“We believe in the power of people. We know that it is us, in these moments and in these movements that can actually make change,” said keynote speaker Jessie Ulibarri as he echoed the theme, We Believe in People, of WCC’s 2016 Annual Conference on Sept. 17 at the Montrose Pavilion.
“No one else is going to come down magically on a unicorn and save us,” Ulibarri said. “No one is going to stop climate change on their own or out of an act of good will. It is actually us, pushing for the kind of future we want.”
Ulibarri, who is wrapping up four years in the Colorado State Senate in order to focus on his work through Wellstone Action, left attendees feeling inspired to meet the full challenge of community organizing and building a powerful progressive movement.
“I think the building of relationships is the most important thing in politics. It is actually how you can change people’s minds, when they actually see you as connected to themselves in some way. If we just focus our organizing on gimmicks, things that feel good in the moment but actually don’t build relationships, then we’re not literally building power,” Ulibarri pointed out.
“As much as I enjoyed dressing up as a shark and running around the Capitol when we passed payday lending reform, I wasn’t building relationships with anyone,” Ulibarri said. “I would have better spent the 49 hours I spent planning that press conference talking to real people and getting them to talk to their elected officials.”
Ulibarri’s address was followed by two rounds of workshops aimed at sharing skills and ideas that make us more effective in making change happen.
Another highlight of the Conference is the presentation of the annual Chuck and Betsy Worley Award for outstanding volunteer contributions to WCC. Randy Parker presented the first of two awards to Rein van West of Ridgway, WCC’s President for the past four years. In nominating Rein, Randy noted that “during the six years that WCC operated without an executive director, Rein constantly looked for ways he could fill this void and strengthen WCC. I have rarely encountered anyone as dedicated and tireless as Rein.”
Karen Sjoberg of Grand Junction was honored with the Worley Award for her leadership in establishing Citizens for Clean Air in Mesa County four years ago. In nominating her for the award, Peggy Rawlins also noted her extensive involvement in WCC’s Oil & Gas Committee, Legislative Committee and her local community group, WCC of Mesa County.
The Conference began with WCC’s Annual Business Meeting where members approved resolutions that empowered the Board of Directors to establish an annual platform and to expand opportunities for members to vote for officers and on future resolutions. They also approved updated resolutions on climate change and air quality, and supported Amendment 69 (ColoradoCares) which will be on the November ballot in Colorado.
WCC members also elected a new President, Steve Allerton of Grand Junction, and a new Treasurer, Dudley Case of Ridgway. Outgoing President Rein van West and Treasurer Randy Parker were “given the boot” by the Board — varnished hiking boots that were tongue-in-cheek symbols of collective appreciation for their four years of service. The award boots contained notes of appreciation and a gift card to REI to enjoy in their newly-found free time.