Kate Sheppard

Kate Sheppard is a political reporter at Grist, and a former Prospect writing fellow.

Recent Articles

Programs That Work

Clubhouses and ACT are proven successes. So why aren't they better known or funded?

Nehemiah Surratt delivers the mail every morning at the Dow Jones office near Times Square in Manhattan. He sorts the incoming mail, transports it to the various departments, and picks up outgoing documents. In the afternoon, Surratt takes classes at Hunter College, where he's a straight-A student majoring in Spanish translation. Soft-spoken and shy, dressed in a rumpled, gray button-down shirt and a white knit cap, Surratt could be any other 26-year-old making his way in the world. Two years ago, he scraped up all his savings and flew to New York, where he planned to kill himself in a cheap Midtown motel. He'd never been to the city before, he says, and he wanted to see it before he died. "I stayed for three days, spent all my money," Surratt says. "I ended up changing my mind, because I looked out the window and I saw how beautiful the city was and decided I should get help." He went to a homeless shelter, and eventually a caseworker there referred him to the state psychiatric...

Corzine's Choice

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is facing one of the nation's worst budget crunches. Can a man who was elected to clean up a state's financial crisis also enact progressive policies?

Jon Corzine was up against a tough crowd this spring when he appeared before the annual New Jersey Conference of Mayors in April. It was just a few weeks after the governor proposed massive cuts to state aid for municipalities, among other drastic reductions to the state budget for 2008, and it was the first time he was in a room surrounded by the local leaders who would have to deal with the impacts of those cuts. The president of the Conference of Mayors, Colleen Mahr, didn't give him any leeway in her opening remarks. "Our residents will feel the strain if the plan goes forward," Mahr said, turning away from the crowd and directing her comments directly at the governor, seated beside her. "Every mayor here today takes the challenges put forth by you, governor, very seriously, and as you know, we will continue to fight those that we don't agree with." It was after speaking at this very conference last year that Corzine had his much-publicized, near-fatal auto accident on the Garden...

An End to Payday Loans?

Concern over the predatory practices of the payday lending industry has forged an unorthodox partnership in Virginia between religious, consumer-rights, and anti-poverty groups.

Demonstrators protest percentage rates on payday loans in Harrisonburg, Va., on Nov. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Daily News-Record, Nikki Fox)
In late March, the town council of Kilmarnock, Virginia, voted 4 to 2 to keep in place zoning laws that would effectively block the payday-loan industry from expanding in their town. Fifty citizens -- an impressive turnout in a town of just 1,244 -- crowded into the council meeting to plead with elected leaders not to change the town's zoning laws to let Advance America, one of the largest payday lending companies in the country, set up shop at the local Wal-Mart complex. "I think they practice usury," said Frank Tomlinson, the council member who led the opposition to the proposed zoning change. "They loan to people who have their backs against the wall, and then they quite frankly stick it to 'em." Tomlinson's concerns were echoed by members of the clergy, local residents, and statewide anti-poverty advocates from the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Virginians Against Payday Lending, who showed up in force at the town meeting. The coalition that has sprung up in Kilmarnock and across...

The Myth of Green McCain

The McCain Agenda: Despite the hype, McCain's environmental record shows a candidate who acknowledges the reality of climate change, but will do little to roll it back. A President McCain would only push for reforms that do not inconvenience businesses or trouble the conservative elite.

If the hype is to be believed, Sen. John McCain is practically the second coming of Sierra Club founder John Muir . "I will clean up the planet," McCain told a New Hampshire crowd in January, a promise he has made at dozens of campaign stops since then. "I will make global warming a priority." But while McCain maintains that global warming will be one of his top three issues as president, he has not articulated a plan of action, nor has he updated his policy positions to reflect changing scientific understanding. Despite all the kudos he gets for acknowledging the threat of climate change, both his record and policy reveal a candidate who is confused about what he's supposed to advocate, and lacks true conviction about environmental protection. McCain's lack of conviction was eminently clear at the Republican primary debate in Florida last February, where he discussed the Climate Stewardship Act he introduced with Joe Lieberman -- the first legislation in the Senate to call for a cap-...


On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Henry Waxman held an oversight hearing on the effectiveness of abstinence-only education programs. Shelby Knox , the young woman who was featured in the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox about growing up a conservative Southern Baptist in Texas before becoming an advocate for comprehensive sex education, was on hand to testify about the ineffectiveness of the programs. She blogged about her testimony afterwards: What did the secularized abstinence-only program for students in my school district look like? Well, it was taught by the same pastor who officiated at my religious purity pledge ceremony. Many of the students were already having sex and needed information to protect their health. But our teacher only mentioned condoms to talk lengthily, and inaccurately, about their alleged "ineffectiveness," explaining in graphic detail, and with even more graphic pictures, the sexually transmitted diseases students...