What a weekend! Our state convening ended a little over a week ago, and now Local Progress members are back home putting what we discussed into action in their communities. It was truly a powerful gathering of progressive leaders from across the state, and we’re thrilled about the foundation we’ve laid for a successful 2020.
This year, we opened the convening on Friday, November 15 with a training of 23 Local Progress NY (LPNY) Members from across the state in the first-ever New York session of the Progressive Governance Academy! At the training, we even had eight local elected officials who won their first term just a couple of weeks earlier. Attendees discussed everything from inside-outside strategy to power analysis to effective leadership styles.
Following the training, we opened the fourth annual convening on November 16 with a welcome from Tara Gaston, a member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Tara discussed the challenges and successes from her first term, as well as the unique experience of leading in Saratoga County as a progressive. She challenged us to put people first in our governance and to measure our actions by how much they help our constituents.
The first day of the convening was focused on developing our 2020 state legislative priorities, as members weighed in on what strategy and tactics we should include in our 2020 Local Progress New York State Legislative Toolkit. We energetically broke into sessions to delve into democracy reform, education, clean water, and housing. We brought everyone back together, where each group reported out to the whole group to solicit ideas, input, and challenges for each campaign issue. Based on these conversations, the LPNY Organizing Committee will make final decisions on the creation of the toolkit for late January. You can see how we designed our 2019 toolkit here.
Our keynote speaker at this year’s convening was Jennifer Flynn Walker, the Senior Director of Mobilization and Advocacy for the Center for Popular Democracy. Jennifer has been at the center of many of the large demonstrations over the past few years to protect the Affordable Care Act, resist the GOP’s tax giveaway of 2017, fight the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, and help to form Birddog Nation, a powerful grassroots activist network. Calling on all of us to find the strength and conviction to do more, Jennifer implored LPNY members to resist the oppressive aims of the current federal administration and to mobilize our constituents into action. She even gave the audience full of elected officials a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at how birddogging operates.
Later that evening, we held a reception to honor the most active members of LPNY. We had over 60 local elected officials at the convening, with more than 30 of them earning a Local Progress Activist ribbon for their participation in 3 or more of our events and actions this year. Karen Mejia, LPNY Organizing Committee member, and Newburgh City Councilmember presented her colleague from the Newburgh Council, Anthony Grice, with the Activist of the Year award.
On the second day of the convening, we focused on advancing our progressive values through policy. We started by examining the history of New York that has entrenched structural racism into our communities and our state, often through public policy. In a conversation about dismantling this structural racism in public office, LP Board Member and Milwaukee County Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson and Albany Councilmember Dr. Dorcey Applyrs discussed Albany’s racial equity legislation that seeks to ensure underserved areas of the city receive more equitable consideration for funding, service, and maintenance.
We closed out our convening with a panel on how to pursue collaborative governance between elected officials and the grassroots communities they represent. Local Progress Board Member and Baltimore Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, Karen Mejia, Alliance for Quality Education Legislative Director Jasmine Gripper, and Francesca Menes of the Local Progress staff discussed how we can break down the barriers between members of the community and the boards and government bodies in which we serve.
It was an energizing, educational, and powerful weekend that brought progressive elected leaders together to plan and strategize, but also to learn from each other, and build collective power at the state level. We’d like to send a special thank you to the community organizations and partners who joined us to put on programming at the convening: Alliance for Quality Education, Center for Popular Democracy, Citizen Action of New York, Environmental Advocates of NY, Make the Road NY, and Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance.
And I’d like to share great appreciation with all of the LPNY members who took time out of their schedules to help us build our network.
Looking forward to a successful and progressive 2020!
New York State Coordinator, Local Progress