Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is a grassroots organization of 7,500 members across Kentucky. It has local chapters and at-large members in many counties. It uses use a set of core strategies, from leadership development to communications and voter empowerment, to impact a broad range of issues, including coal and water, new energy and transition, economic justice and voting rights.
In the late 1970s, citizens in six Appalachian states conducted a land study, researching the ownership of land and minerals in selected counties, and who paid the taxes. When it was released in 1980, the study documented what many people had suspected, that the valuable coal property was owned primarily by out-of-state holding companies, and they paid almost no taxes to the host counties or their schools.
For many people, it was a shock to see that one of the richest regions of the world in terms of natural resources was so poor in terms of services. The study inspired public anger and led to calls to address the issues it raised. Citizens began meeting about the tax laws that exempted coal owners and the property laws that allowed coal companies to strip mine a landowner's surface without permission.
Through the summer and fall of 1981, forty of these citizens held a series of meetings that led to the formation of the Kentucky Fair Tax Coalition. They vowed to change the state tax laws, and reverse a recent law exempting coal companies from property tax on their coal holdings. More importantly, they agreed their approach to change would be direct action organizing.
The evolution of KFTC from a group of several dozen concerned citizens into a powerful organization has been deliberate and thoughtful. We have grown thanks to hard work and persistence. We have had enough successes to keep us motivated, enough failures to keep us hungry and humble. Our strength can be found in our adherence to simple principles of membership control, leadership development, democratic decision-making, and direct action.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth August 13, 2018 ·
Welcome to KFTC's 2018-19 Executive Committee! These folks were voted in at our Annual Meeting in Berea last week. — with Meta Mendel-Reyes, Cassia Herron, Christian Torp, Amy Templeton Copelin and Mary Love.
Across Kentucky, in statewide and local campaigns, hundreds of KFTC leaders are deeply engaged and actively leading others. These leaders grow through skills training, mentoring, exchange with other groups and on-the-job practice.
Member leaders also govern our organization. Each chapter chooses a representative and alternate to the statewide Steering Committee. Members also serve on statewide issue committees such as Land Reform, Economic Justice, and New Energy & Transition, as well as governance committees like Personnel, Leadership Development and Finance. Many engage as New Power Leaders.
Statewide Officers As of 2015;
- Dana Beasley Brown - Chairperson
- Elizabeth Sanders - Secretary-Treasurer
- Suzanne Tallichet - Immediate Past Chair
- Tanya Torp - Vice Chairperson
- Homer White - At-Large Representative
- Leslie Bebensee - Scott County Representative
- Ryan Fenwick - Jefferson County Representative
- Sarah Martin is an active member of the Central Kentucky chapter
- Andrea Massey - Harlan County Representative
- Leslie McBride - Shelby County Representative
- Megan Mckinney - Madison County Representative
- Lillian Prosperino - Letcher County Representative
- Al Smith - Southern Kentucky Representative
- Randy Wilson - Perry County Representative
- Rosanne Fitts Klarer - Scott County alternate
- Dora James - Southern Kentucky Alternate
- Meta Mendel-Reyes - Madison County Alternate
- Lisa Montgomery - Rowan County Alternate
- Daniel Morgan - Wilderness Trace alternate
- Russell Oliver - Perry County Alternate
- Lee Ann Paynter - Wilderness Trace Alternate
- Nancy Reinhart - Shelby County Alternate
- JoAnn Schwartz - Northern Kentucky Alternate
- Carl Shoupe - Harlan County Alternate
- Sharon Murphy, Central Kentucky
- Kim Walters, Big Sandy
- Eric Dixon, Letcher County
As of 2015;
- Lisa Abbott - Empower Kentucky Organizer
- E'Beth Adami - Development Associate
- Beth Bissmeyer - Tax Justice Organizer
- Morgan Brown - Administrative Assistant
- Tim Buckingham - Communications Associate
- Robin Daugherty - Office Manager
- Joe Gallenstein - Chapter Organizer with Northern Kentucky and Scott County
- Jerry Hardt - Communications Director
- Jessica Hays Lucas - Deputy Organizing Director for Leadership Development
- Amy Hogg - Development Director
- Beth Howard - Central Kentucky Organizer
- Erik Hungerbuhler - Website Manager/E-Organizer
- Alicia Hurle - Jefferson County Organizer
- Molly Kaviar - Southern Kentucky Community Organizer
- Burt Lauderdale - Executive Director
- Carissa Lenfert - Deputy Organizing Director
- Sara Pennington - New Energy and Transition Campaign Organizer
- Kevin Pentz - Canary Project Organizer
- Heather Roe Mahoney - Deputy Director
- Jessie Skaggs - Perry County Organizer
- Sasha Zaring - Madison County and Wilderness Trace Chapter Organizer
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth November 14 2019
Together, we chose a new governor. And together, we can choose elected leaders in 2020 who will show up with us and for us – not only on election day but every day.
Felon voting rights
The newly-elected governor of Kentucky has restored voting rights to more than 100,000 people with past criminal convictions, reversing a ban that activists have called an "ugly holdover from our Jim Crow past".
The expansion was made official on Thursday by Democrat Andy Beshear, who narrowly defeated the state’s previous governor during an election last month that attracted the intense attention of Donald Trump and the national press. The executive order automatically restores the right to vote to non-violent offenders.
With Mr Beshear’s executive order signed, Kentucky has removed itself from a very short list of states with lifetime bans for convicted felons. Now, just Iowa has such a permanent ban on the books.
“I believe it is an injustice that their ability to fully rejoin society by casting a vote on election day is automatically denied regardless of the circumstances of their offence,” Mr Beshear said on Thursday.
He continued: “When people vote, they’re showing they’re invested in our democracy, in our society and in their communities.”
In signing the executive order, Mr Beshear appears to be following in the footsteps of his father, former governor Steve Beshear. The senior Beshear had likewise signed an executive order in November 2015 to restore voting rights to people with certain felonies, and who had served their time.
"Everybody got an early Christmas present today, so it'll be all good," Debra Graner, 69, who was convicted on arson charges in 2012 after falling asleep drunk in her apartment with candles lit, starting a fire, told The Independent when reached after the signing.
Ms Graner said she is not sure if she will be included in the group to have their rights restored by Mr Beshear — she noted that her particular instance of arson did not involve violent circumstances — but said that she and others who have advocated as a part of the grassroots group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth are encouraged by the advancement of rights.
"I am absolutely thrilled," she said.
Climate Justice Alliance January 10 · 2019·
Excited to share our vision for a #JustTransition and the #GreenNewDeal with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Climate Justice Alliance members from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Indigenous Environmental Network, the New Economy Coalition the Labor Network for Sustainability, and UpRose Bk shared their solutions and brought the frontlines to Capitol Hill. Stay tuned for a video message from Representative Ocasio-Cortez.
- ClimateJustice #GreenNewDeal #JustTransition #GND — with Cynthia Mellon, Lex Barlowe, Elizabeth Yeampierre, Ananda Lee Tan, Angela Adrar, Tom Goldtooth and Marion Gee.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth November 29, 2018 ·
12 KFTC members—from everywhere from Corbin to Jackson to Lynch—are gathering at Mitch McConnell’s office in London to ask him to act now to support Kentucky’s coal communities and miners with black lung. They will deliver 14 local resolutions and hundreds of postcards and petition signatures urging Congress to strengthen the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, pass the RECLAIM Act, and protect miners’ pensions. More importantly, they will share their stories about why this matters to their families and their communities. Stay tuned for a livestream debrief at 2:30!
You can take action too, by calling McConnell and other members of Congress today: http://kftc.org/actions/call-senator-mcconnell-its-time-support-our-coal-communities-and-miners-black-lung — with Morgan Brown, Carl Shoupe, Teri Blanton, Lisa Abbott, Taylor Adams and Jacob Mack-Boll.
- Chair: Robby Rodriguez, SouthWest Organizing Project, NM
- Vice Chair: Sondra Youdelman, Community Voices Heard, NY
- Secretary: Rudy Gonzalves, California Alliance, CA
- Treasurer: Leroy Johnson, Southern Echo, MS
- Hill Carmichael, Greater Birmingham Ministries, AL
- Scott Douglas, Greater Birmingham Ministries, AL
- Kimble Forrister, Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, AL
- Darnell Johnson, Kentucky Jobs with Justice, KY
- Burt Lauderdale, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, KY
- Mike Sayer, Southern Echo, MS
- Anthony Thigpenn, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education, CA
- William Weahkee, Director, SAGE Council, NM
- Lisa Abbott, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, KY
- Bineshi Albert, SouthWest Organizing Project, SAGE NM
- Presdelane Harris, Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, AL
- Attica Scott, Kentucky Jobs with Justice, KY
- Henry Serrano, New York Jobs with Justice, NY
- Karla Zombro, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education, CA
SURJ Leadership team
The Leadership Team (LT) is the programmatic and decision-making body of SURJ. This team is responsible for making decisions about the ongoing development, broad programmatic vision and fiscal oversight of SURJ.
- Carla Wallace, Louisville SURJ
- Pam McMichael, Highlander Research and Education Center
- Meta Mendel Reyes, Berea College, Board member, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Highlander Research and Education Center
- JLove Calderon, JLove & M1 Productions
- Sean O'Neill, CARW
- Murphy Mitchell, SURJ Seattle
- Jeff Ordower, MORE
- Jessica Campbell, Rural Organizing Project
- Sam Hamlin, former SURJ staff
- Dara Silverman, SURJ staff
In 1989 Julie Burns, a field organizer for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, discussed the recent upsurge of Klan activity in Kentucky and the left's response to it at the Central Kentucky Democratic Socialists of America May meeting in Lexington.