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Resistance and Progress

Last week, 130 elected officials from around the country descended upon Austin for Resistance & Progress, the sixth annual Local Progress national convening. On the same day when brave activists were beating back the destruction of the American health care system in the United States Senate, the country’s leading progressive local leaders came together in the sweltering Texas heat to resist the state’s attacks on immigrants and build collective power and solidarity in their shared fights for social justice.

The four-day event opened with a rousing protest on the steps of the Texas Capitol, where LP members stood with immigrant leaders to decry the state’s hateful show-me-your-papers SB4 law, which outlaws sanctuary cities and threatens local elected officials who promote sanctuary with arrest and removal from office. Organized by Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar, five of the state’s biggest cities have banded together to sue the state, in a show of trans-local resistance that epitomizes Local Progress’ theory that cities can work together to change our states and our nation. The protest was covered by most of Texas’ print and television media, and it highlighted the importance of local elected officials pushing back against the Koch-funded state interference in local government that is happening in states around the country.

The protest was covered by The Nation (“These Cities Are Putting Our Fractious Federal Government to Shame“) and most of Texas’ print and television media, including an excellent write up in the Texas Observer. The press coverage highlighted the importance of local elected officials pushing back against the Koch-funded state interference in local government that is happening in states around the country.

The convening also highlighted dozens of exciting examples of progress that are continuing in the face of attacks from Washington, DC and state capitols: Urging progressive candidates to “run as recklessly as the truth requires,” Larry Krasner, the presumptive incoming district attorney of Philadelphia, spoke about the wave of momentum for overhauling our criminal justice system to reduce incarceration, end cash bail and the war on drugs, and abolish the death penalty. Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy highlighted his city’s $8 million reparations package, which provides significant funding including for public housing residents and for local students to attend HBCUs. Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold of Seattle highlighted their vanguards city’s recent implementation of fair scheduling protections for workers and democracy bucks for voters; Councilmembers Elizabeth Glidden and Lisa Bendercelebrated Minneapolis becoming the first Midwestern city to pass a $15 minimum wage; Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym highlighted her city’s new eviction defense fund. Across a wide array of issues, from public health to climate change and transportation equity to revenue and finance, members shared and learned about important new policies and strategies for advancing progressive policy in their cities. The convening featured a lively Women’s Caucus reception headlined by St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones and a powerful closing keynote from former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Twenty-five Texas local elected officials came together on Sunday to develop a shared vision for building local power in their state. They were joined by two powerful community-based organizations – the Texas Organizing Project and the Workers’ Defense Project and labor leaders from across the state including Texas AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Rick Levy. In addition, school board members met on Thursday, in partnership with the National Education Association, to share best practices and develop coordinated plans to fight for strong public education for every child in America. And newly elected officials participated in a training led by Wellstone Action and Local Progress Board Alumnae and Colorado State Representative Faith Winter to help them develop the skills they need to govern effectively.

At the reception on Friday night celebrating five years of Local Progress, John Avalos, the former San Francisco Supervisor and LP Board Chair, captured the sentiment of LP’s members: five years ago, when we founded this network, we did it because we knew that cities could be a shining light of progress for our country; now, we have also learned that our cities can be beacons of resistance against the destruction of our democracy.

The Local Progress National Convening was made possible byChampions AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, NEA, and UFCW; Movement Leaders Amalgamated Bank, 32BJ SEIU, City Council of Philadelphia, Richard Gregory Campbell, and UNITE HERE!; and Organizers National Union of Health Care Workers, Greely Wells, IBEW Local 520 Austin, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 286, and AFSCME Local 1624.

Local Progress works 365 days a year to support, connect and grow our membership. That work is made possible by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the Surdna Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Charles M. and Mary D. Grant Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Borealis Fund, the Long Island Community Foundation and the generous contributions of Local Progress members.

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