By Mike Rhodes
The content in this section is paid for by the Central Valley Progressive PAC
The Central Valley Progressive PAC has launched a social media campaign targeting young people, encouraging them to not only be more politically engaged but also to aspire to take political power in this community. With hope, enthusiasm and a strategic plan to win elections, our goal is to get progressives elected to school boards, the City Council and eventually as the mayor of Fresno. How is the CVPPAC going to do that? Find out by reading this interview I did with the CVPPAC’s youngest executive board member, Simone Cranston-Rhodes.
Mike: Why did the CVPPAC decide to reach out to 18–40 year olds with this new social media marketing campaign?
Simone: The first thing you have to understand about the CVPPAC is, being someone in their mid-20s, I’m decades younger than the majority of people who attend meetings and who are members of the PAC. This demographic needs to change if the PAC wants to have a future, and there needs to be representation from the younger progressives in the community.
Mike: What is the message you want young people to hear? Why should they join the CVPPAC?
Simone: I think the important thing about joining the PAC is that there is not just one single effort that we need to be working on in the community. There is a myriad of different things that need to be done. Actions. Rallies. Protests. Political organizing. One aspect of those things is having a strategic electoral plan in Fresno to get people elected who will support progressive issues once they are elected. This is an outlet to do this. It doesn’t have to be your only focus. It doesn’t have to be your main focus. But, it is one part of the bigger picture of trying to change things in Fresno, and it is a fairly simple thing to do, to join the PAC. Whether that means you are donating some time or some money—if everyone could do that, we could create real change in Fresno.
Mike: While it is interesting that the CVPPAC is reaching out to young people through this campaign, what makes you think that they will be welcome in the organization? After all, most members in the group are older.
Simone: What needs to happen is that younger people need to take some ownership of the Central Valley Progressive PAC and have some positions of power within it. Because, if the PAC wants to continue, younger people need to be involved and we don’t want to just have young people involved, but we want them to take leadership roles in the PAC. The hope is that by doing that people will feel comfortable joining the PAC and steering it in a new direction.
Mike: What impact could an influx of young people have on the CVPPAC? Let’s say it is successful and hundreds of young people join the group. What direction might the group go in?
Simone: If hundreds of young people join the CVPPAC, we would be able to harness that energy and create, five or 10 years from now—looking at the long game—create new candidates for political positions, create new people who know how to run political campaigns in Fresno and I think it would be great to see young progressive people in office, running campaigns and taking political power in Fresno.
Mike: Right now, the CVPPAC is focusing on the upcoming elections in 2018 and targeting Fresno City Council District 7. Why is District 7 the focus?
Simone: As I mentioned before, the CVPPAC has an electoral strategic plan for Fresno and the reason District 7 is so important is because right now we have three progressive leaning City Council members and three conservative ones. District 7 could potentially be the swing vote to go either way. If someone was elected in District 7 who was conservative it would be very difficult for any progressive person who has any issues that are important to them to get something passed at the City Council. If you got someone who was progressive elected to that seat we would have a much greater chance of getting all of our issues, whether that has to do with immigration, police accountability, the environment—any of these issues, it would be much easier to work with a City Council that we have four votes on.
Mike: What does the City Council District 7 campaign look like right now and how could readers get involved with winning a progressive majority at City Hall?
Simone: Right now, the CVPPAC has a District 7 campaign plan that includes canvassing two dates in May. This is just to get acquainted with the district, to get a heads-up; typically on political campaigns, people begin canvassing the year of the election, if you are lucky. But, more likely it is done a few weeks or a month before the actual election date. What we are trying to do is to get a leg up on doing grassroots organizing in District 7 and talking to the people, figuring out what the issues are there and trying to find leaders. That way, when a progressive candidate emerges, then we have already done some of the work there that needs to be done to get somebody elected.
Mike: Tell me why you think people your age should be involved with a group that has a strategic plan for getting progressives elected to local office?
Simone: I think it is important for young people to be involved. It is important for everyone to be involved because it is not a huge time commitment. But, what it is, is one piece of a larger puzzle in terms of trying to get progressive things accomplished in Fresno. No matter what your issue is, it is important to have the right people elected to office and it is going to help you with whatever issue you have. Even if your big issue is immigration or police accountability, you can still work on those things and be a member of the CVPPAC and it is all going to work together. No matter what your issue is, whether you are young or old, you should be a member of the CVPPAC, because the PAC is going to help you with those issues in the long run.
Mike: How does one join the CVPPAC? Is there a low income or student rate?
Simone: There is a form you can fill out (on this page of the Community Alliance newspaper) to become a member of the CVPPAC. It is $100 a year, which sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. It is about the same rate you would pay monthly for Netflix. If you think about it that way, I can spend $8.33 a month and I can use that money toward creating progressive change in the community I live in. I think that is a good way to think about it. If you can’t afford that, there is a $20 a year option for students and low-income families. You can also donate your time by getting involved in canvasing and doing other events that the CVPPAC puts on.