ACORN Tenants Taking Charge, Running for Seats on the Board in France

Grenoble         Every four years social housing tenants in France have the opportunity to run for seats on the board of their city’s housing authority.  Admittedly, the seats allotted for tenant representation are a minority of the board positions, because in France, as elsewhere, a voice for tenants is preferable to allowing real power for tenants.  From conversations with organizers, leaders, and members of ACORN’s French affiliate, Alliance Citoyenne, in Grenoble and the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers, that may be about to change.  Members of the Alliance have put forth slates of candidates in three different housing districts, two in Grenoble and one in Paris and have begun to campaign in earnest.

In various meetings throughout the week the plan has shaped up.  In Grenoble where the voting pool is 17000 families, we have been wrestling with the mechanics of the election.  There is a voting period of roughly two weeks in which tenants have to return mail ballots to be counted in the election.  A list of tenants is available as well as a map of all buildings in the system, but the exact time of their availability is still uncertain, making it difficult to make a comprehensive week-by-week plan.  Nonetheless, Alliance candidates have an advantage simply because they are running as a team, backed by the organization, and in some cases partnered with a local union as well, but that advantage only works if we are all able to come to consensus on a plan and then do the hard work of campaigning for the almost eight weeks until the voting closes in December.

After conference calls throughout the week, I attended a meeting of the candidates, organizers, and key organizing committee members in a common space meeting room in one of the housing projects of Grenoble Habitat, where over potato chips and apple juice the plans were being hashed out.  Like all campaigns and organizing the focus was first on lists and building an organizing committee.  Regardless of when – or if – a list is supplied by the housing authority, the key first topic on the agenda of the meeting was how to use the list we have and how to build it larger in advance of the election.  In the smaller election, we have 800 names and in the larger one we have closer to 1500.  There was agreement that the committee would divide up the list, report on daily progress, and commit individually to spending 10 hours on the phones to contact all 2300 names in order to reach 800 to 1000.  The objective was to use the calls to identify building representatives as organizing committee members in as many buildings as possible.  Those campaign representatives would commit to circulating the literature, building a list of building tenants, joining the candidates in doorknocking in their building, and organizing a building wide meeting to meet the candidates between now and the election.

The literature drop would be in the following week, and staff and the planning committee committed to developing a week-by-week plan until the election to be discussed and decided on at the regular weekly meeting.  There was agreement that the concentration would first be on identifying and turning out our base to vote before trying to expand to buildings in the suburbs and elsewhere that we had not previously organized.  These elections are decided by only one or two thousand votes, so the GOTV and multiple “touches” to make sure the ballots are filled our correctly and mailed is central to victory.

This is the first time the organization has embarked on an election campaign of any kind, so it’s exciting and heady stuff.  The one thing that is certain is that the leadership and organization will be stronger once the votes are counted, win, lose or draw.  The other thing that is clear will be that if the Alliance/ACORN members are elected, change is coming to housing authorities in Grenoble and Aubervilliers as tenants join their voices together to create power on the boards that will not be denied.

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Please enjoy Southern State of Mine by Sugarcane Jane.

Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles’ Get as Gone Can Get.

Thanks to KABF.

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Signing up for the Taylor Swift Fan Club

Grenoble     I haven’t been a big Taylor Swift fan.  Even when she was country, she was poppy.  Now that she’s all pop, I can’t really keep up.  I know she sells a lot of music, and that she is often mentioned in the same breath as Beyonce, but who can tell from day to day.  Beyonce seemed to have some politics, but Taylor Swift had seemed all bubble gum and whatever.  Now, I may have to re-examine this whole thing given the fact that Swift has jumped into Tennessee – and therefore national — politics with her boots on and is kicking it.

If you were on the moon or just reading the front pages you may have missed this.  Swift came out of nowhere with an announcement that she was going to vote Democratic in the midterm elections.  At first it was just a bit of a blip on the screen coming from the right wing.  For some reason, many in the right-side media had just assumed Swift was a gun-toting, card-carrying “one of them.”  This out of nowhere Demo-thing caught them off guard, though there was no evidence that it was a betrayal, since Swift had never come out from behind the pomp and glitter and declared herself one way or another.

Turned out that was nothing.  She then clearly injected herself into the elections in Tennessee where this Pennsylvania girl now lives as a woman.  She didn’t pull any punches in her endorsement for the Senate seat to replace Bob Corker by opposing far right Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn by saying to her more than 100 million Instagram followers,

“Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me.  She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.”

Then she dropped the microphone and according to Voter.org there was a record surge of more than 166,000 new registrants among young people 16 to 24 in 48 hours after her posting, including 6200 in Tennessee.

`Did she take a risk?  I doubt it.  Swift is smart.  She stood up to a stalker in court in Colorado and won.  She can afford to have a poll.  She kept within the lines by focusing on women’s issues in a time when women are hyper-aware, and given her history confronting stalkers her position on the Violence Against Women Act was something that no one could argue is not an issue where she was an expert.  Even her position on gay rights is solidly within the majoritarian views of Americans.  She wasn’t trying to be Jane Fonda in Vietnam or the Dixie Chicks on Iraq where some Americans could claim she had no business.  She was walking closely on her marks on the stage where she sings and that includes about women’s empowerment.

I’m not knocking her.  I’m just saying she knew what she was doing, and she did the right thing by speaking up and telling her public and the rest of us where she stood.

We need a lot more people like Taylor Swift standing up for what they believe, and not just counting followers, but actually proving they know when and where to lead them.

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