On Friday, November 13th Together Louisiana and Together Baton Rouge organized a rally at the Board of Commerce and Industry meeting. This action came in response to the revelation that Marathon Oil had altered public records in order to circumvent new, stricter regulations on ITEP applications. Despite the recent defeat of Amendment 5 and other, recent ITEP victories across the state, this latest request was yet another example of the staunch opposition and corruption that we are facing in our fight against corporate welfare.
The news about Marathon Oil’s fraudulent actions came to us with little time to act. I myself had not heard about the rally until Thursday afternoon. With little time, my colleagues and I had to make sure there were going to be enough people to make a powerful statement to the Board that enough is enough. On top of that, our Mayoral Accountability Assembly was coming up, and we were scrambling to make the final touches on the agenda for that meeting. Despite the workload, we scrambled into action, reaching out to our list of faithful Block Captains.
As the nation held its collective breath on election day (and for another four days afterward), members of Together Louisiana were able to let out a small sigh of relief over a major, local political victory. Constitutional Amendment 5 would have granted hundreds of millions of dollars in future property tax exemptions to the richest corporations operating in Louisiana, further diverting funds from the state's cash-strapped public services. The people of Louisiana need that funding, so they fought for it. And they won.
A few participants in our "Vote No On 5" Campaign have offered their thoughts on what it felt like to be a part of this victory:
On October 20th, we celebrated the birthday of our Senior Organizer, Mr. Khalid Hudson. Although we are in the thick of election season, COVID-19, and a whole host of other important issues, it is important to remember that relationships are at the core of everything we do with Together Baton Rouge.
There could be no stronger testament to the strength of these relationships than the celebration we organized for our Senior Organizer. Phillip, Abel and I came up with the idea to gather a group of leaders from our member institutions via Zoom. One member, Ms. Dorothy Thomas, exhibited her baking prowess by preparing Khalid’s favorite 7-Up cake! Despite his only being in Baton Rouge for a relatively short time, over a dozen leaders from throughout the city gathered on Zoom and expressed their gratitude for the support and guidance they’ve received from Mr. Hudson.
This raises the question – why do we focus on relationship building? When Saul Alinsky began the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council and, after that, the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), he was largely focused on issues-based organizing. Although he brought diverse groups together around certain community issues, once those issues were resolved, that was it. As a result, many IAF organizations dissolved after a few years once their organizers left and there was no longer a common cause to fight for. Since then, IAF organizations such as Together Baton Rouge have become much more focused on relationship building as the main avenue for achieving long-term change.
Together Baton Rouge has released the following statement regarding proposed changes to the city-parish plan of governance that were recently introduced by the Metro Council. These changes were developed without significant citizen input, so we are asking that the council defer this effort until it can guarantee a truly democratic discussion about restructuring our parish government.