Spotlight Exclusives

Spotlight Event Puts Focus on Poverty During RNC

Spotlight on Poverty Spotlight on Poverty, posted on

CLEVELAND – Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity joined with Policy Matters Ohio and Cleveland State University on Monday to sponsor a conversation at the Republican National Convention that targeted a group often left out of such party conclaves: Americans struggling with economic challenges.

In two panels over two hours at CSU’s Waetjen Auditorium, several hundred Cleveland residents and RNC delegates and participants had a passionate but civil discussion about the key issues that are driving the city’s poverty debate and what solutions the GOP can offer. Moderators were CNN Political Editor Juana Summers and Policy Matters Ohio Executive Director Amy Hanauer.

Jim McLaughlin, a prominent Republican pollster who does work for Rebuilding America, a super PAC devoted to electing GOP nominee Donald Trump, said work on poverty policy shouldn’t be bipartisan; “it should be non-partisan.”

Jimmy Kemp, president of the Jack Kemp Foundation and a Republican activist who wants his party to be more inclusive and speak more to the concerns of working people, agreed with McLaughlin that some of Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign has been “distasteful.”

But Kemp argued that Trump’s tax and economic policy could create jobs and be helpful to struggling Americans. “As much as I dislike some of the rhetoric” from Trump, Kemp said, his economic policies could help the poor.

That was not terribly persuasive to many in the audience, who respectfully challenged both Kemp and McLaughlin about whether GOP policies on immigration, urban renewal, taxes and health care could really have a beneficial impact on the poor.

“The reality is people every day live through crises that are not of their own making . . . we’ve got to get rid of blaming,” said panelist Colleen Cotter, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland.

McLaughlin and Kemp agreed, but countered that economic growth, which they believe can best be fueled by free market GOP economic policies, is the best antidote for chronic poverty.

“The best anti-poverty program is a job,” McLaughlin said.

The forum is the first of two that Spotlight is sponsoring during the two weeks of national conventions. Next Tuesday in Philadelphia, Spotlight will co-sponsor a similar event with Temple University from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St. Scheduled participants include:

  • Ann O’Leary, senior policy adviser, Hillary for America
  • Mitchell Little, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity
  • Donna Cooper, executive director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
  • Omar Woodard, executive director, Greenlight Fund Philadelphia
  • Farah Jimenez, president and CEO, Philadelphia Education Fund
  • Cynthia Figueroa, president and CEO, Congreso de Latinos Unidos
  • David Elesh, emeritus professor of sociology, Temple University

To register for the event, please click here.

Participants in the Cleveland event were:

  • John Corlett, President & Executive Director, The Center for Community Solutions.
  • Colleen Cotter, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland.
  • Ronnie Dunn, Associate Professor in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at CSU.
  • Jimmy Kemp, Executive VP Federal Systems and President of the Jack Kemp Foundation
  • Jim McLaughlin, Political Strategist and President & Partner, McLaughlin and Associates
  • Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of the national Farm Labor Organizing Committee. ​

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