On December 17, 2016, I attended the half day, first organization meeting of the Progressive Coalition held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union hall.
The Progressive Coalition had members from the Progressive Democrats of America, the New Mexico Progressive Democrats, the Albuquerque Progressive Organization, Progress Now, Our Revolution, the Equilsts, the Working Family Partnership, and Veterans for Peace and Retake Our Democracy to mention a few organizations participating.
Over 220 very enthusiastic and motivated Democrats attended the meeting.
From my own personal perspective, the Progressive Coalition can be characterized as a group of Bernie Sander’s supporters and progressive democratic organizations that have become disillusioned with the traditional Democratic Party, its organization and the course of the Democratic Party in New Mexico.
One attendee described the organization as traditional “FDR Democrats”, or Mitt Romney’s 93%’ ers, as opposed to Wall Street Democrats.
The first order of business of the meeting was an overview of the forum followed by a break out study or forum sessions on identified topics to formulate a platform.
Because of time restraints, I could only attend three discussion sessions but found them to be very informative.
I was also able to attend the final discussion period.
There were a total of ten (10) major platform issues discussed.
The ten platform issues, not in any given order, were as follows:
1. Sustainable jobs, economic growth and economic equality
2. Expanding education opportunities
3. Affordable healthcare and access to health care by all
4. Protecting the environment & supporting clean energy policies
5. Addressing social justice, civil liberty deficiencies [ the criminal justice system]
6. Racial equality, racial justice
7. Eliminating poverty
8. Protection of our public lands
9. Providing food security and supporting agriculture
10. Protecting water rights, resources and access
Two topics that I was interested in were “creating sustainable jobs, securing economic growth and creating economic equality for the “99% ters” and “expanding education opportunities”.
Included in the topic of “securing economic growth and creating economic equality” were discussions on the following priorities:
1. Creating a “infrastructure bank” for major state and regional projects for job
2. Making high speed internet universally available and internet equality
3. Tax credits to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies
4. Investing in mass, statewide transportation system, such as light rail
5. Expanding programs to launch small business and entrepreneurship
6. Using public private partnerships to demand livable wage jobs that is not privatization of government jobs and functions
7. Supporting the working class by phasing in a $15-dollar minimum wage
8. Requiring equal pay for equal work for woman
9. Support paid sick leave initiatives, including family, medical and maternity leave
10. Support collective bargaining
11. Oppose “right to work” laws
12. Reforming state tax policies including reestablishing a progressive state income tax
13. Establishing a 36% cap on interest rates on predatory loans
Included in the topic of “expanding education opportunities” were discussions on the following priorities:
Early Childhood Programs
1. Providing funding for early childhood programs from the state’s permanent funds
2. Expanding early childhood care programs
3. Increase state funding for K-12 education
4. Increasing wages and collective bargaining for elementary and high school teachers
5. Abolishing the statewide practice of rating K-12 schools
6. Discontinue excessive standardized testing, and support more teacher input into the testing process
7. Ensuring that public schools have the resources to protect students with disabilities and special needs
8. Encouraging grade-appropriate “Media Literacy” classes
9. Rejecting use of “vouchers” to transfer funds from public to private schools
10. Requiring charter schools to meet the same requirements as conventional public schools
11. Eliminating public funding for “for –profit” charter schools
12. Supporting a constitutional amendment giving oversight and regulatory authority to the New Mexico Public Education Commission
13. Preventing the elimination of elections of school board members
14. Increasing parental involvement and cooperation between parents, teachers and administrators
Providing Access to Higher Education and Tuition
15. Making all community colleges, colleges, and universities tuition free for all New Mexico residents
16. Creating a fund to enable all New Mexico residents with college debt to refinance that debt a reduced rate
17. Creating education “debt forgiveness” programs to those who provide services such as teaching, healthcare and behavioral health care, in rural and underserved communities
18. Require community colleges to increase graduation rates and improve outcomes for workforce training
19. Expand trade apprenticeship opportunities for students and graduate
One of the more heated discussions was on the topic of “transforming the Democratic Party”.
It was clear to me that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is dissatisfied with the party and how it is being run.
Of particular concern is the failure to hold elected Democratic officials accountable for failing to advocate and support Democratic core values, especially after campaigning, promising and being elected on those core values.
I did see two Democratic Albuquerque City Councilors and one state elected official who attended the meeting.
I did not see any Democratic Bernalillo County elected official nor any New Mexico Democratic State House Representatives or Senators.
All who attended were encouraged to get involved with the party at the ward and precinct level and to run for office.