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One: Organization for a New Eastside, Terry Jones

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One: Organization for a New Eastside, Terry Jones

“That unflagging commitment to justice makes this a better city for all of us.” — Kate Van Winkle, organizer of ACORN

For years, lots of people in Indianapolis talked sympathetically about the issue of predatory lending. Not much happened. Organization for a New Eastside brought victims to the Statehouse to bluntly demand that legislators fix the problem.

A predatory lending bill has since passed this last session of the General Assembly.

For years, lots of people in Indianapolis talked about how they care about absentee landlords and abandoned housing. Not much happened. O.N.E. organized a command performance bus tour of the blighted areas of the near Eastside, insisting that politicians and bankers show up or hear from them in a less polite forum, such as a noisy demonstration outside their office buildings. (“ONE Powerful Neighbor,” Dispatch, March 26-April 3, 2003)

City officials have since promised increased funding to renovate the area’s abandoned houses.

“O.N.E. counters one of Indianapolis’ greatest weaknesses: its general disregard of the wants and needs of low and moderate income people,” says Kate Van Winkle, organizer of the fledgling Indianapolis chapter of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).

O.N.E. counters another of the community’s weaknesses, too: the historic unwillingness of Indiana’s disenfranchised to get in the face of elected officials. If some people are too polite to get justice in this town, O.N.E. is not. O.N.E. blunts the subtle power of the monied classes with the unsubtle power of working-class people loudly and insistently demanding their problems be addressed. Now. Harnessing the street-level power long recognized by political organizers like Chicago’s legendary Saul Alinsky, O.N.E. and its director Ken Moran have helped move the Hoosier political dialogue to the grass roots, and often to the less polite.

It is no accident that the successful-so-far protests of IndyGo bus cuts have come on the heels of O.N.E.’s successful neighborhood activism. It took hundreds of chanting people overcrowding the largest room in the City-County Building to accomplish what published studies, Op Ed articles and press conferences could not — a sense of urgency for the mayor and the City-County Council to fix the bus problem.

“Not only does O.N.E. increase awareness around critical issues, but they help folks in the community develop and implement innovative solutions on their terms,” Van Winkle says. “That unflagging commitment to justice makes this a better city for all of us.”

— Fran Quigley

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