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.

Please RSVP for May 3-4, 2012 Delta Conference at Clinton Presidential Center

Posted on February 09, 2012 at 03:05 PM

Please RSVP for the May 3-4, 2012 Delta conference at the Clinton Center. We are making progress on the agenda. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas will be one of the key speakers and has confirmed for the opening session on Thursday evening, May 3 at the Clinton School of Public Service from 4:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. We give an update on other participants below.

We have confirmed USDA Assistant Secretary of Administration Pearlie Reed–one of the highest ranking national executive branch officials who is from the Delta–and invited President Bill Clinton, Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. Tim Griffin, Rep. Mike Ross, (Sen. Boozman has already confirmed as noted above), Gov. Mike Beebe, and nationally recognized leaders to promote job creation/retention and economic recovery.

We especially plan to focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs, education (especially literacy), and health/nutrition. The connection between job growth and education/literacy, energy, and health/nutrition will be the priorities this time around because we can’t cover everything in one conference, but of course a wide range of other issues will be covered as well.

President Bill Clinton has given excellent live presentations over the audio system each year and we always look forward to that highlight of the conference.

OPENING SESSION: Thursday evening, May 3, 2012, from 4:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Clinton School of Public Service. Dean James “Skip” Rutherford always does a great job as host, and the Clinton School of Public Service is a nationally recognized institution that engages in a wide variety of constructive activities.

FRIDAY SESSION: Friday, May 4, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library.

You register by paying the registration fees. Information on registration and the group hotel is below in this newsletter.

Literacy: We have confirmed President Fitzgerald Hill of Arkansas Baptist College, an innovative regional leader in initiatives to promote literacy in our region, as well as other leaders in the literacy field, including speakers from the Arkansas Literacy Councils, our long-time Louisiana partner Obadiah Simmons of Grambling State University, Deborah Owens, a literacy expert from Arkansas State University. We are also inviting other literacy leaders in the region.

President Fitzgerald Hill will be the lead speaker on literacy in the Delta. He is an eloquent and dynamic leader on this and many other issues. Illiteracy is a widespread problem in our region and has a negative impact on virtually all other issues, from getting and keeping jobs, to following medical instructions correctly, to hindering graduation rates at our high schools and colleges.

Renewable energy/energy efficiency/green jobs: President Clinton, Gov. Beebe, Members of Congress and many of our grassroots leaders have a deep interest in energy issues and their potential to create jobs and aid the economic recovery. We will have representatives from the Siemens Corporation, a major international energy company that has worked with the Clinton Foundation and other entities in doing energy retrofits that pay for themselves in reduced energy costs.

We will have Dr. Elizabeth Hood, a distinguished energy policy expert on biofuels and other energy policy issues at Arkansas State University, as well as David Baker of Future Fuels, an energy company with a plant employing 500 people in Batesville that is engaged in many promising activities in the renewable energy field. We have invited several other energy policy experts and will give updates later on their participation.

We should give a lot of credit as well to Gov. Beebe for the innovative Home Energy Loan Assistance Program (HEAL), which pays for the energy retrofits through the savings in energy costs. President Clinton is one of the world’s leaders in the field of energy policy, and in his excellent presentations to the Delta Caucus energy is always prominent.

Health/nutrition: Unfortunately we have the highest food insecurity rates, alarmingly high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other nutrition-related maladies in the Delta, for children as well as adults. Heifer International is an internationally recognized leader in the fight against hunger and policy, and we are glad to include Oscar Castaneda, who manages Heifer’s programs in the United States Canada and Latin America, and Tamidra Marable, who will speak about Heifer’s activities in the east Arkansas Delta and also lead a panel on nutrition and related issues.

We are glad to have Kim Sanders, director of the Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development for Southern Illinois University, who engages in a variety of nutrition-related activities in the Southern Illinois Delta. SIU has been a stalwart and superb partner for the Delta regional movement ever since the original Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission led by then Gov. Bill Clinton, Senator Dale Bumpers and many other leaders back in the late 1980s. We are always glad to have SIU’s participation.

We have also invited a number of other nutrition experts and will relay those when they have confirmed.

This year the Inspire Hope Institute Award will be given to Johnnie Bolin, who worked for many years as Executive Director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council and is a tireless and effective advocate for the Interstate 69 Corridor, the Delta Development Highway System plan, and many other transportation improvements and a wide range of other economic development activities.

The Inspire Hope Institute Award is the highest award given by the Delta Caucus, and is jointly awarded by the Caucus and the Inspire Hope Institute, a nonprofit organization that does many constructive activities in the Delta and is chaired by our executive committee member, Laymon Jones.

Johnnie Bolin is from Ashley County in southeast Arkansas, and formerly provided distinguished service as a member of the Arkansas Legislature. He is again a candidate for the legislature at this time. Johnnie Bolin richly deserves this award for his long and distinguished service to Arkansas and the Delta region.

Update on other key participants:

Alan Gumbel is a well-known Delta regional advocate who is with the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association in Memphis, which engages in a wide variety of initiatives related to nutrition, literacy and many other constructive activities for lower income people, youths, seniors and others in west Tennessee. The more economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Memphis–just as similar neighborhoods in Little Rock, St. Louis, Jackson, Baton Rouge and New Orleans are included–and they are considered an integral part of our mission area, along with the many distressed areas in the heart of the rural Delta. We are glad to have Alan Gumbel’s participation.

Alan was a key staffer on the original commission, worked closely with the Clinton administration’s bipartisan Delta Regional Initiative, and since has continued to work with the Delta Caucus. The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association is a great organization in Memphis.

We always want to support the Delta Regional Authority and have invited Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall to speak. The DRA continues to do a great deal of constructive work in many fields, and we were glad that supporters of the DRA in Congress, the executive branch and in the eight Delta states were able to defeat an effort to cut their budget last year. Help support the DRA!

If there are any major election campaigns in the Delta by this spring, we will offer opportunities for each candidate to present their program for promoting job creation/economic recovery.

We are glad to have two distinguished participants from universities in the great state of Mississippi: Albert Nylander, Dean of the Graduate Studies and Continuing Education and Professor of Sociology and Community Development at Delta State University in the heart of the Delta in Cleveland, Mississippi (GO DELTA STATE U. FIGHTING OKRA!!)

We are also glad to have John Green, director of the Center for Population Studies and director of the Institute for Community-Based Research and associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi. (GO OLE MISS! ACTUALLY WHAT IS THE OLE MISS MASCOT NOWADAYS–SHOWING OFF MY IGNORANCE HERE. They used to be rebels, didn’t they?)

From western Kentucky we are always glad to have Josh Tubbs, director of the Marshall County Economic Development office, who will speak on a number of economic development initiatives. One of these is progress on the I-69 Corridor, which will go through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. Recently there has been progress in breaking ground on I-69 in Arkansas as well as some progress in Kentucky. We know the progress has been far too slow but we will keep after it and see it completed eventually.

There are far too many I-69 advocates to mention here, but we do want to be sure and note that Johnnie Bolin, for many years a tireless advocate for the region’s development as director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council, will be taking part with us as always.

We always have a strong contingent from southeast Arkansas, including Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Kenny and Melissa Gober of McGehee, and many others from that vital area of the Delta. Dumas, McGehee, Arkansas City, the great metropolis of Kelso where Judge McElroy says he is now building a bank, Crossett, Lake Village, Dermott and other southeast Arkansas communities have gone above and beyond the call of duty for many years in supporting the regional effort.

Clifton Avant, who retired after many years working for the Entergy Corporation, is now president of AvanTech Services based in the east Arkansas Delta, and he will speak about his new role at the conference in May. Clifton is a member of our board of directors and has been a dynamic advocate for the Delta for many years now.

Let’s always remember our family farmers, and our fearless leader on that front as well as many other Delta issues is Harvey Joe Sanner of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas in Prairie County, Arkansas.

The mayors in all eight states are always a vital part of the coalition, and we would like to thank Mayor Eugene Smith of Arcadia, Louisiana for his leadership in that state.

The Arkansas Municipal League will be represented as always and we’d like to thank Don Zimmerman and Adam Morgan of the Municipal League for inviting mayors and city council members in east Arkansas to the May conference.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is always one of the key organizations for economic progress in the region, and we’d like to thank Denisa Pennington, Katherine Holmstrom, Rene Doty, and Kevin Sexton of AEDC, all of whom have already registered for the May 3-4 conference.

NOTE ON A MINOR TECHNICALITY: The Delta Grassroots Caucus is a coalition including some for-profit, some nonprofit and many other types of organizations. The organizing entity is Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc., which began as a private sector entity, and then switched to a 501(c)(4) status for a few years, but we have found absolutely no value to this status because it did not provide any tax deductible contributions or any other tax advantages whatsoever. Due to the lack of any pluses to the technical status of a 501c4 from our point of view, we are changing our corporation back to a for-profit private sector entity. As you know the Delta Caucus itself has never provided tax deductible contributions.

If we were going to file for “nonprofit” status, it had to be as a 501(c)(4) because we needed to have unrestricted freedom of action to advocate and if need be lobby to Congress and the national executive for the distressed Delta region, and on occasion we need to weigh in on controversial political issues. A 501(c)(3) normally would not engage in these activities to the extent we need to, so we have never been a 501(c)(3). Given the complete lack of any advantage to being a 501(c)(4) from our organization’s point of view, we are returning to our original status as a for profit private sector entity. This is totally a technicality and involves no change in any of our activities.

For any sponsor who wishes to receive a tax deductible contribution, as always they should send checks to one of our 501(c)(3) partners who work closely with our organization at the major conferences. In Arkansas one such partner is the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission led by our long-time partner Sam Scruggs in Blytheville, Arkansas. In Missouri, a 501c3 partner is the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center led by our Missouri coordinator and board member, Martha Ellen Black. For those sponsors who wish to receive tax-deductible contributions they should send their checks to these partners and we will provide you with their addresses upon request. Our 501c3 partners will then pass the funds along to pay for the costs of food, rentals and other conference expenses.

Again, this is a technicality that involves absolutely no change in any of our activities. The only impact of our few years as a 501c4 was to increase the time we had to spend on paperwork, so we decided to terminate that status.

OPENING SESSION: Thursday evening, May 3, 2012, from 4:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Clinton School of Public Service.

FRIDAY SESSION: Friday, May 4, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the early registration fees of $100 by April 20, 2012. Please make out the $100 check to “Delta Grassroots Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

After April 20, late registration fees go up to $150.

GROUP HOTEL: Comfort Inn at the Clinton Library, Little Rock, Arkansas; Please call the hotel at (501) 687-7700 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group to get the lower group rate of $82 a night for a standard room, for the nights of Thursday, May 3 and Friday, May 4. The deadline to get the group rate is Friday, April 20, close of business.

Many people may only want to stay for the one night of Thursday, May 3, because the conference begins at 5 p.m. on that evening and ends the next afternoon, May 4 at about 3:45 p.m. People can check out of the hotel on the morning of May 4 in the morning and store their luggage there, and then come back and pick up the luggage that afternoon after the conference ends.

There are also a limited number of suites available at $92 a night.

We will keep you posted as we continue to put together the agenda. Thanks very much–Lee Powell, director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347