Citizens Active on Health Care

When the President's health care bill was introduced, some members of the Texas congressional delegation voiced strong opposition. But citizens are not sitting back, either. Houstonians who support the present health care bill are quietly making their voices heard-and as representatives come back to Texas for the August recess, they plan to get louder. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez reports.

It's a Tuesday night, and a small crowd is gathered in a converted garage behind a house in the Heights.  Most people are talking local politics, but a group called Organizing for America is here to run phone banks about health care:

"You want to stick around and do a few phone calls?"
"I can't tonight but you're starting this Thursday…?"
"Yep!"

Grown out of the grassroots organization Obama for America, Organizing for America now advocates for the President's agenda in the community.  At OFA phone banks, volunteers ask Obama supporters if they'll call their representatives about the President's health plan. Staff members say that on weekends, they'll get about 20 people making calls for 2 hours.  Tonight, only Esteban Solis stays.

"Hi Debra, I'm Steve, a volunteer with Organizing for America, how are you today ma'am?...Ok ma'am, we're just looking for support, public support on Mr. Obama's health care, call us back at your convenience"

Last year, Solis was between jobs and had no insurance when a minor chronic pain became a major herniated disk.  Though he eventually paid the $10,000 his treatment cost, the experience scared him into taking action:

"It was a dismal situation for me, and if anything's going to change, it's going to be in the these next  months, so I decided to come on in and get busy."

Sanjay Bapat is a regular community organizer with OFA. He volunteers many hours because he believes public pressure does have the power to change politician's minds:

"It's the only thing that works.  If their constituents talk to them, that's the only way that politicians can ignore money that flows in. …‘cause what happens if their constituents are pissed off, then they're just going to vote them out."

(Sounds of footsteps)

"We're standing at the corner of Detering and Memorial Dr. in front of Sen. Cornyn's office…This was a fact sheet that we handed out to everyone so they knew exactly what the position was, why MoveOn was supporting the public option…"
 
Rebecca Beale is a part time English professor and a member of MoveOn.org, a non profit that advocates for progressive causes.  In late July, she and 35 other members held signs on the sidewalk, and a small group exchanged ideas with Senator John Cornyn's staff.  While 35 may not seem like a lot, Beale stressed that the MoveOn members had only 2 days notice to come to an event in the middle of the day.

"I view that rally as a start.  It impacted the people at the rally, but also the people going by."

So as politicians come home in August, Beale and her fellow organizers plan to attend their local events, ask questions, and even hold more rallies.  All in the hopes that their side will be heard.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I'm Melissa Galvez.