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.

Media Reports for Oct. 17-18 Delta event in Memphis, & Appreciation for Speakers

Posted on November 01, 2013 at 04:20 PM

We would like to give an update on the Oct. 17-18 Delta Grassroots Caucus conference at the Memphis Agricenter. We had well over 100 grassroots leaders from all eight states, with presentations from US Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), US Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), US Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis, the two frontrunners for Arkansas’ gubernatorial race in Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Mike Ross (D-AR) and a range of experts on key regional issues.

We are sending out several examples of media coverage for the event, which included reports from three of the Memphis television stations, the Memphis Associated Press bureau, Arkansas public radio KUAR, the Arkansas Municipal League, and several east Arkansas newspapers.

Examples of media coverage in this email–all copied word for word exactly as they were reported–include two in-depth reports from WHBQ, Channel 13; a report from the Crittenden County Evening Times in east Arkansas, and an Arkansas public radio report from KUAR.

The Memphis Associated Press coverage was very difficult to get because they are so busy with events in the big city of Memphis all the time, so we were particularly pleased to get that coverage.

We cannot include the Memphis AP article and some of the other larger newspapers that charge fees to send out copies of their articles, and that would not be a good use of money; however if you use a search engine and put in key words of “Memphis, Delta Grassroots Caucus, Pryor, Ross, Hutchinson, Cotton, October, 2013,” you should be able to read that article. It was published widely not only in the region but across the country.

Media coverage is a way of disseminating information about the conference from the independent eyes of journalists.

The Arkansas Senate and governor’s races are receiving national attention, and we want to keep them focused and keep a close eye on what they plan to do to promote job creation, economic recovery, better nutrition and health care, and other key issues for our region.

We would like to give a special thanks to our luncheon speakers from Memphis, Congressman Steve Cohen and Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis, both of whom gave superb presentations on health care for underserved areas, SNAP and other nutrition issues, job creation, Delta heritage tourism projects like the Harahan bridge project across the Mississippi River from Memphis to West Memphis, Arkansas, and other regional issues.

President Glen Fenter gave us an excellent update about Mid-South Community College (MSCC) in West Memphis’ great accomplishments in producing good jobs for many people in the Mid-South. President Fenter and MSCC are not only local but regional leaders in the fundamental issue of education’s role in economic development and job creation/retention.

We had a jam-packed agenda focusing on the themes of “Jobs, Nutrition and the Farm Bill, and Health Care.” Here a few examples of media coverage.

Arkansas candidates in campaign mode (Report from Channel 13 in Memphis, WHBQ, on Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Tom Cotton presentations at Memphis conference–reported by Les Smith)

Posted: Oct 18, 2013 5:16 PM CDT Updated: Oct 18, 2013 8:26 PM CDT

Arkansas candidates in campaign mode

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

While the 2014 elections are still a while off, candidates for Arkansas’ U.S. senator and governor were in campaign mode Friday as they made appearances at the annual Delta Grassroots Caucus at the Agricenter in Memphis.

Incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) was the first to take the podium where he stressed the need for the kind of bi-partisanship which resulted in an agreement to stop the government shutdown and temporarily raise the debt ceiling.

Though Sen. Pryor’s stature in Washington, D.C., continues to grow he still faces a challenge back home against an eager republican opponent next year.

It became obvious within a few minutes of his appearance before the grassroots political group the Delta Caucus, Sen. Pryor was among friends.

“I think the bottom line is … it was a big victory for bi-partisanship,” he said.

Less than 48 hours after a temporary settlement to the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis had been reached, Sen. Pryor was in Memphis to give an audience the insider’s look at how it was brought to an 11th hour end.

As one of the 14 United States senators, a bi-partisan group dubbed the “gang of 14,” Sen. Pryor helped to craft the eventual measure passed by both houses of Congress that was signed by President Barack Obama 90 minutes before the appointed deadline.

“All 14 of us, after it was all over said, ‘Hey, we need to keep doing this,’” Sen. Pryor said. “I mean, we need to find these bi-partisan solutions. We need to make this happen.”

His recognized ability to make things happen in Washington, D.C., has led to the veteran lawmaker being able to successfully sponsor 60 pieces of legislation signed into law during his 11-year tenure. Yet, Sen. Pryor’s re-election to a third term next year still figures to be competitive since his seat has been targeted as being vulnerable by Republican conservatives.

First-term Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton, a military veteran and a Harvard-educated lawyer, announced in August he will challenge the Democratic incumbent. Though he was unable to attend Friday’s Delta Caucus session, by cellphone State Rep. Cotton voiced his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s no secret that I like to repeal the law,” Rep. Cotton said. “I’ve also voted to defund it. But, when that measure was defeated in the Senate, I voted for compromise and responsible measures to keep the government funded.”

As for Sen. Pryor, he maintains he has no animosity toward those trying to unseat him on the Republican side. But, he sees no end to the type of Congressional gridlock that paralyzed the country for more than two weeks.

“There’s so many people up there that want these one-party solutions,” Sen. Pryor said. “The House right now is really bad about that. They pass all kinds of stuff. It comes out through the House in almost a straight party line vote. It comes over to the Senate and doesn’t have a chance.”



For a brief moment the two men who could be the next governor of the Natural State stood just inches apart. Yet, Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross were content to pass like ships in the night without even exchanging a hello.

Of course with partisan politics now firmly ruling the day should we have expected anything else?

If “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, then it’s no wonder Arkansas Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe has whole-heartedly endorsed Ross to succeed him next year’s gubernatorial election. Close your eyes and Ross’ campaign rhetoric has a more than familiar ring.

“I think Gov. Beebe has done a good job as our governor,” Ross said. “I don’t want to tear down what he’s spent eight years building up. I want to build on the foundation that Gov. Beebe has laid, especially in the areas of education and job creation.”

Attendees at the Delta Grassroots Caucus got to meet both Ross and Hutchinson, his Republican opponent, as they took both tried to distinguish their political differences in vying to succeed the term-limited Beebe in 2014. While both men previously served in state Congress, it’s clear their ideologies on how to govern are quite far apart.

Hutchinson, who previously ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006, says if elected he wants to bring a “global perspective” to Arkansas. As part of his strategy, he is vowing to gradually reduce the state’s current state income tax for companies and individuals to be more business competitive with the neighboring states of Tennessee and Mississippi.

“I think it’s a much better approach to have tax relief that goes to every citizen,” Hutchinson said. “If you reduce the state income tax rate then everyone benefits from that. We’re more competitive in job creation.”

Despite criticism his plan might hurt education funding, Hutchinson believes the money generated by more businesses coming to the state should be adequate to pay for his aggressive push to encourage Arkansans toward getting college degrees. Ross was just as passionate about increasing money to fund early childhood education as the key to the state’s future.

“My campaign is about this: making sure that every child in this state can grow up knowing and having faith that if they do their very best in school,” Ross said. “If they work hard, if they play by the rules, they can grow up and achieve their God-given potential and they shouldn’t have to leave Arkansas to do that.”

Diverse too, were the pair’s views on the state healthcare exchanges now operating in Arkansas. Ross backs it. Hutchinson asserts too many questions about it remain.

“Whether the exchanges are going to be workable and effective?,” Hutchinson said. “The cost of the figures on it? How many people are going to utilize it? Also what waivers the federal government is going to give the states in flexibility in running their own health care system.”

Read more:

Thursday, October 24, 2013; News–Article published in the Crittenden County Evening Times newspaper

“Candidates, Fenter share outlook”

Arkansas matters dominated the early agenda Friday of the Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference at the Agricenter in Memphis, as four statewide candidates pitched their political proposals.

Mid-South Community College’s Dr. Glen Fenter also gave the broad outlines of his vision for improving education in the Arkansas Delta as the lead speaker in a luncheon program also featuring Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton Jr. and Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen.

In the afternoon, Steve Jones of Marion, the Delta Regional Authority alternate for Gov. Mike Beebe and the director of programs for Southern Bancorp Community Partners, based in Helena, participated in a panel on regional community and economic development.

In what is expected to be a competitive gubernatorial race, former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson and former Democratic Congressman Mike Ross, speaking separately, staked out their stances on taxes, among other matters.

Hutchinson emphasized his commitment to bipartisanship and said the recent federal shutdown “should never have happened.”

“It’s politics by drama,” he said while noting what he sees as major problems with Obamacare. Hutchinson gave a shoutout to Fenter, praising him for his insights and accomplishments on education.

Hutchinson said he supports tax reform through the gradual across-the-board reduction of the state’s personal income tax.

Ross, by contrast, said he prefers targeted cuts and said he would prefer eliminating the sales tax on groceries before eliminating the sales tax.

Ross also lavished praise on MSCC for tailoring training for available jobs, particularly citing FedEx’s ties to the college.

Two candidates for U.S. Senator spoke, including the incumbent.

Fresh off the end to the federal shutdown, Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, emphasized his commitment to bipartisanship and workable solutions. “The bottom line was that it was a big victory for bipartisanship,” said Pryor about the final resolution of the impasse.

“There’s a very sharp contrast between my opponent and me,” said Pryor. “I’m hoping that the Arkansas voters want a senator who wants to work together.”

Pryor praised recent improvements on access to the port at West Memphis. “The Memphis side is maxed out. Because of the local people we have over there, that side is hopefully ready to really take off.”

Congressman Tom Cotton, a conservative Republican challenger for the Senate seat, spent much of his talk criticizing Obamacare. Organizers at first had a difficult time getting attendees to sit for the talk, which was literally phoned in.

Cotton termed the Affordable Care Act “an unaffordable and unworkable law” but said he voted to reopen the government because he felt the timing was appropriate.

He called for regulatory relief, tax reforms and clarity from Washington about such goals as job creation.

Fenter gave an overview of the economic dilemma facing the region: The initial drive toward outsourcing to foreign countries has to some extent reversed, said Fenter, but the Arkansas Delta populace has not been educated to take advantage of those returning opportunities.

“There was time when Eastern Arkansas was king of the world,” noted Fenter, but times have changed. With the agricultural base gone, too many residents are destined to be “tax consumers for life,” either as dependents or in prison.

“You and I are going to be paying for them one way or the other. So it doesn’t matter what it costs to prepare them for get a job. It will still cost less than what we otherwise will be paying for them.”

Fenter emphasized the need for shorter-term training in fields such as diesel mechanics and avionics rather than four-year degrees, with the job-oriented programs available at such institutions as MSCC rather than the larger state colleges.

“If our educational model won’t lead to a great job, why are we doing it?” he asked.

Among those attending the conference were Heather Maxwell of Marion, executive director of the Crossroad Coalition, and several officials from the City of Earle, including Mayor Otis Davis and Council Member Jimmie Barham.

Earle was one of the sponsors of the conference, which had as its theme “Jobs, Nutrition and the Farm Bill, Health Care.”

Fall Conference to Discuss Healthcare, Food Insecurity in Arkansas (Report from KUAR, Arkansas Public Radio, October, 2013)

By Liz Fox State and region officials will attend a fall conference hosted by the Delta Grassroots Caucus to discuss a number of issues affecting Arkansans.

The conference, which will be attended by gubernatorial candidates Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross, will focus on aspects of the new healthcare law, recent Farm Bill developments and the SNAP nutrition program. According to Caucus Director Lee Powell, the latter is among the biggest topics since eastern Arkansas has been suffering from food insecurity.

“The SNAP program is going to be cut November first when the stimulus benefit boost runs out,” Powell said. “If the 40 billion-dollar cuts go through as well … that would have a devastating impact on the delta, where we have major nutrition problems anyway.”

Powell also says the organization advocates job creation, which may be a solution to many issues facing much of Arkansas.

“Jobs would help tremendously,” Powell said. “If more people had decent-paying jobs, they wouldn’t have to depend on SNAP spending as much.”

The conference will also feature points provided by several nonpartisan experts on the new healthcare law and the current state of the economy.

Representatives from Tyson Foods, the Arkansas Food Bank and the Pine Bluff-based nonprofit TOPPS will also be in attendance.

The conference will take place Thursday, Oct. 17 and Friday, Oct. 18 at the Memphis Agricenter.


–Annette Dove, Executive Director, TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas;

–President Beverly Robertson of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis;

–Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, Arkansas;

–Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, who gave the grassroots coalition an update on the DRA’s great work for the community and economic development of the eight-state Greater Delta Region;

–Shelley Ritter, Executive Director, Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Dianne Williams, Chief Program Officer, Arkansas Foodbank (serving 33 Arkansas counties) President John Charles Wilson of the Agricenter International

–Lane Kidd of the Arkansas Trucking Association on transportation issues;

–Kim Sanders, Director, Southern Illinois University Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development- speaking about the practical, factual issues involved in implementation of the federal health care law;

–Melissa Rice-McGowan, Feeding America Southeast Missouri Food Bank in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, speaking on SNAP, TEFAP and other USDA nutrition programs;

–Jeff Wood, Tyson Foods, Arkansas, Manager for Community Relations, speaking about the SNAP nutrition program;

–Albert Nylander, Ole Miss, director of the McLean Institute for Partnerships and Community Engagement, Oxford, Mississippi;

–Mayor Bill Luckett, Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Mayor Robert Myer, New Roads, Louisiana;

–Steve Jones, Senior Vice President and Director of Programs, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas; he also serves as DRA Alternate for Arkansas for Gov. Mike Beebe;

–Kevin Smith, veteran Delta regional advocate, former aide to US Sen. Dale Bumpers and then Gov. Bill Clinton, now a businessman in Helena-West Helena; will introduce Mike Ross;

–Jeff Jones, Century Link broadband expansion activities for Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi;

–Minnie Bommer, veteran Delta regional advocate and the first African American woman elected to the Covington, Tennessee City Council;

–Steven Bares of the Memphis BioWorks Foundation;

–Bob Nash, president of Bob J. Nash & Associates, Little Rock, Arkansas; formerly USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development and White House Director of Presidential Personnel for President Bill Clinton;

–Srikant Gir, Co-Director for the Center for Biofuells, Energy and Sustainable Technologies at the University of Memphis;

–Daphene McFerren of the Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis;

–Marlon Henderson, CEO, Sharemeister, describing the Delta Caucus Nutrition Challenge to raise funds for the TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) over the website and at Mapco stores through rewards points. See the website and help raise funds for two exemplary nonprofits in the region from now until Christmas, 2013;

–Loretta Daniel, Director of the Regional Business and Innovation Center at Murray State University in western Kentucky;

–Betty Dobson, Director, Upper Town Heritage Foundation and the Hotel Metropolitan in Paducah, Kentucky;

–Alan Gumbel of the Memphis Inter-Faith Association (MIFA);

–Pamela Marshall of the Memphis Area Association of Governments;

–Greg Maxted of the Harahan Bridge Project between Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas;

–Jerry Smith, Arkansas State University Delta Economic Development Center.