New Jersey Peace Action delivers Move the Money Postcards to U.S. Senators!

16 06 2011

Susan, Jewel, Jo and Ron with the Move the Money Postcards!

Tuesday, June 14th I got to see the offices of my U.S. Senators for the first time. To be honest, I had had no idea where they were, and I think most people probably do not either. They are in the Gateway Center, which I have been so close to so many times going to and from Newark. That got me thinking – how much attention does the average person really pay to what their representatives in the government are up to, unless there is some type of scandal? But that is another post for another day.


I went with Madelyn Hoffman, Ron DeStefano, Susan Krcmar and Jo Sippie Gora to deliver a total of 1164 signed “Move the Money” postcards to the offices of Senator Frank Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez.


New Jersey Peace Action has been working on this Move the Money campaign, calling for 25% of the Department of Defense budget to be cut in order to provide funds for community programs. Of course, more than 25 % would be even better, but we are trying to be realistic.


Over the past few weeks I have seen the piles of postcards get bigger and bigger, heard requests of from 60 up to 700 of each postcard from various organizations, and seen them returned with signatures by everyone from College and Middle school students to Unitarian congregations to People’s Organization for Progress. This campaign is so amazing because practically everyone is united in this effort, to move the money from unnecessary Department of Defense (DOD) spending to schools, healthcare, veteran’s affairs and other community programs.


When we went to their offices, both Senators were in Washington, so we were unable to meet with them in person. We went to Lautenberg’s office first, and spoke to Linda Barucky. I felt that she was not really listening, she is the NJ scheduler and she mentioned other people who would be better people for us to speak with, who unfortunately were not there at the time. Still, she promised to send the postcards to Lautenberg in Washington.


Things went much better in Menendez’s office. We met with Betsy Gilligan the project coordinator and handler of constituent services, who was much more receptive to what we had to say. We each had our own perspective on why this was so important.


Ron said we’re spending so much on the military, and so little on the green economy. Looking out this big window in the Senator’s office over the city of Newark, you don’t see a single solar panel. Green jobs would be a boost to the economy that we desperately need. Jo Sippie Gora mentioned the budget priorities banner which has been making the rounds of various peace vigils and peace organizations. This banner shows the percentages of the budget that go to every government program, from NASA to Education to the DOD. Big surprise, the DOD gets the largest cut of the pie, 59-60%. Jo said that if a family divided their money this way, they would be gone, unable to survive. You can’t spend most of your money on war and expect good to come out of it. You need to take care of the things you have, and invest in the future.


As for me, I’ve been at college in Pennsylvania since August 2009 except for breaks which add up to a total of about 4 months. But when I come back, the roads are horrible with potholes everywhere, something I do not ever remember seeing as a child. I hear on facebook from friends still in Bloomfield about a cut in our library’s budget, and that the Northvale Public Library will no longer be a part of the inter-library loan system because of the loss of municipal funding. On the radio I hear about the layoff of over 160 police officers in Newark, and the 4 dead and 8 wounded in shootings in the next few days.


It doesn’t take Einstein to see that we are destroying things our ancestors worked so hard to build. This country was far ahead of many others in terms of community programs, and now we are backsliding.


Wednesday morning when I walked into the NJPA office, Ron had some great news. Senator Lautenberg said he will sign the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter. This letter urges President Obama to begin “a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan”. As of June 14 this letter has the signatures of 27 Senators, including Senator Menendez and Lautenberg. When we went in yesterday, Lautenberg still had not signed the letter. I like to think that our petitions and postcards helped give him the push he needed to take that step.


It’s really incredible to think that you personally had a hand in convincing a U.S. senator to support the reduction of US military forces in Afghanistan, but it shouldn’t be. As Ron reminded me, we pay them; they have to listen to us. So let’s make it abundantly clear what we want.


Here is the Link to the “Connect the Dots Move the Money from War to Peace” page on the New Jersey Peace Action website.


Here you will find all the information you need about supporting this campaign. There is information specific to each district about how much money is going to the Department of Defense, and how that money could be better spent. There are also postcards to each representative as well as Senator Frank Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez, asking them to help us move the money. Please sign the postcards, and send them to New Jersey Peace Action so we can send them in another large group this coming September or October, showing just how much support there is for this campaign. Don’t forget to share this with friends and family so they can sign as well.

Jo and Betsy Gilligan



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