Blog/news

New Director for Division of State Veterans Community Living Centers

posted Apr 10, 2014, 4:23 PM by Brandon Williams - OIT

The Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Community Access and Independence has named Cassandra (C.J.) Rocke as its new Director for the Division of State Veterans Community Living Centers.

The Division owns and operates living centers in Aurora (Fitzsimons), Florence (Bruce McCandless), Monte Vista (Homelake) and Rifle. The Division also serves in an oversight role for operations of the Veterans Community Living Center in Walsenburg, which is owned by the Huerfano County Hospital District.

Rocke will be responsible for maintaining cohesive relationships among staff and the residents CDHS serves, and providing long-term strategies to continue to serve Colorado’s war heroes in the most integrated living communities possible. Rocke’s early responsibilities will include re-evaluating the Division’s quality assurance programs and to implement an electronic health record system.

Rocke previously served as a regional vice-president and director of operations at Kindred Healthcare, which manages and operates skilled nursing facilities in Colorado and neighboring states. Rocke also directed operations and served as chief operating officer at Pinon Management in Lakewood.

Rocke began her duties on March 17.


Colorado Supreme Court Overturns ‘Big Food’ Challenge, Keeps GMO Labeling Bill Alive

posted Apr 10, 2014, 4:11 PM by Brandon Williams - OIT

The Colorado Supreme Court overturned a major challenge by mainstream biotech, pesticide and grocery interests last week, allowing for the possibility of a genetically modified organisms(GMO) labeling bill to appear on the state’s November 2014 ballot.

Protests, like this one held last May in Asheville, NC, represent the vast number of Americans who support labeling of GMO foods. Photo credit: J. Bicking / Shutterstock.com

In order for Ballot Initiative #48—a bill that would mandate the labeling of GMO foods on product packaging—to come before voters, it needs 86,105 petition signatures to be submitted to the state by early August, according to Right to Know Colorado GMO, a grassroots initiative established by local residents, which introduced the bill.

On Tuesday, Right to Know announced its plans to partner with local farmers, farmers markets, moms, faith-based organizations, natural, organic and non-GMO food retailers, and other health, sustainability and consumer advocacy organizations to gather the required signatures.

“We are pleased that the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the GMO labeling ballot title, and we look forward to bringing a GMO labeling initiative before the voters of Colorado this fall,” said Larry Cooper, one of the proponents of the Right to Know initiative.

Right to Know reports:

With no federal GMO labeling requirements in place in the U.S., it is estimated that more than 80 percent of conventional processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients, primarily from GMO corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and other GMO crops. However, according to national GMO labeling advocacy organization Just Label It, more than 90 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed want mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

While pro-biotech interests claim that GMOs are safe, a growing body of scientific research suggests there may be enough risks to justify the need for consumer transparency. More than 64 other countries require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered or GMO foods. Colorado joins more than two dozen other states, including Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, in calling for GMO labeling legislation.

“Coloradans have the right to know what is in their food, and to make purchasing decisions for their families based on knowing whether their foods are genetically engineered, and we believe they will have that opportunity after November,” said Cooper.


Building Community Cultural Leadership

posted Apr 10, 2014, 4:04 PM by Brandon Williams - OIT

Ask any community organizer what their job is really about, and they will tell you that more important than protesting, or changing government policies, or even improving local conditions is the work of leadership development. Organizers work closely with local community members to develop public speaking and advocacy skills, increase confidence, and build relationships, among other capacities. A more “leader-full” community is a stronger community.

Three Models of Leadership

In some progressive circles, the word “leadership” is almost a curse. Reacting against the well-known dangers of hierarchy, groups like Occupy Wall Street seek to be “leaderless.” But the vision of leadership offered by community organizing is not of the “great man” variety. Instead, it is a kind of leadership that long-time organizer and Harvard professor Marshall Ganz refers to as a “snowflake” — a web of interdependent leaders who support others in becoming leaders. For Ganz, the difference between this kind of leadership, and the more oppressive kind, is the difference between leadership as aposition, and leadership as a practice:

We’re approaching leadership as a practice, not leadership as a position…It’s about accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose under conditions of uncertainty.

Community organizing develops leaders who can mobilize people to confront and build political power. But we also need cultural leaders who can accept the responsibility for enabling others to think differently, to dream bigger, to develop new identities. Cultural leaders who can move us towards new aesthetics and new stories about ourselves. Developing such leaders should be the job of cultural organizing.

The term “cultural leader” is often used to refer to artists and other creative individuals whose work has had wide influence. This kind of leadership, based in individual expression, can be very powerful. Bob Dylan was this kind of cultural leader, and his work inspired many in the social movements of the 1960′s and 70′s. But in many ways this model reflects the “great man” model of leadership that has been so thoroughly critiqued in the world of social movements.

The kind of cultural leader I am talking about here is of a different sort, and might better be described as a community cultural leader. This kind of leader is rooted in community relationships, and their task is not only to produce work with meaning, but to enable others to take part and develop their own creative voices. Their task is to challenge others to work collaboratively towards new ideas, identities, and aesthetics. Dr. Toby Jenkins, who teaches a course on cultural leadership, defines it this way:

Cultural leadership is creative leadership. It utilizes the arts and various other assessable forms of creative public scholarship and open community spaces to educate and raise awareness. Cultural leaders are rooted in the community and committed to social justice. They are raw leaders with thick skin, unflinching determination, and a love for people that allows them to take the blows that may come even from the communities that they seek to help. They are social change agents and social servants. They understand that a leader is first a servant.

This vision of cultural leadership can move us away from a celebration of celebrity, and towards a more grassroots strategy for cultural change.


1-3 of 3