On April 9, nearly 150 supporters of CAUSE Action Fund (CAF) gathered at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center for its annual Leadership Awards Reception. Both CAF and its affiliated organization, CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) promote immigrant rights, education, public transportation, sustainable development, and a healthy environment in the Central Coast region. CAF is focused on mobilizing voters and on doing legislative advocacy.
The guests, a broad cross section of the community, enjoyed a reception on this sunny afternoon at the water’s edge, which featured tasty Mexican bites like ceviche shots and guacamole and mango tostadas from sponsor El Zarape. Guests were then seated for the program and emcee Monique Limón, a current CA Assemblymember and former CAF boardmember, welcomed everyone, recognized the sea of current and former political leaders present, and emphasized the critical importance of CAF in these difficult times.
Executive Director Maricela Morales shared how CAF is invested in the most marginalized, disenfranchised communities in the area: the Eastside and Westside of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Santa Paula, and Oxnard. In discussing the effectiveness of CAF, Morales noted that most of CAF’s staff are people of color who are themselves facing institutionalized racism every day, and “we come from these communities and we are committing our lives to these communities.” In the last election, CAF had more than 30,000 conversations with “occasional, low propensity voters” in these areas (whom CAF identified by age, race, and voting records). Of these, they tagged for follow-up the 20,000 who voiced support and a whopping 79% of these supporters actually voted (89% in Santa Barbara). Clearly, CAF knows how to mobilize voters.
Last year, CAF registered more than 1,000 voters in Santa Maria. It won major victories in that city and in Oxnard: their school districts adopted policies to register eligible seniors twice per year. Another victory in Santa Maria was the adoption of district elections there. CAUSE had run a long campaign and after the threat of a lawsuit, the city council acceded.
The event honored a couple with Lifetime Achievement Awards: Greg Freeland and Sharon Hoshida. Freeland is a professor at California Lutheran University, the Director of its Global Studies Program, and co-editor of the book, International Environmental Justice. Hoshida was the Program Director and Interim Director of the UCSB Women’s Center. The lists of their community service are endless.
Civic Participation Awards were presented to Amancio de la Cruz for his work organizing farmworkers in Santa Maria and Milburga de Jesus Catalan for her work organizing tenants to ban “no cause” evictions in Santa Barbara.
Keynote speaker County Board of Supervisors Chair Joan Hartmann gave a poignant speech about the across the board assault on justice we are now experiencing and the importance of CAUSE and other organizations in bringing about change in this new era.
Since the election, CAUSE Action Fund has lobbied for sanctuary policies for immigrant families, healthcare access, and environmental protection. It will be seeking to move Santa Barbara City Council elections to even years to increase voter participation and reduce election costs. CAF will also seek to promote Latino interests in the re-drawing of district maps in Santa Maria.
For more information about CAUSE Action Fund, go to causeactionfund.org
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