1999 Annual Report
On November 13, New York City People's Life Fund held its 1999 Annual Meeting. Following below is the text of our update to our membership:
We Bring You Up to Date
1998-1999 has been a year of much re-evaluation and regrouping for New York City People's Life Fund. As of this date, we are also bringing to fruition some longstanding projects. In the midst of all the political turmoil to which we have borne witness this last year—be it in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, or those trouble spots, such as East Timor, which until very recently got almost no press—we are pleased to report that we continued to give some much needed support to several outstanding community efforts, granting a total of $5,250.
We regret to announce that Christine Datz-Romero, the most recent addition to our Board of Directors, had to resign for personal reasons. We are sorry to see her go and wish her well in all her future efforts. We are currently engaged in a search for another community representative on our Board.
This year, there are several groups new to our roster of grantees. Each is a welcome addition. The inclusion of domestic violence, the representation of the unemployed at hearings, the educational campaigns to include peace concerns in school curricula all address vital issues. However, this year we have funded fewer groups. The reasons for the downturn in grants are twofold:
- Two groups were unable to attend applicant meetings and missed out. As you probably know we require all applicants to attend a meeting in which we review their application, ask questions and discuss their plans.
- In the past few years, incoming moneys have been declining, including:
- Resisted income and telephone tax deposits
- loans for a year or more
- general contributions
For a complete list of grants awarded and a brief description of the organizations and their work, please see our Complete List of 1999 Grantees.
Expanding Our Efforts
We are committed to reserving a given percentage of money to cover withdrawals, which have increased. Each year we calculate that figure. In order to support community groups as we have in the past, we need you to support us. So we ask you to act on the following:
- If you are a telephone tax resister, send your resisted moneys to us.
- If you are or have been resisting a percentage of income tax, have you forgotten to send it to the Fund? It's important to rechannel your taxes.
- If you can lend us $100 or more for at least one year, contribute that sum and let us collect the interest.
All of these efforts are urgent for our work to continue and expand.
It is clear that economic pressure, particularly for those choosing to live at a non-taxable or low level of income, contributes greatly to an inability to give to PLF. Also, as people are more and more divided with the exigencies of daily life in an ever accelerating culture, there might simply be very little energy or resources to spare.
Also, there is a general downturn in political action for other reasons. Feelings such as “You can't change the system,” or “It's fruitless to put effort into something you can't affect”—in other words, disillusion and despair are common. Things are changing to some extent. We don't hear about it because it goes unreported by the major media.
But we take action for other reasons as well—for our own conscience, because we care. That was the basis for much of the civil rights activism in the sixties. And it's still the basis for much political activism today.
In reaction to these trends, we have given a lot of time and energy toward coalition efforts with other like-minded groups. This effort is painstaking, due to limited time and resources of all concerned, but we continue to diligently pursue site presentations with organizations to whom we have provided support. The benefits and necessity of such efforts are many. Sallie Marx's article, recently serialized in the August and October issues of, the newsletter of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, explores these issues:
The Role of Life Funds in Closing the Gap Between Classes
It has often been said that an underlying cause of violence is the gap in income between rich and poor, a factor that is increasing year after year in this country. How does the work of the Life Fund lessen the gap?
A grant to a food co-op to purchase a larger freezer can afford a greater range of food stuffs and prevent wastage. A small health center helped over a rough period can burgeon into a full-fledged community health center that offers free mammograms to women who are unable to afford them. Although not a single cent is added to personal income, grants that improve co-ops and health groups improve the life of low-income people. In effect, the work of Life Funds indirectly diminishes class difference and improves the quality of life by giving poor people access to better health care and low-cost, life-sustaining food.
The Need for Coalition Building
The need for coalition efforts, it seems to me, is crucial. For too many years, activists of different stripes have been separated by a wall of self-interest. That seems to be changing. Life Funds may be one among many groups that are in the process of broadening their efforts. If we turn the wheel of change, it may start to spin.
A first step in creating a climate of cooperation and friendship is to share our perspective with other groups. Because the Life Fund is in and of the community, we have a ready-made opportunity to put our hands across the table and make the social contact that is vital to reignite joint activism on a grass roots level. By reigniting past contacts and initiating joint discussions, Life Funds can become active players in building coalition among groups in the community. Informal gatherings are a good medium for developing an understanding of nonviolence and its relation to pacifism, an important concept in the political vocabulary of war tax resistance. When addressing community groups on common issues, members develop speaking skills, and their effectiveness will surely grow.
Certainly, the first goal of war tax resistance is to oppose the military machine by keeping war taxes out of the government's hands; but surely a long-term goal is to spread the word about pacifism, not only as a workable method to resist aggression, but as a survival mechanism.
In order to bring about greater contact with community groups, activists need a more outgoing stance; we must be social as well as political. The country desperately needs a change in direction, and a multitude of groups are working toward this end. Let's join them. Let's work toward making WTR more relevant to the overall political milieu. We should have open forums. We should be discussing the political and economic fallout of tax dollars that increasingly militarize our country, endanger the survival of the earth and withdraw huge amounts of energy and resources from the community. This is a vital task that resisters can and should undertake. What we have to say is likely to add momentum to the work of community groups.
Let's take that first step!
We do have some very positive news regarding our current efforts:
Don't Just Survive—Flourish! (formerly referred to as the Survival Booklet)—at long last, after many years of effort, and numerous delays, we are pleased to report that this book is now in production and we expect publication some time this Fall! We believe that it will be an extremely valuable resource to those living in New York and immediate surrounding areas. Watch for upcoming announcements, and visit our web site.
(The newsletter of New York City War Tax Resistance) — Though originally slated for this past Spring, we intend to release our next newsletter either late Fall or Winter. Our last newsletter, released in 1995, was a vital source not only of information to the war tax resistance community, but a thought-provoking examination of peace and social justice issues. Those with access to the Internet may view and/or download a copy of an excerpt of articles from that newsletter.
PLF's Web Site—This July, our web site celebrated its first anniversary. In the year that the site has been live on the Internet, it has changed, grown and improved. We have also been experiencing an encouraging growth in the number of visits per day. The site's second year promises to be even more productive and informative to those who visit it.
What You Can Do
As always, your ideas and involvement are paramount.
Join Our Board of Directors—If you are interested in the work of the Life Fund, we encourage you to experience firsthand the inner workings of the organization. Attend any of our three or four meetings per year as an observer. Get to know us and how we work. The meetings are and have always been open to any member, always spirited and filled with the desire and ability to make a difference. In order to further our goals, we need to expand the existing Board. If you are interested in becoming a Board Member, please come to this Annual Meeting, as well as any others you might wish to attend. We look forward to seeing you there.
You Can Help Us—You can be of great help to us in many different ways. We are working on a new issue of Life & Taxes, the newsletter of New York City War Tax Resistance. This will include promised follow-up articles to our last newsletter. Have you proofreading skills? Would you like to submit an article? If so, please let us know, and we will inform you of our first meeting.