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2015 Annual Report

Building New Power

Who We Are Kentuckians For The Commonwealth is a community of more than 10,000 people, inspired by a vision, working together to build New Power and a better future for all of us. We organize for a fair economy, a safe environment, fairness and equality, and a healthy democracy. We have 13 chapters and members in 105 Kentucky counties. KFTC P.O. Box 1450 London, Kentucky 40743 (606) 878-2161

KFTC Annual Meeting 2015

2015-16 KFTC Executive Committee: Left to right: Elizabeth Sanders, secretary-treasurer; Sue Tallichet, immediate past chair; Homer White, atlarge member; Tanya Torp, vice chair; and Dana Beasley Brown, chairperson.

Letter from the Chair


n December 2015 I had the privilege to travel with two other KFTC members to the COP21 climate talks in Paris as part of the It Takes Roots delegation. We met people from frontline communities around the world who are directly impacted by climate change. It was an inspiring and empowering experience for the three of us, and it reinforced these truths that guide KFTC’s work: It’s the transformative work at the local level that will bring about a more just world. Our ally organizations in California, Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Brazil and Malaysia are doing powerful work to confront injustice and build strong communities. In 2015, KFTC members did powerful work around housing in Bowling Green, minimum wage in Lexington, and Appalachian transition in eastern Kentucky. In all these communities, the solutions were born of local challenges and the creativity of people on the ground. And this local work builds toward statewide, national and international impact. All of our issues are connected. KFTC is a multi-issue organization, and our members have always understood that social, economic and environmental justice are inseparable. In Paris we learned more about the fundamental role racism plays in climate change. In 2015 KFTC heightened our underDana Beasley Brown standing of racial justice issues when we formed a racial justice team, hosted KFTC Chairperson or attended several trainings on racial justice, and published articles in our newspaper, Balancing the Scales. And we deepened our work around environmental justice when we launched the Empower Kentucky campaign to write a clean energy blueprint for Kentucky. We’re still learning – about these issues, how they’re connected, and how we can push back against oppression in all its forms. The voices of impacted people are a powerful agent of change. In Paris we met a woman from Malaysia whose island is in danger of disappearing because of climate change. She said, “Our island might be small, but our people are not small. Our dreams are not small.” When we lift up the voices of impacted people, we empower them as well as those who hear their stories. KFTC has always lifted up impacted voices, and we did it throughout 2015 with leadership development, issue education, direct action, marching and rallying together, and speaking truth to our elected representatives. The opportunity to participate in the COP21 delegation sharpened my understanding of KFTC’s work. As I look back at 2015 and reflect on all that KFTC members accomplished together, I understand more deeply that all of our issues are related, the voices from frontline communities are essential, and the work we do on the ground in our communities will change the world.

Contents 2015 by the numbers ..................................2-3 New Energy and Transition ..............................4 Appalachian Transition Utility and Co-op Reform Clean Energy Policy Climate Justice and Environmental Protection .....5 Empower Kentucky Canary Project Pipelines and Fracking Economic Justice ...........................................6 Minimum Wage Tax Reform Healthy Communities Voting and Democracy ....................................7 Voting Rights Voter Empowerment General Assembly Primary Strategies ......................................8-9 Leadership Development Strategic Communications Organizational Development Strong Chapters Alliances Commitment to Diversity Going Strong in 2016 ........................Back Cover

2015 by the numbers


PowerBuilders who helped win members and donations during our fall campaign

Page views of, where all but one statewide candidate in the November election responded to our survey


KFTC leaders who traveled with the It Takes Roots delegation to the COP21 climate talks in Paris




Members who have signed on as Sustaining Givers

People who lobbied with KFTC during the 2015 General Assembly

People who liked KFTC on Facebook

120 800 People who attended our 10th I Love Mountains Day


Cities in Kentucky where KFTC members have helped pass a minimum wage increase (of only 3 in the South)

New Energy and Transition

Growing Appalachia conference

Clean energy lobby day

Benham $aves

Appalachian Transition

Utility and Co-op Reform

Clean Energy Policy

n the past five years, KFTC members have changed the public debate around Appalachian Transition. Focusing on our shared values and what we all want for Kentucky, we’ve shifted the conversation toward a post-coal vision of a thriving local economy, a healthy environment and opportunities for our children.

e continued work to bring clean energy to the rural electric co-ops through the Clean Energy Collaborative, formed after KFTC and allies successfully stopped a coalburning power plant in 2010. The Collaborative includes KFTC, allies, and East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s 16 rural electric co-ops. The groups first committed to meet for two years, but decided to extend the Collaborative and adopted a new charter in September 2015. KFTC member Steve Wilkins has represented KFTC on the Collaborative since its beginning and now serves as vice chair.

e continued to work with allies in the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA), a coalition of more than 50 groups working to pass clean energy legislation in Kentucky. KySEA includes a range of members, from housing groups to farms, nonprofit organizations, and small solar and hydro energy businesses.


We saw how far the conversation had come when senior White House advisor Jason Walsh visited eastern Kentucky in May. Walsh met with more than 50 KFTC members and allies, including local government officials, and discussed opportunities and challenges facing the region, including ideas for a just transition in the areas of youth engagement, local foods, energy efficiency, arts and culture, and local philanthropy. Walsh toured the community of Lynch and saw the infrastructure issues and water loss caused by a recent mine blowout. Community members talked with Walsh about ways to build public support for the federal POWER+ Plan, which could release $1 billion in federal abandoned mine lands funds for economic transition projects in the region. In the summer, we began urging local governments to adopt resolutions – drafted in our New Power frame – in support of POWER+. Since August, 11 local governments in Kentucky have adopted the resolution.


The Benham $aves program moved forward and grew. The municipal utility in Benham, a small former coal camp, had the highest per-household electricity use of any municipal utility in Kentucky. When faced with rising utility rates and the decline of the coal economy, the community came together to envision a new future for its utility. Harlan County KFTC members partnered with allies including the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, Christian Outreach with Appalachian People, the City of Benham, and the Benham Power Board to develop a community-wide program where residents can upgrade their homes for energy efficiency and pay for the upgrades through savings on their utility bills. Eventually, Benham $aves will also implement renewable energy projects.


The Clean Energy Opportunity Act would create 28,000 new jobs through a renewable and efficiency portfolio standard (REPS) and a feed-in tariff. Our members and allies educated decision makers about the bill during a clean energy lobby day in February and at a hearing of two legislative committees with 65 lawmakers in October. Each year we raise the profile and gain support for this legislation. Member Steve Wilkins was invited to represent KFTC and KySEA in a state Department for Energy Development and Independence (DEDI) process to explore the possibility of developing statewide evaluation, measurement and verification of energy efficiencies gained through utility energy efficiency programs. Wilkins also represented KFTC in net metering negotiations that have been happening in Kentucky among the utilities, solar advocates, US Green Building Council, Public Service Commission and Senator Morgan McGarvey.

Climate Justice and Environmental Protection

Photo by Kertis Creative

Empower Kentucky launch

Empower Kentucky


n August we launched Empower Kentucky to engage a public conversation about Kentucky’s energy future and develop a people’s response to the Clean Power Plan. The federal Clean Power Plan requires each state to design its own plan for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. But Kentucky politicians are resisting and even passed a bill that in essence bars the state from complying. Through public hearings, media, research, alliances, and a strong team of grassroots leaders, we’re writing a just transition plan that will invest in workers and communities, improve health, create jobs, lower utility costs for consumers, and diversify the power supply. We’ve trained leaders in several chapters; held house parties, listening sessions, and interviews; and collected public input through an online survey. In October KFTC leaders met with Kentucky’s outgoing Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary to discuss Kentucky’s options under the federal rule. In December we held a two-day training with the Regulatory Assistance Project to grow our understanding of the Clean Power Plan and its implications for Kentucky. The Supreme Court has since issued a stay of the Clean Power Plan, but we’re moving forward to write a clean energy blueprint for our state.

I Love Mountains Day

Coal and Water


ur members continued to press for protection of our land and water.

After a 10-year run, we held our last I Love Mountains Day in February. About 800 folks joined us in Frankfort for a march from the Kentucky River and a rally on the capitol steps. “Over the past ten years, I Love Mountains Day has become a beautiful expression of Kentucky’s own New Power movement,” said long-time KFTC leader Teri Blanton to the crowd. In the years since the first I Love Mountains Day, our legislative strategy has shifted from primarily resistance to a more aspirational approach that emphasizes our values and vision. We continued to oppose abuses of the coal industry, especially mountaintop removal and legacy pollution. We mobilized members to attend a public hearing in September about the Stream Protection Rule and pushed for the strongest possible protections, improvements in enforcement, and restoration of streams already damaged by mining. After five years of litigation around falsified discharge monitoring reports, we reached a settlement in December. Frasure Creek Coal will pay a large fine, and we put coal companies on notice for obeying the law. This litigation story includes a precedent-setting decision from the Kentucky Supreme Court affirming the importance of citizen intervention.

Summit on pipelines and fracking

Pipelines and Fracking


otivated by a vision for a sustainable energy future, KFTC members were active around threats from high-volume hydraulic fracking and hazardous liquids pipelines. We worked with residents in communities where an increase in oil and gas leasing raised new concerns about protecting the land, water and air, and we helped push legislators to consider a fracking moratorium. We coordinated participation in a state public comment process on the future of fracking. With our leadership, an overwhelming number of the comments submitted (732 of 834 comments) called for a ban or moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracking. A plan to convert the 70-year-old Tennessee Gas Pipeline from natural gas to hazardous liquids and reverse its flow spurred a lot of local organizing by KFTC members and chapters. Local resolutions opposing this plan were approved in six counties. And Wilderness Trace members helped take the effort even further by winning protections through local planning and zoning ordinances. KFTC also was instrumental in strengthening a Pipeline Safety Bill introduced for the first time in the 2015 legislative session. We-cosponsored a second successful Pipelines, Fracking and Kentucky’s Future Beyond Fossil Fuels Summit in Lexington in November.

Economic Justice

Photo by Steve Pavey

Lexington minimum wage rally

Minimum Wage


ffective grassroots organizing has made Kentucky the only state in the south so far with two local minimum wage ordinances. After our members in Jefferson County worked with allies to pass a minimum wage increase in Louisville in 2014, our Central Kentucky members were instrumental in passing an even more ambitious increase in Lexington in the fall of 2015. Workers in Lexington will see an increase from $7.25 to $10.10 over a period of three years. Along with allies in the Working Families Coalition, our Central Kentucky chapter worked on the issue for nearly a year by lobbying council members, cosponsoring and attending rallies, speaking at council meetings, calling council members, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor. The increase will impact 31,300 workers in Lexington who would otherwise make less than $10.10 an hour. “We showcased faces and not statistics,” said member Sharon Murphy. “We put directly-impacted people on the front lines.” Our members also pushed for a minimum wage increase at the state level during the Kentucky General Assembly, supporting a bill that would have raised the minimum wage in Kentucky to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. We also questioned candidates about minimum wage for our statewide voter guide.

Members speaking up about revenue reform

Tax Reform


ver the last year we strengthened our partnership with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. Together, we designed a three- to five-year campaign called Kentucky Together to build statewide support for comprehensive tax reform. KFTC’s focus is on developing grassroots leadership and building public support in rural areas across Kentucky. During the 2015 General Assembly, we recruited and supported a directly impacted member to testify at the committee hearing on the EITC/Corporate Tax bill, mobilized members through a lobby day and action alerts, trained citizen lobbyists to talk with legislators about a principled approach to revenue throughout the session, and shared out reports and news articles to encourage conversation throughout the session. We worked to insert tax and revenue reform into the conversation during the gubernatorial election season by turning out members to four forums and debates, publishing op-eds in our newsletter, and including questions about tax reform in our voter guide. We developed leaders to lift up the local impacts of state tax and budget issues in several chapter areas. These leaders have received training on the Kentucky Together campaign, met with their elected leaders, and built relationships with allies.

Photo by Kertis Creative

Smoketown GetDown

Healthy Communities


FTC’s work on economic justice is rooted in a vision of healthy communities, and members have initiated powerful local campaigns to achieve that vision. In 2015 our Jefferson County chapter continued working in the historic Smoketown neighborhood to build a community vision. During the chapter’s second Smoketown GetDown, a neighborhood block party in September, residents got a chance to offer input on how to develop two acres of land that were donated to the community. Central Kentucky chapter members Christian and Tanya Torp hold frequent community breakfasts in their Lexington neighborhood, which they call Justice House, and in June they hosted 24 Hours for Justice, a round-the-clock event with social justice workshops, meals, karaoke, hip-hop, creative writing, art, yoga, and a walking tour of their East End neighborhood. After working with allies to publish a renters’ rights handbook for their community in 2014, the Southern Kentucky chapter kept pushing for a Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) for Barren and Warren counties. They even elevated the work to the state level, working with their state representative to introduce a statewide URLTA bill in the 2015 General Assembly.

Voting and Democracy

Photo by Steve Pavey

Weekly voting rights prayer vigils

Voting Rights

Bike-the-Vote in Bowling Green

Voter Empowerment



During the 2015 legislative session, our members and allies held weekly prayer vigils outside the Senate offices to build support for House Bill 70. We held a rally in the capitol rotunda with speakers including KFTC member Tayna Fogle and other former felons. In a powerful direct action, members Greg Capillo and Jordan Mazurek were dragged from a committee hearing on HB 70 as they sang “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”

Several chapters registered voters on college campuses and at community events and worked to get out the vote. Southern Kentucky members “biked the vote” through Bowling Green and held an election watch party. Central Kentucky members did Trick or Vote canvassing around Halloween. And Jefferson County members made get-out-the-vote calls.

entucky is one of just a handful of states that deny voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society. Our members have worked for more than 10 years to pass a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.

While HB 70 once again passed out of the state House but failed to move in the state Senate, we saw a giant step forward – then a step backward – when Governor Steve Beshear issued an executive order in November that would streamline the application process. But then in December, the new governor, Matt Bevin, rescinded Beshear’s order, saying that voting rights restoration is needed, but through legislation rather than executive action. Though Bevin’s action was a step backward, we’re working to persuade him to push for passage of House Bill 70 in 2016.

FTC’s voter empowerment work is long-term, issuefocused, grassroots and inclusive. Kentucky elected statewide officers, including a new governor, in 2015, and members did powerful voter engagement work around the state – registering, educating and mobilizing voters through tabling, canvassing, and injecting fun into the elections.

Our election website, – with candidate surveys and polling information for both the primary and general elections – got 46,000 page views. About 7,200 Kentuckians received our printed statewide voter guide for the general election that included responses from every candidate except one. We also published a local voter guide for the Lexington city council race that reached about 800 voters. We offered a grassroots voter empowerment training in August in Louisville to prepare members for the November election and the 2016 election cycle. And we mobilized members for a gubernatorial candidate forum in Frankfort.

Photo by Steve Pavey

Rally in the rotunda

General Assembly


ach year KFTC members carpool to Frankfort to bring the voices of Kentuckians to the General Assembly. Members learn about our legislative priorities: voting rights, economic and tax justice, clean energy, and environmental protection. And they learn to tell their own stories, offer reasoned arguments, and strategize together. Though 2015 was a short legislative session, we brought hundreds to the capitol to meet with their representatives, rally, march and pray. Members and allies held a weekly prayer vigil in the halls of the Senate offices to lift up and build support for House Bill 70, which would restore voting rights to former felons who have served their time. We also held a voting rights rally, an economic justice lobby day, a clean energy lobby day and our annual I Love Mountains Day march and rally. Chapters held lobby trainings to prepare for the session. The Jefferson County chapter partnered with eight other local organizations and trained 75 people. Other chapters met with legislators in their home communities. Southern Kentucky members met with Rep. Jim DeCesare about clean energy and sent postcards to Rep. Johnny Bell, whom they’ve worked with on renters’ rights. The Madison County chapter met with Rep. Rita Smart to discuss a number of issues, including clean energy.

Primary Strategies

Photo by Kertis Creative

Annual membership meeting

KFTC publications

Leadership Development

Strategic Communications

eadership development is the first among equals of KFTC’s primary strategies – it makes all our other strategies possible. In 2015 our members had numerous opportunities to build their skills, learn about issues, network with allies and become stronger leaders – in our own neighborhoods and communities, for our statewide issues, and within global movements toward justice.

e continued to deepen and refine our communications program in 2015 and to build a culture of strategic communications across the organization.


To name just a few, members attended a Hurricane Katrina commemoration in New Orleans, Community Media Organizing Project in Nashville, Populism 2015 in Washington D.C., Equity Summit in Los Angeles, and the COP21 climate talks in Paris. Closer to home, we hosted trainings on racial justice, grassroots lobbying, voter empowerment, building new power through local organizing, and our issue campaigns. More than 225 folks attended our Annual Membership Meeting in August at General Butler State Park, where the theme was “All In: United Around a Progressive Vision for Kentucky.” Our keynote speaker, by Skype, was national labor organizer Ai-Jen Poo, who inspired and energized our members. In 2015 we dug into the impact we can make toward a racially just Kentucky by helping members learn about white privilege, the link between economic and racial oppression, and creating tools to do deeper anti-racist work in our communities.


To increase our impact and further integrate our communications with our membership and fundraising work, we forged a closer relationship between our Communications and Development teams. Over the years, as KFTC had grown, these two departments had become less connected and we saw the value of re-integrating them. The C&D Team had weekly calls and monthly meetings and collaborated on most of our products. Communications activities and demands were high in 2015, from General Assembly and local events to organizing victories and fundraising/membership campaigns. KFTC’s work attracted a significant amount of media attention, including a good number of national media hits. Our social media presence also increased and improved. We published eight issues of our newspaper, Balancing the Scales, two voter guides, and a Citizen’s Legislative Guide. We activated our website for the primary and general elections, created a new website called, and kept our blog busy throughout the year.

Member recognition

Organizational Development


n 2015 we worked to build a strong, sustainable KFTC with members who are invested in the work for the long haul. We gained about 1,000 new members and worked to inspire and engage our existing members. Throughout the year, we emphasized stewardship – thanking members and demonstrating the impact of their membership. We talked about membership more in a variety of venues – chapter meetings, Balancing the Scales, our website, social media, the annual meeting and more. We did membership trainings with staff, the Steering Committee and several chapters; talked with chapter leaders and Steering Committee members about membership strategies; sent more “good news” emails to members about great organizing work; raised the profile of membership in Balancing the Scales and other communications venues; recognized Sustaining Givers and PowerBuilders at the annual meeting; and more. We also emphasized the importance of Sustaining Givers and grew our number of Sustaining Givers from under 300 to 425. For the fall fundraising campaign, we tried new strategies: regional teams, different concepts of a high-quality ask, a four-week window and – within that window – a one-week challenge match that was very successful.

Primary Strategies

We Are Kentuckians member exchange

Strong Chapters


hapters are the building blocks of KFTC, where local campaigns thrive, new members join, and leaders emerge and grow. In 2015 our chapters from Bowling Green to Prestonsburg, Covington to Harlan County, and Louisville to Lexington did powerful work around housing, voter empowerment, minimum wage, fairness, racial justice, Appalachian transition, environmental protection, and more. The Jefferson County chapter traveled to eastern Kentucky in May to meet Harlan and Letcher County members and learn about local issues in a We Are Kentuckians exchange. They got to tour a mountaintop removal site, picnic at the home of local members, attend a community reunion in the small former coal town of Lynch, sit in on a local radio broadcast, go to church with local members, hike Bad Branch Falls, and more.

It Takes Roots delegation to COP21 climate talks



n every area of our work, partnerships are important. KFTC brings grassroots organizing, leadership development and strategic communications, while our allies contribute a range of ingredients including research, policy development, legal counsel and more. Together, we build stronger movements. Working closely with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, we deepened the conversation around Appalachian transition and helped shape a transition strategy that the White House is pursuing. We worked with new and less likely allies on the Benham $aves project, including the City of Benham, Benham Power Board, and Christian Outreach with Appalachian People. We deepened our relationship with the Climate Justice Alliance, whose members traveled with three of our members to the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

KFTC’s Annual Membership Meeting in August was another great opportunity for chapter development, with cross-chapter sharing and learning and an energizing slate of chapter petitions that lifted up the work of all 13 chapters.

We partnered with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy on tax reform. On minimum wage, we worked with the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, NAACP, Jobs With Justice, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, and others.

Our chapters also hosted local events, tabled at community festivals, held film screenings and other issue education opportunities, and much more.

Allies on voting rights included the Brennan Center for Justice, Catholic Conference of Kentucky, NAACP, People Advocating Recovery, ACLU and others.

Photo by Kertis Creative

Team building at annual meeting

Commitment to Diversity


commitment to diversity is one of KFTC’s fundamental strategies -- an umbrella over all the other strategies.

In 2015 our board formed a team to explore ways to help our membership think more about racial justice and oppression issues. We published regular pieces related to racial justice in our newspaper, Balancing the Scales; held racial justice trainings, including a day-long workshop in Eastern Kentucky; and supported Black Lives Matter work in our communities. We also became an affiliate member of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Meta Mendel-Reyes serves on both the KFTC Steering Committee and the national SURJ board. In May, members participated in a national conference call titled “SURJ Basebuilding: Rural and Small Town Organizing.” Co-facilitated by Mendel-Reyes, the call explored lessons, challenges, and strategies for rural organizing on racial justice. We also supported local SURJ work. KFTC members Tanya Torp and Jessica Bellamy and staff member Alicia Hurle attended the Equity Summit in Los Angeles in October. All in for Inclusion, Justice, & Prosperity focused on forging powerful partnerships for building an equitable and prosperous nation.

Going Strong in 2016


FTC’s work in 2016 moves forward and builds on the powerful work of 2015 – with nuances.

This year KFTC turns 35, and throughout the year we’ll be remembering and celebrating the work of so many remarkable grassroots leaders who came before us. And we’ll be looking – with an eye both proud and strategic – at the powerful, aspirational organization we are today. Our program of work is large and ambitious. Like many grassroots organizations that have been around for more than a few decades, we strive to balance our vision with our capacity and the challenges of the political landscape. But we have every confidence that our members will step up to address the issues facing Kentucky in this day and do it with all the tenacity and hope they always bring to the work. The progress we’ve made around Appalachian Transition is encouraging and exciting. Our members in eastern Kentucky, who have worked so hard to mitigate the impacts of coal mining and other extractive industries, are now shaping a new economy in Appalachia – a bright future. Our work around clean energy and climate justice has brought new opportunities, skills and allies, and it’s gratifying that this work flows from and complements our decades of work around coal and water. We took big leaps toward economic justice in 2015, and we hope 2016 will be a year of big leaps toward tax reform. Working with allies in the Kentucky Together campaign, we’ll be building support and awareness across Kentucky this year. And winning voting rights for more Kentuckians continues to be a top priority. Our work with allies, legislators and the governor in 2015 raised the profile of voting rights for former felons and built pressure to pass a bill this year. We talk about the yin and yang of KFTC – to use our power we must always be building our power, and vice versa. As we use our power this year to advance our campaigns, we’ll also be building our power through grassroots organizing, leadership development, strategic communications, alliances and strong chapters. And we’ll keep our commitment to diversity – to be a strong statewide organization that is a voice for all Kentuckians.

KFTC’s Vision Statement We have a vision. We are working for a day when Kentuckians – and all people – enjoy a better quality of life. When the lives of people and communities matter before profits. When our communities have good jobs that support our families without doing damage to the water, air, and land. When companies and the wealthy pay their share of taxes and can’t buy elections. When all people have health care, shelter, food, education, and other basic needs. When children are listened to and valued. When discrimination is wiped out of our laws, habits, and hearts. And when the voices of ordinary people are heard and respected in our democracy.

2015 Annual Report  

This report covers the highlights of KFTC's work for 2015.

2015 Annual Report  

This report covers the highlights of KFTC's work for 2015.