Letter from the Executive Director
09/30/2019

Columbus Coming Together Despite Challenges from Washington

Four days after the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified, Alexander Hamilton stood before the Convention of the State of New York, urging that body to join the nine states that had already done so.

“We are attempting, by this Constitution, to abolish factions and to unite all parties for the general welfare,” he said on June 25, 1787. A month later, New York ratified that most fundamental of American documents, and the rise of our three-branch system of government.

But in 2019, factions have dramatically slowed the productivity of our legislative branch. Such inactivity is challenging enough in challenging times. But that inaction has largely been displaced by executive and regulatory action, unilateral decision-making that poses one of the most unique challenges to advocates, no matter the sector for which they work.

And why? When Congress is considering legislation, advocates can reach out to lawmakers and encourage them to vote one way or another, driving compromise and nuance along the way. But when the White House and the federal agencies it directs are acting without advisement from Congress, the opportunity to advocate for and against actions is much more limited. Furthermore, the rigor of debate in Congress between factions generally drives more bipartisan policies; without such debate, policies can become more one-sided.

This summer, the ramifications for our sector have been a series of deleterious rules and regulations that will have a disproportionate effect on our agencies and they people they serve. From last week’s further and historic reduction of refugee resettlement, to the public charge rule and “mixed-status” rule that will both harm immigrant communities, to the arbitrary redefinition of the federal poverty line that will reduce aid for millions of people, and to the now-pending SNAP rule that compelled advocates to submit over 75,000 comments(mostly in opposition) to avoid another 3.1 million from losing access to food stamps, this has been a troubling and consequential summer indeed.

Since 2017, Congress has largely withstood the White House’s calls for cutting programs and services such as the above that lift people out of poverty. But with another potential government shutdown looming this November, and after the country’s longest such shutdown concluded in January, Congress is already showing signs of erosion of such bipartisan support for funding things as elemental as education and affordable housing.

The good news? Our community is stepping up with our sector to band together so that we can all meet the needs that are already here, and the needs that we know are barreling toward us in the months and years to come: From the importance of our city’s full participation in the 2020 Census, to the challenges of an inevitable recession, the Columbus Region will show the rest of the country how to come together and overcome the challenges ahead.