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What Are the Six? | Take the Initiative | A Letter to the Movement

The Take the Initiative Campaign :
A Letter to Progressives in the Movement

Dear Progressive Movements,

This year, as every year, the organized Right uses the initiative process, once understood as a democratic reform, to utilize big money and big hate to incarcerate Black youth, attack Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people, attack immigrants, attack affirmative action and communities of color. Historically this has been a tactic that the Right has used to ride to office while many more Liberal forces have put up a weak fight or avoided the issue altogether—in an often futile but always unprincipled appeal to white racist and homophobic voters.

Too often, the progressive movement on the ground is put on the defensive, learning about each initiative a month or two before they appear on the ballot, tied down in our own essential work, and at best, picking one of the most egregious attacks on our community and trying to turn out the vote.  It’s time to go on the offensive, to Take the Initiative!

Six propositions on the November ballot attempt to advance and accelerate the trend of exploiting the fear of crime, fear of Blacks and Latinos, fear of LGBT people, fear of trusting our children in order to justify more prison construction, deny women and LGBT people equal rights, and tax and bond our way into constructing more boondoggle rail and highway.

For many of you who come from a strong human rights background, the support for the rights of Black and Latino youth and the opposition to the “war on crime” is something you understand. For those of you involved in LGBT work and women’s reproductive rights you have fought the Right and their line of false arguments for decades. But it may be confusing to some why the Bus Riders Union (BRU) and Strategy Center are so adamantly opposed to the MTA ½ cent sales tax and the L.A. to San Francisco high speed rail given that some environmental groups and many labor unions will support both measures. (We have included an op-ed by Eric Mann and Manuel Criollo to explain our views in greater detail but here is the short version.) For too long, grassroots groups have been convinced that we should vote for every bond measure and every tax on the theory that the Right is against taxes and social programs. But where in fact do our taxes go? To the $400 billion arms industry “defense department,” to military contractors, to prison builders, to prison guards union, to rail projects that do not meet the needs of the transit dependant, and the single passenger car drivers through freeway expansion while the government guts the public bus system, the public schools, and the public trust. Unfortunately, many Democrats have not fought to cut any of these reactionary programs. Faced with powerful spending—the Republicans and the Right are also massive spenders despite their claims to oppose “big government”—many Democrats feel that their only solution is to keep raising taxes on the margins—parcel taxes for police, more sales taxes.

Last year, theLabor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in Riverside, and Urban Habitat in the Bay Area came out against Prop 1B, a $20 billon bond which the Governor and most Democrats supported. This was a massive highway and ‘goods movement’ bond that will generate massive amounts of greenhouse gases and devastating truck traffic. Some groups supported it because it promised $1 billion in “transit” funds, which would also be highway and rail money. We opposed this but it passed with a strong margin. Now the governor tells those who were complicit in its passage that in fact there is no $1 billon for them. But the trucking industry and the march towards climate change disaster moves forward unabated.

In 1984, the people of California were asked to pass Prop 37, a lottery, which encourages gambling by poor folks on the grounds that it would increase the education budget. But then the state legislature did a bait and switch and used the lottery money to replace educational funds that were raided from the “general fund” for more prisons, highways, and pork projects.

We think:

  • Opposing excessive, discriminatory taxes is a progressive issue.
  • Opposing wasteful government boondoggles in which everyone wants a cut is a progressive issue.
  • Opposing the destruction of the bus system is a progressive issue.
  • Supporting women’s reproductive rights is a progressive issue.
  • Supporting the civil rights and right to marry of LGBT people is a progressive issue.
  • Stopping the growth of the police and prison state is a progressive issue.
  • Supporting the integrity and rights of inner city families is a progressive issue.

That is why we ask you to join the NO on the Six Campaign. Please bring these materials to your membership. We are not politicians asking for your vote. We are grassroots organizers urging you to talk to your members and allow the fullest debate and to help us build this movement.

We are asking elected officials of both parties to speak out against these measures and to exercise courage and vision in the face of pressure from the party and the lobbyists. We ask elected officials to side with grassroots movements and to vote No on the Six.  We ask grassroots movements to remember that we always have to lead historyas Barack Obama tried to explain to Hillary Clinton.

No on the Six offers the chance for a major victory for grassroots groups, to defeat the Right, to protect youth of color, to protect working people of color, and to Take the Initiative.

We ask you to support and sign on to this campaign by (1) distributing this voter guide to members, neighbors and other organizations; (2) making a financial contribution to support the work; and (3) volunteering your time to phone bank, precinct walk and get the word out. It will be great to have a growing list of supporters. We are willing to do a lot of organizing in Los Angeles and to offer written materials for groups throughout the state. Obviously, you will tailor the message and the tactics to your own constituency; but we must and can unite in a successful statewide movement-building campaign. No On the 6—Get The Attacks Off Our Backs!

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