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Laying the Groundwork for a Groundswell of Turnout

Our challenge and opportunity is to harness the energy and passion that has been sparked by the federal assault into increased turnout of the people most impacted by these policies – low income voters, communities of color, immigrants and young people – to assert a vision of justice, equality and inclusion.

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The November 2018 Election is one year away, and yet California Calls and our partners know that waiting until election time – like traditional campaigns – is not enough to win the kind of change our communities really need. That’s why we are gearing up now to lay the groundwork to demonstrate a new level of community power in 2018.

The November Elections will be a critical litmus test of the new federal administration. Much focus is on battleground states, but California will play a key role in influencing the direction of the country.

Californians will be electing a new Governor, new Assembly and Senate leaders and Congressional representatives, including a number that are in shifting regions of the state where the seat could be closely contested between Democrats and Republicans. California can also model how to scale local power to statewide policy change, strengthen grassroots leadership and infrastructure rooted in local communities, and pivot from resistance to offense for pro-active policy change.

Our challenge and opportunity is to harness the energy and passion that has been sparked by the federal assault into increased turnout of the people most impacted by these policies – low income voters, communities of color, immigrants and young people – to assert a vision of justice, equality and inclusion.

This Fall, California Calls and our 47 partners launched large scale Civic Engagement programs across the state to prepare for 2018. By combining state of the art technology, mobile canvassing and advanced voter targeting with tried and true, traditional door-to-door organizing, this fall California Calls, our anchors, and the Million Voters Project will conduct 235,000 one-on-one conversations with new and infrequent voters.

There are no short-cuts to increasing turnout and building the power of our communities. We know it requires day-to-day, person-to-person and block-by-block commitment. For that reason, we are starting now to galvanize the momentum we know we need to turn our country around, and push our state forward, in 2018.

Find out more about how we’re continuing to build power across the state below.

Onward to 2018,

Sabrina Smith, Deputy Director, California Calls

5 ways we’re building power for November 2018:

The Time is Now to Make It Fair: Grassroots momentum for Prop 13 reform is growing! Over 1000 community members in Oakland, Los Angeles, Chula Vista and San Bernardino and San Diego packed Town Hall meetings this last month to discuss the urgent need to close the $9 billion commercial property tax loophole to protect schools and critical local services from federal budget and tax cuts. The final Town Hall will be in Bakersfield this coming Thursday, November 9. RSVP here.

Prop 13 reform is considered untouchable in California politics, but the “third rail” is cracking. There is a growing public demand to finally address this 40 year old structural inequity responsible for chronic state and local budget shortfalls, California’s housing crisis and the crippling underfunding of schools and critical services, evidenced by weekly articles and opinion pieces.

The Million Voters Project is gearing up to expand it’s reach and impact in 2018. With two new partners, the Inland Empowerment Project and the Orange County Table, this growing alliance is made up of the 9 strongest civic engagement networks in the state.

In October, the nine groups will contact 210,000 voters to get their commitment to vote in November 2018 and build support for big issues including passing the Dream Act in Congress, closing the commercial property tax loophole in Prop 13, and expanding affordable housing through a $4 billion housing bond and rent control laws statewide.

Over the next year MVP groups will work together to turn out 1 million voters in November 2018, making up 10% of the electorate.

The 12 community organizations in the African American Civic Engagement Project are continuing their work of building power in Black communities across the state. This fall they will reach over 9,000 voters through local civic engagement programs on issues including youth development, homelessness and reentry, women’s empowerment and immigration.

Building Healthy Communities launched their first civic engagement program on October 13th to reach voters in the areas of central and inland California where demographics are shifting towards younger voters who are likely to be immigrants, Latinos and African-Americans. Community leaders and volunteers in five counties will go door-to-door contacting over 13,000 voters using mobile canvassing technology. The six organizations will talk to their neighbors about a range of issues including increasing funding for youth programs, making sure everyone in the community has clean water and creating restorative justice systems.

California Calls has been a leader in the launch of a new national caucus of state-based networks and movement leaders to address the grave threats to American democracy and world peace we now face. Together, grassroots, bottom-up groups with significant experience and reach in low-income and working class communities are working to build a new united response critically needed at both state and national levels.

In July 2017, twenty state-based organizations from thirteen states agreed to join the caucus to pursue two primary goals:

  • Advance state based strategic thinking and practice across existing models, networks and geographies to build governing power for structural change
  • Help develop, promote and support new strategies for coordinated, aligned and united work at state and national levels that transforms the narrative and wins governing power.

This past September, the Organizing Committee of the Caucus met in St. Paul to iron out structural and operational agreements, and develop immediate and medium-term plans on how to accomplish these two goals.

Towards a National Strategy: Building Independent State Based Power

While the spirit of resistance is strong, inspiring, and seemingly more widespread than any we have seen in recent decades, we know that resistance alone is insufficient to reverse the grave threats we face as a nation.

Our movement’s responses have largely been about registering opposition to Trump, and slowing down or mitigating his agenda. Many continue to pursue a one-dimensional view of power: the election of progressive candidates. Without a focus on sustained, day-to-day, bottom-up organizing, this approach is insufficient to match the forces now in power.

Pushing back on the attacks at the federal level is critical, but we must also push forward through offensive battles that reflect our progressive values. Where we can move from defense to offense is at the local and state level. And, key to an effective national strategy is organized, grassroots organizing for state power.

California Calls has been a leader in the launch of a new state-based Power Caucus to explore new strategies to expand independent political power centered in states as the building blocks to a national strategy. Currently, 20 state-based efforts across 13 states, along with representatives from national networks and movement leaders, are active in the caucus.

Our goal is to develop a clear and collective understanding of what statewide governing power might look like and how it can be built, articulate an alternative vision to the Trump agenda and the dominant narrative of our time and strategize about how to influence the national landscape towards a strategic long-term state-based power building approach.

[California Calls is a growing alliance of 31 grassroots, community-based organizations spanning urban, rural and suburban counties across the state. We engage, educate and motivate new and infrequent voters among young people, from communities of color, and from poor and working class neighborhoods to make California’s electorate reflect our state’s diverse population. Through our bottom-up approach, we are organizing voters most impacted by budget cuts and deteriorating public services in support of systemic, progressive solutions to our state’s fiscal crisis. Working together, and including those who are often left out of policy decisions, we believe we can reclaim the California Dream of equality, opportunity and prosperity for all Californians.]