Arizona Daily Star, March 31, 2000

Interfaith Group Joins New Lobby

By Joe Salkowski

A group known for extracting promises from local politicians soon will be doing the same on the state level.

The Pima County Interfaith Counci will be part of the Arizona Interfaith Network, a new group that will lobby legislators and state officials on education, job-training and other social-service issues. Other members of the network will include similar lobbying groups from Phoenix and the surrounding metropolitan area as well as Yuma and Northern Arizona.

“While we can accomplish a lot locally we recognize that certain things need to be dealt with at a state level,” said Andrea Robson co-chairwoman of the Pima County group. “We want to be able to say to the Legislature and elected officials at the state level: ‘Here are our families; we want to be listened to.”’

Members of the new group will stage a rally Sunday at the Phoenix Civic Center Ballroom. Organizers expect more than 3,000 people,’ including Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and Tucson City Council members Carol West and Steve Leal.

‘We’re making our presence felt,” said Maui Bratt, an Interfaith Council leader. “We’re saying we want to be at the table to discuss these things. We don’t like things not being accomplished.”

The Pima County Interfaith Council includes members of 50 religious congregations and a dozen schools as well as adult learning centers and other commu­nity organizations. The group is best known for inviting political candidates to well-attended ‘accountability sessions and ask­ing them to endorse the groups agenda, which usually calls for increased attention to social issues.

The new Arizona Interfaith Network will take a similar approach with state officials, Bratt said.

Public officials and political candidates will he invited to participate in “Institutes of Public Life.” study groups focused on various issues on the group’s agenda. Those issues include education, immigration, health care, employment, affordable housing, neigh­borhood protection and care for children and the elderly

When those study groups settle on policy proposals later this year, officials and candidates will be asked to embrace that platform.

“This is a question of dialogue,” Bratt sald. “It’s not about how we’re going to convince you we’re right and you’re wrong, but to talk about how you feel and what does it take to get these issues on your plate so you can get your teeth into them."

Early next year, members of the Arizona Interfaith Network will reconvene in Phoenix for the start of the legislative session. They will remind legislators of promises made to the group during the campaign and ask those who didn’t sign on to embrace the groups issues anyway.

We’re really looking at this like it’s a citizens lobby, Robson said. “We want them to be aware we’re not going away.”