The media have cast lobbyists and lobbying in a negative light lately, from the Jack Abramoff scandal to questions of whether lobbyists should be able to buy legislators lunch. (No!)
But what is life like for a lobbyist “on the ground?” To find out I spoke with Laurie Lippold, director of public policy for Children’s Home Society and tireless advocate for the rights of children and families in our state for many years.
Laurie tells me she couldn’t buy lunch for a legislator, even if she wanted to.
“I don’t have budget,” she says, adding that “a non-profit can’t support political candidates.”
Besides, the Washington legislature already has strict rules about gifts. With no three-martini lunches, what does Laurie do?
“I work on public policy issues for CHS in the legislative arena and executive branch,” she explains, mostly at the state level. The society, which began as one of the state’s first adoption agencies and now provides residential treatment and foster care services to at-risk children, has been committed to the health and welfare of children and families for over 100 years.
Laurie spends long hours commuting from Seattle to long days in Olympia while the legislature is in session.
“A lot of policy, through statutes or budget, affects children and families and it’s important…to have a voice in the decision-making process as to where the dollars are spent and the laws are being passed.”
“Hardly anything in child welfare happens in isolation,” she emphasizes, “it’s very collaborative.” This means lots of meetings, lots and lots of meetings.
For example, CHS is working with many organizations and legislators to provide post-secondary scholarship funds for foster children who “age out” of the system, meaning they lose their support monies, at 18. This lack of financial support can leave these kids on their own for the first time, uneducated and at risk of poverty or homelessness.
“We were involved with other organizations that got a law passed that allows 150 kids over three years to stay in foster care and go on to secondary education. It doesn’t sound like many, but of the 450 kids who age out of the system every year, only 30 to 35 percent do so with a high school diploma or GED,” Lippold says.
“We’re constantly working on healthcare, extending Medicaid to age 21 for foster kids, the kids healthcare bill,” she adds.
Lippold has an MSW from the University of Chicago and began her career working directly with foster children. She and her husband, Steve Gelb, have lived in Seattle for over 25 years and have a daughter in high school and a son in college.
On Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, you can join atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass and Rabbi Beth Singer as they put a Jewish perspective on the environment at a forum at Temple Beth Am in Seattle from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. in the sanctuary.
The idea for the program came about, Mass tells me, from some conversations he had with the rabbi.
“The idea was to talk about the technical, ethical, religious and moral side of the whole global warming issue,” he says.
The rabbi was very responsive to the idea, and Mass says he hasn’t seen anything similar presented at area synagogues. The professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington since 1981, says he’ll focus on the scientific end. “My part is about what we know, and the implications for the Northwest and the world.”
Cliff, who with his wife Caroline, and their sons Aaron and Nathan, has been a member of the temple “for many decades,” says he won’t put Jewish spin on his part of the workshop.
“I think there is an ethical and moral dimension…and responsibility for protecting the world,” but he’ll cede that part of the discussion to the rabbi. He does add that “there is a lot we can do for the environment, more than just global warming. Not having to be dependent on Mideast oil” certainly has a Jewish angle. “A number of people talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.”
Mass, who has been interested in climate since he was in grade school, certainly tries. He bikes to work every day, “even in the rain, in my Gore Tex,” and has converted about half the lights in his home to fluorescent, but admits there is always more to be done.
In an e-mail, Rabbi Singer wrote me that her part of the forum would illustrate how “as Jews we feel a sense of moral obligation as God’s partners in the ongoing work of creation to protect God’s beautiful creation against human-made destruction such as global warming.
“Torah endows us with a mandate to care for and protect the earth for all future generations,” she states. ”We have to curb our greed and endless hunger for material acquisition when it directly contradicts our responsibility to keep the earth healthy.”
A related event takes place the week before. Shomrei Adamah (Keepers of the Earth) are organizing a Jewish contingent to march in the Seattle Day of Climate Action, Saturday, April 14. The march will begin at 2 p.m. in Occidental Park and a number of local congregations are taking part. Look for more information in your congregation’s newsletter or e-mail Barak Gale at email@example.com.
Do you know local Jews who should be profiled in Diana Brement’s Member of the Tribe column? Tell us about them at firstname.lastname@example.org.