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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 179

OneRouge Fam, we have been talking about broadband and access for a while now. You might have made it to our call on what it is and why it is important. Or you might have been on when we talked about who has it, who needs it, and what it is used for. Now we are shifting the conversation to BEADs.

What do beads have to do with anything, you say? It’s too early for Mardi Gras, you say? What in the culture-vultures-trying-to-add-throws-to-everything-so-it-seems-like-it’s-from-Louisiana, you say? Well, those are the kind of BEADs I’m talking about.

“The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), provides $42.45 billion of funding … for broadband planning, deployment, mapping, equity, and adoption activities.” In short, there is a way that broadband can be added to communities in need, but we have to show they are actually in need. Learn what all this means, the process involved, and walk you through how to get closer to where the money resides!

Join us and our featured speakers:

  1. Dr. Stephen Barnes - Director, Blanco Public Policy Center at University of Louisiana at Lafayette

  2. Alex Johnson - FPO for GA & LA at US Department of Commerce, NTIA

  3. Woodrow Muhammad - Director of Planning at CRPC's recently hired

  4. Mia Ruffin - Regional Level Urban Planner w a focus on Broadband Access

  5. Team member from LA Connect - group responsible for state of Louisiana's broadband efforts

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Pepper Roussel: How's everybody on this fine Friday? Wonderful. Gorgeous. Alright. We have. Oh. Do you like to be called Doctor Barnes at admission or Steven? Okay. Very good. Alright. On this fine Friday, we are doing important things. We are talking about broadband and things that we've talked about before.

Mia Ruffin is in my she's a lovely assistant to the left. How did you get to be the lovely assistant to the left ? I've always wanted that role. Anyway, then... Adieu. Oh, fine. Mia is the lovely assistant to the lab. She's actually co curated this call. We are going to be talking about the BEADS Challenge, and so we're going to start with Thomas Tyler, who has another commitment and has advanced, and then we're going to move to Stephen Barnes to talk about what it is we're talking about.

If you wouldn't mind letting us know, Thomas, who you are, what you do, and what we should know, essentially, about the work that has been done and what work needs to be done, and then we're going to try something real important later on. 5 minutes to start.

Thomas Tyler: I appreciate it, and thank you for letting me speak first, because we do have to jump to another meeting at 9.

There's a lot of things going on in the state right now. I appreciate you all taking the time to join this morning. Let us have this discussion about what's been going on in the state. For those that you that don't know, my name is Thomas Tyler. I'm the deputy director for Connect LA, which is our state office of broadband development and connectivity. Our office has the sole task of closing the digital divide throughout the state by 2029, if not sooner. One of the key ways that we're doing that is by building out broadband infrastructure around the state using federal grants.

To ensure that all of the unserved and underserved and community anchor institutions throughout the state have good, reliable, affordable broadband connectivity for not only their, not only households and businesses but also their stakeholders. So that's the key task of what we're looking to do. Over the last few years, we ran a grant program called the GUMBO grant program that stands for granting unserved municipalities, broadband opportunities.

We awarded about $170 million in grant funds to about 77 different projects throughout the state to basically build to all of these unserved locations that were identified all over the state. Almost every single parish has a project going right now to build out broadband connectivity to areas that hadn't had it before.

So there's been a lot of promise there and a lot of good good connectivity that's going on. And we're getting emails of people, very happy that they're starting to get internet connectivity. But we're not done. We really want to make sure that the remaining two, three hundred thousand locations that are throughout our state that we've identified potentially that do not have internet access do get it.

The state was recently allocated $1.355 billion through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to build out broadband connectivity through the BEAD program. So that's the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program. And that's the eighth largest allocation in the country.

Very high need in our state and we're very proud of that amount and the ability that we're going to have as an office to expend those funds across the state to ensure that locations are connected. So that'll be coming out over the next few years for internet service providers and cooperatives to apply for the funds to build out to locations within the state that need access.

There is a key step to that, and it's pretty self-explanatory, we have to know and understand every single location that needs to have funding expended to go there. And the way we do that is we run a challenge process. We started our challenge process earlier this month and we actually had a meeting with Casey and the team at the Walls Project.

I think Mia was part of it too, where we went through and discussed what their role could be when it came to this challenge process. And so the challenge process is really for nonprofits, local municipalities, and internet service providers to identify the locations that they believe are served or unserved with connectivity.

And so through this Challenge Process, we go through and we collect all of this data on locations that are noted as not having service or maybe have lacking service or they have a data cap or. Maybe someone emailed and they said it was going to be $10,000 to connect your house. We collect all this data and then we submit it to the internet service providers that have been challenged and say, you guys need to rebut this.

You need to tell us if this is true or if it's not true. And if you can't then we're going to go into those areas and serve that location with funds and overbuild you and make sure that those locations are covered with internet. Our challenge process, the first phase of this, where challenges are accepted through our portal ends on November 5th and from that point, we'll then go through the rebuttal process.

And then by the end of the year, the goal would be that we have a list of locations that we can provide to our federal partners and say, hey, look, here's the list of locations. These are the ones we feel we need to go to and they'll say, yes, Louisiana, you're good. Let's go to those locations and we'll run a grant round next spring to build out broadband connectivity to all of those locations. So that really is the short of it. I know it's a lot of information, especially if, you haven't heard about this yet. But our website, which I think someone actually linked in the chat has a lot of information on our challenge process, how nonprofits can participate in it, because nonprofits are eligible entities to participate.

And the types of information that would be needed or collected through that challenge process. I am happy to take questions or Casey, if, I don't know if you had any other discussion topics that you wanted me to hit, but happy to take questions if anyone has them.

Casey Phillips: That's great, Thomas.

That's what we needed. We need the foundational level set and let's keep building with our speakers. And if anybody has questions for Thomas or wants to get in touch with LA Connect in general and really be involved in the long-term side of this work, which I'd like to lift up that this is their short-term work and long-term work.

Thomas, David, Veneeth, and everybody at their team is super accessible. No pun intended, of course. And and really easy to work with. Pepper?

Pepper Roussel: Fantastic, so I was for Veneeth and so I was thinking that we would have Beneath, that's the same Meeting that Thomas would be going to, but all of that aside.

So a lot of acronyms, a lot of words, big words. I don't know what all the words mean. But we have somebody on the phone who knows what the words mean because he wrote the words. Stephen, if you wouldn't mind sharing with us what the words mean. How does this matter? What does it do? What is it for?

And then we can dig deeper into the challenge itself. Five minutes starts now. Let us know who you are, what you do and the answers to all those questions.

Stephen Barnes: Excellent. I'm going to start with a tiny bit of history, I'm a Baton Rouge native born and raised here and still a resident of Baton Rouge.

I went off to UT Austin for my PhD in economics and worked in the private sector briefly before I had an opportunity to come back to Louisiana and begin working, using, What I had learned and really what I had always aspired to do to try to work to make Louisiana a better place for everyone.

I had an opportunity to work at LSU for 10 years, and then 4 years ago moved to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where the university was launching a new public policy center really dedicated to this type of work. And so it's an honor to serve as the director of. The Kathleen Babineau Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

And we're highly engaged and work throughout the state. But I'm excited to just know more about this group and the work that you all are doing here in Baton Rouge. So I'll give a brief overview of the work that our research center, the Blanco Center, has been doing for a little over a year now supporting Thomas’ office, Connect LA.

We think about this huge investment opportunity and I think many of you can really think of a pretty long list of ways that broadband and Internet access impact your own life, impact your communities and the way that it has become so integrated into many, if not most aspects of life and what we've really been working on is focusing specifically on the issue of digital equity and part of this federal infrastructure law included a requirement that states think seriously about equity and work to develop state plans for addressing and moving states towards digital equity.

And so this is something that we'll have dedicated funds attached to it to be able to. directly address some of these concerns, but it's also something that we hope can help really influence and shape the broader strategy that Louisiana takes as we think about how do we expend these dollars?

How do we make sure that we're addressing the myriad needs that we have throughout the state? And so what is digital equity? What we're really talking about is overcoming the digital divide or historic and current inequities in access to the Internet. We also want to make sure that we're addressing affordability challenges with regard to broadband access.

But it's a much broader way of thinking about truly making use of and having full access to the modern economy, modern education system, and so on. And so it also includes thinking about devices and making sure that we've got devices for people to take advantage of that access. Accessible applications and services.

So we've got broadband connections and devices. That's great, but we've got to make sure that we have resources online that are broadly accessible and one of the things we've really looked at with the digital equity plan is trying to think about how the unique needs of different populations. And that can include even thinking about the way that state websites describe programs and structure application process that it can be inclusive and make sure that we're not creating or sustaining barriers for even specific groups of the population to be able to access state resources.

And then digital equity also includes digital skills, which is something that it, really pervades the education system in adult education, training, higher ed and there's, I think, an appreciation that there's already a much broader need for skill-based resources to help people navigate this modern world.

And we've done this is work that has been the culmination of more than 10 people working close to full-time for a year at our research center. So it's been a tremendous effort. We've collaborated with partners in every region of the state. And hosted larger regional stakeholder meetings last fall to try to start bringing input and bringing people to the table.

Followed that up with several dozen focus groups and one-on-one interviews to really try to make sure that we're understanding some of the existing challenges, but also identifying what resources we do have that we can build on and we’ve done a lot of other research to try to help bring into focus as best we can what those challenges look like in Louisiana.

So we have a draft Digital Equity Plan which is available on the same state office website that Thomas was referring to earlier. I'll drop the link specifically to that page in the chat there. And I think this serves as a great starting point for Louisiana to really think seriously about addressing the digital divide and working to move the state toward digital equity.

But it's also something that's going to require an enormous amount of collaboration and local engagement and input. And having cities, parishes, regions work on Digital Equity Plans at a more localized level, I think is also going to offer a tremendous opportunity to build on what I see as a starting point and really continue to advance our thinking and identify in greater detail actionable plans for addressing this challenge.

Casey Phillips: Excellent. That's perfect, Dr. Barnes. I appreciate it. And just, everyone, I will, I'll be the first one to raise my hand when I first sat down with Veneeth when he left the city and when he took on this role with LA Connect. It actually took me until the second meeting to really fully understand what he was doing. So if you feel like you're skimming the surface of this, that's natural. That's okay. Even there's people who are, by state and local, municipal agencies that are having, they're working on this that I don't think have fully wrapped their arms around it.

And that's the purpose of this conversation today, and to deepen your understanding. But more importantly, I put it in the chat. This meeting is steering towards you in action today. Our calls aren't always about a call to action. The calls aren't always a call to action. This is a call to action before the deadline.

Thomas, the deadline for the challenge process is November 5th. And let's say that date again, November 5th, which is right before voting day. So by November 5th, this challenge process closes, and we're going to tell you all how important it is for you and your organizations to get involved in the challenge process starting this weekend.

Today, this weekend, early next week. Because once the challenge process is done, gone pecan. As said, that is this is a huge opportunity, which we're going to dig in a little bit further too. So Dr. Yeah, Thomas,

Thomas Tyler: I just want to admit, cause I do have to jump in just a second cause I got to go upstairs for a meeting, but I did want to mention one of the key things with how this challenge process works is the fact that an area challenge can be submitted.

So all the challenges are processed in census block groups to delineate those locations that are as part of the challenge. If you can identify six households or businesses within a census block group that, have service that's, degrading or that, that does not have service, those can be challenged and that'll elevate the entire census block group into the challenge process.

The burden of effort for a nonprofit is much lower than what it would be for the internet service provider because when the internet service provider comes back and has to submit a rebuttal, they'll have to rebut every single location that was elevated into the challenge process from that census block group.

So just keep that in mind. If you know of a street in your area that has bad service and there's six people on it or has no access to service. Just grabbing those six people will elevate them into the challenge process. I would highly recommend that you lean on Casey and the team to understand the locations that they've already pinpointed or that other groups have already pinpointed.

So there's no duplication of efforts here. You don't want three or four organizations going after that same street to try to elevate it into the challenge process. It's spinning wheels. Just keep that in mind.

Mia Ruffin: Thomas, can I ask you a few quick FAQs to help people navigate this?

What organizations are eligible to support this? When you say nonprofits, do you mean churches? Do you mean?

Thomas Tyler: It can be any nonprofit. Okay. Local, national, anyone.

Mia Ruffin: And what information should those organizations have prep before they join the portal? I know the portal has a couple of pages to it and there's a map that goes with it.

What should they have prepared before they get started working with six other places?

Thomas Tyler: To get an account, you have to have proof that you are in fact a nonprofit. That's a key thing to have to allow us to give you access into the portal. Other than that, again, it's like I said earlier, you don't want to duplicate efforts, you want to make sure you're going after targeted areas. It's really is a campaign for challenges because I'm sure all of you have someone or someone you talk to in the back of your head is like “Golly, they always say they have bad internet or they're already they're always, dropping off the Zoom call because they have no connectivity”.

It's those types of things where you start to identify and crowdsource the data. And then as you work together, you can, someone can say, okay, this entity has got that section of the parish area covered, or they had six locations elevated into the challenge process.

That census block group is covered. We don't have to go after any more there. So it's really about a targeted effort to go after those locations and make sure you're doing it methodically and without duplicating efforts.

Mia Ruffin: What about the organizations or the communities on the map that are marked as funded?

Do they have any say or do they need to contribute at this point to the challenge?

Thomas Tyler: If a location is marked as funded, then it's already subject to a federal enforceable commitment. So that could be a grant from our program, the GUMBO program or another FCC program like RDOF or ReConnect, a bunch of different programs out there.

So if it's already got a dollar amount that's tied to it, that location is not going to be eligible for our funding anyway.

Mia Ruffin: Last question, in regard to the specific organizations, faith-based and resident and homeowner associations, are both eligible to submit any nonprofit?

Thomas Tyler: If you are a nonprofit, you are eligible.

Pepper Roussel: I've got a question, a clarification about nonprofit. Is it a performing nonprofit that has maybe some sort, that has not gotten its nonprofit status from the IRS? Maybe they have some sort of a funding mechanism or something they're working through or is this a fully pledged 501c whatever with the tax exemption?

Thomas Tyler: I would, I don't know that you'd need to. Go into the minutiae on that. If there's any kind of, if there's any kind of question on whether or not you're an actual nonprofit, just work with one of the other nonprofits on here to say, “Hey, look, here's the data. Let me submit it for you”. Look, we've only got another week and a half left of this.

So make sure that if you don't feel like you're the eligible person to submit it, just get with someone who is and say, “Hey, look, Casey, here's my six locations.” “Hey, Mia. Here's my six.” Okay, so let's pop that up here and submit it as part of the challenge. Yes. And I see that there's been a lot of questions coming through on the chat.

I don't know if I'm going to have a chance to answer every single one of these, because I do have to jump. I can make sure.

Casey Phillips: Yeah, we'll capture those and we'll send them over to you and with our coalition members contact info. And as y'all peel through that would be great. And those will just be more alliances that you all can have in the future.

Thomas Tyler: Yeah. And it looks like a lot of these, so there, there is a really good resource guide on our website that I think a lot of these questions could be answered with just Look at some of these, like the colors on the map, white. White is basically served. There's, there is a map key, but white is served red is unserved, and blue is underserved.

So anything that's unserved or underserved is already gonna get funding. So you really wanna focus on the ones that are marked as served. And if they're listed as incorrect, you can go and flip the lever on those and move them to being and submit data that shows that they would be unserved.

Casey Phillips: Awesome. Thomas. Thank you. I know that you have 8187 of these questions on a weekly basis through all the parishes.

Everyone I just wanna make sure and lift up Louisiana is number 1 in the country on this program. Not 48th 49th and 50th, which feels very natural to us sometimes, number 1. The fact is that with number one, we're at the table first. We're not on the menu, right? Get involved and get into this challenge process and if you have questions, we will get them answered for you, right? Don't be frustrated if you have questions. These are very helpful humans and we'll use the rest of this call as well as open up even office hours if we have to answer people's questions.

Thomas, thank you for being here and Stephen, thank you for giving The state, helping the state plan, the state vision, and taking it down to a local level is some of this conversation and I wanna bring it back up.

Pepper Roussel: Our next speaker is Alex Johnson. You, I'll leave you in the hands of Alex.

Thomas Tyler: Alex is a good colleague of ours, so thank you.

Casey Phillips: Yeah, you bet, Thomas. Thank you. Yes, Alex does technically work on the federal level in DC but he lived in New Orleans. Y'all he's right down the road. And he's probably about an hour away. A mile away from where Pepper is right now.

Alex is here. He is our region's conduit to the to NTIA and so I think it's important for you all to everybody to understand the national picture as it's going down into the plume and we'll transition back over to Mia. Cool.

Alex Johnson: Thanks so much, Casey. And it's really cool to be with y'all.

I'm sorry. I was off video earlier because I was dropping my second kid off and then rushing back. And I didn't want to be distracting from the car, but I was listening in. I'm grateful to be a part of this program and to work with, such good citizens like y'all. I, as Casey said, I appreciate your energy, man.

You're always getting after it and getting people fired up and that's what we need in this program because as was discussed a minute ago, there's still a lot of questions about the program. And the states have had about a year or 14 months only for planning and only for public outreach and engagement.

And that's how hard it is to get folks attention. On this kind of programs, there's so many distractions in life, in business ,and in society right now. But this is a positive thing that's happening. This is an interesting new case study and how the federal government and state governments and local community partners and businesses are working together.

To achieve the goal of this program that was funded in the bipartisan infrastructure law. You may have heard of, some people call it IJIA, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. We've got a Democratic governor and then a state, another statewide elected official, Senator Cassidy, who voted for this bill.

It's unique in a lot of other states. We don't have that. I'm a coordinator in Georgia as well where I'm from. I worked for Senator Landrieu for many years a while back before I moved to New Orleans in D.C. and married a girl from New Orleans and so now I'm here. We got, I'm outnumbered. I got three people in my household that, that are born in New Orleans. And so I'm here and I'm proud to be here.

This program that just, I want to give like Thomas gave y'all the hard-line details on what's happening right this second, but I'll step back and, echo that importance and the importance of the work that Dr. Barnes and his colleagues, Dr. Oslin are doing with the digital equity plan and the overall context here is that. The nation, Congress fund, we realized in COVID that there's, 25% of people in the United States of America don't live in the same economy as us who are using high-speed internet.

And regardless of the reasons of how we got here, it's a, it's in the national interest to make sure that if you got electricity and you've got water, you're going to have access to high speed and affordable internet service. So if your cottage industry, your fisherman, you sell your catch, you got to FaceTime with your mama, whatever it is, you ought to have the right to do that.

It's isn't about social media or about streaming Netflix. That is a right that we have to exercise. We can choose what we want to do with that access. But everybody deserves the same access and to be a part of the same economy because what Dr. Barnes and folks and what they're researching and getting down the community level on what the barriers are to access high-speed internet, coming up with all these stories of how, when you have, and data to show that when you have access to high-speed internet, you'll have higher test scores.

And a longer life because you've got better health care outcomes and better educational outcomes. So that's, that is the reality of what's happening. And what's going to be shown down the road. So I often talk about how Dr. Barnes is in the Digital Equity Plan that they're building.

Is going to be a waterline. For where society was, in this period of time and 10 years from now, there's going to be other folks that are writing it, maybe Barnes revisits it and writes another report that shows where we were to where we come. Do we meet those measurable objectives that are being written in this policy plan?

And it was exceeded. Do we fail? How do we measure those social determinants of health? those educational outcomes and those health care outcomes and access to justice. Are those, how do we measure those in 10 years from now? You can't in rural Louisiana, you can't have urgent care with MRIs or certain sophisticated medical equipment without fiber optic cable.

And that is a thing that I know about closely from growing up in rural Georgia, the small. The hospital that I used to go eat lunch at on Sundays and go every sort of medical process procedure was there. My whole family, that hospital closed down 15 years ago and every other rural hospital closed down.

So you got to drive an hour to go to a regional center. So there's a telehealth aspect to it. There's, real estate development that there's there's, it touches every sector of society. This program does and so whereas industry knows about it, they've been following this thing for two years.

But the communities don't quite know about it yet and we've, been busting tail and tried to get the word out. It's really hard to get the word out. Thomas did a two-week road show recently to all the regional planning commissions, and developed a really good PowerPoint.

It's very simple and it explains, it's on the website. I think you'll drop the link in there. The PowerPoint is super helpful. on talking about who's eligible challengers and, how to challenge what evidence is allowed.

Pepper Roussel: Stephen is off camera, but since this is the basis, or rather his work is the basis of these challenges, I just wanted to understand a little bit more about how it is that things are classified, what it is that we are looking at.

And I know that you can't answer the questions around the challenges themselves. But the work itself and the money that is to come in because of it, can you give us a little bit more on, like, how that, what that looks like? And then I really want to shift to, shift back to, this call to action, right? So what does this mean for our folks who are on the call and the communities for which they serve?

Dr. Stephen Barnes: Yeah, and I'm going to make sure Alex certainly checks me if I'm not framing this the right way. But I think, we're talking about, we've talked about the near-term or more urgent steps that we need to take and the longer-term goal and vision here and the work we've been doing the Blanco Center is starting to try to map out that longer-term strategy and the goals related to equity and this challenge process, which has a very imminent deadline is really about giving us the right foundation from which we start here.

So there are tremendous federal resources available to start addressing challenges here. But we've got to make sure that we've got the right map, an accurate map, so that we can make sure those dollars are going to the right places. And the map that's out there today is better than maps used to be but it is the culmination of providers sharing on location served and the federal agency.

Pulling that information together, overlaying what every different provider said and essentially documenting these are the locations served based on the data we got from providers and the key thing we're trying to check here to try to really highlight that is all that accurate. Providers may have a service area, but for people living in those specific neighborhoods, we may know that there's a whole block that's at the far reaches of that copper line and service is completely unreliable, if not worthless.

And so those are the kinds of things we're trying to come back and clean up. Because if we can get on, as our foundation and starting point, a more complete picture with more locations identified that are in need of investment, then that just gives us. That gives us the flexibility and the authority to be able to come back and make investments in those places if they're marked as served.

And nobody challenges that a year or two from now, somebody raises a concern like I don't really have reliable access, but we never got that marked, that corrected at this stage, then that's going to be that's going to be held out of the ability to use these funds to address that problem.

Alex Johnson: Yeah, I'll echo what you said, Dr. Barnes, that this is like the first step. This is where the work that Dr. Barnes is doing for the Digital Equity Act section of planning funds overlaps in the diagram of bead projects and digital equity projects because the bead projects are, which locations are going to get the hardware, the fiber optic cable, or the last mile drop, which This is going to help inform Veneeth and Thomas and the state team, the governor's team to draw the project areas and to make sure that each house and business has high-speed internet.

But what this is teeing up, what this work is teeing up is getting community buy-in and getting folks ready one rouge or. Any sort of community organization that would be eligible to apply for Digital Equity Act grant program funding, which is going to follow the BEAD fund. So we got $1.355 billion in Louisiana that will transfer from the Department of Commerce in D.C. to the state of Louisiana. Whenever NTIA finishes approval, which should be coming very soon. Then he's texting me every couple of hours. “When's it coming? When's it coming?” He's a hard driver y'all. Then NIST reviews it. They're like the security arm. They're the quantifiers that we're the programmatic office.

NIST is the sort of the security arm wire transfer of funds. When that happens The B program, the infrastructure, the diesel fuel, the labor, the construction, the tractors, that goes gangbusters. Then, the Digital Equity Act grant programs, which is a little under $3 billion nationwide. So I don't know how much, we don't know how much Louisiana is going to get, but it will be split up.

There will be a direct grant program that you all will apply directly to NTIA. That's my sub agency that nobody's ever heard of but it's a small agency that just got a lot of funding with the bipartisan infrastructure law. That $3 billion will be split in half. Half of it is going to be a competitive grant program run out of DC.

So keep in touch with me on that. That notice of funding opportunity ought to come out early spring. And then there's, and then following, like I said, maybe next summer/fall. That will be when the other half of the digital equity funds, that state bucket will be transferred again, like the BEAD, like a block grant, to the state for the governor's office to administer and run another grant program.

And the way to seal it up in your mind is the BEAD is the like the TVA, building the dam, electrifying and distributing, distribution of electricity. That's the fiber optic cable. That is the, that's the heavy lifting. The Digital Equity Programs, those are device refurbishers a digital literacy teacher at nursing homes or community centers, or you've got a, you've got a community center in a neighborhood that's got a study lounge in a, for kids to work. And, there's a teacher that hangs out there and, coaches, whatever it is, but they want to add some computers there. That's that's an opportunity, right? To create a kind of a digital skills hub, in a neighborhood.

That's the kind of creativity that will be allowed in the Digital Equity Act grant programs, but those are coming a little bit later.

Pepper Roussel: Okay. So that's what I'm trying to that's what we're getting to right now is trying to understand what do we need for folks to do right so we hear a lot.

There's money out there. You can get money to do these things, but where do we need for folks to do and then we can move from that point into okay now that we've done the thing, what do we expect next? So what do we have to, what do we have to have folks doing?

Alex Johnson: I'll echo Casey's call to action for entering the challenge process.

Go to the website and if you know that your house doesn't have internet, it doesn't have high-speed internet. AT&T or whatever the company is reporting that it's served on the map. You can see that on the map but, for a fact that you can't stream a movie while doing a Zoom call.

So report that show one of the evidentiary bases for it.

Mia Ruffin: And I know that I'm not sure if it's speed, but could you maybe share with us and Steven if you're familiar, maybe some of the different aspects of what we will be challenging? Is it price? Is it an internet service provider will be offering a price in a community and then you actually can't get that speed at that price in a community?

Is it latency? Are there different elements of the challenge that we should be speaking to? When we ask the organizations to provide evidence, are those green shots?

Alex Johnson: Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah, some screenshots. I'm pulling up their powerpoint right now because it's just got a very clearly if it's helpful, I think maybe as we imagine the challenge and we have about what a week and a half to go.

Mia Ruffin: I think And whatever organization you are represented, whether it be a day job, whether it be an organization that you meet every two weeks, something that you do through newsletters. I think the conversation could maybe rise to the top of what are the specific instances in which I'm not satisfied with my broadband service.

Steven, Alex, is that correct? And there are instances, not just that my speed is bad, but say I'm trying to stream something or upload something and there's a very specific delay that really hinders how I'm experiencing it. I'm just really not even satisfied, or I don't get service there. In that way, capture that information, consider what evidence or promises have been made to you through the Internet Service Provider, and then pursue beginning the challenge process.

The first step of that really is just entering in information, but you would then look up the map on the Connect LA website, and you would, it's a very easy search, it's almost as easy, if not easier, than Google Maps. You type in the location that you are going to be searching for, and you see what color dot it is.

If the dot is served, and you feel like you aren't being served in that area, then you speak to whoever else is in that community, and you try to build a case within the challenge process. Is that correct, Alex and Steven?

Alex Johnson: I think that pretty accurately describes the process. Okay. And there are certain entities in and around EBR that are versed in broadband.

Mia Ruffin: But I think to make it very simple and across the board, what the state has tried to do is make the challenge process. It's easy to approach for people at whatever level of digital literacy that they have and don't have. It is a pretty website, but essentially, if you've done a Google poll before, or if you've submitted a survey, or tried to book an appointment online, and you had to give your name, your number, your email on a portal, and maybe had to attach an image or something relevant to whatever you are applying for, that's as simple as the challenge process is online between now and November 5th. What the state is really asking organizations to do is engage with folks.

So to answer the question from the chat earlier do faith-based organizations count as being able to challenge, they do. I think as far as you have been able to demonstrate that you represent a community, you are able to speak for that community's need in terms of broadband and further.

With that being said, you really just have to attest that you occupy in a specific census block and six other entities, really five, but we want there to be six in total entities within that area and not being served appropriately. I think earlier there was a question about in rural communities and probably in the South, Southeast U.S.

Generally, we can all say that the connectivity isn't great. The point attempting to be made with this challenge is up to this point. Internet service providers have claimed to the FCC that they have served everyone to an incredible level of service at great price points. I think about half the people, if not 100% of this call, can say that is not true.

And so what we need to do in our lived experience, and I'll wrap it up here because Pepper, I see you came off mute.

Pepper Roussel: I came off mute only to say that if you were going to talk about Cox all you had to say was Cox.

Mia Ruffin: I'm not going to say anything beyond the three-letter acronym of Internet service provider ISPs. Because it's not just hot. There's a bunch of people who, sorry bus. And I think especially when we go into the like rural communities, I think people, whether or not it's Texas. community that is serving people in the outskirts, right? AT&T. I see you. It's so many people that are having issues but obviously, a lot of us are very familiar with the brand of cups that we have fiber or wanting fiber within our perimeter but then it's like, how do I get it and I get this thing in the mail that says this and I get this thing in the mail that says that but I hope that I'm synthesizing the very simple.

But actionable levels really is the first step here is that you have a conversation with their community. That's it. Can you find five other people who can say, Hey, I have this mailer or this flyer or this email, or I have this bill that says I'm supposed to be getting this level of service because I'm paying every month and I don't have it.

You do a scan or a picture of it on your phone or a screenshot. And you just submit that into the challenge, but with that evidentiary claim, you need to be able to go within the challenge map. It's a very pretty map. You type in the address that you are trying to identify and you say, “Hey, this is the address point is claiming is served. And I don't believe it is being served” and then you submit it there. It really is a three-step process. You engage your community. You identify address addresses within that perimeter, both in real life, and then you go to the challenge map and find them. You enter them in, and then you engage with the questions on the actual portal.

When you go to the Connect LA website, you'll see along the top. Aligned to the far right of the page, are a bunch of different tabs. You'll click on the challenge tab, for anyone interested, and it'll take you straight there. Once you go down, following the little introductory paragraph, there'll be a link to the portal itself and the map itself.

Yeah, I'm reading Casey's point here. His suggestion is to think of five people in community network that don't have accessible, affordable, and quality internet access and engage with those people. And I would challenge that and say and/or. We should all have accessible, affordable, quality, reliable internet.

And so if you are talking to, you can think of five people who cannot say very quickly, very much so with their chest. and their head up in the air. I have accessible, affordable, quality, reliable internet all throughout the day. If they can't do that, then you need to add those people and have a list of six of those, including yourself, that you can go into this challenge map, find your addresses, and then go into the portal and say, Hey, we have evidence that this isn't going to work.

If you want to challenge that.

Casey Phillips: That's right. So let's bring those words direct. Hey, Pat LeDuff, are you in a position to come off mute?

I think she answers the Zoom user now. Yeah. Zoom user, Pat LeDuff. So Pat Luff, if you can hear my voice. The example of this is, think of everybody block by block in Scotlandville that is not able to consistently log on to this call is not consistently able to get a connection to have a telehealth appointment in if they, especially if they have mobility challenges.

Anybody that you know on street by street, block by block in Scotlandville, all the way up to Baker, map it out, write it on a piece of paper, and start going into that challenge portal on behalf of the Scotlandville CDC, and blow that up keep crushing it with addresses because I think Alex identified there's over 60 census tracts inside the city of East Baton Rouge, and at least 60, if not more, and the ones, conveniently, By looking at the map, or probably not by accident, you will notice where the parts of the city that do not have it.

It's not going to be a surprise to anyone who's on this call, but it is very important that you go in and log those addresses in order for these resources to come down the pipe, not just in year one, but this is a five-year grant. This is five years. This money is going to come in phases, right? And the first phase is going to be implementation.

Alex, Stephen, unless I'm mistaken in getting these in getting the hard, getting the the fiber into the ground in two people's doors. Alex or Stephen, is that a true statement or did I just lie?

Alex Johnson: Yeah, and that's right. And that's what I was getting at was like the hardware comes first and it's the more complex issue with the maps and the challenge is incredibly complex. And, but once they draw the project areas, pick who's going to win the bids, and then they start putting shovels in the ground and doing the last mile drops to every house and business. The next step comes if you got high-speed internet, but you don't know how to use it, or don't have a device, or, That's where the social workpiece comes in.

That's where the Digital Equity Act piece comes in. That's why it's truncated with, a few segments along the way. And so the priority is first, line up, get everybody access. Then, work on the adoption rate. Work on, addressing the barriers to... Access and making sure people are using the internet safely and, not getting crypto scammed and they know, learning how to file for benefits online and use email and because I've learned the hard way that folks won't totally be honest with you about digital literacy skills and so we got to provide these kind of trainings and teachings to make sure that everyone is safe and joins the community that we're, the same stream of commerce that we're all in.

Casey Phillips: Folks.

Pat LeDuff: Hey, see, I'm on and I just want to let you know that I am on that, right? Yes, indeed. We are identifying areas that have little to service, or under service, or whatever you call it, or no service at all. And we're going to fit every category. Because in some cases they're going to have it and not know how to use it.

Are they going to have some knowledge of how to use it, but they don't have the mechanism cannot afford what it takes to use it. So thank you.

Casey Phillips: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. And that's it, folks. This is serious. This is life and death. And I'm going to, I am going to excuse myself out of this and go back to mute, but we live in the information age, in the technology age, and if people are being shut out of it, then that is going to continue to have generational effects.

Why is One Rouge so passionate about this? Because we're based around the nine drivers of poverty. And if you look at what's going to continue to lock people into the working poor class and poverty in this country as we move more and more digital, especially in skills in just life, being able to navigate life, if people don't have the fundamental right to access to broadband and digital knowledge, that is, we are looking at a whole new generation of oppression.

And if we sit by and don't get involved in this is going to have an impact not just on the children's future, but also the grown-ass adults on this call and the people in your family and your neighbors. And if we don't get it together, because we have a huge opportunity in this moment to transform, finally transform the city into a modern-day municipality.

And I'll just leave it at that. We're not a mega city yet. But we can be a really strong secondary market and we can't be that way if our small businesses can't get wired up into all neighborhoods across the city and people don't have that access and kids are having to drive to the library parking lot in order to do their homework.

That's where we are. So we need to this challenge process to push it forward so that we get this broadband into the communities. Deep into the communities, and then we'll layer on top of that all of the awareness, the digital literacy, the hard skill training, everything to follow. But this is the ground floor of where we're at.

Thank y'all for the space. Clearly, I'm a little fired up today. But it's something that I feel passionate about because I feel like 10 years down the road, this is not an opportunity that our city can afford to miss out on.Thank you.

Mia Ruffin: I just like to bring it back to the action step so people can feel charged to do something as we leave this Friday and roll into the weekend. Especially because I know people will be having Halloween parties and they're going to need things to talk about, start some conversations and it would be great to talk about broadband.

That was a great, what do you call that, icebreaker? First step, link up with the community, especially underneath the umbrella of a nonprofit. And the one page that I shared also goes into other specifics about who qualifies as a nonprofit. But essentially, link up with folks, especially if within that realm you've had a conversation about issues with broadband.

Have that conversation. Peruse back up through the chat. And I believe Alexia dropped a bunch of different ways you can provide evidence to... Make claim a challenge, so if you want to copy and paste that there, or go to the Connect LA page, but first step, engage with a nonprofit or your community about issues you've been having.

Second step, go to the map, the challenge map. Find yourself on that map. Make sure that you are marked as served. If you're marked as funded, it means that the money is coming to build out, it's coming, it's just not there today. But if you are served even underserved and unserved, you potentially can speak to something, but very specifically, if you are marked as served and you do not feel served, continue through the challenge process.

Third step, engage with the challenge portal. We'll just have to prove that you are nonprofit and if you are not one, find one in your community that can go up to bat and speak on your behalf. If you have questions in the very immediate action step process, drop them in the chat so we can pass them on to the state office. But it's talk to your community, find yourself on the map, go through the challenge process portal. And that's it.

Pepper Roussel: Alright folks, if you have any questions about the foundation, the reason, the why of the work please ask Stephen Barnes while he is here. If you have any questions about the process, we are elevating those to the good folks over at LA Connect, and in general, I just want to say how amazing it is to be the lovely assistant to the left.

Look what you can do when you are the lovely assistant to the left. It's amazing. And so thank you so much for co-curating this today, and I do wonder whether one of our guests, Stephen or Alex, do you know about how much time do you anticipate to actually submit a challenge? How long does it take from sitting down to actually walking through the challenge itself?

Is it a 5-minute thing? Is it a 15-minute thing?

Alex Johnson: I'd say, I think each challenge is probably the 5 to 10 minutes. If, you got a screenshot of the speed test, so however long, I mean it might take me. Even though I'm out here selling the internet for the federal government, I'm pretty slow when it comes to technological work here.

So it might take me a little bit longer than it would take Mia. You take a screenshot of the speed test and go through the steps that Mia said and submit it.

Mia Ruffin: Is it possible that the hardest part will be finding the people, getting them? Still to make sure they, okay, so maybe again, over the weekend, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, text people, email people, follow up on some emails from the past and use that time these next few days really to get the conversation started.

The hardest part would probably be the conversation. The easiest part would probably be the computer part Alex?

Alex Johnson: Yeah, true.

Pepper Roussel: I can agree with that. My only question is. Like how am I supposed to type with fake claws or fake teeth? It feels very daunting, but what we can do is Do you have fake claws and fake teeth?

What we can do is to begin the conversation this weekend, right? So we are at the 27th we've got until the 5th, which is coming up real quick, but I No, y'all do it anyway. I just want to reiterate. I know you talking in class. Please connect with some other folks who are on this call. If you know some folks who are full-on fully pledged nonprofits are not sure about your status standing, please make sure that there is no reason for them to say no.

So we've talked about this before. And, these are just legal facts. A nonprofit is simply a tax exemption. It is not a business model. It is the ability to not pay taxes and to, and the way that you do that is by having this fancy little piece of paper from the IRS. If you do have the status and if that is required for this, please find somebody who's got it.

I'm sure we've had some people around here somewhere. Maybe we will. Anyway as a, speaking of the wall, did I speak of the walls? We're not sure. Anyway Futures Fund also does classes. Helena will drop that in the chat, so if you need to get to a place where we are educating folks on what to do and how to do it, we can certainly do that.

I am going to be in town, good people, all week. I am willing to help people learn how to take screenshots because... I can still do that and if we need to do some down and dirties, maybe throw together some last-minute Zoom calls, alright? Maybe a meeting at a coffee shop. If somebody buys me coffee, I will go to a coffee shop and teach you how to run a speed test so we can work through this.

We've got contact information in the chat. Thank you Alice for dropping rooms there. Thank you Mia for dropping rooms there. And what have we not discussed that we need to?

Alex Johnson: I'll just say as a parting salvo, I've got to jump as a 9:30 meeting as y'all knock on a few doors, talk to folks about which locations you need to challenge. Think about it. Hit the library, ask them because it's the library also is something that, if they don't have reliable service also elevates it. The thing is this will tee up y'all's efforts and creativity and applications for later this year or later next year for what's scalable, what device refurbisher in the neighborhood, what nonprofit has a device checkout what digital, like I know there's some stuff in the chat about some digital skills training, what's scalable what should apply, which one of these programs should apply for funding to increase its impact later down the road.

So start thinking about that creativity and how to make an impact later in the year. But this will just be some a little bit of early ground game for that. So I'll just leave you all with that note and give me a call. Send me an email. I'm so grateful to be working on this with you all and I appreciate anything I could do.I'm happy to help.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you so much.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Good morning, everybody. Thank you to all of our speakers. Mia, thank you so much for bringing a lot of clarity to this for me. I'm having a little bit of difficulty this morning because as most of I've been involved in government for a long time, a former Louisiana labor secretary and lots of other stuff that age brings. But far be it from me to say that I know how to motivate people to do things because I was involved deeply in the last in our election process, and we had a 35.8% turnout. I know we got issues with that, but I'm sorry I had to say that part.

But for one of the things that I've learned in government is that when we're When we don't really want to address an issue or when there's a, there's some difficulty addressing an issue, we decide we're going to study it and nobody in Louisiana or throughout the nation who does not know that we have areas where there are no access to broadband.

We know where those areas are. We know who the people are. Why are we Looking at having a nonprofit and I'm please forgive me if it sounds like I'm being critical. I don't mean to be, but my question is, why are we asking nonprofits to tell us? Where there are areas of deficit. I don't understand.

We know where those areas are. I can take you. I don't even have, anecdotally, I can take you all throughout Louisiana and tell you where those areas are and who those people are. We have a lot of money. coming into Louisiana. I would like to see it get to the people who need access as opposed to talking to nonprofits who are, I'm sorry y'all were gonna see peppers don't quiet me, but I would so much rather get it to those people so that we have direct services as opposed to studying something that we already know the answers to.

Casey Phillips: Yeah, I'll jump in because there's nothing that irritates me more than shelf art plans. So I feel like we share in that disdain. I'm going to speak. I'm going to speak on behalf of myself as a private citizen. Y'all can't even see the W. By the way, everybody keeps asking like what this spells, it's WALLS. It's the wall shirt. I don't know if you gauge the temperature of our U. S. Congress over the last 22 days. And looked at it. I don't know if anybody has drawn the direct line that potentially as a Democratic president pushed out some unprecedented funding for the IRA, which was bipartisanly approved.

Most likely some of our Republican President. leadership in Congress will probably be fairly critical on how those dollars are spent over the next five years, right? And so if I had to guess, this is from my perspective, not a study. As said, the study was really that was laying down the foundational, the data foundation to prove what we all know anecdotally and by lived experience of doing the work, right?

So that's already been done and that's why the funding is actually coming in. To me, the request in this challenge process right now is really about holding the ISP providers accountable. It's not about, the federal government need to study people in poverty. It's actually, you have to create a mechanism where you're proving with data, right?

The hypothesis and the theorem that it's not an equal playing field. And then through the challenge process, the ISP, the Internet Service Providers folks, I'm sorry to be an accretive talker, the ISP. after they basically give their response, then they will either be held accountable or not. Or, in putting that infrastructure in place.

I don't really feel It does not. I wouldn't be gotten engaged in this work if I felt like this was about creating studies to get money that's going to sit on the shelf. It's more about being able to make sure that first layer of the broadband stuff gets laid out and then all the money is actually going to be pushed through these nonprofits that are engaged in the work to be able to get the money into the communities.

That's actually how the mechanism is set up. And so I actually feel like there's a strong possibility that we got it right. And I, do I think that this is an extra burden on top of the work that we're already doing? Sure. But that's the hard work, right? Like what's new, right?

52 weeks a year. Year after year. Dr Bester, I agree with you. If I thought that this was going to be something that was a pretty plan to sit on someone's shelf to make them feel okay about it and get reelected. There's no way we would have just dug in for 90 minutes on this, right?

I actually think that there's a real opportunity. Plus, if the nonprofits are engaged in the challenge process and they start understanding the process, they're going to be in a much better position of power. to be able to apply for the funding once it comes through the state and down into the communities, all 64 parishes, but again, I just want to be very clear.

I am not speaking on behalf of NTIA. I am not speaking on behalf of LA Connect and just by proximity, Steven at ULL because he's on the call. I'm just giving you my POV. I could be wrong and I'm cool with that. I'm still learning through the process too. I'm glad that you said it though because other people were thinking it.

Dr. Stephen Barnes: Yeah, a couple thoughts that I was going to add there is to say from my view is I've been watching this process and learning more about the federal funding that is poised to flow into Louisiana and other states to address these needs. My impression and understanding has been that it was really the drafters in Congress Working with the Biden administration to power your community, your organizations to have a say in this, because you did say something really critical, which is, the areas that need to be served.

And I think very often if funding is made available with fewer strings attached, it is the most organized and most interdisciplinary approach. Kind of influential voices that shape the direction of where that heads and we know that the internet service providers have their sort of a well-oiled machine in terms of, the business model that they run and if and their ability to advocate for smart investments that might go into areas that set them up long term with localized monopolies and maybe they expand access, but they don't make the best use of these dollars to more fully address the problem when we think about the broader need for affordability and To have some of these dollars left over for a lot of these dollars left over to start talking about devices and accessibility and skill building programs So I think we want to make sure that through our efforts and the Blanco Center is a research center I could see an E, this may sound like we're going down an academic exercise path here.

I think the work that we did to develop a digital equity plan in some senses is a little bit outside of our traditional lane because it's really, it's not a research report. It's a plan. And it's something that we stepped in to do because we, because this whole process is in some sense, a freight lane and freight train that's already left the station and we've got to make sure Louisiana has got the right pieces in place to maximize on this opportunity. So we had the staff, we had the resources at Blanco Center to be able to step in and do a huge amount of work very quickly to try to help the state bring together a cohesive plan and engage a large number of stakeholders. But as you think about your organization's role or the nonprofit community more broadly, I think it's an opportunity for you all to do what you do best and that's to get your communities, your stakeholders your people at the table to benefit from this opportunity.

Mia Ruffin: And I'd like to add to, let's see the record, I just want to. And to Steven's point, if anyone feels like overwhelmed and a little intimidated by this, good. That means you checked in on the process. It's been going like really fast and the awareness of the need of broadband and the inequities that it presents have become very visible since COVID.

There's a lot of money coming very fast and the federal guidelines. really set statutes and expectations that require us to react quickly. If you are feeling quickly becoming aware and having to act quickly, good, you are in time with the rest of us.

Casey Phillips: Reverend Anderson?

Rev. Anderson: Good morning. I actually wanted to ask Casey to clarify. What he put in the chat. I'm a little concerned when it says the city of Baton Rouge is putting together the East Baton Rouge Parish Digital Equity Plan. As somebody who has pastored in the rural areas, that the idea that we continually limit the conversation sometimes to the folk who already own the table.

And I'm very concerned that whether it is the huge number of people we have incarcerated pretrial in this parish, whether it is the issues around Zachary, the unincorporated areas, the issues around Baker, the issues around our bifurcated and quite frankly hilariously bad education system in the parish that I'm concerned that we're missing what is, and I want to piggyback a little bit on what Alfredo said, is that we literally sat in a meeting this week where we talked about the point in time of data.

We talked about the unsheltered children count that we have through McKinney Vito. We talked about all of these areas where we already have this data. And I'm a little concerned that sometimes when the players who design the table, no, I must say this correctly. I'm always concerned when the people who design the table are not making an effort to ensure that the conversation is as inclusive as it needs to be, quite frankly. So I don't know if Marcela is on the call this morning, our refugee and immigrant community, our non-English speaking community, our special needs community, that those conversational pieces need to be at the table because as the saying goes, Whatever is wrong in the city of Baton Rouge, we still have more resources than most people.

But that's not true when you're in rural areas that also don't have transportation. So it's not like getting on a bus to go to the library is an option. The library can be there. That's not gonna be an option for you. Same thing for people who live in areas where every other piece of infrastructure is also broken.

So I'm no, I'm making a statement, but I'm also asking a question. If Casey, maybe you don't how that group or whatever came to be.

Casey Phillips: So just to clarify, which group are you referring to?

Rev. Anderson: You put that One Rouge was working with the city of Baton Rouge to create the EBR digital equity plan. So that's specifically what I'm referring to.

Casey Phillips: Yep, got it. So OneRouge has MetroMorphosis in the Walls, right? This isn't being led. It's not being led by the city.

They're actually we're leaving it with other partners, including Miss Mia, who is on the line. Everything that you just lifted up, right? That's what we're going to be doing over the next six months is sitting Mia's already begun like doing one one-on-ones with folks. And also just to be really clear.

Mia worked for several years for the Capital Region Planning Commission, who has been highly focused on broadband and rural. There's a ton of data out there. And then, as Rev, with all the work with the OneRouge’s coalitions, not the Friday call, but the actual coalition work, we've been, for the past year, we've been doing asset maps, gathering data.

Whether it's around data around transportation, whether it's data around food insecurity, data around education and workforce careers. And so we're, this is and then also L. A. Connect did a statewide push for, aggregating a lot of that data. Could it always go deeper? Absolutely. Time and money in space, right?

So that's really, I don't think, I'm not saying that, look, feel how you want to feel. I love all of the feels, right? Be concerned, hold accountable, all that stuff. But that's why we're doing it as coalitions together. We're going to be approaching digital access from all those three coalition, ESL community coalition work Pepper and Mia are going to be, leading this.

So this isn't something that the mayor's office, with the other 1,010 things that they have to do this week, right? That's not where they're, it's not about their focus. It's about our divine focus on this and specifically writing an iterative, flexible, and agile plan. That will need to be continuously updated on a yearly basis because the terrain will change on a yearly basis and and this is again, this is a five-year process.

So it's not we have to get everything right coming out the gates. The digital equity plan is separate from the challenge process. This is not what we're being brought in to do. But once we met with Director Bennett, which by the way, Director Bennett is the head of the NTIA. In Washington, D.C. She's from Cleveland, but it's important to know her son's going to law school at the Southern University right now. So she is very familiar. She has been on the campus. She has been in Scotlandville. She has been back and forth to our city. She understands the terrain here, and that's why she's so excited about what we're doing.

The challenge process is outside the scope and is actually going through the Capital Region Planning Commission, but we just want to help. That's it. It's concerned citizens, but not just as citizens, as organizations and as collective impact partners. We want to make sure that this is as good as it possibly can be in whatever that initial period of time is.

But this will be an ongoing, this will be an ongoing effort. So I hope that. You don't feel like this is being done in a vacuum and that humans who are the most on the margins won't be heard because well, that's not what we've been doing for the last 175 weeks together, right? But get involved with Mia and Pepper, and let's get all those people to the table that you mentioned.

Rev. Anderson: And Casey, you know I love you and at the risk of giving up my privilege, parking. No, that's a good side joke for anybody who doesn't get it.

Casey Phillips: Yeah. Challenging the moment as said doesn't get rid of your parking spot. It gets a sign in front of it. As I said, we love you for it. I will take that.

I just to say, they have a couple of successes beyond the actual parish and that's kinda what I spent the last couple of years engaging with and the strategic plan will speak to the successes. best practices and opportunities to grow, not just in the city proper. And I'd really like to hear your perspective on engaging with the outskirts as well, but do know that this is being also done with consideration of the state plan coming to fruition.

And so a lot of the technical elements. of what the next 5 years can look like will be held there, but a lot more of the human, personal, actionable things that are relevant to the ex urban, metro, urban, suburban conversation, not just in the city, but where people are traveling to and going to live at the end of the workday and beyond that will be included in this plan.

Yeah, I'd love to talk to you more. And I will just say this, words matter. We had a conversation last week about domestic violence survivors. It matters who we're naming just as much as it matters who we're not naming. And my challenge, because I think one of the things about the 175 weeks of these conversations is that the conversation has to be about not always using the same names that make certain people feel comfortable, but make other people feel excluded.

And so the term formerly and currently incarcerated is a descriptor. Inmate is a term of derision. It is a lesson human term. So I do push back about the fact that because I have an affinity for the rural areas, because I have a very strong position about who always gets left out of these conversations.

I do think that one of the choices we have to make is to say if it's one Rouge, let's say one Rouge and community partners. So that we're not, and again, everybody doesn't hear it the same way, and I fully understand that. But I've sat at enough tables in the last 40, 50 years to know that when people are not named, they're usually not invited to the table as well.

Thank y'all for letting me have that piece.

Pepper Roussel: Alright a lot of people are lumped on foot. Yeah, but do we have anything that's going on this weekend? Community announcements, anything that y'all have up here today?

Rev. Anderson: Super Science Saturday, Preach is having a favorites, but where did, I don't know, anyways, Reader Fest, there we go. What else we got?

Reverend Anderson? I think it's more than my five cents today, but it is a super weekend. Can I just say that it is my favorite nerdy kind of weekend. And so the preach is going to have its booth at the Louisiana Book Festival. So come by and see us exhibit tent number B and I think we're booth number 37 and then on Sunday, we're going to have our super voice to books, not bars reader fest.

If you've never seen the alphabets in an Afrocentric way, if you got a grandson or a son or a nephew, African American that is pre k to third grade, they're going to love this. This is designed to be boyish, if I can put it that way. And then on Monday, we are having a super wonderful training called Cut It Out.

It's a national program that works with beauty professionals. to help them be part of the solution of domestic violence. And so we just got great super things. And we're also going to be at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library tonight during movie night to share things. And I did put the flyers in there for all of these things.

So yay for me.

Pepper Roussel: Thank you. What else you got going on this weekend, y'all?

Rev. Anderson: Pepper, I think that everybody is going to be reading the constitutional amendments that are going to be set forth on our November 18th election. And if you do not, please join us on Tuesday. 18th. The 31st on Perspective Radio and on 106.1 FM at 5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., we will be discussing the constitutional amendments that will be appearing on the ballot on November 14th.

Hey, everyone. Good morning. Thank you for a wonderful meeting. As always, just wanted to promote Super Science Saturday. It is a free event tomorrow at the LSU PIPMEC from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All kinds of exhibitors from across the state and national corporations, a lot of costumes, really fun events for kids of all ages.

So just wanted to plug that information. I put details in the chat.

Pepper Roussel: Thank y'all. Have a good weekend. Thanks, you too. Alright kids looks like we've come to the end. So thank you for being here. You know how much I love you spending your Friday morning with me here at the One Rouge Friday Call. We'll see you back here next week, same time, same bat channel.

Have a good weekend, y'all.


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