From a grant of the Democracy Fund at Headwaters Foundation, Rick Cardenas of Advocating Change Together, along with Mai Thor of the Disability Law Center and Senator John Marty presented a day long workshop on political action and voting power at the Kelly Inn of St. Paul. The event brought people from Center Lakes Achievement Center just north of St. Paul, Merrick Center, Midway Training Services of Saint Paul and folks from People First Central of Minneapolis. They came together for a day long seminar to work on Vote Your Values.
Using techniques of popular education, participants were invited to examine their vision and values concerning government, politicians and the role of taxes as the means to reach that vision, and to ask the question of where current politics, politicians and government stand in relation to those values. Individuals learned the importance of voting and engaging public officials to get our voices into the mix. This effort includes take home materials to lead their own discussion groups including a video on voting to show others, plus posters, voter registration cards and resources to use for the participants to follow up on goals set at the workshop. The result of this effort will be to engage 40 new people with developmental disabilities to active participation in the electoral process.
We learned in one example of how the government works, when Senator Marty spoke of the taxes we pay vs. the taxes people making $500,000 a year pay and how private business companies pay less tax this year and less two years ago and much less than five years ago. The group also examined where the funds come from that pay the staff for their group home, their achievement center, their healthcare and much of the spending money they earned. By the end of the day the participants understood where their taxes go and they concluded that many of the taxes paid were going to pay their salary, housing, health-care, and transportation. Their understanding was evident when the question was asked “where does your salary come from?” The answer was “taxes” and the question was asked “where does the money come from to run your achievement center?” The answer from individuals together was “taxes!”
I hope the lessons learned about government, political action, voting power and voting your values became clearer for the participants.
ACT and the Minnesota Disability Law Center will put on another Vote Your Values training session for persons with disabilities on Friday, October 14, 2005 at the Kelly Inn of St. Paul. If you would like to attend, please call the ACT office at 651-641-0297 or e-mail [email protected]