*Updated* (view *Update* added to third paragraph)
Last Monday (December 30, 2013) Governor Peter Shumlin announced his newly established initiative to address matters of poverty within Vermont, which he dubbed "Pathways Out of Poverty" and includes a Council that will meet three times a year (membership list, here).
News coverage can be found, here (via WCAX - Channel 3 TV - News; includes video; 12/30/2013); here (via VPR News; 12/30/2013); here (via vtdigger; 12/31/2013); and, here (via Times Argus; 12/31/2013).
In addition, read the set of anti-poverty advocacy and service provider coalition priority recommendations submitted to Governor Shumlin (dated: September 23, 2013; via Vermont Public Radio), here. *Update*: View a digital copy of the official Executive Order for the formation of the POoP Council (via Google Drive; no sign in required), here.
Later in the same week as Governor's Shumlin's announcement, John Walters blogged about his doubts and concerns on Green Mountain Daily (GMD; Thursday, January 2, 2014), here.
Although Walters' blog post had included lots of the usual snark he is renowned for, including pointing out about how the acronym for the name of Governor Shumlin's initiative and newly appointed council spells POoP (something I had managed to miss), his blog post also raised several valid matters of concern, ones that ought not be so easily dismissed or ignored (as some had suggested within emails sent my way on the subject). Within the comments thread of his post Walters received both support as well as a certain amount of disagreement and heat.
Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid as well as one of the two co-chairs of the "Pathways Out of Poverty" Council, blogged an indirect rebuttal post to GMD yesterday (Saturday, January 4, 2014),here.
Later the same day, Walters blogged a follow-up post in order to express additional thoughts of his regarding these and related matters, here.
After some back and forth via email between myself and certain others about the blog posts as well as these and related matters, including sharing some of my own point of view about such, I finally got around to penning what had until then been quietly churning away within my mind. Those thoughts of mine are as follows:
Thoughts on Pathways Out of Poverty
What people living in poverty truly need most is real political power.
This means, as well as begins with, being allowed to speak for and represent themselves as well as have ample opportunities afforded in order to meaningfully participate in any policy making and other decisions made about them at various levels, whether political or otherwise, and, either as individuals or as a group.
What people living in poverty do not need any more of is having others speak and making decisions for them, most especially not those who have their own or an organization’s agenda and interests at stake.
Regrettably, Governor Peter Shumlin’s newly established “Pathways Out of Poverty” initiative falls seriously short of what is in fact required and, additionally, has all the appearances of merely being a new version of the same old thing and not much else.
This is yet another well-meaning initiative and council that, as usual, has more to do with funding programs as well as aiding certain political agendas and interests than it has to do with helping people most in need.
Rather than being “pathways out of poverty” as is purported, this will likely only lead to additional dead ends and could be just another setup for failure, ironically, of which the person living in poverty will typically be found to blame.
Unless and until people living in poverty have a real and meaningful say about any and all policy as well as programs intended to help them out of poverty, nothing will ever truly change, no matter how much funding is found and dedicated to the effort.
Only real political power in the hands of people living in poverty will ever make a difference and create lasting change.
Anything else is a poor substitute. Nothing else should be acceptable. Those in power and authority should know better. As those of my peers within the disAbility community are fond of saying: Nothing about us, without us!
Morgan W. Brown
Sunday, January 5, 2014
For the sake of full disclosure: Morgan W. Brown is a newly appointed member of the Vermont Council on Homelessness, however the opinions expressed within the above commentary are solely his own and represent none other.
*Note*: Have since changed the link provided for the Vermont Council on Homelessness listed within the disclosure statement.