White House Community Leaders Briefing Series

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    ActionUpdate

    July 2011

    In this issue:

    Special Report on the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series

    Articles on Medicaid in Virginia

    Letters to the editor on speaking out from the pulpit, and taxes and the deficit

    Videos on the US economy, the middle class in America, and Governor McDonnell’s record on women’s issues

    News about the Virginia medical insurance program for citizens with pre-existing health conditions

    Petition against gas industry’s practice of frackiing

    SPECIAL REPORT

    The White House Community Leaders Briefing Series

    On Friday, June 24, I had the honor of spending a day at the White House complex in Washington, DC, as a participant in the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series. This series, offered by the White House Office of Public Engagement, is a unique opportunity for grassroots leaders to come to Washington and hear directly from White House officials on issues that are affecting communities across the country and to learn more about the President’s priorities and initiatives from the people that work on them every day.

    The Office of Public Engagement (OPE) falls under the supervision of Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett. The OPE is part of the Executive Office of the President, and it is the “entry point” to the White House for the general public.

    The overarching focus of the OPE is to:

    – Ensure the public is well-informed about government policies and programs and how the public can utilize these resources

    – Ensure the White House is hearing from the public about how government policies and programs can serve the public better.

    The OPE is broken down by issue areas/constituency groups with a liaison specializing in each area. Go to the OPE website and sign up for updates:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/engage

    The White House Community Leaders Briefing Series is the brainchild of Jon Carson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of OPE. During our briefing President Obama himself dropped by to tell us that we are “guinea pigs” for this new attempt to reach out to communities across the country.

    We began the day with breakout sessions with staff from agencies focusing on

    Energy and the Environment

    the Small Business Administration

    the Department of Education and

    the Affordable Care Act.

    I joined the Affordable Care Act group with other participants representing advocacy groups for Native Americans, cancer patients, AIDS research and treatment, drug abuse treatment, public housing, African American health, Social Security protection, and disabilities. Also represented were community health centers for underserved populations, community outreach staff, nonprofits for social change, independent pharmacists, and a few elected officials.

    We met with members of the Department of Health and Human Services staff who are developing tools for local leaders to inform our communities of the contents of the new health care law. We offered our suggestions for improving these tools, and we were told that we will receive the draft documents to review before they are finalized. As I receive more information, I will report through the ActionUpdate.

    After the breakout sessions, we toured the East Wing of the White House. Our afternoon was spent in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the West Wing of the White House. We received briefings from various staff within the Executive Office of the President. I have included highlights below:

    Michael Blake, Associate Director White House OPE, welcomed us to the White House. He handles African American and Minority Outreach for the OPE.

    Anne Filipic, Deputy Director White House OPE, presented an overview of the Office of Public Engagement. She described the Agency Travel Outreach program designed to pair agency staff with key contacts in communities across the country. The goal is to allow senior administration officials to directly connect with interested stakeholders around the country. Filipic also talked about the Champions of Change (http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions) program which highlights “everyday heroes” who have achieved results in innovation, education and more.

    Greg Nelson, Deputy Director White House OPE, briefed us on several initiative programs with in the OPE including:

    Change the Equation (http://www.changetheequation.org/), a program that promotes science, technology, engineering and math education

    Start Up America Partnership (http://www.startupamericapartnership.org/), an entrepreneur success program

    Let’s Move (http://www.letsmove.gov/), an anti-obesity program geared toward children

    Skills For America’s Future (http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/economic-opportunities/skills-for-americas-future), a program which brings together government, the private sector, community colleges, and labor to prepare America’s future workforce.

    Macon Phillips, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy, talked to us candidly about the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov. This summer he is reorganizing the site’s issue-based pages to make them easier to navigate. He encouraged us to send suggestions and links to resources that could improve the website.

    David Kamin, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, briefed us on economic policy and the measures taken after the passage of the Recovery Act which have improved the economy. For example, the Affordable Care Act is the largest deficit-reduction program enacted in over a decade. He admitted that more must be done to improve the economy since unemployment remains at 9.1 percent.

    President Obama and Valerie Jarrett joined us briefly to welcome us to the White House and talk a bit about the purpose behind the briefing series. (Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?… The President indicated that the intent of the Community Leaders Briefing Series is “to set up a system where, on a regular basis, community leaders … (can) interact with our agencies, to talk to people directly, to ask questions, to find out what resources are available, to give us suggestions in terms of how we can be more accessible to the community.”

    Jon Carson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House OPE, opened the floor to questions for the final portion of the day.

    As I receive information through this program  from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, I will report it through the ActionUpdate. So, stay tuned. Several other members of our Greater Richmond community are scheduled to attend the series this summer. We plan to work as a team for any follow-up work created as a result of the series.

    Beth Kimbriel

    ARTICLES OF INTEREST:

    Medicaid in Virginia

    Where does the money go?

    http://www2.timesdispatch.com/…

    and

    Virginia ranks 48th in the nation for benefits per capita:

    http://www.msv.org/TEST/Knowle…

    and

    Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Virginia’s Economy

    http://www.familiesusa.org/res…

    Local letters to the editor of note:

    Pastor Robin Gorsline on speaking out from the pulpit:

    http://www2.timesdispatch.com/…

    Candace Graham on taxes and the deficit:

    http://www2.timesdispatch.com/…

    TAKE ACTION:

    TOOLS:

    Robert Reich explains what is wrong with the US economy (2 1/4 minute video):

    http://pol.moveon.org/reichvid…

    MoveOn-promoted video “How the Middle Class Got Screwed”; a summary of how we got where we are (8 1/4 minute video):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s award winning video fact-checked by PolitiFact: McDonnell Administration’s War on Women’s Health: By the Numbers (3 minute video):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

    ANNOUNCEMENTS:

    Are you an adult with a pre-existing medical condition? Having trouble getting insurance? Thanks to The Affordable Care Act the federal government has lowered premiums and simplified the application process for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). A denial of coverage from an insurance company is not needed. Check it out at https://www.pcip.gov/StatePlan… The PCIP call center is open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. ET. Call toll-free 1.866.717.5826 (TTY 1.866.561.1604).

    Source: Virginia Organizing

    PETITIONS:

    Ask your Senators to co-sponsor the FRAC Act to insure Americans are protected from the chemicals pumped into the water table by gas companies through their fracking activities.

    http://act.credoaction.com/cam…

    CALENDAR OF EVENTS: