Help Save Service In America

In its recent budget for FY 2011, the House of Representatives voted to defund the Corporation for National and Community Service.  This is the organization that administers the popular AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, VISTA, and NCCC programs.  The new Congress is essentially trying to kill service in America

These programs, which are cheap, efficient and tailored to local needs, are designed to address some of our nation's most pressing problems.  Child literacy, elder care, environmental conservation, homelessness, affordable housing, disaster recovery, public health…I could go on and on.  The pay is peanuts and the work is difficult but nevertheless, year after year, Americans enroll to help serve their communities.  

 The new Congress though, in a fit of austerity (that does not include eliminating tax breaks for corporations or raising taxes on the rich) has decided that we simply cannot afford such extravagances. This comes at a time when the recent economic downturn is exacerbating exactly the problems the CNCS is designed to combat.

Further underscoring the perversity of these cuts is the fact that less than two years ago, in an exceedingly rare display of bipartisanship, Congress passed the Serve America Act, which greatly expanded service.  It seemed as if the 15 year-old organization would finally be taken off the chopping block.

But…no

 Bafflingly, this new class of legislators, after having been swept into office on a wave of bitterness and low voter turnout, believe it is their mission to singlehandedly save American civilization.  This sacred crusade seems to include preventing government from helping citizens help themselves.

 But in any case, a final budget has not been negotiated, so the battle is not over.  I urge all of you to call this number:

 1-855-US-SERVE.

This number is provided by the website:http://www.saveservice.org/ .  It will connect you directly to your Senators as well as provide you with talking points, if you feel you need them.

Of course there are other things you could do.  You could write a letter to the editor, attend a town hall meeting or meet with your legislator personally. We need grassroots pressure to make this happen.

There are a lot of members that would like to stand up for service. We just have to make them.  

 

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Jackie Norris wanted out of running first lady's office

Thursday’s White House statement announcing Jackie Norris’s replacement as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama did not make clear whether Norris resigned or was pushed out. My hunch was that Norris wanted out. I considered it unlikely that the first lady would have wanted to fire Norris, who has proved herself to be highly capable of managing a complex organization.

On Friday an unnamed source told Politico,

The staff shakeup in the East Wing – with Jackie Norris out as chief of staff to Michelle Obama – came because Norris wasn’t enjoying the bureaucratic part of the job and wanted a change, a senior administration official said. […]

Norris, who bonded with Obama in Iowa as an organizational force in Barack Obama’s caucus victory, didn’t like the management and scheduling duties, and the intense social component of the job, the source said.

Who can blame her?

Norris will be a senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which does good work. It’s a less prestigious title than chief of staff for the first lady, but I hope it will be a more fulfilling and enjoyable job.

LATE UPDATE: The “Civic Skinny” political gossip columnist for Des Moines’ alternative weekly Cityview heard a different story:

Iowa’s Jackie Norris apparently lost her job as chief of staff to Michelle Obama because she – Norris – turned out to be not much of a team player. If she didn’t get her way, insiders say, she pouted or fumed or cried or threatened to hold her breath until she turned blue or whatever. That was no surprise to political people who had worked with her when she was Iowa state director for the Obama campaign – or earlier when she worked on the Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns in Iowa. But you don’t always get your way in a White House full of smart and strong-willed people. Further, she wasn’t part of the Chicago gang that runs things there – and her successor is.

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Jackie Norris taking a new job in Washington

The White House announced on Thursday that Susan Sher will replace Jackie Norris as First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. Sher is a White House attorney and longtime friend of Obama’s from Chicago. Radio Iowa posted a press release containing statements from Michelle Obama, Sher and Norris.

Norris will head serve as senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps and other programs. She and her husband, John Norris, were among Barack Obama’s key early supporters in Iowa. Jackie Norris also directed Obama’s Iowa campaign during the general election. John Norris is now chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

I wish Jackie Norris the best of luck in her new position. The Corporation for National and Community Service has the potential to improve countless Americans’ lives.

UPDATE: An unnamed senior administration official told Politico that Norris wanted out of the job.

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