VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement)


Outcomes of VOICE Accountability Session with OK County Sheriff Candidates

At the VOICE August 20 session, with almost 400 people in attendance, all three candidates for sheriff committed publicly to creating a Citizen's Review Panel that will look over complaints about conditions at the county jail and work with the sheriff and community to resolve what can be improved. Each candidate agreed to meet with VOICE leaders within six months of their election to discuss progress on the reform recommendations from the Vera Institute. In addition, each candidate said publicly - after hearing a story from a woman who had recently been inside at the jail - that female inmates should have the feminine hygiene products they need and not be told they should just sit on the toilet all day, or bleed through their jumpsuits. VOICE leaders have met with Interim Sheriff Taylor, who promised that if this was the case, he would have it resolved by 7:30 a.m. that following Monday. VOICE met with him that week and will hold him accountable to that promise. Please vote in this special election: Tuesday, September 12.

A VOICE Win on Curbing Predatory Lending Expansion

On May 5, 2017, Governor Mary Fallin vetoed HB1913, which would have expanded the types of predatory lending products being offered in the state, as well as eliminated the possibility for cities and counties to regulate themselves on this issue. After most representatives listened to industry lobbyists rather than constituents and passed the bill at the end of April, VOICE and partner organizations shifted our focus to the Governor, encouraging her (and giving her backing) to veto the measure. In news coverage there was mention that the bill "had drawn strong opposition from many church leaders because of its financial impact on low-income families" - that's VOICE leaders and their organizing efforts!

A VOICE Win on the OG&E Rate Hike

After many months of organized work, we can celebrate a successful conclusion to the most recent OG&E rate hike case – news that was published in The Oklahoman on March 20 with a quote from a VOICE leader. The Corporation Commission, responding to citizen input over many, many months, denied OG&E their requested $92.5 million rate hike, and allowed just a $8.9 million hike. Importantly, the commission ordered OG&E to refund citizens a portion of the amount they have been collecting since June, when – because of delays – OG&E was allowed to give itself a $69.5 million raise in the interim. Coming later this year: news on OG&E’s next proposed rate hike.

About 1UC and VOICE

One of the major ways that 1UC works in the community on our mission is as a member institution of VOICE. Voices Organized in Civic Engagement (VOICE) is a coalition of 25 member institutions, including congregations, unions, schools, worker associations, and nonprofits.

First Unitarian was one of the founding members of VOICE in 2012. There are many things that work to divide us in today's world, but all of the member institutions of VOICE have agreed to instead focus on the issues that we can agree on. We are all dedicated to making the metro area a better place to live for all of us. We move beyond social services, issue-based volunteerism, and "charity" to help shape the future for our community. By building relationships with others in the community, and standing together as one, we have made progress in a number of areas, such as holding an electricity rate increase down to just a fraction of the original proposal first coming from OG&E, increasing religious people's support for expanding Medicaid by 10 percent, getting post-incarceration fines and fees on the table in criminal justice reform, and keeping some of the harsh anti-immigration legislation from passing at the Capitol.

The UU Core Team of VOICE is made up of people from our congregation who are engaged in VOICE work, and is open to anyone who is interested in learning more. The team meets the fourth Sunday of each month at 9:00 a.m. (Sundra Flansburg, chair). We have active members on most of the issue-focused VOICE Action Teams, which include:

    • Utility Costs
    • Post-incarceration Fines and Fees
    • Improving Public Education
    • Payday Lending Reform
    • Health Care

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