Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Why I Love Joe Irrera

If you want to be serious about affecting policy change, you have to effectively communicate with policy-makers. Our public officials need to be moved by the necessary messages to take action in the public interest. And for elected officials, one of the most important messages they can hear is that their constituents support a certain action. So we need constituents.

Now think, for a moment, of E. J. Harbison, an African-American man sentenced to death by an all white jury for the murder of a white woman. Harbison had no criminal record, brought no weapon to burglarize the house, and went in when no one was home. In other words, short of the commission of a felony, there is really no aggravating factor here. Harbison would not be on death row if he wasn't poor and African-American. To me, that sounds like an issue that Legislative Black Caucus should hear about.

On Friday, they did. Revered Joe Ingle, with an introduction from Representative Larry Turner, addressed the caucus about Harbison's case and asked them to form a delegation to the Governor requesting clemency. And that's where we start working. Because the caucus has heard the facts, now they need to hear that there constituents want this to happen. Yesterday, our members that reside in the caucus members' districts got emails from TCASK updating them on the situation and urging them to contact their representatives regarding Harbison's case. If you live in one of those districts and didn't get an email, CALL YOUR REP! But also contact TCASK because we apparently either don't have your email address or we don't have you listed in the correct legislative district and we want to know that.

How could we do that, cull individuals by district out of a database of over 4000 supporters? The answer is Joe Irrera. Joe is a TCASK volunteer who has designed a database for us from scratch that allows us to sort our membership by legislative district (House or Senate) and then contact them by email, mail merge, or telephone. It's pretty awesome. And Joe has worked like a mad man to help us get things running, coming into the office until 9 or 10 at night to set things up and help us with glitches. In fact, Joe will be in in a few hours over his lunch break to help us de-bug a few problems that we've been having with the database due to bellsouth. We've never had this sort of capability before and we plan to put it to good use over the course of the legislative session. And when we do halt executions in our state, Joe Irrera will have played an important part in making that happen.

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