Monday, March 30, 2009

Why doesn't Rep. Lummis support young artists as community volunteers?

Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives backs a corps of volunteer artists and musicians to serve in schools in low-income communities, health care clinics, senior centers and other places that might need a helping hand -- along with a surge of creativity.

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, H.R.1388/S.277 passed the Senate on March 26 by a vote of 79 to 19. Similar legislation was approved, 321-105, in the House of Representatives on March 18. Both bills would triple the number of AmeriCorps service volunteers, from 75,000 to 250,000.

One side note: When the legislation came up for a vote in the House on March 18, Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis voted against it. With her vote, she joined other House denizens of the Grossly Obsolete Party (GOP): Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Eric Cantor (Va.), Roy Blount (Mo.) and John Boehner (Ohio). What do these people have against young artists teaching painting classes at a Cheyenne senior center? Ask Cynthia.

The artists service corps provision in the House was proposed by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) during drafting of the legislation by the House Committee on Education and Labor. In the Senate, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) offered the artists service amendment, which was included by voice vote in the legislation taken to the floor by the bill's manager. The new provision in the House and Senate bills encourages the use of "skilled musicians and artists to promote greater community unity through the use of music and arts education and engagement through work in low-income communities, and education, health care, and therapeutic settings, and other work in the public domain with citizens of all ages."

Remember Pres. Obama's campaign pledge to create an "Artists Corps" of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and communities? I do. According to people in the know, passage of the national service legislation to support nonprofit organizations in working with community volunteers has been a high priority for the new president.

The measure passed March 26 by the Senate includes an amendment offered by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to establish a capacity-building program for nonprofit groups in the Corporation for National and Community Service that will expand organizational development assistance to small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations.

Another side note: Wyoming's Senate delegation split on this issue. Sen. John Barrasso voted against it. What does he have against young musicians teaching finger-picking techniques to special needs kids in Casper, his home town? On the positive side, Sen. Mike Enzi of Gillette, a member of the Senate Arts Caucus and a longtime supporter of the arts in Wyoming, voted for the bill sponsored by his buddy-across-the-aisle, Ted Kennedy. I like it when these two guys work together. Let's hope they can come up with a reasonable health care plan.

Both the House and the Senate bills would set up a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit more volunteers and establish a "Summer of Service" program for middle and high school students. The two bills differ in provisions aimed at limiting the legislative advocacy and political organizing activities of service volunteers. This sounds like an issue right-wingers might get very paranoid about, as it's a well-known fact that volunteer artists and community organizers are untrustworthy liberals. We all remember Governor Palin's campaign rants against community organizers. Perhaps Sen. Barrasso and Rep. Lummis need a primer on volunteerism.

Let's see if this sticking point can be hammered out in committee. Stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

Why in the world should the government be spending yours, mine, and my neighbors money to support this? If YOU want to support an Artist Corps program then this vote has no bearing on that. It's perfectly fine and I nor anyone else should be able to stop you from doing so.

Since you're willing to give money for this project I would suggest rounding up others who are interested, putting up the money for it, and doing it.

Anonymous said...

You'd rather shovel taxpayer money into the pockets of corporate fat cats so they can sock the money away in overseas banks and send all our jobs to Indonesia? That's the Republican way.