana, Angela Lee and Gloria Smith of Joy Impact Ministries based in Winnsboro, Louisiana, and others from Louisiana.

Congratulations to the Rev. Stephanie Vance, our colleague who is head of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Together for Hope anti-poverty project in Lake Providence, Louisiana, and who will be joining us in DC; she recently became an ordained minister (we’ll need to remember to address her as “Reverend Vance” from now on.)

In Mississippi, in addition to the USDA nutrition experts already mentioned, we are glad to have Albert Nylander, Dean, Graduate Studies & Continuing Education, from Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, Dr. J.Y. Trice, community leader and former mayor of Rosedale, MS; Trina Georgee, USDA state Rural Development director for Mississippi; Deborah Martin of the Martin Group with expertise on a range of key regional issues; George Miles, head of the Mid-South Delta LISC based in Greenville but active across the Delta; and others from Mississippi.

We are glad to have Bob Nash of James Lee Witt and Associates, formerly President Clinton’s White House Director of Presidential Personnel and former Under Secretary for Rural Development at USDA. Bob Nash is from Arkansas and was one of President Clinton’s right hand men during his Presidency.

Last but not least, we will have Lee Powell’s boss, his wife Caroline Thorpe-Powell, an organizational development/training expert with USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

For Thursday morning, Nov. 3, we are leaving it totally up the partners to decide how they want to utilize that time in our nation’s capital. We are setting up a few sessions for Thursday morning, Nov. 3, in smaller groups, including:

Senator Mark Pryor’s office, Nov. 3, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Room 255 Senate Dirksen building, to go over in greater detail USDA-related issues, job creation/economic recovery and other regional subjects.

We expect to have a meeting for a small number of people at the USDA Rural Utilities Service at some point on Thursday morning, including James Miller, head of the Community Health House Network, to address broadband expansion in the underserved Delta, telemedicine, and some rural health care issues.

We are also working on a meeting at US Department of Transportation to go into greater detail about our efforts to urge the Congress and administration to put people back to work building and improving the Delta Development Highway System, the Interstate 69 Corridor, and other transportation infrastructure for our vast region.

We are also working on a meeting in the office of Congressman Mike Ross, co-chairman of the Mississippi River Congressional Delta Caucus–the Congressional counterpart to our grassroots group. The other co-chairman is Congressman Rick Crawford, who will also be speaking at the conference, as noted above.

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is Radisson at Reagan Airport. To get the reduced group rate of $229 a night for November 1 and November 2, please call the hotel at 703-920-8600 and say you are with the Delta Caucus.

There are a few suites available at $259, and there are separate living quarters where people could double up there.

There are no meetings at the group hotel, so if you can find a lower rate elsewhere, by all means do so.

Please note that at this time of tightened budgets during the recession, we know some people willl wish to skip the third day on Nov. 3 to reduce the expenses. This is certainly understandable, and if you can make the Tuesday evening session on Nov. 1 and the Capitol Hilll meetings on Wednesday Nov. 2 from 8:45 a.m. to about mid-afternoon, you will have taken part in the heart of the conference.

TRAVEL AGENT: Many people find that Travel Consultants International in Blytheville, Arkansas does an excellent job of finding lower airfares and hotel fares. Becky Hawkins can be reached at 1-800-734-4600 if you would like her help with travel arrangements.

Thanks very much and there is still a month before the registration deadline so please keep sending in the RSVPs.–Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347