Op-ed: JP Progressives 2018 Year in Review

By the JP Progressives Steering Committee

Jamaica Plain was at the epicenter of local political activism this past year. It started with ballot and legislative initiatives and culminated with historic election victories.

State Legislation:

Our voices and our clipboards joined with many others across the state who advocated for economic justice with the Raise Up Campaign and for the landmark criminal justice reform law.

These efforts led to the passage of important legislation that will work toward ending mass incarceration. The Raise Up Ballot Initiative, for which JPP members collected over 5,000 signatures, led to a legislative ‘grand bargain’ that included a $15/hour minimum wage and a paid family medical leave program that is among the best in the country.

We also worked hard on Automatic Voter Registration, hosting a forum, attending lobby days, and making phone calls in support of this bill which ultimately passed unanimously. This means the number of eligible voters in Massachusetts will increase by over 600,000 individuals by 2020.

Unfortunately, despite coalition advocacy efforts on Beacon Hill, several other important pieces of legislation did not pass. These include the Safe Communities Act to protect immigrants, Foundation Budget Reform to equitably fund schools, and the Fair Share Amendment – popularly known as the “millionaire’s tax” – to pay for transportation and education. We plan to pick all of these campaigns back up in 2019 with renewed vigor.

Local Elections

Centre Street became ground zero for local election headquarters in 2018. Our community played a role in making history by sending City Councilor Ayanna Pressley to Congress, Rachael Rollins to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, and Nika Elugardo to the State House. JP Progressives was proud to be part of the movement behind this local trifecta. We worked on 10 campaigns and collected over 5,000 signatures to get candidates on the ballot. We hosted 11 forums and community conversations with 20 candidates, including our largest event with more than 400 people held at English High School in partnership with the NAACP Boston and others to kick off the Suffolk County District Attorney race. We were particularly excited to add Facebook live broadcasts of our forums at facebook.com/jpprogressives which allowed residents to participate from afar.

Voter education forums is where we started this election cycle, but once endorsements were made, the real work began. Our members knocked more than 20,000 doors and made countless phone calls leading to some of the highest turnout rates in the city. Ward 19 turned out 40% of its voters – the highest in the city – and the JP section of the MA 7 Congressional district gave Ayanna 77% of the votes cast. If you are like us and can’t get enough of Ayanna, check out the video of her speech at our holiday party here: https://tinyurl.com/AyannaJPP.

These victories came along with some tough losses in the gubernatorial and secretary of state races, however, and we were particularly disappointed by Katie Forde’s loss to Steve Murphy for Registry of Deeds. That race, which was on the back of the primary ballot, is a lesson to everyone to make sure to turn over your ballots when you go to vote!

Sister Districts

Like other grassroots political organizations around the country, JPP saw a surge in activity since 2016, and this passion led to political action well beyond Massachusetts. Our new “Sister Districts” army of volunteers worked on 11 different elections in districts that spanned from California to Maine. We contacted over 12,000 voters by phone, text, or postcards and our members traveled to canvas in person in Maine, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New Mexico. Perhaps the biggest victory in November was Democrats taking back the House of Representatives, providing a crucial check on Donald Trump for the next two years.

Organizational Democracy and Looking Forward to 2019

In the spirit of the same principles of transparency and democracy that we fight for, JPP also made some changes to our internal practices in 2018. We changed our endorsement process to give the final vote to our members: they are the people who show up time and again, roll up their sleeves, and carry the clipboards (or smartphones), to collect signatures, educate voters, lobby elected officials, and ultimately, get out the vote.

If you’re excited by this work and want to help us decide our future campaigns and endorsements, become a member by volunteering at least once or attending at least three events. Don’t be shy, get in touch with us at [email protected]! You can start becoming a member on Jan. 9, when we will host an annual meeting to decide next year’s leaders, provide opportunities for feedback as we continue to change and grow, and vote on JPP’s new agenda, from City Council elections to legislative action and more. After January 9th, we welcome all interested to join us on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at Doyle’s Café at 6:30pm.

The JP Progressives Steering Committee consists of Carmel Levy, Ed Burley, Anne Rousseau, Andrew Breton, Will Poff-Webster, Ziba Cranmer, Kristin Johnson, Nikki Kong, Radhika Khetani, John Riordan and Enid Eckstein.

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