By Kristy Milligan
A few weeks ago, I shared lunch with a close friend, who also happens to be a Citizens Project donor, volunteer, committee member, and former board member.
When it was my turn to give a work update, I droned on for several minutes on about our organizational priorities and calendar for the next few months. My friend paused, considered and asked the most simple, profound question.
“What does all that actually mean?”
Most cultures, ranging from ethnic to geographic to professional specialty, adopt a particular vernacular to describe the world around them. That specialized vernacular appears in the form of acronyms, jargon, and hollow, reverberating axioms that are utterly devoid of meaning outside of the shared cultural understanding.
We at Citizens Project are guilty.
It can be easy to speak and write without giving much thought to language, falling into familiar patterns, familiar vocabulary. But sometimes, our language can be limiting or limited, especially when there’s not a shared meaning between the speaker and the listener. Because we at Citizens Project strive to create shared understanding in all we do, this essay is a first step toward that lofty goal of inspiring, impactful language.
Words matter. Intention matters. I hope you’ll join us in this conversation by sharing your own words and your own meanings.
LGBT: This stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, and is intended to be an all-encompassing representation of a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities. Although it has crept into our everyday vernacular with little fanfare, it’s one of our most interesting acronyms from a historical standpoint and it continues to evolve. Over the last decade or so, individuals who do not feel the standard acronym represents their unique identity have advocated for the integration of additional letters. An alternative, more comprehensive (though not exhaustive) acronym is LGBTQQIP2SAA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, and asexual. Occasionally, we’ll see a third a for ally, and sometimes it’s preceded by an s for straight ally. At Citizens Project, we aspire to include all people. For us, it’s not about using the perfect acronym, but it is about using language that implies respect for all people.
PPEC: This stands for the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition, the primary local collaboration between equality-loving organizations in the Pikes Peak region. Citizens Project has been a member since its inception in 2006.
GOTV: This stands for Get-Out-The-Vote and represents any activity aimed at galvanizing a group of people to vote. Some of Citizens Project’s GOTV efforts include: phone calls, door-knocking (personal visits), and postcards.
RLA: This stands for Religious Liberty Amendment. Is it a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would decriminalize discrimination against groups of people if that discrimination is rooted in theology (think of the recent flap with the bakery that refused service to a civil union couple). It also usually includes a provision that allows nonprofit organizations that discriminate on religious grounds to still be eligible for federal and state funding. Legislation of this ilk has been floated at the State Capitol for the last several years, and each year it is withdrawn. It’s characterized by alluring, deceptive language that makes it sound like it protects religious liberty, but its intended impact is anything but liberty-inducing.
CRFI: This is shorthand for our annual Citizens’ Religious Freedom Institute, a day-long symposium for educators and administrators on how to protect religious freedom in the schools.
Citizens Project Terminology-
When I’m introducing someone to Citizens Project for the first time, I often say the same thing: “We educate and empower people to promote and protect diversity, equality, religious freedom and civic engagement.” I’ve been using this particular turn of phrase for so long that I know that I can’t *only* say this. I have to continue on to clarify what this all means. For you longtime supporters, this may be superfluous, but I include it anyway, for our new friends.
Educate: When Citizens Project talks about education, we mean that we provide information and programs designed to illuminate key issues facing our community. Sometimes this education takes the form of an instructional article on our website (like this one), sometimes it manifests in interactive programs like our Citizens’ Religious Freedom Institute, and sometimes we educate through production of voter guides and forums, to give potential voters comprehensive information about candidates and ballot measures.
Empower: When Citizens Project says we empower people, we usually mean we provide people with information and tools to take action. One way we do this is through electronic Action Alerts, which alert subscribers to opportunities to get involved in decision-making. Sometimes the focus of these action alerts is on proposed legislation (with information about how to learn more and contact legislators), and other times the focus is on civic opportunities such as rallies, community-building events and more. Our GOTV work also falls into this category, as we strive to provide potential voters with the motivation and means to vote.
Diversity: The simplest definition of diversity is difference. Because they are comprised of individuals, our communities necessarily include people with differences in views, differences in habit and preference, and differences in ways of being and moving in the world. At Citizens Project, we honor each of these differences and we believe they contribute to a richness of life and society.
Equality: Equality is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” Equality does not mean that we’re not different: it simply means that all people are born with, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, “certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Religious Freedom: For Citizens Project, this means freedom of religion. The prerogative of anyone to exercise their individual religious rights without government interference provided their religious practices neither compel others to participate nor hinder anyone else’s individual freedoms.
Civic Engagement: Literally, engagement in the community. This could look like voting, participating in programs that create community, contact with legislators, or any activity that involves human beings with a desire to make a positive impact.
Social Justice: Social justice involves creating a more fair and equitable society by addressing injustice of any kind and valuing diversity. Organizations that self-identify as social justice organizations can address one or many of a broad range of social issues in which inequality exists: focus can range from criminal justice to employment to housing to education.
Discriminate: The literal meaning of discriminate is to make a distinction in favor or against something or someone. In the social justice arena, however, to discriminate usually means to deny someone an opportunity on the basis of their real or perceived group or individual demographic status: this could include race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, political affiliation, and more.
Enumeration: Enumeration refers to the comprehensive listing of demographic identifiers, usually in an anti-discrimination policy (to identify vulnerable, and therefore protected, classes). A fully enumerated policy might look like this: “Bullying means any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that takes place on school property, bus or off-site location where school activities are taking place, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic…” Studies show that enumeration matters, in terms of a policy’s impact.
Advocacy: For Citizens Project, advocacy almost always involves a recommendation for or against a cause or proposal. Our advocacy is frequently aimed at representing or elevating voices that are traditionally overlooked in policy-setting arenas. Advocacy is an action. It’s standing up. It’s involving. It’s raising voices and awareness in support of underrepresented views.
Pluralism: Defined by Merriam-Webster as: a situation in which people of different social classes, religions, races, etc., are together in a society but continue to have their different traditions and interests. Pluralism is distinct from the American concept of the “melting pot,” in which differences and traditions dissipate in the greater society, because pluralism is predicated on the retention of those unique traditions. At Citizens Project, we celebrate pluralism as a superior alternative to the dissolution of diversity.
Inclusive/Affirming: This language describes a space that is friendly toward all types of people. Historically synonymous with “tolerant,” this language gained traction with individuals and communities who felt merely “tolerating” other ways of being was an inadequate approach to building real community. Citizens Project strives to create an inclusive and affirming community for all people.
Privilege: Merriam Webster defines privilege as “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.” Personal characteristics, including age, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, economic status, ability status, immigration status, and others can influence access and opportunity, sometimes without the beneficiary even knowing the cause of his or her privilege. In a recent TED talk, Justin Ford describes privilege as “access to or enjoying rights or advantages simply by membership or belonging to a certain group or identity.”
Queer: For centuries, this term was a synonym for “odd,” until the 20th century, when it was first used as a pejorative term for gay. Still an offensive term for many, queer has recently been “reclaimed” by the academic community and young people who find “LGBT” to be too rigid and binary to encompass their sexual orientation and gender identity. When in doubt about someone’s preferred self-identification, we always ask.
Gender binary: The traditional division of genders into male or female. This term can also be extended to sexuality when describing one’s attraction as either same-sex or opposite-sex attraction. Many find that the presenting of only two options is not only limiting, but antagonistic to the fluidity of the human experience.
While researching, I googled “nonprofit jargon” and came up with this incredible tool for developing absolutely nonsensical phrases using buzz language from the sector. There’s an abundance of official-sounding nonprofit vernacular out there, and Citizens Project uses a few key “buzz phrases” to define who we are and what we do.
501 (c) 3: An IRS designation for a particular kind of nonprofit with an “exempt purpose.” 501 (c) 3 organizations are characterized by their social impact (versus profit) focus, and are tax exempt. Citizens Project is a 501 (c) 3, and as a result, we must remain nonpartisan in all our activities and adhere to IRS reporting regulations.
Nonpartisan: Most simply, this means unbiased, or not supporting or opposing any political party (or candidate) over another. Citizens Project goes to great lengths to remain nonpartisan in all our activities, and especially in our voter education programs.
All this language can be enough to leave you reeling. But the bottom line is this:
At Citizens Project, we have our sleeves rolled up and are creating (we think!) a better world. You are welcome here. We want to hear and understand your language, too! Always let us know if we are speaking in jargon, with acronyms…or in any way that makes our message less strong. We want you to hear. We want the world to hear. And we want to hear you! Please help us create a vocabulary that rings loudly and clearly from peak to shining peak.
As you may know, the 2014 Colorado legislative session began on January 8th. And, as always, Citizens Project is keeping an eye on bills as they are developed and proposed. Here’s a brief rundown on what we’re watching:
Bills related to voting and elections:
HB1043, “Create Voter Outreach through Enfranchisement Act” - Voter outreach through enfranchisement – eliminates key provisions of 1303, including: rescinding residency requirements for voting (which were made more lax in 1303), removing calculations requiring additional polling places by population, removing obligation for service centers to offer extended hours, among others. Citizens Project opposes this bill. Update: This bill has been killed.
HB1062, “Optional Approval Voting in Nonpartisan Elections” - Gives local governments the option to use “approval voting” in nonpartisan elections if they choose to do so. Approval voting is a voting procedure in which voters can vote for as many candidates as they wish. Each candidate approved of receives one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. Citizens Project supports this bill.
HB1128, “Reduce Voter Identity Theft” – Eliminates the key provision of 1303 allowing for alternate forms of ID. Citizens Project opposes this bill. Update: This bill has been killed.
HB1164, ”Nonpartisan Elections Not Coordinated County Clerks” - Nonpartisan non-county elections – would require clerks of special districts (like the home-rule municipality of Colorado Springs) to comply with some aspects of the state law on election administration (County Clerks are already required to comply), including: harmonizing voter registration residency requirements with state law, establishing permanent vote-by-mail-status, and other important aspects of the state law. Citizens Project Supports this bill. Update: This bill has passed.
Related to Workers’ Rights:
SB005, “Wage Protection Act” - Would: expand employee complaint grounds to include violation of minimum wage; require employer to retain records of employment for three years; require employer to verify address and send unpaid wages to a terminated employee within 60 days; and impose penalties on employers who willfully ignore terminated employee demands to pay unpaid wages. Citizens Project supports this bill.
SB074, ”Repeal Damages, State Employees, Discrimination Claims” - Eliminates key provisions of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, including removing the ability of a victim to sue for punitive damages, and removing the ability of a victim to obtain compensatory damages if the perpetrating organization employs fewer than 15 people. Citizens Project opposes this bill. Update: This bill has been killed.
Related to Equal Rights:
SB019, “Status of Taxpayers Who May File Joint Returns” - Closes a loophole in Civil Unions by requiring any 2 taxpayers who may legally file a joint federal income tax return to file separate state income tax returns if they file separate federal income tax returns and to file a joint state income tax return if they file a joint federal income tax return. Citizens Project supports this bill. Update: This bill has passed.
Check back with us for future updates on this legislative session!
The Divine Award is given annually to a person whose commitment to diversity, equality and religious freedom has impacted the community in positive and lasting ways. The award simultaneously recognizes the accomplishments of its recipient and honors the legacy of Amy Divine, the founder of Citizens Project, who dedicated her energy to championing traditional American values of equal rights, individual freedoms, separation of church and state, civic engagement and respect for diversity.
This year, our annual Divine Award will be held Tuesday, February 11th from 5:00-7:00 pm at Stargazers Theater
This year, we have two honorees: June Waller and Judy Noyes!
June Waller, 2014 Divine Award recipient:
Most people know of June C. Waller as an essential part of our Colorado Springs community. Her involvement and commitment to the vitality of the community is unparalleled. June, a long-time resident of Colorado Springs is the proud mother of three daughters, six grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.
June received her Bachelor’s degree in business from UCCS and acquired additional education at the University of Northern Colorado in the field of communications. She is an alumnus of Leadership Pikes Peak and has attended the Center for Creative Leadership twice in two different decades.
June’s career has centered on management of affordable housing within Housing Authorities and private-owned housing for over 35 years. Now a retiree, her responsibilities included strategic planning, personnel training, staff and residents counseling on sustainable quality of life improvements, research and composed presentations to community groups both military and non-military on housing environments.
June’s expertise has been recognized in her appointment by Governor Lamm to the Nominating Commission for the selection of District and County judges. The first female to sit on the District Court came during her tenure. Currently she sits on the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) as an appointee by City Council to represent the new City Council District #4. Additionally, her knowledge is requested and welcomed amongst all types of local community groups.
June’s current community involvement includes participation in League of Women Voters, Administration Team; Colorado Prince Hall Foundation, Vice-Chair. She sits as a member of; District 11 Foundation, Savvy Seniors, NAACP Executive Committee, Citizens Transportation Advisory Board, Black/Hispanic Coalition, and the Police Chief Citizen’s Advisory Board. As of September she created at the Hillside Community Center and the Savvy Senior’s office a service to the community, Southside Community Resource Services as a means to distribute community information to seniors and families.
Judy Noyes, 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient:
Judy Noyes, born in Connecticut in 1931, moved to Colorado Springs with her family in 1959 to open the Chinook Bookshop. Judy’s contribution to the community expanded far beyond this beloved bookstore, however.
Judy graduated from Vassar College in 1953, and with her academic and journalism training was well poised to make an impact in Colorado Springs. In addition to running the bookstore with her husband, Dick, from 1959-2004, Judy believed in and contributed to the vitality of Colorado Springs and the downtown community in many ways. She was an avid supporter of the arts and intellectual life as well as a supporter of gay rights and civic freedoms.
In 1992, Judy co-chaired the committee that produced the Downtown Action Plan, in 2000 she began her service on the Colorado Springs City Council for three years, was also a member of the city’s Urban Renewal Authority, and also served on the Charter Review Commission. Additionally, Judy served with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Pikes Peak Library District Foundation, Fine Arts Center, Downtown Partnership and Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.
A brief outline of election results:
Amendment 66: Yes – 33.78%, No – 66.22%
Proposition AA: Yes – 64.97%, No – 35.03%
Harrison School District 2
Joyce Leigh – 24.45%
Doriena Longmire – 22.74%
Steven Siebert – 18.83%
Ryan Thompson – 18.78%
Aaron Simpson – 58.2%
Eileen Lynch Gonzalez (2 yr term) – 100%
Colorado Springs School District 11
LuAnn Long – 21.34%
Jim Mason – 18.73%
Linda Mojer – 16.85%
Charlie Bobbitt – 15.13%
Al Loma – 14.21%
James Tucker – 13.74%
Academy School District 20
Catherine Bullock – 23.86%
Larry Borland – 23.34%
Linda Van Matre – 23.18%
Andrea Van Nort – 18.36%
Shannon Mendes 11.26%
Falcon School District 49
Tammy Harold – 25.84%
Kevin Butcher – 18.42%
David Moore – 17.2%
John Graham – 14.85%
Chris Bombria – 13.26%
Henry Allen Jr. – 10.42%
County Ballot Measures
1A: No – 51.25%
1B: Yes – 55.92%
1C: Yes – 78.16%
1D: Yes – 83.91%
Municipal Ballot Measures
2A: Yes – 67.08%
2B: No – 53.16%
2C: Yes – 58.5%
2D: No – 60.28%
School District Ballot Measures
3A: No – 75.22%
Special District Ballot Measures
5A: No – 53.63%
5C: Yes – 72.03%
Harry Reid is planning on bringing up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote early next week in the Senate. Keep your ears open for news on this important piece of legislation that supports LGBT rights.
ENDA would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. When the Senate convened Monday afternoon, Reid formally announced his plans to bring up ENDA during the current work period, which ends the week before Thanksgiving. Reid has long been a supporter of ENDA, cosponsoring it as early as 1997.
Read the full article on the Huffington Post here.
Check out this Buzzfeed article on 5 myths that have been perpetuated about the new voter access law.
On Monday, we hosted our District 11 School Board Candidate Forum. The forum was a wonderful success with many community members in attendance providing excellent questions for the candidates to answer. Joe Cole moderated the discussion with candidates Charlie Bobbitt, Al Loma, LuAnn Long, Jim Mason, Linda Mojer, and Jim Tucker.
The discussion was live-tweeted using #CPforum and you can go to Citizens Project’s twitter to see the tweeted recap. Questions asked included “Are you for or against am 66. Why or why not? If not, what could be added to improve it?” This question resulted in strong opinions from many candidates from both sides. Other questions included “D11 typically loses more student annually than others, how would you make D11 more competitive and reverse the trend?” and “What should be the role of federal and state government in local schools?”
Thank you to all our sponsors, candidates, community attendees, and our moderator from FOX 21, Joe Cole. Now it’s your turn to get out and VOTE!
Thank you to the candidates who took the time to attend our forum on Tuesday: Eileen Lynch Gonzales, Doriena Longmire, Aaron Simpson and Ryan Thompson! We offered those candidates in attendance the opportunity to submit brief closing remarks for voters who missed the forum. Those that we received are below:
I have learned a lot in running for the Harrison school board, and I have met some very good people the last few months. I have observed that many of these school board elections can become contentious. Yet in Harrison I have come to know, and like five very qualified individuals. I am comfortable in stating that no matter who is elected to the board, Harrison will be in good hands.
Harrison is facing a fork in the road situation, there is a new Superintendent, and next month some very new faces will take their place on the school board. Now is an important time to research all the candidates and vote for the person you believe is best suited for the task at hand. As I said all candidates are well qualified, however we all see things from a slightly different perspective.
For me graduation rates must increase! We cannot be accepting of 20 – 30% of our kids facing adulthood without a high school diploma. In our economy these days it is difficult for a college graduate to find a job, so what hope does a high school dropout have? We can reach these kids who are struggling by placing a much larger emphasis on vocational programs. We can help our community and all our kids by partnering with local businesses to find summer jobs and internships that may turn into careers after graduation. We can and should prepare our kids for life outside of school, simple things like; opening a bank account, handling a credit card, to more involved things like doing taxes and even starting your own business.
I hope to represent you, but I want what is best for Harrison, so please research all candidates and make the choice you are most comfortable with.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share my views as a school board candidate, with the citizens of Colorado Springs; particularly those who are Stakeholders in Harrison School District Two. It is important for voters to know what our ideas are, for improving the school and community environment for our students, their families and staff.