On April 14, CAUSE Action Fund (CAF) held its annual Leadership Recognition Reception at the Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara. CAF honored State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson and two grassroots leaders — Sandra Alvarado and Reina Mendoza — and shared its recent accomplishments and future actions.
After the reception hour, guests were welcomed by emcee and State Assemblymember Monique Limón. Executive Director Maricela Morales noted the incredible victories in 2018 both nationally and locally. With its grass roots leaders, CAF knocked on more than 10,000 doors and had more than 6,000 face-to-face conversations with voters whom nobody else is talking to — and voters who make the tipping point.
For example, CAF targeted young and Latino voters on the Eastside and Westside of Santa Barbara for the citywide School Board race and this yielded an 80 percent voter turnout among this group, which is higher than the city average, even though these are low propensity voters. According to Policy and Communications Director Lucas Zucker, this shows that “when an organization like CAUSE Action Fund engages people, they are highly likely to participate and make their voices heard, even if they are low-income, immigrant, or young.” A chart offered myriad other examples on the Central Coast where the voters CAF targeted — low propensity voters — turned out in higher numbers than other groups.
Morales shared her excitement for the dozen newly elected leaders from Guadeloupe to Simi Valley, including grassroots leaders Rose Muñoz to the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board and Gloria Soto to the Santa Maria City Council in that city’s first election since district-based elections were implemented — something CAUSE had been working on for years.
Morales noted the high proportion of Latinos in many Central Coast communities, including the Westside and Eastside of Santa Barbara (69-70%) and Santa Maria, Santa Paula, and Oxnard (75% each) and how CAF lifts leadership from the ground up in these communities. CAF’s Justice leadership institute does leadership development, translating values into action. She emphasized that CAF is active throughout the year, every year, not just at elections.
A major CAF initiative was securing sufficient signatures to get Schools and Communities First qualified for the 2020 ballot. This measure would require commercial and industrial properties be assessed at fair market value, instead of continuing to allow these nonresidential taxpayers to benefit from the much lower rates that Proposition 13 affords. Backers of the measure estimate it will bring in an estimated $11 billion annually for schools and community services. CAF has been working since 2010 on this initiative and gathered more than 800,000 signatures.
CAF has also been working on getting the Santa Barbara City Council to pass a Just Cause Ordinance. According to Morales, over the last six years, the city has lost 25 percent of its Latino population, nearly 10,000 people, partly because of the lack of affordable housing. Just last week, the Council voted 6-1 to pass such an ordinance.
Organizing Director Hazel Davelos presented the Dolores Huerta Civic Participation Awards to Santa Barbara resident Sandra Alvarado and to Santa Maria resident Reina Mendoza. Alvarado, a single mother and full-time worker originally from Mexico, was recognized for her organizing work with CAUSE. She and her neighbors were hit with a large rent increase for their Voluntario Street apartments, which she explained have mold, cockroaches, and rats and a manager who she said treats Latino tenants disrespectfully. Alvarado organized the tenants and brought the matter to the City Council.
Reina Mendoza, a farmworker and single mother of five children, was recognized for her work with CAF, where she has been a committee leader for the past two years and has empowered other farmworkers. Davalos noted that even with the challenges of single motherhood and working in the fields, Mendoza volunteers every week, referring other farmworkers to local resource agencies and encouraging them to report labor violations. In the last election, Mendoza was out knocking on doors for Gloria Soto. In accepting the award, Reina expressed gratitude to CAUSE for teaching her her rights and giving her the opportunity to be involved with such important work.
In presenting Senator Jackson with the Corazon Award, Limón praised Jackson as a trailblazer and champion on important, difficult issues such as pay equity, paid family leave, and stopping fossil fuel expansion on the Central Coast.
Both CAUSE Action Fund and its affiliated organization, CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) promote immigrant rights, workers 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. For more info, go to https://causeactionfund.org.
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